Egyptian fruit bat
BACK IN THE UK
Moving back to the UK aged eight, I lived in suburbia. I was devastated to leave Kenya, but regular holidays at my grandparents in the Hampshire countryside and a very rural school in Buckinghamshire allowed me to immerse myself in a very different natural world from that of East Africa. It was at this school that I took a keen interest in the local badgers and my enthusiasm for wildlife photography began. Using a Minolta SR101 and Sunpack flashgun, it wasn’t long before I captured my first images of the badgers. An expensive telephoto lens for the shyer subjects was out of the question. My solution was to place the camera on a tripod near where the subject was likely to be and trigger it remotely with a 20ft pneumatic release. This was the mid-70's and a great tit taking the cream off the milk was an early venture into the use of “remote” triggering devices to capture images that would otherwise have been impossible with the kit that I had at the time.
After school I spent twelve months on a dairy farm before going on to study veterinary medicine at the Royal Veterinary College in London before joining a predominantly farm animal veterinary practice in rural mid-Devon. My interest in wildlife and photography was rather on the back-burner as my studies followed by a demanding veterinary career and a passion for village cricket took precedence for several years.
In 2003 the opportunity to reduce my working hours coincided with the arrival of digital photography. The purchase of a Nikon D100 and more time to devote of wildlife photography saw my interest in wildlife photography reignited. The arrival of digital photography was the perfect opportunity to take remote photography to new levels and capture ever increasingly difficult subjects using radio control, infra-red sensors, light beam triggers and CCTV.
In 2005 the discovery of otter spraint on the stream not far from my house was the inspiration to learn about (and try to photograph) one our most charismatic but equally elusive British mammals. My otter journey (or, more accurately, “obsession”!) has continued to this day. From 2013 to 2018 I was immensely privileged to be able to study, film and photograph one female otter's life in incredible detail as she went on to have five litters of cubs. Hammer Scar as I called her (after the hammer-shaped mark on her nose), allowed me to follow her night after night. On several occasions she even had the confidence to take a twenty-minute sleep only a few metres from me.
TAWNY OWLS and HORNETS
Over the years I have built similar relationships with both the local tawny owls and hornets. As with the otters, the desire to capture some challenging images has necessitated me earning their trust, much patience and a dogged determination. Having spent several hundred hours less than one metre from various hornet nests, it appears that I have managed to earn their “trust” too! I have not only been rewarded with some pleasing images and video sequences, with the hornets in particular, I have observed and captured some remarkable behaviour both in still images and on film.
CONSERVATION and PRESENTATIONS
Having retired from veterinary practice in 2019, whilst continuing with my photography and filming, my focus has shifted increasingly to both conservation and giving presentations. By sharing my passion for nature and the images and stories that I have captured, I hope to inspire others to do everything in their power to engage with and protect the fragile natural world of which we are all an integral part.