'Shout, shout, let it all out' ... I'm in the book!
I'm delighted to be able to say that one of my photographs has been included in this years book from the British Wildlife Photography Awards (BWPA) 2018 competition.
This is a highly respected worldwide competition for professional and enthusiastic amateurs to enter their work, focused exclusively upon wonderful British flora and fauna.
Sarah and I attended the launch event at The Mall Galleries, London on Tuesday 6th November. It was an absolute honour to be in the same room as so many talented professionals and I'm sure like me, all the amateurs felt inspired to keep improving when we saw what its possible to achieve with perseverance and practice!
This years competition attracted thousands of entries and I was notified that 3 of my photographs had reached the shortlist in early judging. More recently I was told that my shot of a Pheasant in the glorious evening sunlight, had been selected to be included in the select group of work to be featured in the 2018 portfolio book, produced to celebrate category winners, highly commended and a few of the shortlisted entries, each year.
The book is a truly beautiful celebration of the diversity of British Wildlife and is a much needed reminder of what we stand to lose, without a step change in our catastrophic mis-management of the natural environment. I'm really happy that some of my work might help raise both wonder at the beauty of the natural world and an improved understanding of its value.
The book is available from both high street and online retailers at £25 and is an absolute delight. You can also purchase the book (I don't have any financial benefit from sales!) at the BWPA website.
My two other shortlisted entries (not chosen to feature in the book), were these shots of Kestrel and Kingfisher respectively.
... and the story of my Pheasant shot ? ... well it's included (in brief) in the BWPA book on page 66 / 67 on a lovely double page spread - gosh!
... but perhaps I should tell a little more of the story here in this Blog.
I really should start with mention of the super coaching session I had with Richard Peters, a Nikon Ambassador and highly successful wildlife photography professional, a couple of weeks before I took this shot.
I had heard Richard talk at The Photography Show at the NEC and really loved what he was saying about his own journey through photography and his use of light, in particular.
Richard is famous for a wide range of wildlife photography, but also more recently for work in his own 'backyard'. When he heard about our home setting and the incredible variety of wildlife that we have sharing our garden, wildflower meadow and woodland, he encouraged me to capture subjects close to home, and that's exactly what I did!
I've cut grass pathways through our wildflower meadow and woodland ... the local wildlife seems to believe that this has been done exclusively for their use!
Dawn and dusk are the best times to secure a glimpse of Hares, Stoats, Muntjac, Roe and Fallow Deer, Foxes and even an occasional quick sighting of Red-legged Partridge and Quail, making use of the paths.
Buzzards, Sparrowhawk, Kestrels, Red Kite, Peregrine and Hobby have all been seen overhead, with Tawny Owls noisily going about their business after dark.
All the usual garden and countryside birds (too many to mention) visit regularly, including of course ... Pheasants.
We live surrounded by countryside at the top of a 100 ft wooded escarpment ridge, which is used occasionally as a shoot, (remind me to tell you about getting hit by a spray of lead shot when I was putting the outside Christmas decorations up one year, sometime!). In fact our house is right at the end where the beaters fix the scare line and the Pheasants (not as stupid as you think then!) have adopted our garden and surrounding land as a 'safe space' over the years. We'll find literally dozens of them pottering around, helping themselves to spill from the bird feeders and anything else they can get their beaks on!
A few years ago, we even tempted one of the big cock pheasants to feed from my hand - I became very fond of 'Pot Roast', as we called him and can only hope that he didn't end up as the 'serving suggestion' his name affectionately described.
The Pheasants nowadays are certainly less tame than 'Pot Roast' and whilst confident when strutting around, particularly when it comes to breeding time, they are tolerant rather than encouraging of our presence. They bred successfully (and naturally) this year - I found the hatched egg shells and saw the youngsters several times being shepherded by their Mum to escape my sit on mower, as I cut the pathways.
So ... to get the shot and with Richard's exhortation to take advantage of the light in the 'Golden Hour' (the soft light produced either after dawn or just before sunset) fresh in my mind, I set up by lying prone with a view down one of the paths .... and waited.
In truth, I'd watched the cock pheasant's evening routine route march for a few evenings before hand, so I knew that I could position myself to be hidden by the banks of wildflowers, yet be in place when his route took him to an intersection of grass paths and into my viewfinder.
The evening light shone across the meadow pathways as I laid still and low, waiting ... hoping that he would appear with the light so beautifully illuminating the scene.
What I couldn't have hoped for, was for this chap to both pause directly in the most exquisite light and then choose that very moment to make his territorial call to the WILD world around him!
Almost too thrilled at the spectacle in my viewfinder to respond, it was all I could do to check and adjust the settings and go ahead and press the shutter release.
I thought you might be interested to see the 'Raw' image (which needed to be submitted alongside the finished image once it had been shortlisted) - I guess so the judges could see your workflow. This was my view and you can see how low to the ground I'd got and why that was worth it, when you see the final edited picture below.
As ever, it's not until you get the shot from your camera's memory card onto your Mac that you get to really see what had been captured. A little cropping and some gentle enhancements in Lightroom, (a photographic photo editing software) and there was 'my' Pheasant, caught in the true abandon of his call in the perfect evening light.
So there you are .... the dizzying heights of recognition in a proper grown up national competition, from first picking up a 'proper' camera just 4 years ago.
As I say on the 'About' page of my website, I heartily recommend 'having a go' and learning along the way. Add a little coaching of the right type and at the right time in your development, (see the 'Book online' page if you think I could help you), lots of practice and making sure to have tons of fun in doing so and it all comes good .... well ... every now and then!