Photography and film are a key way that we try and share the work being done around the world to the protect our amazing planet. That’s part of my job at WWF – getting the best images from around the world to tell the stories.
If joining the judging panel for this year’s British Wildlife Photography Awards has taught me one thing, it’s that this country is blessed with amazing photographic talent of all ages, both amateur and professional. And it’s bursting with simply breathtaking wildlife too.
The entries get better every year and the genuine passion from the younger photographers is tangible. They’re going to great lengths to capture our wildlife in new and surprising ways.
I’d say the bar is definitely getting higher.
A winning combination
It’s hard to define what makes an image stand out from the crowd, but there are some key ingredients that help: strong composition; making the most of ‘golden hour’ and using light to capture subjects at their best; close-ups that help to capture the personality of a species; and showing a subject in an exciting way. The judges were looking for that wow factor.
I think the BWPA is crucial for conservation as it opens our eyes to the amazing biodiversity that’s right under our noses, should we choose to look.
British wildlife is incredible and it deserves our support. Taking pictures of it is a great way to get outside, capture incredible moments and grow an appreciation for the natural world.
Photography has an important role to play in our work at WWF. It’s helping people to learn to love nature. It’s raising awareness of amazing species that need our help.
As photographer Neil Aldridge explained in his blog, he realised that the most important shots were those showing conservation of endangered species in action, not just photographs of pretty and dramatic species. His personal passion for the fate of the African wild dog says it all.
Tips for photographers
If you’re keen to enter next year’s BWPA, I’d say go for it! Prepare before you take your photograph: think about what you want to achieve, mull over the ways you can capture a unique shot.
It’s also important to know your subject. Learn about your chosen species and discover the patterns of their behaviour. Practise with different techniques and experiment with light.
Most of all? Be patient.
I hope the entries from this year’s BWPA inspire you. They certainly worked some magic on me. Photography is powerful and I’m in awe of those who use it to help bring about positive change.
Images make people care. And when we care about something, we’ll do anything to protect it. Hidden Britiain – Viewpoint.
” While photographing this fern I noticed an unusual shadow against the regular spore pattern behind the leaves. I looked behind the frond and saw this tiny snail creeping along it towards the tip. I quickly recomposed my image and waited with my camera and tripod for the moment when it finally reached the end of the leaf.” © James Knight Urban wildlife winner – Urban fallow deer on a housing estate.
I spent three weeks driving every other night from my base (I was working in Leicester at the time) to north London, which was a round trip of 270 miles, to spend time with and photograph these Fallow Deer during the hours of darkness. It was extremely difficult as I was having to use my camera at its highest ISO, slow shutter speeds, mirror lock-up and a sturdy tripod. The deer would move off the marshes each night to feed on the lush, green grass on the verges of the housing estate in early March.” © Jamie Hall Animal portraits winner – Tommy.
“The disused and derelict pier at Trefor is home to several of these charismatic little fish. Tompots are very inquisitive and often leave their shelter to investigate divers. This fish could be found in the same place on several dives, peering out from a discarded metal pipe.” © Mark N Thomas Habitat winner – Red deer stags enduring the blizzard.
“I wanted to capture the harsh conditions that Red Deer endure during winter in the Scottish Highlands. I carefully stalked a group of stags trying to take shelter from the blizzard. The stag that is shaking off the worst of the sleet from its coat caught my attention. Shortly after this image was taken the weather took a turn for the worse and visibility reduced to almost zero. I have the utmost respect for these magnificent mammals.” © Margaret Walker Animal behaviour winner – Deadly rivals.
“I noticed this Grey Wagtail attacking the wing mirror at the beginning of the mating season. On investigation he was attacking his own reflection as a rival male in his territory. Each attack lasted for a split second. Using a hide, I moved the vehicle to obtain the best light and used a low angle to get the sky in the reflection. I shot over 200 images over two days to get the shot I was after, and then he lost interest.” © Robin Orrow. Natural details winner – Cuttlefish detail.
“I was scuba diving under Swanage Pier last summer when I encountered this European Common Cuttlefish, which seemed intrigued by the camera-wielding, bubble-blowing intruder that had invaded its territory. With a courage and boldness that surprised me, the Cuttlefish directly approached the front of my underwater camera, allowing me to capture this close-up detail of its inquisitive eye and intricately patterned skin with the macro lens.” © Michael Gallagher. Coast and marine winner – In the living room.
“One of the most incredible sights you can see in the ocean is a surfing dolphin. This photograph was taken in the most intimidating and surf-heavy spot on the north coast of Ireland, called Balintoy. I encountered this playful dolphin that suddenly started to surf the deep tube inside the waves. Each time he got into the wave, I dived underneath the water, held my breath and waited for the moment when he would swish through a silver barrel close enough to my lens. Water visibility is always very limited in Ireland, and I was very lucky to get a shot like this.” © George Karbus.