I have recently been honoured with the title “Landscape Photographer of the Year” for my winning image of Starling Vortex – a photograph which captures a starling murmuration around the ruins of Brighton’s West Pier. Having now seen the book and attended the opening of the exhibition at London Waterloo, I have been left humbled and proud to see my own efforts held in such high regard as so many other fantastic images by immensely talented photographers.
About the winning image
During the winter months the numbers of starlings in the UK swells as a result of an influx over overwintering birds from the continent. They gather at sites across the U.K. for protection from predators and perform beautiful aerial displays at dusk before swooping down into cover to roost for the night.
Having witnessed the event the year before, I knew I needed to arrive in plenty of time to set up and find a good vantage point to watch the murmuration unfold from. On this particular afternoon the weather was cold, grey, and very windy. This was reflected in the muted tones of the scene and the drama of the sea. The old pier appeared as a skeleton amongst the rough seas and it made sense to build a composition around this prominent feature.
In the distance I could see smaller flocks of starlings converging on the seafront, and my excitement rose as their numbers grew. Suddenly the air around the pier was filled with the synchronized flight of several thousand birds. I started firing off frames, trying to time the release of the shutter with each pass of the birds. Continually I adjusted the length of my exposure and occasionally tweaked and altered the composition between wider and tighter crops.
I used a relatively long exposure to capture the motion of the birds, but I didn’t want them to be completely unrecognizable. The final photograph strikes the right balance between these two.
Perhaps the journey to this point has been a fairly typical one.
Having had a string of compact cameras during my childhood, I’d say my route to photography was established at an early age. As a teen I was given my grandad’s and then my dad’s old Praktica film cameras along with a collection of lenses, and I took an extra-circular dark room photography course at college to complement my Art A level. For my 21st birthday my parents wanted to give me something special and I ummed and ahhed before finally settling for my first DSLR, a Nikon D50. I have never looked back.
Around the same time I was an Explorer Scout undertaking the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and later on I became a Scout Leader training young scouts to undertake the award for themselves. This resulted in me spending many weekends away walking in Snowdonia, the Peak District and the Lakes. I fell in love with these landscapes and photography was the obvious outlet to first record, and then later to share, my love affair with other people.
Having now dabbled with cameras for many years, recently it all started to “click” and for the past few years I have been very encouraged by the direction my photography is heading.
First and foremost I consider myself to be an outdoor photographer. As my landscape photography has developed, so my interests in the natural world have grown. I try to immerse myself more deeply in the wild (and less wild) places I visit and this has resulted in an appreciation for the flora and fauna which we share our country with. Not too surprisingly this has also led to an ever increasing presence of wildlife in my portfolio, and I find trying to weave these two genres together both fresh and challenging.
I am very excited by what lies ahead.
What do you love about photography?
I’m often asked if I’d prefer to just witness an event without the camera “being in the way.” However, I’d say that I notice more through photography. It teaches you to better observe the finer grain of your settings – the landscapes’ textures and colours, the way that light and the weather interacts with its features, and the flora and fauna which inhabit it.
My dream shoot?
My dream gig would be to get commissioned to spend a year photographing the British Isles in all their glory.
Time with Camera?
I’ve used cameras for as long as I can remember. I’ve used SLRs for over ten years but only competently for the past few.
Outdoor Photography including wildlife and nature.
Favourite Piece of Kit?
I’m currently combing the Lee Filter Little Stopper with coastal landscapes. It offers just the right amount of blur without rendering the sea as a white “mist.”
What is the first thing you notice about people?
Facial expressions – whether they’re smiling or look impatient.
Mountain cabin or beach house?
A mountain cabin.
Last book you read?
Do photography collections count as there is not much reading…. Every year I get the British Wildlife Photography, Wildlife Photography and of course the Landscape Photographer of the year award books.
Embarrassingly it has been several years since I have picked up a book to read.
I’ve just picked up a copy of “Where The Animals Go” by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti which beautifully illustrates the migration patterns of animals over 50 maps. I’m looking forward to reading this.
If I could travel in time?
Definitely into the future as I’m intrigued by the opportunities it offers.
What is the furthest you’ve been from home?
When I was young I was lucky enough to go to America for two weeks with the Scouts. It was my first time abroad, the first time I’d ever been on a plane and it was my first real trip away without my family. I felt a very long way from home.
If you were a crayon, which colour would you be?
Blue – nothing more complicated than just being my favourite colour.
Top of your bucket list?
Photographing the landscapes and wildlife in Antarctica.