Since I first picked up a proper camera in 2005, I have been exceedingly lucky in finding myself surrounded by some of this planet's most charismatic and awe-inspiring wildlife. The first job I did that involved capturing light was the creation of a photo-ID catalogue of the bottlenose dolphins of Cardigan Bay. While this project was based more in scientific research than in the production of emotive imagery, it nevertheless opened my eyes to the power that a camera can have when the magic combination of light, subject and timing come together. It was in that summer that I realised that the path of wildlife photography was the one for me, and I set out to make it my career.
Without any real idea of how to achieve this goal, I moved to New Zealand, originally planning on staying for six months to experience all that the special little islands in the South Pacific have to offer. Three and a half years later, I had fallen in love with the place to the extent that it was a huge effort to board the plane and head back to the UK. In my time there I had found many incredible animals and landscapes, becoming particularly fond of the utterly mischievous and endearing mountain parrot, the kea. Found only along the narrow strip peaks of the Southern alps, they are known to skiers as destroyers of windscreen wipers and other chewy bits on cars, due to the uncontrollably inquisitive nature that enables them to survive in one of the toughest environments on Earth. This aspect of behaviour has given them a bad name with many people who live and work in the mountains, especially with the alpine sheep farmers. Approximately 150,000 of the birds were culled in the 1970s and 80s, with possibly as few as 1500 surviving today, although their current protected status doesn't mean that they are at all popular with the locals to this day. This bird, in need of a PR campaign, helped me realise the power of photography in showing people a side to an animal that they might never otherwise see. I teamed up with the Kea Conservation Trust and donated several images to aid their goal of changing attitudes, with the aim of protecting this 'clown of the mountains' for future generations to enjoy. My efforts culminated in an article in BBC Wildlife magazine, still one of my proudest moments to date!
|On my return to the UK, I found my attention shifting from parrots to primates. Monkeys and apes have a special place in people's hearts; everyone seems to love them and their humorous ways! However, what many people don't seem to realise is quite how threatened many species are, mainly by our exploitation of their habitats and the animals themselves. Through contacts at Oxford Brookes University, I have spent much of the past two years documenting the plight of some key species: everything from slow lorises and crested macaques to orangutans and mountain gorillas. I see myself now more as a conservation photographer than purely a wildlife photographer, as I feel that the images I capture should be used to help ensure my subjects' survival in their fragile environments. I believe that to really make a difference it is important not only to capture the character and spirit of the animals in their natural setting, but also to push myself and my camera into the places that I would usually avoid to show the darker side of their story. I have photographed pet and meat markets that trade in endangered wildlife and seen some extraordinary and painful examples of suffering, but I feel that it is important to tell the whole story. There is no sense in just pointing my lenses at the beautiful sights in front of me, if behind me that same beauty is being systematically destroyed by our careless exploitation.
The tricky part is getting the balance right, and this is something I am still working on. I hope that my images will inspire people to care about something they may never see with their own eyes, as it is only then that we can start to make a real change.
So, what next? In the interest of creating images that can inspire emotional connection, I have been learning to climb into the hard to reach places that are under the biggest threat in today's world - the rainforest canopies. In fact, I'm starting to feel that an arboreal lifestyle would suit me rather well, and I've started to look at trees in a completely different way. The enormous popularity of treetop tours and zip-slide experiences highlight our growing interest in this unique environment, and I aim to specialise in showing the wildlife in their forest canopy home, taking photos from their eye level to give us an insight into their world. I'm discovering that there is a pretty special set of challenges in getting cameras 60m up a tree, but it's worth every blister and shirt change once I'm up there! I've just invested in a small, bombproof little video camera to attach to my head and will soon be posting my arboreal adventures on my blog pages.
Welcome to my office
'Bad Boys'A group of crested macaques challenge the alpha male in a hormone-fuelled charge across the beach in Tangkoko National Park, North Sulawesi.
Runner-up, Mammal Behaviour, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013
Amber ThrushAdult Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) nesting in amber traffic light. Glasgow, Scotland. May 06.
Highly commended in Urban and Garden Wildlife category for Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition 2007.
Urban and Garden Wildlife
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2007