A Childhood In Nature

Having been interested in media for a few years now, I always knew photography would feature heavily in my future. I’ve been taking photos since I was a child, using various contraptions from my first phone – a cheeky little Sony Ericsson – to my Canon 700D.

First it was flowers in my nanny’s garden. While my parents chatted over tea in the living room, I’d escape through the back door and snap away at anything that caught my eye; at my grandparents’ house there were thousands of things to draw attention. Flowers of every colour burst from the soil, climbing up garden statues and the old hollow tree by the compost heap. My camera grew hot from use; I’d get down on my belly and shoot the best macro I could muster. Though most flowers were indistinct blurs on my screen, nothing would dampen my interest.

Another of my preferred subjects were my cats. At the time they proved nearly impossible to capture in frame, even more so in focus, but now I can’t thank them enough. Dear Esme and Milly proved essential challenges that trained me in the art of wildlife photography. Though they couldn’t quite be defined as wild, their stealth forced my camera to shoot quicker.

Soon, my attention digressed from my cats to their garden quarry: birds. What started as a vague interest in capturing wood pigeons and sparrows on the bird feeders soon bloomed into a huge passion. I began to pore over guide books and attempt to sketch what I read about. I’d sit out in the garden as still as possible, camera poised, and try to focus and snap as quickly as I could. I’d write notes – in my very best hand writing – about any nests I found, and where I’d seen my subjects hopping through the garden.

Over time I began to recognise different visitors, and sparrows became dunnocks. The secrets of nature were beginning to unfold and a whole new world was exposed. Blue and great tits chirruped at the feeders, while a lone robin waited for the scene to clear. As the days grew shorter I would bring out more clothes to wrap around me, eager to see if any new visitors would join the old. One of my most treasured memories was the arrival of redwings one snowy day in December, which I watched from the landing window with binoculars glued to my eyes.

By the time I began A Level photography, my knowledge of British birds was extensive. I would attempt to share my passion with the other keen photographers, who regarded my work with polite but false enthusiasm. While they researched Mario Testino and Nick Knight, I explored the works of Laurie Campbell and Andy Rouse. My portfolio was filled with nature, from singing chaffinches to magnificent oaks. Among the other photographers in my year I was alone in my obsession of the natural world, but that didn’t dissuade me. I bought more and more books on birds, beginning to form an impressive collection.

The transition from school to university was where I truly discovered that I wasn’t alone. There were other young people that cared about wildlife and wanted to photograph it. BA(Hons) Wildlife Media has brought nature enthusiasts together. One of the highlights of my first year studying this incredible degree was my trip to the Isle of Carna, back in May. Spending five days living, eating and learning with six other wildlife aficionados was an unforgettable experience.

Since that trip one of my lecturers, Heather-Louise Devey, has become an inspiration for me. Her enthusiasm for nature and passion for conservation has made me realise just how much I want to be in this field. During my stay on Carna, I wrote vigorously and designed my own magazine about the experience with articles and my own photos. Heather has motivated me to pursue writing, and it has become something I really want to develop and take into my work life. While I still love photography and want to incorporate it into my media work, I think my writing can be a significant part of my career in this industry. All my life I’ve written stories – I have my mum to thank for that – and now I think I can put all those years of practice into something for wildlife. There are nowhere near enough young people interested in nature; I intend on changing that.

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