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EDITIONS
Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
'I stalk animals - with a camera'
BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition organised by BBC Wildlife Magazine and The Natural History Museum, London.
Reed warbler singing, by Chris Gomersall
Wildlife photographer Chris Gomersall will spend hours in a lonely hideaway waiting for the perfect shot, often only to be disappointed. This year he is in the running for the prestigious BG International Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

People look at the big telephoto lenses and think I take pictures of animals from miles away. In reality I can't be that far away and need to use fieldcraft to get close to my subjects.


BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition organised by BBC Wildlife Magazine and The Natural History Museum, London.
BG International Wildlife Photographer of the Year:
  • Competition in its 19th year
  • 18,500+ entries from 60 countries
  • Open to amateurs and professionals
  • 101 best entries at Natural History Museum, London, from 19 October. Exhibition tours UK from December

    [Photo] Hanuman langurs, by Jean-Pierre Zwaenepoel

  • Often I sit in hides - typically for 16 hours at a time - so I don't frighten the animals off. That can be very uncomfortable - especially since you can't leave the hide to go to the toilet.

    I had to stalk the reed warbler (pictured top). I'd been to the place many times before and knew warblers could be found there, when the light would be best and where it would come from.

    A lot of preparation went into that photograph - I composed it all in my head before I started. All I had to do was hope that the bird performed.

    You can minimise the risks by getting out as much as you can and getting to know places, but even then you can come back with no pictures of any worth.

    There are so many variables, that you're always waiting for something to improve - even with easier subjects. I mean, flowers won't run away from you like animals, but a simple gust of wind can became your enemy.

    White storks fighting for chimney space
    Storks fight for chimney space (*see credit below. Rainer Müller)
    It always hurts a bit when you miss something that would have made a great photograph. Even when I get something that's OK, I tend to think there's always a better photograph of that subject to be had and go back again.

    I've been photographing white-tailed eagles for 15 years, looking for the best shot. I've finally taken something satisfactory. Well, I was pleased with it.

    Some photographers think they have a great shot the instant the shutter snaps, but I think that's a bit rash. I'm never sure until the film's processed - there could always be a wingtip out of shot or a plastic bottle in the scene you hadn't noticed.

    I try to be ambitious and test the limits of my skills. If you're trying to get an action shot, you're going to waste a lot of film but the result when you finally get it is that much better.

    The pygmy goby is less than two centimetres long
    Pygmy goby resting on star coral (*see credit below. Malcolm Hey)
    I'm a self-taught photographer. I was using a camera even at school. My first love was birds, so if I was going to take photographs of anything it would be them.

    I studied zoology and did fieldwork with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the Shetlands in 1981.

    I saw some wonderful creatures there: pods of pilot whales and a red-footed falcon (a real twitcher's bird). I didn't take great photographs of them, but it reignited my interest in photography.

    I went on to work for the RSPB magazine for 14 years; more often than not asked to take pictures of common British birds.

    Leopard searching for her cub, by Charlotte Renaud
    Things like house sparrows are overlooked or often not well photographed. That's where the professionalism comes in.

    It's fairly easy to go to an exotic location and get a dramatic picture of a leopard, but you're not much of a photographer if you can't find subjects closer to home.

    I can't conceive of another career. If I were to win the lottery, I'd still keeping photographing.

    *BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition organised by BBC Wildlife Magazine and The Natural History Museum, London


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    25 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
    26 Oct 00 | Science/Nature
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