An interview with.....
This is a new series of blogs, of interviews with some wonderful people who work within the animal industry, from zoo keepers, to museum curators and everything in between and those that are on the path to working in these positions too. Be inspired for a future where you can combine your love of animals with your day job. I hope you enjoy these interviews, that you can learn something from them and they can inspire you
Now let me introduce you to Carl...
40 - something ;)
What do you do?
I'm a nature photographer, with a particular passion for birds
How did you get into it?
Ever since I was a young lad I've loved nature, particularly birds. I was brought up on my grandads fruit farm in Kent, and one Christmas I received a pair of binoculars. I was only about 5 or 6, but the obvious thing to observe with my new gift was the birds on the farm. I'll always remember the time my grandad lifted me up onto his shoulders and pointed out a Goldfinch nest in a fruit tree, as soon as my binoculars focused on the stunning adult bird I was hooked! I'd never seen birds up close until that moment, and I was amazed at the beauty, the colours, the feathers. A lifetimes passion was born. The advent of digital photography in the early 2000s meant I was now able to try and photograph the birds I was seeing. This reinvigorated my love of birds, and I loved to post the photos I was taking on various websites, so others could enjoy them too!
What made you want to do what you do?
Passion. Something inside me that I can't easily put into words! Also the challenge. Photographing birds isn't easy!
What does it involve?
The main thing is time! Unfortunately I don't have the time to photograph birds and enjoy the countryside as much as I'd like, as I have a regular 9 to 5 job and a young family that also requires my time! There's not enough hours in the day.
Having a general knowledge of birds and their habits definitely helps too. Not to mention a decent camera with a zoom lens!
Did you need and particular qualifications?
No. None whatsoever. I am self taught. When I started photographing birds about 14 years ago, there wasn't many people doing it at all. DSLR cameras hadn't been about very long. It took me years to learn about ISO, aperature, exposure compensation, shutter speeds, etc etc, plus how they all effect each other! It was quite bewildering, and I resisted for a long time, choosing to just shoot in auto! The main reason for this was that I was a birder first, and a photographer second. I just wanted to photograph the birds, and I didn't want to miss one because I was too busy fiddling with the controls!
I always had decent compositional skills, I could 'see' a photo, and this helped me to grab some lovely bird photos back then, however I was taking lots of useless photos relying on the camera to choose the settings for me. The camera doesn't know that I was photographing birds after all! I soon realised that I HAD to learn how to use all the manual controls, if my bird photography was going to improve.
Any tips for a young person that wants to do what you do?
Don't give up! Learn from your mistakes. I never used YouTube or the internet to improve my photography, I went out and did it myself, via trial and error. I honestly think this is the best way to learn, and the most satisfying!
Also, learn about your subject. As I said before, having a general knowledge of birds is a massive advantage when trying to photograph them.
What’s the best part of what you do?
Actually being out in nature. You cannot beat it. It's my oasis of calm, where I go to de-stress. Having my camera with me makes me more alert to the wildlife around me. I don't miss much when I'm walking in the countryside, such is my alertness, and I'm lucky enough to have quite quick reactions, which gives me the opportunity to photograph what I see, before it disappears!
Another thing I love is the feedback from my followers on social media, and the fact so many of them feel inspired to get out in nature with their cameras too, and learn about the birds that they may have either taken for granted before, or even barely noticed!
What’s your favourite animal?
Easy. The Fox. There's something magical, mysterious and wild about foxes, especially out in the countryside where I live. I don't see them very often, but when I do I always get a burst of excitement! I hate the fact that they're so persecuted. They're very special animals.
When it comes to birds, I love them all! However, if I had to choose, I'd have to say the Barn Owl. Similarly to the Fox, I don't see them often, but I'm always thrilled when I do!
What was the first animal that you fell in love with?
I'd have to say it was a bird, and again, I'd have to say it was the Goldfinch my grandad showed me all those years ago. It was the bird that started it all!
Funnily enough, it's kind of gone full circle, as at the moment I'm posting a Goldfinch every day on my Twitter account, with the hashtag #TheDailyGoldfinch. I'm very happy that Goldfinches are doing so well nowadays, a time when many species are sadly declining, the Goldfinch is bucking the trend. They're common in gardens now, whereas I rarely saw them in my garden when I was young.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Bird photography! Honestly, I would do this every moment of every day if I could!
If you weren’t doing what you do now what else would you love to do?
Be a footballer! OK, I'm a bit too old for that now, but I've always loved football, and I'm a massive Arsenal fan, for my sins!
Who inspires you?
Chris Packham. The way he has overcome many hurdles in his life, the way he deals with all the negativity and threats from the hunting community thrown his way, the passion and good humour he displays on his TV shows, just his total commitment to helping nature, and educating others to enjoy and help nature too. He's very inspiring and talented. He can also take a brilliant wildlife photo himself!
Where can people find you?
My Facebook Nature Page;
My nature blog;
If you work within the wildlife industry and would like to be featured as part of this blog series please pop me an email to [email protected]