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Mark Hamblin

Nature photography was a natural progression for me from a boyhood interest in ornithology.

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Featured Photographer

Mark Hamblin

About

Constantly inspired by the natural world, Mark has worked as a professional nature photographer since 1995, with a special interest in the natural heritage of the British Isles . His work has been published throughout Europe , and he is the author of three books.

Mark’s collaboration on the Tooth & Claw initiative (www.toothandclaw.org.uk) has galvanized his belief that photographers have a crucial role to play in communicating nature’s stories, an aspect of his work which he is continuing to develop through a range of educational and multi-media material.

Mark is one of the founding directors of Wild Media Foundation, a recently established organisation that aims to use creative imagery to promote conservation issues and environmental education in the UK .

Website: www.markhamblin.com/

Interview

Why nature photography?
Nature photography was a natural progression for me from a boyhood interest in ornithology. I spent much of my teenage years watching birds and had a strong desire to try to record some of the species that I was seeing. I was fortunate to get a camera and a short telephoto lens when I was fourteen and took my first image of a blue tit on a peanut feeder from a homemade hide constructed from garden canes and an old sheet. From that moment onwards I was hooked and photography become a passion which has never left me. I still get the same buzz now when a blue tit lands in the frame of my viewfinder as I did well over twenty years ago!

What's best about it?
Nature photography is in many ways escapism from modern life and I feel a real connection with nature when I’m out in the wilds (preferably well away from signs of human interference). It is always an uplifting experience and there is always something new to learn about the subject, which in turn often provides inspiration for future images or projects.

What's worst about it?
I guess this is one that has been mentioned before, but the tedium of processing digital images is by far the worst thing about it for me. Also missed opportunities are extremely frustrating and tend to play on mind. The positive from this though is that they often provide the drive to get back out there and nail the shot!

Favourite species and places in Europe?
I’m not sure that I have an outright favourite species – there are too many – but if pushed I’d have to say Brown Bear, which I was able to photograph recently in Finland. I’m also a big fan of divers, raptors and hares. My main interest lies within the UK and northern Europe but if I had to choose just one country in which to photograph it would probably be Norway, although Iceland comes a close second.

What's in the bag?
I’ve been a Canon user for over twenty years but that may be about to change! At present I use Canon MkII 1D and 1Ds bodies. My main lens for wildlife is a Canon 500mm f4 but I love the fast focusing speed of the 300mm f2.8 especially for flight and action photography. An array of wide-angle, standard and short-telephoto lenses form my landscape kit. For macro work I use a Sigma 180mm – a lovely sharp lens.

Your specialities / skills?
I tend to specialise in British and northern European wildlife, but I’d like to think I was a good all-rounder and enjoy stomping across the Scottish Highlands in search of landscape images as much as spending 12 hours sat in a hide waiting for an eagle to land (actually this is often 11.58 hours of discomfort and 2 minutes of adrenalin-fuelled excitement). As a keen observer of light, I endeavour to capture interesting or dramatic light in my images as much as possible – unfortunately this is not always possible in Scotland!

What will you do in your next life?
Hopefully provide some nutrients for a tree! But in the spirit of the question I’d like to go back a few hundred years or so with the camera equipment we have available now – to experience pristine untouched (by man) habitats would be amazing…

3 tips for beginners
1) Knowledge is the key to successful nature images. Try to learn as much as you can about your subject before you begin a project and continue to watch and record all the time you are out in the field. Time spent watching and learning is never wasted even though you might not come home with the shot.
2) Choose a favourite species or location and photograph it extensively, exploring as many different photographic approaches as possible.
3) Use new and innovative techniques to record your subjects in a unique way. We all know what a robin or a kingfisher looks like, so new images need to inspire and produce the ‘wow factor’ in the viewer. Not an easy thing to do, but far better to get one amazing image than 100 that have been seen before.

Mission

My mission is to photograph White Storks in the little-known (to me anyway) country of Lithuania, one of the Baltic States. Around 14,000 pairs of these handsome birds nest here and it is the country’s national bird. During my visit, I will also be capturing the majestic beauty of the Kuronian spit sand dunes, a National Park on the edge of the Baltic Sea. I must admit that I know very little of this part of eastern Europe, so it will be a fascinating trip to discover what’s in store for me.

Best Picture

Best Picture
Red fox family

I’m not sure that it’s my best picture but it is one of the few that has remained a favourite over the years.

What's cool about it?
The best thing about it from a personal perspective is that it defines a unique moment of a long project photographing foxes. One of the great aspects of stills photography is that it has the capacity to capture a once in a lifetime moment, one that will never be exactly repeated again. For me, this was one of those moments.

Could it be better?
Of course. There is almost always a niggle or two. For one, I wish I hadn’t shot it on Kodak VR film as the colours have been a nightmare to get right from the scanned slide! A little more separation between the two cubs nearest the vixen would also have been preferable.

Behind the Scene
I’m a big fox fan but up until this particular project I had tried but failed to capture any usable images of them in the wild. So, I was excited at the prospect of finally bagging some shots when a friend phoned to say he’d located a fox den that he thought was active. An early morning observation of the site proved there were foxes in residence and so I erected a small canvas hide some 50m away and retired home. The following morning I entered the hide in the dark at 4.00am. Right on cue, as the sun had just risen behind me, I saw the vixen trotting up the field towards the den. As she approached, five cubs came bounding out to greet her, begging for food. She duly obliged and then proceeded to suckle them briefly before slipping away. The whole sequence of events was over in just a couple of minutes and it was something that I never witnessed again over the next three years, despite spending many hours in the hide.

Date: 02 June 1999
Location: Derbyshire , UK
Gear: Canon EOS 1V, Canon 500mm f4 lens, f5.6 @ 1/250th, Kodak VR100 rated at ISO200, Gitzo tripod

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