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Laurie Campbell

When Iím out with my family I sometimes miss pictures because Iím more concerned that they see what is happening. Come to think of it, thatís why I got into this business in the first place.

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Featured Photographer

Laurie Campbell

About

As I approach my twenty fifth year as a professional nature photographer, I believe I was the first to earn a living from only photographing Scottish wildlife. Despite being a small country, Scotland has some amazingly diverse habitats and wildlife. It certainly makes me feel content enough not to have to travel much. I also feel that Iím part way through a life-long, self-imposed mission Ė to photograph as much of its natural history as I can. With over 140,000 images in my stock library, there is still much to do. To date, my pictures continue to appear in a wide range of publications and illustrate several books on subjects as diverse as Scotlandís ancient pinewoods to golden eagles, badgers and highland cattle. Despite having received twenty-six awards in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, my most treasured accolade was to be included in the ĎHighland Naturalistsí exhibition www.highlandnaturalists.com. An event to acknowledge the efforts of thirty people (alive and dead!) who over the past three hundred years have contributed most to encourage the enjoyment, understanding and appreciation of Scotlandís natural history.

Website: www.lauriecampbell.com/

Interview

Why nature photography?
Throughout my childhood I was frustrated at failing miserably whenever I tried to draw or paint the birds and animals Iíd seen while alone in the countryside were I grew up. All that changed in my mid-teens when I picked up a camera and I finally, after lots of practice, had a way of showing people exactly what I had seen. The real challenge is to produce as visually challenging pictures as you can and then to let the viewer interpret them as they wish. Hopefully, they will have learnt something more about the subject Ė and will perhaps remember your picture.

What's best about it?
Lots of things really. For me the important things that motivate me most are the senses of challenge and satisfaction. I think that deep within us all lies an appreciation of the natural world that for an increasing percentage of the population is lost in the distractions of our modern world. Good nature photographers are in tune with the natural world and are therefore all the more emotionally richer for it.

What's worst about it?
Itís difficult to think of too many disadvantages in my reply to this question. I know that all photographers complain about the amount of time we must spend in front of our computers these days and certainly the speed at which digital technology is evolving makes it difficult for aging minds to keep up to date. As a person who dislikes change I find it both unsettling and exciting to be involved in a profession which has changed out of all recognition in just a few years. Outdoors, there is little that is really bad about it and even on blank days with no pictures, I always feel that Iíve learnt something. Even if it is only in understanding the reason why Iíve returned empty handed!

Favourite species and places in Europe?
I wholeheartedly agree with the North American Nature Photographer, John Shaw who once wrote that good pictures are more time dependant than place dependant. I tend to think more about the Ďwhat ifí moments and then hope that if I try often enough, Iíll find my subjects in the circumstances that I imagine photographing them in. Two from my Ďwish listí so far are; a badger hauling a salmon from a stream running through the woods by my home, or a wild Scottish wildcat sunning itself early on a frosty winters morning in western Oakwood. Iím still working on them!

What's in the bag?
Always my pair of Leica 10 x 42 binoculars. My choice of cameras and lenses has varied enormously over the years but they have always had the word Nikon written on them. If forced, my three essential lenses to attach to my D3 cameras would be my 500mm, 200mm macro and 17-35mm. Then again, thatís just a personal preference and I donít see any reason why I couldnít take the same pictures with any other manufacturerís similarly specified equipment.

Your specialities / skills?
I suppose Iíd consider myself as a bit of a generalist in that Iím interested in photographing all aspects of the natural world. Photographing a whole range of subjects and then understanding how they all have their place in nature allows me to appreciate what makes whole environments tick. My trademark is to photograph wild, un-controlled subjects using natural lighting whenever I can. Iím also very fussy about composition and so probably feel I do better with static subjects rather than active ones where I have less control and need to rely more upon luck.

What will you do in your next life?
I really donít think that any of us have a second chance but if we did, and we could stretch the bounds of possibilities to include time travel, Iíd wish to come back as a nature photographer a century or so ago where I could become a pioneer, photographing the countryside and subjects I know now in better times. My one hope of course would be that my photographs might influence more people into not thinking of nature as something that can be taken for granted.

3 tips for beginners
1) Watch and understand your subjects before thinking about taking pictures.

2) Select subjects that are under-photographed and which are common and familiar to most people. Look upon them as a challenge and think of how you can photograph them in a way in which will really make people sit-up and take notice.

3) Concentrate on subjects that you can have repeated access to so that you can eventually obtain the pictures you first imagined.

Mission

The Wild Wonders team have been very generous here in allowing me to stay in Scotland. Iím actually English by three kilometres! But my heart lies in the Scottish Highlands where Iíll be photographing the population of Bottle-nosed dolphins in the Moray Firth. Having been well and truly Ďdiscoveredí by BBC Television and across all other media, the best vantage points are now visited by people from all over Europe and beyond so just obtaining a parking space will be my first problem!

The second part of my mission will be very different as I will be photographing otters on the quieter and remote coasts of Western Scotland. In exchange for not travelling overseas I will be spending much more time on these projects than Wild Wonders can offer to support, but then Iím more interested in taking as much time as I need in order to obtain the best pictures I can to support this landmark project.

Best Picture

Best Picture
Swallow flying in shade

What's cool about it?
This is my most recent, best picture. Over time, I may well change my mind and not necessarily in favour of a new picture! It is one from a sequence I took of a swallow flying in shade over the surface of a small harbour. All were very different because of the reflections from the sky, surrounding buildings and the ripples in the water.

Could it be better?
Yes, always. For this scene, I would have liked a distorted reflection of the bird to have appeared in the water beneath it, mostly to have dispelled any thoughts that the silhouette of the bird might have simply been superimposed in Photoshop.

Behind the Scene
On the day I took this photograph, Iíd really just set off to photograph some Atlantic grey seals which frequented the harbour of a small fishing village on the East coast of Scotland. As the seals were fairly inactive, the swallows hawking over the surface of the water soon became a welcome distraction and as the evening wore on, the situation just got better and better. As the sun got lower, the swallows were reduced to silhouettes and the saturation of the colours reflected in the water increased.

Date: 25th June 2008
Location: East Coast of Scotland.
Gear: Nikon D3, Nikkor 200-400mm, ISO 1000, 1/1600 th @ f6.3

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