PHOTOGRAPHY

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR BOOK FRONT COVER AND LEAD PUBLICITY IMAGE WORLDWIDE!

THE MOST FAMOUS FOX IN THE WORLD?

The 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards results have recently been announced so I'm really happy to share that my image "Nosy Neighbour" has been chosen as not only the front cover of this year's winners portfolio book, but it's also going to be used as the lead publicity image to promote the WPY 52 exhibition as it tours the globe. I'm super stoked as apparently it's the first time in the competition's history that the same image has been used for both.

I've already seen it on on billboards across the UK, but I've also been sent pictures of Nosy Neighbour posters by friends on all sides of the globe, including the USA, Canada and Australia, so he's possibly the most famous fox in the world right now! Having my picture on the front cover of the Portfolio 26 book is a great accolade and dream come true for me as the WPY portfolio books are real collectors items for all wildlife photographers - they showcase the world's best and most innovative wildlife photography, so I'm humbled to be featured so prominently in this year's competition.

MARINE LITTER STORY IN 6 PAGE AUDUBON FEATURE AND AWARDED BY IUCN

I'm super excited to see my gannet / marine litter story published across 6 pages in the winter issue of Audubon Magazine - the flagship quarterly journal of the National Audubon Society. The same series has also been awarded 3rd place in the Nature Images Awards presented by Terre Sauvage Magazine and IUCN - the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

You can read the full article online on the Audubon site here:

An Annual Rescue Mission to Free Northern Gannets Tangled in Plastic Trash

It's such an important story, which highlights the problem of plastic marine pollution, so I'm stoked to see it getting plenty of attention and exposure on both sides of the Atlantic. It's an international problem and the only real solution is education, so I'm really happy and appreciative that Audubon, Terre Sauvage and IUCN are helping to spread the word.

WITNESS THE WILD EXHIBITION / WILDSCREEN FESTIVAL SPEAKER

My image of a red fox in front of Clifton Suspension Bridge will be displayed this month on Bristol's College Green from 7-28th October. The open-air "Witness the Wild" exhibition is part of the Wildscreen Festival - the world’s biggest celebration of screen-based natural history storytelling. The festival takes place every two years, and this year they have a dedicated photography day, where the world's top wildlife and conservation photographers will be speaking and sharing their pictures and stories. I'm doing a talk at 1pm entitled "Making That Human Connection" about how I use the human environment to give wildlife a context that people can easily relate to and connect with, and I'm also sharing my conservation story about gannets and marine litter - a devastating problem that's happening close to home on our UK shores. Speakers include Tim Laman and other National Geographic photographers, magazine editors from National Geographic and BBC Wildlife, and I'm looking forward to UK based conservation photographer Britta Jaschinski speaking about her latest project. A selection of images by the speakers can be seen on the Guardian website today, with my fox image being used as the lead: Wildscreen's Witness the Wild

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR FINALIST

My fox image "Nosy Neighbour" has just been released as one of the handful of preview images from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards. It's all over the papers and online today, being shared widely and is being used as the lead image in most of the features. The best headline I think I've read so far is "This stunning picture of a fox on a Bristol street could be the best wildlife picture in the world"!! This image has already had some decent exposure, so I'm pretty surprised it made it into this year's WPY52 collection, but I'm really happy the judges thought it was strong enough despite that. It may have been seen by a lot of the wildlife photography community, but WPY will bring it to a whole new audience when the exhibition tours the globe and the book goes on sale internationally. Excited and looking forward to awards night and seeing the rest of the winners. Awesome to be a part of this competition for the second time!!

WINNER - BIRD BEHAVIOUR - BIRD PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR

My image of a herring gull snatching a Cornish pasty recently won the Bird Behaviour category in the Bird Photographer of the Year Awards 2016. I also received a Highly Commended award for my lesser spotted woodpecker image in the Birds in the Environment category. Below, a slightly more beardy than usual me receiving a prize from Chris Packham (credit: Rob Read).

REGULAR PHOTOGRAPHY COLUMN IN BBC WILDLIFE MAGAZINE

Since November 2015, I've been writing a regular photography column in BBC Wildlife Magazine, where I choose 3 images that illustrate different ways to shoot a seasonal subject. The March issue is out this week and for my 5th instalment I've chosen amphibians, as they're emerging from hibernation across the UK at the moment and can be great subjects to get creative with.

I can't post the copy from my latest column as it's still in the shops, but here's a transcript from a previous issue - BBC Wildlife Magazine - Jan 2016 - 3 Ways to Photograph Winter Knot...

        "January days are often brief and bitter, but head out to the mudflats and you’ll find one of the greatest photo opportunities of the year. This habitat is incredibly rich in worms and molluscs, attracting tens of thousands of knot and other waders. Their daily lives are governed by the tides, which makes it easy to predict their routine: feasting at low tide, roosting at high tide, and in between putting on spectacular aerial displays with clouds of birds twisting and wheeling in apparent unison. All of this drama is bathed in the warm, golden glow of the low winter sun. Sam Hobson

IN-FLIGHT FOCUS - Thousands of knot taking flight is a breathtaking sight. Wait for an incoming tide, when the birds are pushed up the beach towards the roost. At first they will take to the air in small, rippling waves, but as the tide creeps in, the flocks get larger and closer. Use a long lens to fill the frame or a shorter lens to capture the whole flock. Be ready for the moment when the birds turn away from you, revealing their silvery undersides like a shoal of fish catching the sun.

PICK A PORTRAIT - Focus on an individual to capture feather detail and behaviour. The feeding flock at low tide is more spread out, so keep to the edge, approach slowly and wait for them to come to you. Retaining a small channel of water as a barrier can help keep the birds at ease (be wary of dangerous channels, quicksand and rushing incoming tides, though).

RECORD A ROOST - The busy, high-tide knot roost is all about shoulder-barging and hustle and bustle. Use a tripod and slightly slow shutter speed to create a sense of movement as the birds shuffle around. Picking out another species within the flock, such as this oystercatcher, adds a focal point together with a splash of colour."

BBC FOCUS MAGAZINE - DRONE RACING FEATURE

BBC Focus Magazine recently commissioned me to shoot a drone racing feature, hoping that if I was ok with photographing the fastest birds in the world in flight, that drones wouldn't be too much of a problem :) I had a great day at the event getting to know the people and stepping in to a world I knew very little about. I shot a lot of long lens action shots, but the image that they chose for the opening spread was probably my favourite from the day, using a Pocket Wizard remote release to get a low angle and as close as possible to the action. You can see the feature in the January 2016 issue of BBC Focus Magazine, available now.

SURPRISE HAWKSBILL HATCHLINGS IN SAINT LUCIA

I've just returned from Saint Lucia, after being invited back by Anse Chastanet Eco Resort for the second time. Last time I was commissioned to showcase the amazing bird life that can be found on the island, which you can read about here. This time it was more of a holiday as a thank you for the previous job and for getting features out in UK birdwatching magazines to help promote the resort and island. I took my camera just in case and I'm glad I did as there were a few surprises in store...

Firstly, I arrived to find that critically endangered HAWKSBILL TURTLES were hatching right on the Anse Chastenet beach! Meno (pictured) told me that it was the second time that week hatchlings had been emerging and that there was at least one more batch of eggs that could hatch any day. Amazing!

The next surprise was the rain. The rainy season was pretty late and when I arrived, everyone was talking about how dry it had been - but that was about to change. It bucketed down from the second day, but fortunately the rain in Saint Lucia isn't as bad as in the UK and the showers are usually pretty short during the day, and they don't stop the sun from shining. In fact it provided some nice opportunities to capture some images like this spotted sandpiper on Anse Chastenet beach, where I used backlight from the early evening sun to highlight the raindrops.

There were a couple of birds I wanted to see this time that I didn't manage to see on my first trip, and top of the list was the rufous-throated solitaire or "mountain whistler" as it is known locally. I'd heard them singing previously at Des Cartiers, but I knew that the Edmund Forest Reserve was supposed to be better and there was a good chance of seeing some Jacquots there too. We only had a few hours to walk the trails, but we saw plenty of parrots (although too distant for pictures) and Smith who was guiding was red-hot at calling the solitaires down by whistling their song.

My next big surprise was an osprey fishing in the stream at Soufriere, just outside the resort. Meno had seen it in the early morning on the way in to work, so I thought I'd chance it the next day, knowing full well that the likelihood of it still being there was pretty remote. My luck was in though and although we didn't see it catch anything, it made a few attempts and some very close fly-bys. What a bird!

On the last morning of the trip, I went to Bouton to look for parrots, and found a golden apple tree with one feeding in it just before sunrise. It left just before it was light enough for pictures, so I spent the rest of the morning waiting and hoping that they'd return. Unfortunately, my luck had run out and they didn't show, but I kept myself busy watching this grey kingbird trying to swallow these fruits that were just a little bit too big to fit down its throat. Normally they are flycatchers, and I hadn't seen them do this before - it would toss the fruit in the air and open its bill as wide as possible, hoping it would land at the right angle to swallow. It must have tried for about 20 minutes, before it finally got it down!

If you are interested in seeing or photographing the birdlife of Saint Lucia, I am currently putting together a list of contacts for future tours, so please get in touch. Massive thanks to Karolin and Nick for the invite, Jonathan, Meno and all the resort staff for making sure we had such a great time.

NOVEMBER FRONT COVERS

I'm really pleased to see one of my fox images on a National Geographic front cover this month. It might only be the Dutch kids' Nat Geo, but it's great to see him with that famous yellow border. The other mag that got a cover this month is an educational science magazine for kids in the USA. Really pleased that the foxes are still being received so well and seem to be popular with kids. I'm thinking of producing a range of kids' posters with some of the fox pics, so let me know if you're interested in one for your kids' bedroom wall :)

BBC COUNTRYFILE MAGAZINE - LONGBOW FEATURE

I was recently commissioned by BBC Countryfile Magazine to photograph Richard Head, one of the most respected bowyers in the UK, who makes yew longbows by hand in his Wiltshire workshop. This month marks the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. On October 25th In 1415, the heavily outnumbered English defeated an army of French cavalry against all odds and the victory was largely due to the French being outgunned by the English, whose archers wielded the famous English longbow. War is nothing to be celebrated, but this was a significant moment in British history, which will be commemorated this month with displays of archery and battle reenactments. Stories about passionate people inspire me nearly as much as wildlife and I always appreciate the opportunity to meet interesting people and shoot their portrait.

BBC WILDLIFE MAGAZINE - GULL FEATURE PUBLISHED

BBC Wildlife Magazine (October 2015) has just published my gull feature, which I've been working on for the past couple of years. It follows a summer of hysteria in the British media about gulls attacking people and their pets and hopefully provides a refreshingly accurate take on the situation which looks at the latest research and science and interviews experts in the field - many of which I've had the privilege to work with during the project. We published the feature early due to the media frenzy this summer, so I'm still working on the project, but these are some of my favourite pictures that either made the feature or will hopefully be published when the project is complete.

BRITISH WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS - HIGHLY COMMENDED

The winners of the British Wildlife Photography Awards have been announced this week and one of my toad images from this series received a highly commended in the urban nature category. I think it's a great time for UK wildlife photography at the moment - there are so many talented photographers (particularly the young guys) producing new and exciting work, so I was pleased to have a fun evening at the awards ceremony catching up with some of them :)

British Wildlife Photography Awards - Collection 6 with all of the winning images from 2015 is available here.

SCOTTISH NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL

I'm just back from speaking at the Scottish Nature Photography Festival about telling stories with wildlife photography. I shared some new work, including some images from my upcoming gull feature in BBC Wildlife Magazine, a few images from a gannet story I am currently working on and a few one-off images, like this red fox vixen suckling cubs that are just a week out of the den I photographed earlier in the summer. I've never seen an up close wide shot of this behaviour before and I was pretty privileged to witness such a tender and vulnerable moment. I shot this using a Pocket Wizard remote and hid my Nikon D750 inside a Peli Case to muffle the sound. I filled in the shadows with two low-powered speedlites, but the main key light is from the sun and I only shot 1 frame to minimise disturbance.

BBC WILDLIFE MAGAZINE OPENERS WITH CHRIS PACKHAM

For the previous two months, my pictures have been used for the opening double page spread in BBC Wildlife Magazine, which is apparently unprecedented! It's a great slot, where Chris Packham discusses a UK wildlife conservation issue.

Last month it was a lesser spotted woodpecker, which I photographed in the Malvern hills in Herefordshire. Lesser spots are the UK's smallest and rarest woodpecker - now considered too rare to be monitored by national surveys. It took a colleague of mine 4 years to locate a lesser spot nest, so I was extremely privileged to be invited to photograph it. I wanted to include the context of the scruffy orchard, as without this unique habitat, these birds wouldn't survive at all in this country. Setting up a shot like this requires a lot of patience and I wouldn't recommend this type of photography without a lot of planning and research and a good awareness of animal behaviour and the laws regarding photographing birds at the nest. it's not worth potentially disturbing a rare species at a sensitive time of year for a picture and I wouldn't have attempted a shot like this without advice from experts and plenty of experience shooting more common birds in the same way.

This month, they used a hedgehog I recently shot for the Avon Wildlife Trust's My Wild City project. My Wild City is a great initiative I am strongly behind, as it's all about "creating a nature-rich city that puts wildlife right on our doorsteps, giving everyone the opportunity to experience the joy of wildlife every day".. What could be better than that?! You can find out more about the project here and if you're interested in AWT's AGM where there'll be a My Wild City showcase where I'll be talking and showing some pictures, you can find out more and book tickets here.

LATEST PUBLISHED WORK

I've had a few features published recently and it's great to see my work continuing to get international attention and exposure. Finnish magazine Lumo published a 10 page feature about my urban wildlife photography and gave the immature red fox I photographed last year his third front cover.

Birdwatching Magazine - the biggest and best selling birding mag in the UK published my feature about birding in Saint Lucia. You can see my trip report and loads more pictures here.

Slow Travel Berlin published my goshawk pictures in a nice bookazine type anthology called Stories from the City - A Slow Travel Berlin Anthology 2010 - 2015. They have been used to illustrate a piece by Amy Liptrot and there are loads of other quirky stories about Germany's "poor but sexy" capital. Well worth a read and available here.

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE - HERON SHOWCASE

Check out the most recent Outdoor Photography Magazine ( Issue 194 / July 2015) to see my Amsterdam Herons featured as a photo-showcase..

"Market day in Amsterdam is no ordinary affair. Mobs of grey invaders descend from the skies to congregate around the seafood stalls. The collective noun for a group of herons is a ‘siege’, and with 15 of them perched on the stands and surrounding buildings, this is what it feels like.
Amsterdam has a large population of grey herons, thanks to its network of canals and waterways, and the sight of a cunning heron sneaking up behind a fisherman to steal a prize fish from his bucket isn’t unusual. But the most adventurous birds have learnt that if they make the commute there are more lucrative ways to make a living at the fish markets in the city centre."

WILD BRISTOL SOLO EXHIBITION AND TALK - IN ASSOCIATION WITH NATURE PICTURE LIBRARY

For the whole of June, my work will be exhibited in Bristol at the Folk House Gallery on Park Street. It's a solo exhibition themed around local Bristol wildlife and I'm donating 10% of any print sales to the Avon Wildlife Trust. There will also be a talk by myself and photographer Nick Upton on Friday 12th June, sponsored by Nature Picture Library, with all proceeds also being donated to the Avon Wildlife Trust. For more info. and tickets, please check out bit.ly/wildbristol

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY - OPENING SHOT

Outdoor Photography Magazine has just published one of my recent Toad Migration images as their Opening Shot - an opening DPS in June issue 192, which went on sale this week. I have been watching these toads climb the same hill in Bristol for a few years, but decided that in 2015, I'd have a go at lighting them with a GL-1 tungsten hotlight to match the city lights in the background. I always enjoy trying to do something different with common subjects and had loads of fun capturing the character of this often overlooked species.

GUARDIAN INTERVIEW - WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

I was recently interviewed by the Guardian Newspaper about my photography and particularly why I choose to focus on urban wildlife. You can read the full story on the Guardian Wildlife Photographer of the Year Microsite here:

Where The Wild Things Are: Discovering Urban Wildlife With Photographer Sam Hobson