I was recently commissioned by National Geographic to shoot a rather unusual model after dark on the streets of London...

To launch BIG CAT WEEK in the UK, Nat Geo WILD had a fully animatronic leopard built by John Nolan Studio and I had one night to photograph it in iconic London locations. The idea was inspired by Nat Geo Wild TV episode Mission Critical: Leopards at the Door. Wild leopards roam the streets of Mumbai but the people who live in the city and the leopards have found a way to coexist. There are of course occasional conflicts, but Mumbai is a great example of how people and wildlife can share urban areas - even if that wildlife is a big cat or other top predator. Read the full story here: Learning to Live with Leopards.

As it was such a complicated build, the leopard wasn't fully finished and operational until the night before the press release, so we had to work through the night to create a set of publicity images ready to go to press in the morning. Assisted by the talented Josh Perrett, we spent the night driving "Lily" all over the city, from Brick Lane, to the Gherkin and Tower Bridge. We got some pretty funny looks and had a great time watching people's reactions to seeing a life-size and incredibly realistic leopard on the streets of London. The story was picked up by a few major news outlets and with the accompanying tv programmes will hopefully help to raise awareness of the threats facing leopards and other big cats in the wild.

INTERVIEW: BBC Radio 2 - The Radio 2 Arts Show with Jonathan Ross

As mentioned in my previous post, I was recently interviewed by Jonathan Ross on BBC Radio 2 - the most popular national radio station in the UK. I was pretty excited to get the opportunity to spread the word about my wildlife photography and promote the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition to such a wide audience. You can listen to the full interview below...


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."


After discovering the urban deer site I mentioned in my last post, I couldn't wait to get back and spend a bit more time photographing them. After previously visiting on 3 different nights and only having any luck once, I knew I'd need a few days to get anything decent, so I bit the bullet and decided to book into a nearby hotel to maximise my opportunities. I'd already learnt a bit about the particular spots the deer liked to feed and the routes they used to venture out of the woods and into the urban surrounds, so starting off, I was in a good place to get in position as soon as they appeared..


Peering out from the edge of a copse, they'd wait for things to quieten down - usually around 2 o'clock before making a break from cover and dashing into the city.


By around 3 o'clock they'd find a quiet spot with a nice bit of grass to feed on and start to settle down. Gradually the bolder ones would venture into the busier streets, only dashing into the shadows when a car or bus went by.


The larger herds stuck to the playing fields, where they were less likely to be disturbed.


On my first attempts, my pictures looked a little grainy, so I decided to use a lower ISO this time and took things down to to around 400-640. This got rid of the noise, but meant that I needed shutter speeds of between 0.5 and 3 seconds at f2.8, but I had a tripod and a bean-bag so I was good to go. Deer are the perfect subject for slow shutter-speeds - often between feeds, raising their heads and staying stock-still to watch and listen for danger.


The trick is definitely to get in front of them, get your shot ready and wait for them to walk into frame. Chasing them around just doesn't work. They are always on high alert and remain skittish, so you need to be quietly patient and just hope that it all comes into place.. Like when a full-grown buck walks out into the street, in front of a bus stop!


By around 5 in the morning, the deer start thinking about heading home after their night out, back into the woods before the city's residents start to stir. It's crazy to think that a lot of people sat at the bus stops on the way to work will never realise that wild deer may have been feeding around their feet just a few hours before.


By the end of 3 long nights, I was ready to go home myself. I'll definitely return before the Spring, when the deer have less need to come out of the woods to feed. It's quite a difficult project and can be frustrating - particularly when they are giving you the run-around and you don't take a single picture all night, but the excitement when things fall into place and the photographic rewards definitely make it worth the lack of sleep :)

You can view these images at a higher resolution on my portfolio site.

P.S. Re. the title - they are fallow deer, so they're 'bucks' and not actually 'stags' but nothing wrong with a little grammatical inaccuracy for the sake of a bit of cheese!