Photography

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC COMMISSION - BIG CAT WEEK

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...

MEDIA COVERAGE - INTERVIEWS WITH NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, JONATHAN ROSS AND WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR

Since the announcement of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016 (WPY52) winners, I've had the opportunity to promote the WPY competition / exhibition, wildlife photography and my own work across many platforms. Here are some of my recent favourites...

During the WPY52 results week I was interviewed on the National Geographic Facebook Live channel by my good friend Bertie Gregory. Above is a pic of the interview at the Natural History Museum in London by amazing underwater photographer / photo-naturalist and all-round great guy Tony Wu, with a couple of screen grabs from the interview, which had 62,681 views!!! If you don't already know Bertie's work, check out his series for Nat Geo here - it's awesome.

I also did a couple of TV and radio reviews including this interview for ITV News to promote the opening of the WPY exhibition at the M Shed in my home town of Bristol and a #WPYinsights video at the Natural History Museum about how I work, with some tips for nocturnal wildlife photography.

Perhaps my most fun interview though was with Jonathan Ross on the BBC Radio 2 Arts Show, where I got to bang the drum about the importance of urban wildlife photography and Jonathan made me do a pretty embarrassing / amazing impression of a fox. It was pretty cool, if not a little surreal hanging out with Dame Vivienne Westwood and John Simpson, whilst Jarvis Cocker complained about the broken coffee machine and Mr. Ross informed me that he's a big fan of my photography, but all in a day's work and great fun :)

Iplayer link here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0848ybt

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.

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

DOUBLE PAGE OPENER IN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE

Incredibly awesome to see my parakeet picture published in the latest National Geographic Magazine (October 2016). It's one of 3 double page spreads in the opening "Visions" section - The Most Stunning Visions of Earth: phenomenal photos of the world's wonders. WOOP-WOOP!!

BRITISH WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS - 9 IMAGES AWARDED

The British Wildlife Photography Awards recently announced the 2016 winners, including nine of my pictures, which were highly commended. A set of six from my Northern Gannet series, featuring the desperate situation on Grassholm Island, where birds become entangled in marine litter was the runner up in the Documentary Series category.

I also received two highly commended in the Urban Wildlife category - a spotted flycatcher nest in an old brick wall and an unusual mistle thrush nest in a traffic light. Lastly, my image of a red fox vixen suckling young cubs in a suburban garden was awarded highly commended in the Behaviour category. A pretty good haul in total!

BRITISH WILDLIFE MAGAZINE FRONT COVER

British Wildlife magazine is a bit of a national institution. It was first published in 1989 and has always been respected amongst naturalists for being an unassuming, informative and accessible publication that treads the line between academic journal and newsstand title. I've long been a subscriber, so it's great to see my fox image on the February cover. British Wildlife is bimonthly and the latest issue can be purchased here.

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."

MARINE LITTER FEATURE IN DAILY MAIL UK AND MAIL ONLINE

I've just had a 2 page conservation story published in the Daily Mail, highlighting the problem of marine litter in the UK and how it affects our wildlife. The piece also went out on the Mail Online, which is the most read online newspaper site in the world, so it's great exposure for the story. I spent last summer working with seabird scientists, researchers and conservationists to document their work, and at the end of the summer, I visited RSPB Grassholm, which lies 8 miles off the coast of Wales and supports 10% of the global population of northern gannets. The press piece focuses on the Grassholm gannets as they are the most severely affected by marine litter in the UK - mainly due to the island's proximity to ocean currents like the Gulf Stream, which brings floating debris into the heart of the gannets' foraging zones. The birds mistake discarded fishing lines and nets for strands of kelp and seaweed, and bring them back to the island to line their nests, but unlike kelp, these man-made plastic fibres are incredibly difficult to break free from once entangled and can be a death sentence. Hopefully some positive changes will come from publishing the story in an outlet with such a wide reach. You can read the online piece here and I will be putting up a new gallery of the full project very soon. Thanks to Wildscreen Exchange for helping me tell the story.

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 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.

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."

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

ADORAMA TV INTERVIEW

I'm a bit behind with my latest posts as I've been taking some time for paternity leave. It's been a roller coaster but tons of fun and I'm really enjoying being a dad for the first time. I've been working on some local projects in the background, so will catch up with things on here when they are published in the coming weeks. For now, here's an interview about my work that I did for Adorama TV at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

nb. The black-headed gull image at 1:34 is not mine - I was showing the interviewer some techniques after the interview and I set up the camera, but she took the picture!