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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 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.
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:
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!
My urban wildlife pictures have just been used to illustrate a feature in the Observer's monthly technology, science and ideas supplement. It's great to see urban wildlife getting some decent coverage in a national newspaper with such a varied readership and it always feels good to reach new people with my work when it has the potential to spark an interest in wildlife in the city.
The feature by Adam Vaughn can be read on the Guardian / Observer site here: "When Animals Go Wild in The City"
I'm just back from Amsterdam shooting a new project on city herons. With all of the canals and waterways, grey herons really thrive over there, but I managed to find an area where they are part of the night-life too. Look out for the full series, which I'll be publishing soon.
The "Urban" category is making a comeback in the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. To celebrate this, the organisers asked myself and two awesome wildlife photographers - Alex Badyaev and Pål Hermansen, to share our thoughts about urban wildlife. I am a big believer that wildlife should not be seen as something that exists outside of the city and that urban wildlife photography plays a big part in helping people realise that humans and wildlife must coexist. The piece can be found on the Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year site here..
Dutch nature magazine Roots has used one of my urban fox images for their February cover. Inside there is a cool feature on urban wildlife with some more of my pictures, including 2 double page spreads of the same fox and an urban peregrine falcon. I've long been a fan of Roots - it's the biggest independent wildlife and nature mag in the Netherlands and always contains great photography, so it's great to make the cover and exciting to see my local wildlife getting international attention!
If you want to know how to photograph urban wildlife, check out the new Feb 2015 issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine. My best tips and advice about photographing UK wildlife in the city are condensed into a double page "how to" tutorial - Available today http://www.discoverwildlife.com/magazine/current-issue
The results of the 2014 Melvita Nature's Images Awards have just been announced this morning and my recently published Berlin goshawk story and one of my urban fox pictures have both been awarded. The goshawk set (12 images) was a runner-up in the Man and Nature category and my fox in the Nature in the City category. A nice way to finish off 2014 and my best year so far in the major wildlife photography competitions with a total of 21 awarded images.
You can see all of the winners and runners-up on the competition website: www.natureimagesawards.com/palmares-2014
In unrelated news, my parakeet image has been included in the Daily Mail's "Most Amazing Photographs of 2014". View the full selection here.
The latest issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine (January 2015) hits the shelves on Monday and I'm excited to share that it's running my Berlin goshawk story. I've been working on this for some time now and it's been a bit of a journey from my first trip out to find them at the beginning of 2013. I've met lots of people working with goshawks and raptors along the way and some have become close friends. I took Ben Hoare, the features editor of Wildlife Mag out to Berlin with me this Summer to meet some of them, so that he could find out a bit more about the project and interview the people working with and monitoring the goshawks before writing the feature. 2015 is the "year of the Goshawk" in Germany, so it's a great time for it to be published and Ben has done a great job in telling the full story. Subscribers to the mag should have their copies already, but it officially goes on sale on Monday 22nd December so please go and check it out.
You can see more of my pictures from this project on my site: www.samhobson.co.uk/urban-goshawk
A web gallery is also being featured on the BBC Discover Wildlife Site: www.discoverwildlife.com/gallery/goshawks-berlin
The behind the scenes video on the Wildlife Mag Youtube Channel is here: http://youtu.be/d2tboE0fePw
Massive thanks to Norbert, Bea, Rainer, Olly, Manuela, Lutz, Felix and all the guys who helped me get the pictures and made it so much fun and big thanks to everyone at Wildlife Mag for making it happen!
A feature in the current "Christmas Special" issue of Amateur Photographer Magazine asks 10 magazine, agency and website editors to select their favourite image from 2014. Matt Swaine, editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine has picked my WPY and GDT EWPY awarded image of parakeets as his favourite of the year and here's what he says about it.. Thanks Matt!
Matt Swaine - Editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine
Rose-ringed Parakeets Flying Over a London Cemetery by Sam Hobson
I would like to nominate Sam Hobson’s picture, which was a finalist in the 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Sam specialises in urban wildlife and works hard to understand animal behaviour to get the right image. I believe this shot was taken in a graveyard in South London and it shows rose-ringed parakeets – an alien species that is now becoming quite commonplace on garden feeders in this part of the UK. Invasive species are a serious issue, and this photo shows these birds in a clearly British setting, bringing home just how commonplace they have become.
UPDATE - 20th December 2014 - Parakeets also included in Daily Mail Most Amazing Pictures of 2014
Amateur Photographer Magazine - 20-27 December 2014 - Images of the Year
This month's Outdoor Photography Magazine features a piece about the wild raven I photographed earlier this year in the Canary Islands. The locals knew him as "Geronimo" and to say he was a character would be a real understatement. Copy attached below..
On a visit to the Canary Islands to photograph ground squirrels, Sam Hobson finds the star of the show is an impressive wild raven, called Geronimo, with a penchant for biscuits and peanuts thrown by passing tourists. It took quite an effort to get this epic shot
"Earlier this year, I went to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands to research a few conservation projects and shoot a photo story on the invasive Barbary ground squirrels that have colonised the island. I quickly found the squirrels, as they gather anywhere there are tourists, and I decided to use this to my advantage by shooting them in context with some nice palm-tree-lined promenades and beachside resorts in the background. After I’d got the more urban images, I headed out on the tourist trail; up into the mountains to search for locations where I could photograph the squirrels in front of the island’s typically arid landscapes. After studying the map, I chose the road with the most lookout points dotted along it. I’d heard about a few cool birds I might encounter on the way, such as houbara bustards, cream-coloured coursers and Egyptian vultures, so I was keeping my eyes peeled, but nearly everywhere we stopped there were ravens, either cronking in the sky above or perched only a stone’s throw away upon roadside fence posts. I’d never encountered wild ravens as bold as these – they seemed to be taking up the role of gulls or crows, which were notably lacking on the island, and were scavenging for pickings around the outskirts of towns and villages. We drove higher into the mountains and when we reached the first of the lookouts, it was a wildlife oasis. Barbary squirrels, or ‘chipmunks’, as tourists call them, were coming out of the woodwork, sparrows were hopping all around my feet and within a few minutes a pair of ravens had landed nearby. It soon became obvious why the wildlife here was so habituated and concentrated, as a tour bus pulled up and its passengers got out with various tidbits to feed the squirrels and birds. A little perplexingly to me at first, the bus driver started shouting ‘Geronimo! Geronimo!’ We soon spotted a massive raven flying up through the valley towards us, straight over the bus and landing on a post very near the driver. The other ravens and squirrels scattered and Geronimo quickly hoovered up all the biscuits and peanuts he could before taking off into the valley, leaving the tourists to continue on their journey. Over the next few days, I returned to that viewpoint to see Geronimo a number of times. After a while, he started to recognise me and became a bit more comfortable with my camera and flash. I set up this shot by placing a piece of flapjack on my lens hood, using a bit of fill-flash and standing back a few feet with a remote release to fire the shutter. Unfortunately, the only perches available were either fences or ugly looking concrete, so I had to lug the rock he’s standing on about half a kilometre to the scene, but it was definitely worth the effort. I wanted to capture some of his character so it was important to get him big in the frame, and by using a wideangle lens I could get as much of the valley behind him in as possible – I definitely think he comes across as king of the castle. Shouting ‘Geronimo’ into a valley and watching a majestic wild raven fly from the distant horizon towards me and landing by my side is a wildlife experience I’ll never forget."
Nikon D800, Nikon 17-35mm f2.8, SB700, Pocket Wizard +III
Outdoor Photography magazine, 185, Moment with Nature
I just got back home to Bristol after a full on week in London at Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Wildscreen Photography Festival (formerly Wildphotos). Wildphotos is held at the prestigious Royal Geographical Society and I always have a great time at the event, so I was honoured to be asked to be a speaker this year - it's not often you get asked to share a stage with some of the top wildlife photographers in the world! My talk on the art of urban wildlife photography went down really well and afterwards I got to meet and catch up with loads of inspiring people and chat about ideas and new projects and I came home feeling pretty inspired. I also did a masterclass at the Natural History Museum. Now time to take it all in and focus on what's next!
Thanks to Lara Nouri for the picture
Tuesday was definitely my biggest night of the year. First of all, it was Wildlife Photographer of the year week, which in itself was great to be a part of. The night of the awards was loads of fun and the standard this year is absolutely incredible. My parakeet image "Feral Spirits" was a finalist in the birds category so I got my first peek of it in the special 50th anniversary awards book and in the competition exhibition at the Natural History Museum. I also had a dream come true when I got to meet Sir David Attenborough and shake him by the hand. He's been a hero of mine ever since I can remember and has always been an inspiration in keeping my interest in natural history alive. What made the night even more special, was that I got to see my fox image on the cover of BBC Wildlife Magazine. The special WPY issue featuring all the winners is given out on the night with a copy of the WPY book, and the awards is the first time anybody sees it, so to have the front cover and of this particular issue totally blew me away. Finally, it was also announced that my parakeet image was highly commended in the GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year in the Man and Nature category. To say I'm on a high is quite an understatement!
BBC Wildlife magazine are currently running a gallery of my fox pictures including the cover: www.discoverwildlife.com/gallery/amazing-urban-fox-photos