In the joyous peaks and frustrating troughs of life, what often makes the brief view from a summit rewarding is the effort involved getting there. So as I briefly soak in the heady atmosphere of winning the coast and marine category of the British Wildlife Photography Awards at my first attempt, I inevitably reflect on what it took to achieve it.
I think that a willingness to try something new and a determination to succeed feature high on my list. Although other people photographed blue sharks before me and to a standard that inspired me to have a go, it is still a relatively rare subject. I was lucky to pick up two awards for the shark photography: in one case using only natural light; in the other augmenting shallow water light ripples with a hint of flash.
But it was the highly commended image of a rainbow trout in an urban setting that gave me the greatest sense of achievement. It is not my best trout image, because it was taken early in the development phase for my remote control underwater photography. But it represents better use of my imagination. A previous blog explained part of the uphill journey, but the modest height achieved served only to expose a hidden peak that I’ve yet to climb. I’ve strapped on some intellectual crampons and re-designed a third underwater camera system that might now let me reach that final summit.
All three designs have a common feature: operating the camera from a distance so that the fish are not spooked. One design uses a simple mechanical trigger on the end of a pole. Another uses a laptop to control the camera through a USB lead. But this final design seeks to break free of physical tethers using a wireless transmitter. As I write, I’m waiting for the final components to be delivered from Germany, after which I will assemble the camera and then test it on another UK chalk stream.
Meanwhile, I had another delightful four minutes of fame when one of the trout images hit the British press. The image below was serendipity and a light-hearted by-product of the trout project, but it really caught the public’s imagination.
There may be a book to be written about this. Not just to show the beautiful fish and other wildlife that inhabit these wonderful British chalk streams, but about the way you can become so immersed in the behaviour of animals and the exhilaration of capturing it on camera. I have found few things in life that are all at once so completely absorbing and relaxing. A real zen moment! Watch these pages for more results – and look out for an interview about this on the BBC South regional news, on your screens some time on or after 2nd October.
Best wishes, my dear friends