I was very flattered to be asked to prepare an article for WATW, so a big thanks to Dave and Martin for asking me to do so.
I have my own blog and write regulary on there, but at first, the thought of preparing something for someone else was a bit daunting. Should I write about some techniques I use, locations I visit or the equipment I use ? In the end, I decided to write about a project that I've found utterly challenging, but very satisfying indeed - more of that later though.
Firstly, a little about myself - I'm a self taught amateur photographer and keen wildlife enthusiast. I've had a life long interest in nature which I think I can thank my parents for - they own yacht which as a child I sent most of my summer weekends and holidays upon.
We cruised the Essex & Suffolk coasts and rivers and on main holidays, made our way to France, Belgium and Holland. My opportunities to get up close to sea and shore life was ever present and as a young RSPB member, ticking off my first Avocet sighting in Holland or my first Sandwich tern was exciting.
About 4 years ago I decided to buy a DLSR - in a slightly drunken moment, I bid on a 30D plus loads of kit on ebay. I won it, and have not looked back since.
The 30D (and all the kit) has since been sold off and upgraded as invested more and more money in this expensive hobby. I now spend a lot of my free time photographing, planning projects, going on trips and observing the wildlife in South-East England and East Anglia.
One project that I've devoted almost a divorce inducing amount of time to is Badgers, which is the subject of this piece.
I discovered a set a year ago. Having no experience of these animals other than on TV or from seeing the odd dead one at the side of the road, I had no idea how to go about seeing them, let alone getting any shots.
My discovery set me up for one of the most frustrating, but enjoyable projects that I've so far attempted in photography.
Enlisting the help of my friend Calum, I started putting a little food down for them so that we could at least confirm their presence.
We then started our vigils and I've lost count of the hours spent at that set last summer, waiting for darkness and straining to see any sign of movement in the gloom.
Over time, we got plenty of sightings - owls, deer, fox, hare, bats - even the odd bloke with his dog. The badgers were scarce and I was beginning to think that there must be and easier way to do this.
We did get badger sightings, but they were very brief, the badgers were very wary, and they usually appeared a long way from my carefully placed, pre focused and remotely triggered camera.
The set itself is on farmland that I have permission to access but what didn't help was that the farmer had planted a huge crop of sweetcorn adjacent to the set - so guess what, the badgers developed a liking for the corn and whilst we could hear them running around and eating it in the field, sightings were rare.
October arrived, the weather turned, and we decided to stop for 2010.
This year, we started the project again in April. Regular visits to place a few tasty morsels after work were shared between us and we were delighted that on our first vigil, we were greeted to the wonderful sight of not just one, but five cubs, all foraging for the peanuts we'd left for them.
As April and May have progressed, the badgers have got used to my presence, the shutter noise and crucially, my scent. I've been able to get closer to the set and, crucially, the cubs are now bold enough to venture out before sunset.
Just sitting and watching these super creatures is a pleasure and photographing them in broad daylight is an experience that will live with me for years to come.
I am looking forward to seeing the cubs grow as the year passes and if Dave and Martin ask me to write an entry again, I'll let you have an update.
I've a few more projects on the go at the moment, so check my own blog if you want to see the results of those
For now though, here's my favourite shot so far.
It would be great if Graham could do an update in a few months, i have mentioned in previous blogs that i tend to shoot in a project style i.e take 1 subject and spend some time shooting it over a period of time, Badgers can be one of the most difficult of subjects to shoot especially if they are nocturnal only animals-some venture out in daylight and some will only come out well after dark
Again thanks to Graham and look forward to the update