History

                                 

I have had a lifelong fascination with nature and have been photographing the natural world for over 50 years. My interest arose from my Grandfather, Arthur Brook, who was one of the pioneers of nature photography. Although he died when I was very young he left a wonderful legacy of 1/4 plate equipment, books and photographic prints. He also left behind good friends who were eager to offer help and encouragement  to both myself and my brother David.

My Grandfathers work was underpinned by  a deep understanding of both his subject and the equipment he used. Much of his photography was based around his ability to develop and modify  equipment. He would then use his field craft skills to achieve his intentions. He experimented with magnesium powder before the invention of flash bulbs and was one of the first to use high speed flash for nature photography.

I was very fortunate to be given help and encouragement from one of my Grandfathers friends, Col H Morrey Salmon whose work started before the First World War and continued into the 1980s. When I was 16 Col Salmon introduced me to the Zoological Photographic Club where I was privileged to meet many of the people whose work I had studied and revered in my grandfathers books. 

I have included a series of photographs below which inspired me in my early days. They all demonstrate aspects of Nature Photography which I aim to achieve.

 

 

 

On the left is Arthur Brook photographing badgers
using magnesium powder. The camera was probably set on bulb and the magnesium ( enclosed in a metal cup above his head ) was ignited by two wires buried in it ; these were then short circuited by touching the terminals of a motorcycle battery. Below is a photograph of a Merlin at its nest. The hide will either have been built gradually in situ or erected at a distance and moved a little closer to the subject each day.Using 1/4 plate and a 180mm lens he will have been about 12ft from the subject. The exposure will have been around 1/30th at f16 and could have made sufficient noise to both disturb the subject and cause movement. This problem was resolved by using a "Luc" shutter; this type of shutter was silent due to using an air release to drive it, an added bonus was that if the light changed you could squeeze the rubber bulb harder or softer to alter your shutter speed! I started photography with this equipment and had to secure the shutter to the mahogany front plate using a saw , glue and screws. Not quite the same with my Canon 1dmk4 and 500mm f4 of today

My inclusion of these two photographs is to demonstrate the problem solving skills which were required by wildlife photographers 50 years ago. Personally I do not believe times have changed, we have to constantly think up new pictures and plan ways to get them; it is the challenges that make the results worthwhile.

 

                                                                        

On the right is Arthur Brook being attacked  by a Tawny Owl. It is well known that Tawny Owls will attack
intruders when they have young. My Grandfather worked with
and knew Eric Hosking well. Eric lost his eye to a Tawny Owl and I assume this picture was taken some time after that event. This was probably taken with flash bulbs and the photographer will have trodden on an air release upon impact from the Owl. This picture is moving away from the portraits of the day and clearly shows an aspect of the behavior of Tawny Owls.

                       

 

 

 

 

   

The last two of Arthur Brooks' photographs demonstrate his mastery of high speed flash. This first became available to him in the late 1940s, it was highly dangerous and more so in the damp conditions often encountered in the field. The voltage was 2500 volts DC which could jump gaps to get you! I find the picture of the Swift particularly exciting because it showed for the first time how Swifts carried food to their nests. This bird must have been carrying hundreds of insects but the action could not have been seen with the naked eye.

 

From my early experiments with 1/4 plate, I moved to medium format and later to Canon digital. High speed photography has always been an important part of my work. Outside of the early influences I have always admired the work of Stephen Dalton. He not only developed high speed nature photography to another level but also introduced a professional understanding of set construction and lighting which remain a benchmark for others to aspire to.

I use both Canon flashes and purpose built high speed flash. The purpose built units are high voltage and bulky but give out a lot of power. The canon 550ex units do not give much power when used in a high speed application but they can be used in banks and will often give 3 shots on motor drive; in addition they enable use of multi flash strobe effects .

I have selected the Frog photograph because it shows how frogs use their tongues to catch prey; it is something that can only be seen using high speed flash techniques.

 

My other main photographic interest is birds of prey. I grew up with a keen interest in Falconry but in the early 60s there were very few Falconers about and even less birds of prey due to persecution and the common use of pesticides like DDT. Most of my information came initially from ancient books but I did eventually meet others with similar interests and worked as a professional Falconer in the early 70s. I later ran a breeding program and worked extensively with artificial insemination techniques.Most of my best moments in wildlife photography have been spent photographing birds of prey in the wild; there is a thrill about being close to a sharp eyed predator which is difficult to match. My falconry techniques are very useful in training birds for photography; using a captive bird is not the same as working with a wild one and requires an entirely different set of skills but it does allow you to take pictures to show behavior which would be very difficult to obtain in the wild - like the picture of the Sparrow hawk on the right.