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September 2014



Little Owl

Although most of September was taken up with working on my ARPS submission to the Royal Photographic Society, I managed to spend a peaceful day in a hide waiting for a family of Little Owls... who weren't feeling very cooperative.  These birds fascinate me.  They are so tiny and so feisty!  Little birds with a big attitude.  They seem to have distinctive personalities and will turn their heads and adopt some very funny expressions.

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I don't think that I will ever forget the look on the face of the Little Owl who turned up on a post and found a mouse waiting for him!  Although Little Owls eat small mammals, beetles and worms, this character wasn't at all sure.  He pulled himself up to his highest height (which isn't really very much at all) and pushed his head backwards as if squinting at the mouse... and then flew away as if totally disgusted!  Funny...
and in other news...


Associate of the Royal Photographic Society


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If you asked, I would say that my journey to LRPS (Licentiate), the first step on the Royal Photographic Society's distinction ladder, was a long and traumatic pathway.  I got there in the end but it wasn't a very positive journey.  I was still very much recovering from serious illness. I don't belong to a camera club. I couldn't travel to advisory days.  I didn't have the advice or support of experts.  I received conflicting advice from friends and RPS.  I can't make decisions to save my life.  I don't print or mount. I could go on and on!  Apparently, I 'narrowly failed' the first time and eventually passed on the second time of submission but even then, was told that there had been a lot of debate amongst panel members on the day.  (I really didn't need to know that.)  I thought that that was the end of the matter and that I had been awarded LRPS but no.  There is a second process of ratification by RPS Council which some time later, resulted in a letter saying that after some discussion, which they wanted to let me know about, it was agreed that I was awarded Licentiateship. It felt like a smack not an achievement.

I could have given up but, photography is the one thing that I can do after acquired brain injury.  But... where to start!

In November 2012 I received an email from Del Barrett, regional organiser of London RPS, congratulating me on my LRPS and asking me for a copy of my hanging plan for the website.  This single email was the beginning of the pathway to ARPS even though I didn't know it at the time.  Eventually, I managed to meet Del and found that London RPS was neither big nor scary and in fact, there was a place for me.  We talked about forming 'London, Naturally' for like-minded London photographers and by January 14, Del was talking about organising a Natural History ARPS advisory day in London in June 14.

In the year leading up to the advisory day, I drove myself round the bend assembling collections of my best images.  I had a collection of puffins, a collection of bears, a collection from Scotland, favourites from across the UK, 5 of a kind, just birds etc etc... and I really didn't know where to begin. 

In the end I went to the day with images showing different nuances of puffin behaviour.  At the time, I was quite upset that I was advised against using a single species ie puffins because of the risk of showing a panel which lacked variety.  The advisory day was such a spectacular success for all the participants, that a further weekend was organised by RPS London for portfolio/panel review and with a session on Photoshop for natural history images.  

Life has a habit of falling in on me sometimes and so it was that I turned up to my panel review in a heap of abject misery with a laptop with hundreds of images on but no panel.  I left that room standing about 4" taller and with a long list of about 50 images to work on.  

If I go through those weeks in detail, I'd get RSI from typing and you would be very, very bored reading it.  Suffice it to say that the process of selecting the images and getting them ready for submission takes hours and hours and hours of intense work.  I learnt a huge amount about the process of putting together a panel with a sequence of Digital Projected Images.  It's totally different from putting together a panel for printing submission and for a non-printer like me, it was the right course of action.

I got the final selection of images submitted on the deadline and then had another debate about whether to go along on the day or not.  I knew it would be stressful.  I ummed and ahhed about attending right up until the night before!  The amazing and indomitable Del Barrett drove me from London to RPS HQ in Bath and held my hand during the course of that very stressful day. 

The RPS Natural History Panel judges scrutinised submission after submission and the mood of the morning grew darker and gloomier.  The last panel before lunch belonged to my friend Nigel Spencer.  He describes his experience here.  Nigel was successful.  Congratulations Nigel!  Mine was the penultimate submisison of the day.  I couldn't tell you what the panel members said about my panel because I was waiting for them to tell me that I had failed... but it seems that I didn't!  The judges recommended my panel for ARPS!  Del told me that the Chair had said it was one of the strongest Natural History panels that they'd seen and some of the images were fellowship standard.  Blimey!  

Ok, I had the images but, if it wasn't for the professional advice of Clive Rathband, the encouragement and personal support from Joan Ryder-Rathband as well as the friendship and encouragement from Nigel, Cathy and Bob, I would not have achieved this.  Thank you, thank you  x x x

My final thank you is to Del for her support throughout the entire ARPS process.  RPS Natural History Group don't organise many advisory days and certainly not in accessible places.  Del arranged an advisory day in London ... and that day marked the acceleration of my journey.  It wasn't that I didn't have the images, I just didn't know where to begin.  Del has been there for me, supported, encouraged and cajoled me and bless her, even drove me to Bath and sat through the day's stressful proceedings with me.  What a woman!  As she will tell you, I have changed my mind about submitting, about going, about deferring, printing, DPI-ing, running, hiding, leaving, going, submitting until even Del said 'Oh ffs, just get on with it, we can't go through all this again next March!'  And for that, and for a trillion other reasons, I love her dearly


My 'Statement of Intent'

My submission represents a selection of favourite images from across the range of my natural history photography.   I have selected 5 mammals, 5 birds and 5 macro subjects.  These were chosen because they capture the split-second of an action shot or convey the magic and serene beauty of a small macro subject.  From the Marbled White Butterfly and Black-tailed Skimmers in the early light of the morning, to the moon-light illuminating the fighting European Brown Bears, the images were taken using a variety of different lenses and techniques, in different contexts and habitats.