Victoria Hillman Zoologist And Wildlife Photographer
Wildlife and Nature Photography
I caught up with Victoria Hillman a scientist by training with a BSc in zoology and a self-taught photographer. We discussed Victoria’s current project “Forgotten Little Creatures” and I ask how she approached wildlife photography. So here is a few questions that came up and as always you learn something new from every photographer.
Why can a photographers approach to capturing nature affect our wildlife?
People that are new to nature photography and photographing in the field can unknowingly cause disturbance and damage. There is always the excitement of seeing a particular species and the chance to capture it on camera but often forgetting about the smaller plants and animals they may disturb or damage in all the excitement. This can be an especially big problem during vital times of the year for different species, from emergence from hibernation for snakes through to breeding seasons, it’s so important to fully research your subject before heading out to photograph it.
Are there certain rules that photographers should oblige by when exploring the countryside?
For any photographer out photographing in the countryside (even in urban areas) need to be very aware of any specific rules of the site they are photographing, there are general rules of the countryside like shutting gates, taking your rubbish home but nothing else, for example wild flowers. You should always check to see if the species you would like to photograph have any legal protection and in some cases require a license to photograph in certain situations. The following are my general rules I adhere to when out in the countryside and ones that I pass on to others.
- Be very aware of your surroundings and be careful not to disturb or damage any plants or animals.
- Don’t chase after an animal, if they have moved away from you it is possible they are not comfortable with you being that close.
- Move slowly and carefully, don’t rush around as you could possibly end up causing damage to the habitat and also miss something.
- Always respect your subject and habitat, if something is obstructing your photograph gently move it out of the way don’t just cut it or pull it up. You should leave the area in the way that you found it not all trampled with foliage pulled up all over the place.
What would you say is the key skills needed to improve your nature photography?
It doesn’t matter if what you’re photographing, whether you have a particular interest, want to specialise, a complete beginner, enthusiast, professional photographer of looking for a change of career firstly you need to enjoy photographing nature on top of that I would say there are 6 key skills that would help you improve your nature photography, knowledge, respect, patience, perseverance, an open mind and a willingness to learn.
What has been the hardest subject you have photographed?
I would have to say the hardest subject has to be grasshoppers, snakes and lizards come a close second though. But with grasshoppers you can’t just walk along see one and take a photo, they are very wary of anything that comes in over the top of them and will quickly disappear either down into the grass or jumping some distance away (predator response). You have to crawl in slowly at their eye level and even then they have a tendency to hide behind the stem or whatever it is that they are on but patience really does pay off and given the right time and conditions they will poke their heads out showing the characterful little faces.
How did the concept behind your new project come along, Forgotten Little Creatures?
My Forgotten Little Creatures project came about fro seeing so many smaller species not get the attention they really deserve in the photographic world. We constantly see images of birds and mammals but rarely do we see captivating and different (non identification) images of reptiles and invertebrates and to some degree plants. This project is on going with the aim of an exhibition and accompanying book planned. But it’s not just about pretty pictures it is about images that make people think again at what they are seeing, bringing out the characters and showcasing my subjects in a new way to, in some cases, change the way they are perceived, there will also be lots of fun facts that are relevant to the species lives from why adders bask to beetles needing a specific species of solitary bee to complete its life cycle.
Do you have a tip for nature photographers?
Be patience and respectful of your subject, enjoy what you do, don’t force it just let the creative ideas flow. As long as they don’t go home, have a cup of tea and go back another day.
Who are the photographers that have influenced your work?
There aren’t really any photographers that have influenced my work, I would say it is more wildlife artists as they bring something different and unique to their work, capturing the characters and essence of the moment.
Finally, what’s your favourite photograph that you have taken?
I’m not sure I can pick just one! But certainly my most recent work with butterflies and snakes in particular the black and white shots.
Thanks to Victoria for sharing her thoughts, please click here to visit her website