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What is it like to be a Naturehood Photographer in Residence?

31 January 2022

At the beginning of 2021, we ran our first competition to select our first three Naturehood Photographers in Residence for the year. Out of dozens of applicants, we selected talented amateur photographers Nathan Benstead, Helen Burton and Jane Scott. They were chosen for their passion for nature and their skill at capturing great shots of wildlife.

As we begin the search for our next batch of budding nature photographers, we asked these three to share their experiences being Photographers in Residence with Naturehood.

Nathan Benstead

Our youngest photographer, Nathan Benstead, aged 16, is passionate about macrophotography and capturing photos of insects. He tells us why he applied for the role and what he has enjoyed most about being one of the Naturehood photographers:

Caterpillar

I have been fascinated by nature ever since I can remember. I started photographing nature and wildlife a couple of years ago and since then have dreamt about becoming a professional wildlife photographer. So, when we came across the Facebook post asking for Photographers in Residence, I was very excited to send in my application!

Starling

What I have enjoyed most about my time with Naturehood is being out in nature and photographing wildlife. This is what I love, with the added bonus that others will see and enjoy my work.

Working for Naturehood has massively benefited me by contributing greatly to my savings, so I could afford my new camera and other incredible equipment. This is very important to me as I hope to become a professional wildlife photographer and filmmaker.

little owl

My most memorable moment while being a Photographer in Residence was receiving my Naturehood 2022 wildlife calendar and seeing my images printed in it!

Overall, I have really enjoyed my time as a photographer for Naturehood. I have been able to save money and buy some of the best camera equipment on the market so I can continue my passion and create better quality work!

You can check out and follow Nathan’s photography on his Instagram.

Helen Burton

Being a Photographer in Residence with Naturehood has enabled Helen to reconnect with the nature she loves and boost her confidence in her photography skills. She shares how being a Naturehood photographer has impacted her life for the better:

meadow brown butterflies

I applied to be a Naturehood Photographer in Residence just after I finished a long dreamed-of MSc in conservation ecology, which had been severely disrupted by the 2020 lockdown. My field research dissertation project had to be abandoned for a communications-based project, tying me to a desk for six months, and leaving me in position where I didn’t have quite the right skillset for my career.

While so many other people found their connection to nature during lockdown, I felt like mine was on life support as my conservation career goals were left in tatters. Wildlife photography was the only skill that I felt even remotely secure about, although I was still surprised to be selected.

Having a weekly photography goal drove me to get out in nature again, and I was reminded of the things that I had loved so much before - the beauty, the surprises, and the joy. Even things I’d never given much of a thought about - such as the ladybird larvae I searched, what felt like, the entire county to find - became so precious and fascinating. Passers-by stopped to ask what I was so thrilled about.

The thing I enjoyed most about being a Naturehood Photographer were the challenges. Occasionally, one of the weekly themes would seem so outrageously difficult to photograph that I would feel utterly compelled to find it. Nightingales, water voles, pole cats, and juniper are all things that I never would have thought to try and photograph without that motivation.

I also found myself stretching my capabilities as a photographer, such as when I experimented with photographing bats in flight at dusk. I now feel more like a ‘wildlife photographer’ rather than just a person with a little camera. This new confidence prompted me to join the local camera club. I have met some great new people and even received a 10 score in my first league competition!

My most memorable moment taking photos for Naturehood was my nightingale quest in April. At this point, I had never heard a nightingale, let alone seen or photographed one, as their numbers have fallen drastically.

It felt like an impossible challenge, but being new to the role I was keen to impress and thought this is the time to shine! I am lucky enough to live fairly close to Knepp estate, a large rewilding project in Sussex that now has one of the densest populations of nightingales in the country. I asked around for the best place in Knepp to see one, and I was given instructions on how to find a particular songster’s patch.

Later that evening, I stood in a dark avenue of trees as the sun slowly set behind me, waiting. A call came, confusing me with its jumble of odd sounds. Then the song began, with a purity that I didn’t expect.

 I believe that the beauty of a nightingale’s song is something that can’t be adequately recorded- like a sunset- you have to experience it. It was celestial. He sang for about five minutes, in the bushes just a few metres away. I did get a photo, but it wasn’t selected because it was terrible! I have since returned to Knepp, and taken some beautiful photos of nightingales, (they really are everywhere there!) but that first time was incomparable for how it stirred my heart.

What I’ll take away from the experience of being a Naturehood Photographer in Residence is a fresh love for nature. It has been such a positive experience, and I feel like this role has set me back on my conservation path with a renewed zeal. I highly recommend that anyone with a love for nature and a camera, big or small, apply!

You can check out and follow Helen’s photography on her Instagram and website.

Jane Scott

Jane was drawn to the role of Naturehood as it combined two of her greatest passions. She shares how being a Photographer in Residence has helped her learn and take action for wildlife:

I wanted to become a Naturehood photographer because of the chance to combine two passions - nature and photography. This, along with having a positive outlet that supported my interests in conservation and the environment, was such a wonderful opportunity.


I loved learning different things. I started looking out for elements of nature I wouldn’t necessarily have spotted without the prompts. I also enjoyed the Naturehood Facebook posts and weekly actions for wildlife. I made a little garden pond using a small recycled tin bath. I’m also ensuring that we maintain wildlife routeways in our garden for any wild visitors.

 

Being a Photographer in Residence has added to my photography story. It has helped with my application to be a volunteer photographer for the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, for example - still awaiting confirmation on that one but they were particularly interested!

 

My most memorable moment was visiting the beautiful Botanic Gardens in Cambridge and heading to a part I’ve not visited before. A little walkway over a pond, the excitement I felt when I spotted a newt!

You can check out and follow Jane’s photography on her Facebook and Instagram.  

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Unless otherwise credited, all illustrations © Chris Shields, and all wildlife photographs © Steven Falk
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