2016 01 - Natural History Photography

17th January 2016
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
14th January 2016
Images by Paul Hobson

Paul Hobson returned by popular request for our second meeting of the year with another much anticipated presentation of his work from the previous year. Sheffield based, Paul specialises in wildlife photography and we were treated to an evening of glorious images.

As he showed them, Paul spoke about how he felt his work was changing. He is very aware of what is required for stock photos which sell for publication in various forms, but increasingly he is finding himself drawn more towards more artistically inspired approaches to wildlife photography.

In the last year he has travelled to a wide variety of places leading groups and we began with a look at India. Here his paying customers are normally very intent on getting pictures of tigers, but as with all wild subjects, sightings are not guaranteed and Paul has to present suitable alternative subjects. We were treated to some stunning pictures of leopards, which tend to hide in the undergrowth in India rather than being more easily visible as they are in Africa. Photographing them on this trip Paul found himself wanting to include some of the foliage partially obscuring the animal to show the subject in the context of its environment.
This is an approach less favoured at present by international competition judges.

India was followed by a trip to Yellowstone in winter, when it is far less busy than summer. The snow transforms the landscape and provides opportunities to show the wildlife against it. In total contrast to the tigers in India, the bison are ever-present and it is possible to plan shots of them. Other creatures such as ‘Bob’, the bobcat, are very used to human visitors and it is possible to follow them and take shots of them involved in many different activities.

The foxes are the same species as we have in the UK and we saw a fascinating sequence showing how they pounce on prey through the snow. Paul also has fox shots in his own garden and we enjoyed seeing one vixen which treated him to a two hour photo session on a never-to-be-repeated afternoon.

Also in his garden Paul has experimented with some of the more artistic images which increasingly appeal to him. He has compiled a series of fascinating multiple exposure shots showing bats against his house. We learned that about one night in twenty will produce a single sharp bat image as they move so very quickly, so this work is a real challenge.

Throughout the presentation we saw numerous species of animals and birds. Some were traditionally presented and others in Paul’s more creative style. All were beautifully sharp well composed – even a series of a Reddish Egret having a bad hair day as it stood against the wind!

Working with groups, speaking and writing can mean professional photographers have little time for their own photography. Paul has taken to blocking out periods of time for himself to complete projects and develop themes. He described a project he undertook in and around Sheffield capturing images of the creatures which live near him. Among these were some striking images of insects silhouetted against sunsets, strongly back lit or roosting in grasses. These have so far not been commercially or competitively successful, but certainly were strikingly beautiful and thought provoking.

Paul has recently written a guide book for wildlife photographers giving insights into how and when to approach photographing different species. He also shares some of his processes. When he visits places where sets have been created to offer photographers a chance of getting specific images, he takes his own perches or creates his own sets to ensure his shots are unique. He removes or destroys his props before he leaves to ensure they are not reused and replaces the stock items.
As Paul concluded with some of his recent artistic work, we were left with ideas for photographing glow worms or red deer with the moon.