Behind the Lens with James Duncan

, 27 December 2018
Behind the Lens with James Duncan
Nightingale at Woods Mill (c) James Duncan

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve been with the Sussex Wildlife Trust since April 2018, and I’m here for a year leading a series of different events, guided walks and talks and natural history identification courses as part of the Woods Mill at 50 celebrations, funded by the ScottishPower Foundation. My previous job was working in the Outer Hebrides for the RSPB, surveying the corncrake population and leading guided walks.

Red squirrel (c) James Duncan

Are you local?

I grew up in Hove and Woods Mill was the closest reserve. We used to come and visit when I was a child. Dad took me birding, and I have distinct memories of being here and spotting them in the early 90s. I had a passionate interest in nature and used to persuade him to take me to all sorts of places.

Woods Mill Mute Swans (c) James Duncan

What qualities do you need to do your work?

Good interpersonal skills. Passion. I wouldn’t be any good if I wasn’t fanatical about conservation and the natural world and wanting to share that. I used to sell cars. This is my dream job. Being outside and the public engagement side really appeal. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

Isle of Coll Inner Hebrides (c) James Duncan

Tell us about your interest in photography.

I’m interested in wildlife, landscape and urban night photography. And astronomy! I love photographing birds because of the challenge. I come from a photographic family. My dad and my sister are both excellent photographers. I studied it for A level at BHASVIC, but that was film photography, not digital back then. I got a decent DSLR in 2012 and that ramped up my interest. I’m self-taught. I read a lot of books, and like to balance a mixture of artistic and technical knowledge.

My camera is a Canon EOS 60D crop sensor with a selection of lenses, ranging from a 50mm prime to 600mm telephoto.

Red Deer (c James Duncan

What’s your favourite shot?

I don’t necessarily have a favourite. I’m extremely critical of my own work.

Red Flying Foxes  (c) James Duncan

Any hairy moments?

I nearly ended up falling off a cliff trying to photograph a puffin in the north of Scotland.

Puffin scotland (c) James Duncan

Where in the world would you most like to take a camera?

Antarctica. I have a huge taste for adventure and exploration. I love searching for wildlife in remote locations.

Orkney (c) James Duncan

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen?

Where to start! Swimming with the world's biggest fish, a nine metre whale shark in Western Australia was right up there, as was a dive witnessing majestic thresher sharks in the Philippines. I also spent a few minutes marvelling at a slumbering tawny nurse shark just feet away during another dive in Australasia. Stumbling upon wild kiwi in New Zealand and my first white-tailed eagle in Scotland were also top moments.

What are you most enjoying about your time at Woods Mill?

Meeting other people who are so passionate about the natural world, with a shared love and knowledge of conservation.  

Black shouldered Kite



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