Behind the Lens with Nigel Symington ARPS

06 July 2020 | Posted in Emma Chaplin , wildlife photography
Behind the Lens with Nigel Symington ARPS
Southerham © Nigel Symington

Tell us about yourself and how you came to develop an interest in wildlife and wildlife photography.

It was latent for a long time. I was born in Leicestershire, but for the last 64 years I've lived in Sussex. I grew up in West Sussex, under the Downs. There were no buses. The only way to get out was on a bike. I read a book on badgers but had never seen one, so that became a challenge. I found one sett, but it had foxes in it. Eventually, after three years, I finally saw a badger at Burton Pond and took a photo, so that was satisfying. My father talked a lot with me about birds, butterflies and moths and we'd have lovely walks, with wildlife all around us. And the more you get to know about wildlife, the more it sucks you in. My working life was in marketing, commuting to London a lot of the time. And what with work and family, there wasn't the time. But when I retired, I decided to get back out into the country. I went on every course that Sussex Wildlife Trust offered. I also studied photography at the London College of Communications.

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How are you finding lockdown?

Frustrating. I can see the birds in the garden, but it's a small one, and with wildlife, you have to go where it is. I made a bee hotel according to Barry's blog. I've since had some tentative booking enquiries from some solitary bees! I planted Erysimum, the purple wallflower, and other butterfly-friendly plants. I used to live in Fletching. On the parish council, we managed part of the churchyard in an environmentally friendly way, and I wrote articles for the parish magazine about wildlife. Now the churchyard is in its third year of being managed like this, it's great for butterflies and other species. We've seen the Common Blue as well as owl pellets. I look forward to going back to see how its doing. We've had a very positive response. 

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What qualities do you need to be a good wildlife photographer?

Patience. Wildlife doesn't do as its told. I like trout fishing, but that's quite active. You're always trying different tactics or flies. It's mentally engaging. With wildlife you have to wait and sometimes you see nothing. You might be facing all kinds of weather condition issues, such as wind blowing flowers around. Then there's the time of year. For butterflies, late in the flight season, there are often a lot of tatty ones.

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What kit do you use, in brief?

I've got a new Sony mirrorless. Plus a macro lens for butterflies, and telephoto lens for birds. But I'm not in danger of becoming a tackle tart. It's fieldcraft that wins. Being prepared to get up early really helps.

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What advice would you give to other people interested in wildlife photography? 

Buy an alarm clock! Get to know wildlife and its habitats.

What do you most enjoy photographing?

Flowers at the moment, especially orchids. Finding them can be so unpredictable, so there's something about the thrill of the chase.

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Who inspires you?

Lots of people. A few include Michael Blencowe, Neil Hulme and Chris Gomersall.   

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What's your favourite shot?

The Adonis Blue. 

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Has anything unexpected happened when you’ve been out with your camera?

The most galling is when something unexpected happened and I didn’t have my camera. Such as when I watched a mother stoat moving her babies across a field and running within a few feet of me on each journey.

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If you could take your camera anytime in the world, anytime in history, where and when would you go?

I’d like to go out for a day with Gilbert White near his home in Selborne. There was so much more wildlife about in those days.

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What are you trying to communicate with your pictures?

I want to inspire people to get out and pay attention. To look at what beauty there is around them.

©Gillie Cuppage


  • Henri:

    06 Jul 2020 22:23:00

    Great pictures Nigel

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