Behind the Lens with Pete Brooks
Tell us a bit about yourself
I'm 39 and live in Eastbourne. I was born here and love it as it has everything I need. My day job involves working in IT, but I love to windsurf, paddleboard, ride bikes, run and photograph the amazing wildlife in the area.
How did you develop an interest in wildlife photography?
I have always been fascinated by nature and wildlife. I am fortunate to have grown up in a wonderful part of the world, with the South Downs, woods, forests and the seaside right on my doorstep. Some of my earliest memories are exploring my garden and looking at bugs. We had a fox family that visited, and still do to this day.
Photography has also always been something I wanted to do, but I didn't put the two together until came across the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in London. In that moment I knew it's what I wanted to do.
What’s the most unexpected thing that’s ever happened with your photography?
A photo I took led to me getting married! Back in July 2017, there was an amazing electrical storm over the south east. I headed to the famous Belle Tout lighthouse for some shots. I got some great ones and the owner of the lighthouse (which is a B&B) saw them and offered me a stay in the hotel in exchange for some prints. I decided that this would be an amazing setting to propose to my beautiful girlfriend. Everything worked out, and we've now been married eight months. See my website blog if anyone is interested.
The photo was also Commended in the Landscape Photographer of the Year awards, which was unexpected but amazing.
What qualities do you need to be a good photographer?
Patience. Generally people don’t know the work that goes into getting some of the images (not that they need to). There are times you get lucky, but it can be weeks or even years in the planning, when all the elements you want come together.
Respect for the subject, as no photo is worth unnecessary stress or endangering wildlife.
I would also say, passion for your subject, as if you love what you are photographing it really shows in the photos.
What equipment do you use, in brief?
I use a Nikon DSLR (D500) and most of my work is done using a long lens (Nikon 200 – 500) a lot of my work here was shot on my previous camera a Nikon D5200.
What’s your favourite shot?
This is hard. Like many photographers, my favourite photo changes all the time, but this one of a Little Owlet fast asleep has to take it, not just because it’s so cute, but it's everything I try to portray in my photography. It is completely at ease with my presence, in gorgeous morning light, in its natural environment. I also love how it shows off their great camouflage.
Who do you admire in life and photography?
Professional wildlife photographer Andy Rouse has always been a huge inspiration to me, his work is simply amazing. Richard Peters was a big influence as he helped me realise that you don’t need to go far and wide to get great shots, with award winning photos from his back garden.
My family have always been very supportive and inspire me to be better. My first memories of photography were when I was very young and in the Cub Scouts and my dad was teaching me how to use a SLR camera for my photography badge.
What do you find most challenging to photograph?
I think nocturnal and rare species are the most challenging. I don’t like to use flash as I feel this can cause unnecessary stress to the animal (of course there are situations where it is fine and safe).
What are you trying to communicate with your photographs?
Simply just how amazing wildlife is and how accessible it is to everyone. I hope that once people see wildlife on their doorstep they'll want to do everything they can to help save it. In the beginning I thought I had to travel all over the world or around the country to get great wildlife photos, now I rarely travel for more than 30 minutes from my house. We lead such busy lives, everyone is rushing about so much that it’s not until you slow down and take time to look a little closer that you really see what is around you.
It wasn’t until I picked up a camera that I ever saw a Kingfisher or Badger. Now I have found four of the five species of British owls within 15 minutes of my home.
If you could take your camera anywhere in history, where would that be?
First I thought, back to before there were people to see the abundance of wildlife and how much it has changed, then the child in me screamed "dinosaurs!" I mean, what wildlife photographer wouldn’t want a T.Rex in their portfolio?
For more of Pete's wonderful photography, see his website