Photographers get creative in Lockdown

Photographers get creative in Lockdown

How have our photographers been coping during the Covid-19 lockdown? We asked them to tell us their own stories and to share with us the photos they have shot in these difficult circumstances. We’ve been surprised what they have managed to achieve – and how many fascinating subjects are found very close to home!

Update from Belgium and Wiltshire

Bernard Castelein and Tracey Rich have recently sent us their own personal stories of their lockdown experience, from Wiltshire in the UK and from Belgium.

Belgian photographer Bernard Castelein saw his exhibition of the multimedia 100 Landscapes  project close early, due to the coronavirus pandemic. He told us how he employed the principles of that project during the lockdown:

Stream through misty woodland, Groot Schietveld, Wuustwezel, Belgium

“On  March 16th  it became clear exactly what the lockdown-light in Belgium meant. Fortunately we were still allowed to cycle and walk outside, close to home and not by car, excetp for essential travel. I don’t have a car, I’m an avid cyclist. So Peerdsbos, Groot and Klein Schietveld, nature reserves between 2 and 15 km from my home, remain easily accessible. I made the connection: no matter how much I like to travel and explore exotic places, in the whole project 100 Landscapes I had just advocated photographing in one’s own region. Now let me live up to that idea!”

“Since then I’ve made long walks with my wife of 7 to 8 km through the Peerdsbos almost every morning. After all, it is also important just to keep moving and stay fit. On day one we immediately had a super observation of black woodpeckers. It was a wonderful sighting but unfortunately I had left my photo equipment at home… It’s clear – I mustn’t go outside anymore without taking my photo gear with me. Over the next few days, this only yields in a few pictures of jackdaws that had taken over a nesthole of a pair of black woodpeckers. For the woodpeckers I had to wait until April 14th. But then it’s really ‘bingo’: two male black woodpeckers were engaged in a territorial dispute, all of which takes place within shooting distance and lasts longer than half an hour.”

Tracey Rich gets close to rabbits in Wiltshire

Tracey found that lockdown gave her more appreciation of the wildlife on her doorstep:

“I’m sure I can’t be the only one to ‘grasp the nettle’ when it comes to getting inventive during lockdown. It has given me a new sense of purpose in my photography, given me permission to look and learn, and a greater appreciation of what’s right under my nose. Rabbits, for instance. ”

“Nature, it seems, has become louder, braver, more obvious during lockdown and these bunnies are no exception. Their burrows line a camping field which has been completely deserted during the last few months. Whereas they would normally hot foot it out of the field on even a shadow of a person, they are venturing further and are much more tolerant of me than ever.”

“The youngsters in particular have no concept of social distancing at all and often run within inches of me, although I still use the ponies in the next door field as mobile hides, allowing me to creep up on them. It’s been fascinating getting to know the individuals. All the cast of Watership Down is right here, and the dramas that play out every night are dramatic to say the least. I have learn to understand what makes them tick. For instance, they don’t bat an eyelid at the military aircraft overhead, but a distant call of a crow harassing a buzzard and they are running for their burrows in a heartbeat!”

“We’ve also had red kites galore here and they have certainly come into ‘town’ well, into the village at least. Maybe the lack of road kill has something to do with that? One day last week, right in front of my cottage, there were 17 alongside 7 buzzards, corvids and gulls following the plough. It was incredible – a special moment. So, lockdown so far for me has been an eye opener, a chance to breathe, to rediscover and to reconnect as I hope it has for many.”

Red kites (Milvus milvus) following the plough with corvids, Pewsey Vale, Wiltshire, UK, May.
Red kites (Milvus milvus) following the plough with corvids, Pewsey Vale, Wiltshire, UK, May.

Urban Living

Matt Maran’s London foxes

Matt found some great opportunities for fox photography close to his North London home.  “Lockdown has been a challenge with much of my paid work cancelled or postponed. However it has freed up time to take stock and dive into archives to create photo and video stories. I am fortunate to have a plot on an allotment and to be able to visit to film and photograph the foxes. The lack of traffic and planes flying overhead has made it easier to hear fox activity and to prepare more quickly for the next shot. I found a new den site where a vixen had 5 cubs. The viewpoints were good and I was able to film from a distance. I used a telephoto lens to capture intimate moments of the cubs feeding. It has been a privilege to get so close and it has been one of the best experiences of the past four years.”

And here are a couple of recent video clips – just click the image info link to play!

Emanuele Biggi shoots spiders in his apartment

Emanuele tells us how he managed to find wildlife subjects in his Genoa apartment. “During my two month lockdown I stayed home with my beloved Elena. I only left our third floor apartment to buy groceries. Around us we had a nice but not so green environment. Being a new apartment, even our balcony was a bit “bare” and it was our only available “outdoors”. The very sunny weather was an additional torture! But wherever humans go, there’s always a spider lurking in hidden corners. So I used mixed techniques (macro, wideangle) to portray our eight-legged companions. It was both rewarding and entertaining. I started giving names to some of them and hoped to find them again the next day – just to say hi!  At the end of the lockdown I felt grateful to them, because they truly gave us some nature relief while stuck in our nice but concrete-made home.”

Alex Hyde has a little helper for indoor insect photography

Alex faced the challenge of looking after his 7 month old twins, while finding photography subjects in and around his home! “I have had one of the twins strapped to my front for many of the pictures I have taken in lockdown. You can see this in the selfie, which depicts the making of the moth underside picture. The twins at least helped me get up at 5.30am to look at the moth light trap. This brought in a number of excellent subjects such as the Cockchafer and the Red-green carpet moth.”

Doug Gimesy finds feline inspiration

Doug Gimesy lives in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. He found inspiration in the form of his cats. “Shiloh and his sister Chloe really love the lockdown and have really benefited. We have only had these rescue 13 year old rag dolls 5 months, and because either one of use is at home all the time now, they are getting lots of attention.”

In the Garden and and into the Woods

A number of our photographers have created wildlife-friendly gardens and are also lucky to have woodland habitat nearby with an even greater range of species.

Mike Hutchinson finds the garden a dramatic theatre for stills and video

“An interest in small things makes a garden a vast, varied theatre hosting lots of small dramas. People are having such different experiences of lockdown and I am very aware that I am lucky to have a garden. I’ve been managing it for wildlife ever since I moved in. I’m also grateful for my fascination with invertebrates which makes it difficult to be bored.

My two metre square mini-meadow has been full of pollinating insects, dark bush cricket nymphs and wolf spiders. Nearby, I spent several days watching and filming flower crab spiders. I lucked out when one yellow female in particular took up residence on my honesty plant. She hunted quite dramatically amongst the purple flowers making a great colour combination. Several days later she turned white and I was able to document her new look too.

I’m certain none of us wished for the situation we find ourselves in. However, the lockdown has given me a much needed opportunity to explore the garden at a time of year when I am normally away on assignment. For the abundance of new life, Spring is my favourite time of year. Invertebrates are captivating if you take time to watch them and I hope in some small way we can collectively help communicate their importance and the joy and interest they can bring to even very small patches of land.”

Andy Sands finds focus-stacking opportunities in his garden and a nearby wood

“We have been blessed with some great weather during the first 5 weeks of lockdown. Personally I have been blessed with extra time as I usually work 5 days a week as well!  I made a decision to try and take at least one macro image I was pleased with every day. Not an easy task when helping to home school our 7 year old!  We are also lucky to have a good sized garden that I have set out to be wildlife friendly. In addition we have access to ancient woodland and open country at the end of our road.

A family walk and subjects for focus stacking

Our daily exercise as a family is usually a 4 mile walk.  Often it involves short stops to take photos or collect specimens. Usually I use a sweep net or beating tray, essential kit for an enthusiastic entomologist.  I have been concentrating on trying to produce the best quality possible often using a technique called focus stacking.  This involves taking a sequence of images and moving the focus between frames. These are then combined using specialist software at home to control depth of focus in the image.  This can be extremely frustrating as the subject needs to remain motionless for a second or two while the images are taken.

The one thing I have learnt is how much invertebrate life there is close to home and around the garden. If you spend enough time in one place it can be eye opening what is around.  I have discovered many new areas within a mile of home including a fabulous ancient woodland full of interesting insects and birds, all this right next to the M25!

Ross Hoddinott enjoys the Cornish woods and family time

It’s been a challenging and uncertain few months for everyone, but I feel very fortunate to live in rural North Cornwall. We have escaped the worst of the pandemic so far. I love spring, but normally at this time of year I am travelling all over the UK to run workshops. Therefore, I’ve treated the enforced time at home as an opportunity to enjoy the wildlife local to me.

We are fortunate to have a small woodland, which my parents created over 30 years ago. It is now a thriving little habitat and this year I’ve been able to truly appreciate the nature on my doorstep. The wildflowers have been spectacular – swathes of red campion, bluebells in the hedgerows, and lots of early purple orchids. With our three children at home currently, we’ve been learning about nature as part of their home-schooling. We visit our little ponds in the morning to watch damselflies and dragonflies emerge.

The joys of close-up photography

While this is not an easy time to be self-employed, I’ve enjoyed having time to do my own photography at home without distraction. I’ve been getting up close and personal with less obvious subjects, like shield bugs and scorpion flies. I’ve even discovered creatures I didn’t previously know we had residing here. One of the joys of close-up photography is you don’t need to go far to find a rich array of interesting little subjects”.

Adrian Davies finds unusual plant photography techniques – and a subject courtesy of his dog!

“Like many photographers I have been both frustrated, living just 3 miles from one of the country’s best bluebell woods but not able to visit it.  At the same time I have been excited at having to use very local resources for my photography this spring. I am very lucky that my house backs directly onto Ashtead Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey. Here there are some wonderful ancient pollarded oak trees. I take daily exercise here, often without seeing another person. My dog always picks up ticks at this time of year, and the one shown here was removed from him one evening.

Using high speed and UV light techniques

I have always grown a number of plants in my garden specifically for photography. I often grow them in pots so that I can move them around to catch the best light and backgrounds. The Marsh Marigolds are in my pond, and I have been using them as a test subject for my ultraviolet work. This shows how insects might see them. The daylight shot was a one second exposure, so a calm windless day is required.

The high speed shots of pollen are part of an ongoing project on plants in action. They were shot indoors using off the shelf flash guns at around 1/10,000 second duration. Sometimes the pollen is only released on one day, so being around to catch them at the right time has been very useful.

With limits to exercise being lifted we can now travel further, but there is still something very special about our own home patch.”

Nick Upton uncovers fascinating insect behaviour and some surprising nocturnal visitors

“As well as photographing a range of things in my garden,  I’ve been getting out for lots of local walks on really quiet footpaths through some stunning patches of woodland. Here there are lovely carpets of spring flowers to enjoy and photograph. I find myself wondering if the colours and are better are than ever this year, or if I’m just appreciating them more.”

Nature never fails to surprise

“Nature never fails to surprise and entertain me and I’ve also come across many engaging insects. These included delicate Fairy longhorn moths dancing over Hawthorn bushes, colourful Hairy shield bugs and clusters of small furry Fruitworm beetles gorging on Dandelion pollen. Also, I’ve spotted and photographed some rare behaviours I knew about but hadn’t seen before. For example busy little Two-coloured bees coming and going from their quirky nest sites in old snail shells, and Bee flies coating their eggs with soil before hovering low over Mining bee nests to “bomb” eggs at them.  Working in my garden and on walks near my home has proved unexpectedly productive so far, though I look forward to going further afield down the line!”

[Nick Upton to add in – some images yet to go online…]

Watch for part 2 of the lockdown blog for a global view

In the second instalment of our lockdown blog, to follow soon, we’ll offer a wider global perspective, from photographers based in Australia, Hawaii, India and the Galapagos, as well as more from various states across the USA. Watch this space….

If you you’d like to see a wider selection of images taken in lockdown by the photographers featured above, and to have a taster of the wider view, check out our lockdown gallery here.