Little critters have always fascinated Ross. He’s been shooting insects since he was 10-years old, using inexpensive close-up filters at first to enable him to achieve frame-filling results.
Aged 11, he won BBC Countryfile’s inaugural photography competition with a photograph of two emperor dragonflies. He enjoys capturing the exquisite beauty, intricacy, shape and form of insects and miniature subjects, favouring natural light and always photographing his subjects in situ in the wild while hopefully causing minimum disturbance. He is the author of Digital Macro and Close-up Photography (Published by Ammonite Press) and has won awards in Wildlife Photographer of the Year, British Wildlife Photography Awards and International Garden Photographer of the Year with close-ups of insects. He’s a Nikon Alumni, an Ambassador for Manfrotto, and passionate about conversation.
We asked Ross about his background, and what life during lockdown has been like for him…
My family moved to North Cornwall when I was aged 7. My parents were ahead of their time really, being passionate about conversation and rewilding, and they transformed a few acres of fairly barren farmland into a young woodland, with ponds and wild areas. They planted over 500 trees – mixed species – and managed the land to encourage wildlife. Wildflowers thrived and spread and the meadows buzzed with pollinators. I’ve grown up watching this habitat evolve, mature and develop. Growing up, this was where I took my very first nature shots and where I nurtured my love of photography and all things wild. Aged 10, I got bitten by the photography bug and I was so lucky to have so much to photograph on my doorstep. My parents could never have realised then what an influence on my life and future career the woods would have. Even after I moved away, I returned regularly – not just to see my parents, but to visit to the woods and fields and take photographs.
7-years ago, we purchased one of my parent’s barns and converted it into our family home. I moved ‘home’. Now we care for the land and manage the woods. It is a fascinating and emotional journey to see the woods mature and the habitat evolve. My kids now climb trees I helped my dad plant – and to watch them learn about nature in the little haven my mum and dad created 35-years ago is wonderful. So many of my close-up images are taken here and it continues to play a key role in my work. I continue to take a large chunk of my shots here and we have now inherited the responsibility to manage and develop the habitat. I’m a big fan of shooting close to home – getting to know local subjects intimately and also limiting my carbon footprint. Not everyone has the opportunities I’ve been fortunate enough to have, but even a small garden can be wildlife friendly and a haven for all types of things – big or small.
How have you found lockdown?
It’s been such a strange and surreal few months for everyone, hasn’t it? Lockdown presented different challenges and difficulties for each of us. However, I feel incredibly fortunate to have so much space around me. We have a converted barn in rural Cornwall, and several acres of immature woodland and wildflower meadows. It is a beautiful space and so for us, as a family, we didn’t really feel confined. We loved all the time together as a family… the sunshine helped too. Juggling home-schooling three children and work proved interesting of course, but overall, we couldn’t complain – we were safe, secure and healthy. I think, like many, the recent pandemic made us realise how fortunate we are and that our priorities are often misplaced. We can all take for granted the most important things in life – family, friendship, health, big open spaces and nature.
Has it changed your photography?
I think my photography really benefited from the lockdown experience. I’ve always taken a lot of my images close to home anyway, wishing to minimise my carbon footprint and believing that an intimate knowledge of my subject and its habitat helps produce better, more intimate images. However, only being able to take photos within walking distance of home for nearly two months proved an interesting challenge. I’m fortunate to have so many potential subjects right on my doorstep, though, and in springtime, our little wood really comes alive with wildflowers, while dragonflies emerge from our ponds and the meadows are buzzing with insects.
Often, I feel rushed and restrained – so much of my work today revolves around organising and running workshops and writing books and articles, that my own photography often has to take a backseat sadly. But with all my workshops cancelled, I had weeks to focus on my own photography – time to enjoy our woods and look for different subjects or fresh perspectives. And also the opportunity to revisit subjects day after day if necessary, until I felt I had achieved the best possible shot. This might sound odd, but in a strange way, I was given a timely reminder of just how much I love photography and being close to nature – so often I have to focus on other aspects of my business to generate an income. My wife thankfully took on the role of head teacher, so I could focus on taking photos. And the kids would often join me and we would look for nature to enjoy together – it was a golden opportunity for them to learn more about the plants and wildlife in their backyard.
What will you take out of lockdown as it starts to ease and things head back towards ‘normal’?
During lockdown I think I realised that I needed to find a better balance – to spend less time teaching and writing, and more time outdoors doing what I love, taking photos and immersing myself in nature. The experience reminded me just how much I love being at home and with my family. Wildlife photographers really don’t have to travel to far flung places, or shoot honeypot species, to capture beautiful, intimate images of nature.