Saturday, 17 May 2014

Go wild with your camera! Launching our fabulous photography competition ...

  • We are launching our Great British Wildlife Photography Challenge

  • Here we tell you how to get hold of the £1000 prize package

  • Julia Bradbury discusses wildlife photography


Weekend Reporters

22:30, 16 May 2014


22:49, 16 May 2014

Julia Bradbury will judge the Great British Wildlife Photography Challenge

Julia Bradbury will judge the Great British Wildlife Photography Challenge

Given that she’s spent the past five years presenting the BBC’s Countryfile, co-hosted global wildlife extravaganza Planet Earth Live and never goes anywhere without her camera, Julia Bradbury was a natural choice to be a judge on Weekend’s Great British Wildlife Photography Challenge.

And she was delighted to accept. ‘It’s a great thrill to be judging an amateur photographic competition,’ she says, ‘because I am that snapper!

‘I love photography and these days, with social networking and digital cameras, millions of people are sharing their experiences. We’re also blessed in Great Britain with an abundance of natural wonders and wildlife. So I’d urge everyone to get out there and have a go.

‘Because we’ve all got mobile phones we’ve all got a camera to hand wherever we are. I’m a real Tweeter so I’m forever sending pictures I’ve taken to friends and family. But prior to that, I always had a camera with me for the good reason that I like having a pictorial catalogue of where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and the wildlife I’ve encountered along the way.’

Julia, 43, knows how fortunate she’s been in seeing so much of the world because of her job, especially on travel programmes like Rough Guide and Wish You Were Here…?.

‘It means I’ve seen plenty of wildlife in exotic locations, but I’ve also seen lots here at home in the five years I was on Countryfile. I’m not the world’s best photographer but I like gadgets and technology.

‘These days most of the work is done by the camera itself. I use both an Olympus digital camera with a super zoom lens and a small Olympus Tough, which is waterproof and durable, as I know from experience having dropped it into a swimming pool once. The bigger cameras obviously take better pictures, but sometimes it’s nice to have something compact in your pocket you can whip out at a moment’s notice.’

She says she’s instinctively drawn to what she calls ‘majestic’ animals. ‘I’m really captivated by stags. I’m fascinated by the way they rely on their imposing presence for survival, as a deterrent to predators. Smaller animals are easy prey, but they can also hide more easily.’ She’s fond of water voles too, perhaps because they’re so rarely seen.

‘I love this picture of a female bottlenose dolphin catching salmon at Chanonry Point on the Moray Firth in Scotland, a fantastic feeding ground where you can watch them play. It’s such a great place to see them – you’d be unlucky not to spot one. This one’s name is Zephyr, the same as my son’ says Julia

Majestic Stags: Julia says

The wary water vole and the majestic stag are some of Julia’s favourite British wildlife moments

‘But at the Arundel Wetland Centre in Sussex they’ve reintroduced them and they’re doing pretty well. I was once part of a survey that was charting the habits of water voles and I had to help release them back into the water. I was wearing a protective glove – they have big, long, sharp teeth – and they would have taken a large chunk out of my finger given the chance. It was like a scene from The Wind In The Willows. I tried to take a photo but, sadly all I captured was the splash!’



Michaela Strachan

Graduated from children’s nature programme The Really Wild Show to become a stalwart of the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch.


Chris Packham

Chris presented nature photography series Wild Shots on Channel 4  before joining Springwatch and is  also vice-president of the RSPB.


Kate Humble

Well known to TV audiences for presenting Springwatch until 2011  and more recently Lambing Live, Kate has her own smallholding in Wales.


Steve Backshall

He has more than 1,000 TV shows to his name, but adventurer and naturalist Steve is best known for his Deadly 60 show, for which he won two BAFTAs.


Simon Stafford

Simon is an acclaimed photographer specialising in wildlife and the natural world, and the Technical Editor of Nikon Owner magazine.


Gray Levett

Owner of top camera shop Grays of Westminster, and Editor of Nikon Owner magazine.

And never imagine that you’re bereft of wildlife just because you live in a town or city, she says. ‘There’s a man on the internet called David Lindo who styles himself The Urban Birder and he’ll tell you exactly where you can find wildlife within easy access of where you live. In central London and Bristol, for example, I’ve seen some of the biggest foxes I’ve ever come across.

‘Not long ago, and in broad daylight, I saw a fox strutting around Holland Park in west London, near where I live, without a care in the world. Even in urban back gardens you can see squirrels, magpies and turtle doves.’

But, as Julia points out, you can also venture even further afield by visiting one of the nine wetland centres throughout the UK. Established by naturalist Peter Scott just after the Second World War, the centres are dedicated to providing a sympathetic environment for everything from oyster catchers and whooper swans in Dumfriesshire to peregrine falcons and ringed plovers recorded recently at the centre in Barnes, south-west London.

Thanks to her job, Julia’s become quite good at composing photographs, one of the key elements of taking good pictures. ‘I spend a lot of time with wildlife photographers and cameramen and the one thing they always stress is an uncluttered background.

So I’ve learnt how to frame a shot – I’m much more conscious of making sure the background of a picture is free of unnecessary clutter.

You can’t always arrange these things, of course, but if you’re taking a photograph of a beautiful red squirrel in Northumberland, as I once did in the snow, or a robin in your back garden, you don’t want anything to distract from the subject.

And the wonderful thing about digital photography is you can take as many photos as you want because you can always delete any you don’t like. In the old days you might take two shots of something, painstakingly develop the roll of film and then discover you didn’t really capture the moment. But these days you can snap away to your heart’s content.

‘I back up all my photographs on to a hard drive. What I haven’t yet got round to doing is editing them and touching them up. Time is my great enemy at the moment what with my work and my son, Zephyr, who’ll be three in August.

‘He’s got his own little schedule now but, if it works for him, he’ll accompany me on any trip that lasts more than four days. When I was filming the black bears for Planet Earth Live in Minnesota a couple of years ago, for example, he came along too.’

By the age of six Julia was accompanying her father Michael on long walks in the Peak District where she grew up.

‘He’s incredibly knowledgeable about the great outdoors and he set about teaching me everything he knew. We’d be out for hours and hours, just the two of us.’

The fact that her burgeoning enthusiasm for the natural world should become a career was, she says, almost accidental. She’d been interested in TV and broadcast journalism from an early age but she didn’t become co-presenter of BBC1′s Countryfile alongside Matt Baker until 2009.

The route that led her there included stints on those travel shows and as GMTV’s Los Angeles correspondent before landing one of the main presenting jobs on the consumer series Watchdog in 2004.

Gray Levett editor of Nikon Owner magazine says

Gray Levett editor of Nikon Owner magazine says ‘I love this shot. You see the squirrel’s ears bending in the wind as he looks up from what he’s doing. Something has caught his attention and I’m guessing it could be the photographer himself, a young man called Will Nicholls who was only 16 at the time he took the shot in his native Northumberland in 2011.’

Chatting to a BBC executive one day, she revealed her love of the countryside which eventually resulted in Wainwright Walks, a series based on Alfred Wainwright, famous for his walks in the Lakeland Fells.

‘I loved the variety of my work. I enjoyed the fact that on a Tuesday night I’d be wearing a sharp suit and grilling some dodgy rogue trader on BBC1′s Watchdog, and on a Thursday I’d be in an anorak and hiking boots heading up Scafell Pike for BBC4.’

One thing led to another and Julia was offered a regular role on Countryfile when it moved to its current prime spot on Sunday evenings.

‘The programme is still based in agriculture,’ she says, ‘but it’s widened its scope to include our wonderful landscape, architecture, history and the natural world.’

Most recently, she’s taken up an offer to present a new series, The Wonders Of Britain, about the nation’s landscape, for ITV, which is due to be shown in the new year. 

But for now she’s urging everyone to go out this summer and explore – you never know what you might come across. She remembers the time she was lucky enough to see the rare Large Blue butterfly when walking through the Golden Valley in the Cotswolds for Countryfile.

‘It was a glorious sunny day but we didn’t expect to see much because rain was forecast and then, seemingly out of nowhere, we spotted one.

I radioed Matt Baker to tell him but it had flown off by the time he got to me. Then, five minutes later, it was back fluttering around us. Perhaps it was another one; we’ll never know. Take yourself off to the Welsh borders next month and you should encounter some beautiful butterflies. And don’t forget to pack your camera!’

Find out more by visiting centres. David Lindo’s website is


Simon Stafford, one of our judges and a leading UK photographer specialising  in wildlife, will accompany our overall winner on a three-day workshop next March in the Bavaria National Forest Park for a masterclass in photographing lynx, Eurasian brown bears, wolves and elk. Here are Simon’s tips for getting the very best shots – and a few of his own favourites…

  • Keep it simple. Don’t try  and over-complicate your composition.

  • Research your subject. If  you have a particular species accessible to you, read about it to learn its habits. If it’s garden birds, for example, find out which are ground-feeders and which feed from a perch. Establish if there are any seasonal considerations in terms of migration.  

  • Respect the wildlife. No photograph is worth causing distress to the subject or disturbing its environment. This is particularly true in the mating season and when any young may be present

  • A barn owl on the wing in Hampshire early one morning

    Don’t be too technical. You don’t need all-singing, all-dancing gear. Depending on how close you can get to your subject, you may need a  long-length lens. But with modern single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, a lot of the work is done for you.

  • Provide a reliable food and water source so that birds return to feed on a regular basis. If you’re operating in your own back garden, there’s no reason why you couldn’t build yourself a very simple hide too.

  • Venture out. I’d recommend using Britain’s many nature reserves and parklands. Virtually every county will have its own wildlife trust. The internet or your local library will have all the information  you need. And churchyards can be a rich source of wildlife because of their own mini eco-systems.

  • Don’t imagine animals are confined to the countryside. You’ll be surprised by how many foxes, badgers and butterflies you’ll find on railway embankments and parkland.

  • Patience is a virtue. I’ve had situations where I’ve turned up and, within minutes, got the photographs I wanted. Equally, I’ve spent days with absolutely nothing happening.

  • Light is key. Without it, there’s no photograph. I’d strongly recommend staking out a location from dawn to dusk. Where will the light be and when? Will it be hazy or harsh? Most wildlife will be observable at either end of the day. And don’t always assume the light should be behind the photographer. Light coming from the side, for example, will cast shadows and give a more three-dimensional feel to your photograph.

  • If you’re taking underwater shots, use a fast shutter speed, if possible, as everything moves underwater, including the photographer! Get close to your subject because water absorbs light and visibility is often poor in the UK. Always use flash to restore the red, orange and yellow colours that the water absorbs. Ideally, use an external flash as it will be more powerful and you can control the angle of the light at 45°-90° to the subject to prevent reflections from particles in the water. Watch where you flap your fins so you don’t damage the environment or stir up sediment. Use buoyancy control to help stabilise your position. Always keep an eye out for your own safety (air supply, depth, currents, boats  on the surface). Make sure any camera/camera housing seals are clean; even a grain of sand can cause a leak. Always rinse equipment thoroughly after use.

  • And finally, good luck! If you can  find a little bit of pixie dust that always helps!


Calling all amateur photographers! 

Today sees the launch of a fabulous new national wildlife photography

competition – Weekend magazine’s Great British Wildlife Photography



looking for your stunning shots of creatures in their natural British

habitats – whether that’s up a mountain in the Highlands or on a bird

table in your back garden.


results will be judged by our panel of experts including Countryfile’s

Julia Bradbury, Kate Humble and Springwatch’s Chris Packham in four

categories – Mammals, Birds, Insects, and Fish, Reptiles And Amphibians,

with an additional category for under-18s.


category winner will have their photo published in Weekend magazine and

receive a package of Nikon equipment worth £1,000, while the reader

whose single shot is judged the overall winner will also get a three-day

trip to Bavaria – one of the last havens in Europe for the wildlife

that used to roam freely on the continent – for a masterclass in

photographing lynx, Eurasian brown bears, wolves and elk.

be revisiting the competition over the coming weeks and months in the

magazine before the closing date for entries on Friday 5 September, but

meanwhile if you think you’re a natural  at photographing wildlife, take

up our challenge and start snapping!

A Hedgehog spotted in a Wiltshire garden


The Great British Wildlife Photography Challenge is open to all amateur photographers.


are five categories in total:

1. Mammals; 2. Birds; 3. Insects;  4.

Fish, Reptiles And Amphibians, and finally 5, a special category for

Junior Photographers under 18.

Entries must be submitted by email by

Friday 5 September 2014 and the winners will be announced in Weekend

during October.

Category winners will have their photographs published

in the magazine and put on display. They will also receive a

state-of-the-art Nikon 1 V2 digital compact camera and Nikon 1 system

lenses, plus memory cards, as part of a £1,000 package.  


overall winner will also receive a  three-day trip to Bavaria with

professional photographer Simon Stafford, one of our judges, who will

run a masterclass in photographing lynx, brown bears, wolves and elk.

The trip, in March 2015, includes return flights from the UK, transfers

and two nights BB, courtesy of Tatra Photography, specialists in

wildlife workshops and landscape courses. For full terms and conditions,


Osprey are great to photograph because they are so big


? All

photographs must have been taken in the British Isles. Studies of farm

animals, pets and animals kept in captivity are ineligible.

? Only amateur photographers can enter.  No entries from professional or  semi-professional photographers.

? Entrants can submit photographs in more than one category but no more than three in total across the competition.


Entrants must verify the provenance of each image and, in the event of a

winning entry, must be able to provide the original file to confirm

that images haven’t been combined or manipulated in a significant way.

? Entrants cannot submit photographs that have previously won any award or commendation, nationally or internationally.


Images should be emailed as Jpegs to by

Friday 5 September 2014. Please include your full name, age, address and

phone number. 

? Entries will be judged both on technical ability and aesthetic composition.


Each entrant will retain full copyright of  any photograph they submit

which will only be used in the context of the competition in Weekend

magazine or any Associated Newspapers publications. Should any

photograph be reproduced elsewhere, it will carry a credit for the

relevant photographer.

? Prizes are as described above. Travel insurance is not included for the overall winner. No cash alternatives.


of DMG Media and their families, households or agents are not eligible

to  enter. Usual promotion terms apply, see for

details. The judges’ decision is final.

Comments (1)

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east yorks,

10 hours ago

Fabulous wildlife photos, but that squirrel is sooo gorgeous!!! :)

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