Dam­sel­fly sil­hou­ette

June, 2008 Ta­mar Lakes, Cornwall, UK Nikon D300

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Raised in Cornwall, Ross Hod­dinott has de­vel­oped a life-long affin­ity

for the wildlife of the area. As a child this proved ben­e­fi­cial when en­ter­ing pho­tog­ra­phy com­pe­ti­tions – in 1990, aged 12, he won the ju­nior cat­e­gory of the an­nual photo con­test run by the Bri­tish TV pro­gramme Coun­try­file. Five years later he was named Young Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year in the pres­ti­gious in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion run jointly by BBC World­wide and the Nat­u­ral History Mu­seum in Lon­don.

Cornwall isn’t known for a pro­lif­er­a­tion of large wildlife species to pho­to­graph, so Ross has made close-up stud­ies of flow­ers and in­sects his spe­cial­ity. This im­age of a dew-soaked dam­sel­fly on a reed was taken early one sum­mer morn­ing by Ta­mar lakes. “A lot of my in­sect shots are taken around dawn so this would have been at 4.30 or 5am,” says Ross. “In this case it was an ex­cep­tion­ally misty morn­ing and I had checked the weather forecast which said it was go­ing to be still, which is very im­por­tant for close-ups.”

Ross says he pre­vi­su­alised this im­age be­cause he liked sil­hou­ettes as a con­cept. On this par­tic­u­lar morn­ing, a veil of mist hung over the lake and sev­eral rest­ing in­sects were dew-cov­ered, in­clud­ing this dam­sel­fly. “Mist is great for species like dam­sel­flies be­cause dew adds an ex­tra scale and in­ter­est to wings and make them sparkle,” says Ross. “I shot this one in­ten­tion­ally into the mist with the sunrise in the back­ground.”

The break­through

Ross hadn’t en­joyed any ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion suc­cess since win­ning Young Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year, but his luck was about to change: a new com­pe­ti­tion, Bri­tish Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year, was launched in 2009 and Ross en­tered his sil­hou­et­ted dam­sel­fly in the Hid­den Bri­tain cat­e­gory. He won. As a cat­e­gory win­ner, he was in con­tention for the over­all ti­tle, but didn’t rate his chances. “It hadn’t oc­curred to me that I’d be a con­tender for the over­all prize be­cause in­sects don’t win ma­jor com­pe­ti­tions!”

The judges clearly had other ideas, and at the awards cer­e­mony din­ner Ross was named Bri­tish Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year 2009. “I was com­pletely sur­prised,” he re­calls. “I went to the din­ner, looked at all the cat­e­gory win­ners, met the other pho­tog­ra­phers and didn’t even con­sider I was go­ing to win.”

Ross con­sid­ers this ac­co­lade to have been a break­through be­cause of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that fol­lowed. “The com­pe­ti­tion was in the na­tional press the next day. I had a cou­ple of in­ter­views on lo­cal tele­vi­sion, and it also gen­er­ated a num­ber of in­ter­views in the photo press. Shortly af­ter that, the 2020 Vi­sion na­ture pho­tog­ra­phy pro­ject was founded and the or­gan­is­ers ap­proached me to be one of the 20 pho­tog­ra­phers. From that point of view a big com­pe­ti­tion win opens doors.”

Keith Wil­son

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