June, 2008 Tamar Lakes, Cornwall, UK Nikon D300
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.”
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.”