27th May 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Solan snap scoops top photo award

ST14-37 gannets-K2000A stunning photo of gannets on a point at Hermaness won the best photograph award in the habitat section of the British Wildlife Photography Awards last month.

The photo by visitor Ruth Asher can be seen on the BWPA website and was taken during a Shetland Nature workshop led by Brydon Thomason and Richard Shucksmith.

Ms Asher practises as a pathologist in Oxford and spends most of her working week in a laboratory looking down a microscope diagnosing various skin diseases. Photography provides her with the perfect opportunity to get outdoors in her spare time and explore.

She said: “I have always been interested in photography but only really started to take it seriously in the early part of 2011. Over the last two years I have become increasingly drawn to landscape photography but love to engage in wildlife photography when the opportunity presents itself.”

A life at sea – nesting gannets was taken at Hermaness nature reserve last September when Ms Asher participating in the “Autumn on Shetland – nature, light & land” workshop led by Brydon Thomason and Richard Shucksmith.

Ms Asher said: “I had wanted to visit Shetland for some time and so when the opportunity arose I snapped it up in a shot.

“Spending the week with Shetland Nature I was based at their lodge on Unst and we spent the week doing landscape and wildlife photography on the northern Isles.

“What I loved so much about the whole experience was the sheer diversity and drama of both the wildlife and scenery.

“One day we would be watching the wild Atlantic waves crash against the dramatic cliffs at Eshaness, and the next, otters play in the calm sheltered waters at Ulsta. We even experienced a pod of pilot whales trying pretty hard to beach themselves although that story did turn out well in the end.

“But what really made this trip stand out from others I had taken was the friendliness and enthusiasm of Brydon and Richard. They both have an amazing knowledge of the islands wildlife and their enthusiasm was truly infectious. I will certainly return to Shetland now it’s under my skin.

“We had spent the day at Hermaness photographing the gannets and I took this image just before sunset. The light at the time wasn’t particularly interesting but I loved the even distribution of the nesting gannets on a rocky outcrop and so I wanted to try and create something interesting of the scene that lay before me.

“Being a lover of landscape photography and the use of slow shutter speeds which turns the sea into a misty mystical void I decided to add a 10 stop neutral density filter to my lens to lengthen the exposure, almost five minutes in this instance. Once the picture was taken I couldn’t believe my eyes when the image popped up on the screen on the back of my camera.”

Ms Asher’s was one of several photos taken in Shetland to be awarded or commended at the national awards.

Wildlife photography expert Richard Shucksmith, who Ms Asher had been on the photography workshop with, came close to repeating his 2011 overall winner success by being voted winner of best photo in the “animal behaviour” category for his unique and dramatic shot of an otter swimming to shore with a puffin in its mouth.

Also successful were Andrew Mason who was highly commended for his portrait of a gannet on Sandstone cliffs. Also highly commended in the coast and marine category were Ness man John Moncrieff’s two photos of grey seal pups struggling among jetsom.

Contrasting with the prevalent theme of natural beauty, Mr Moncrieff’s photographs illustrate the darker side of man-made interference in the eco-system.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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