Sunday, October 27, 2013

Laurie Campbell

Scotland's premier wildlife lens-man swapped hide for hall last night. Laurie Campbell, 54,  from Paxton, near Kelso, travelled to Penicuik to present his latest photography lecture on the country's native wildlife.

Images were taken on a broad geographical range from frogs in his garden pond to golden eagles nesting in Harris. Mr Campbell, who is known to spend days cooped up in a homemade 2m³ hide halfway up a cliff, snapping the top raptor, went into some of the complex methods he uses to snare his prey.

In addition to building simple wooden boxes covered in canvas and camouflaged with scrub, Mr Campbell explained how he uses perspex fish-tanks to photograph subjects such as Salmon spawning. Animals illsutrated during his talk included red squirrels, bats, trout, dolphins, seals, moths, damsel fly, badgers and birds from the humble robin to elusive owls. 

I was a little surprised to learn that deer carcases were used as bait to enable images of eagles' feeding and of the hazlenut trails laid to entice behaviour in red squirrels. Tempting badgers almost into the house with scraps of food also seemed to me at odds with the wildlife imagery we see on the BBC. It led me to ponder how many amazing images we see are set up over a long period of time.

Whatever my views and thoughts about the methods, Mr Campbell's sheer professionalism and commitment to his subject shone through. From two weeks stuck off road when his camper-van sank to the axles in a bog to weeks at a time camping on uninhabited islands,  he demonstrated the determination needed in any creative field to move beyond the ordinary.

He showed the span of his work from early images with manual focus film cameras using notoriously tricky Kodak Ektachrome film to amazing digital images using top quality optics, wireless release and the latest cameras.

An inspirational lecture in the age of the iphone for anyone trying to capture nature in all its moods..........

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