Champion youth wildlife photographers from the North East
PUBLISHED: 16:45 24 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:57 20 February 2013
Two young wildlife photographers give Jo Haywood a snapshot of their lives
The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of North East Life
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Samuel Hood was 11 when he was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. He found walking difficult and couldnt motivate himself to get out and about with his tree-climbing, ball-booting contemporaries.
But then he picked up his grandads camera and his whole life changed. The countryside around his Killingworth home came into vivid focus for the first time and he couldnt wait to get out into the wild world again.
I was really struggling to walk at the time and was looking for something to get me out and about, said Samuel, now 14 and a pupil at Longbenton Community College. It wasnt until I picked up a camera that I realised what a beautiful landscape we have in the North East. Its like I was looking at the countryside for the first time.
Im particularly lucky to have Killingworth Lake so close by. I had no idea about the wildlife that lives there. I couldnt tell one bird from another at first, but now Im pretty well informed.
Samuel has won numerous photo competitions, including the Port of Tyneside 2010 which netted him 500 and a new camera, and he was shortlisted for the 2011 RSPCA Young Photographer of the Year title for his shot Swans in Symmetry, which he took at Killingworth Lake.
I was just out on the lake when I heard a noise in the distance and saw four swans heading towards me in a perfect line, he said. I just grabbed my camera and started shooting. I was just in the right place at the right time.
Id love to have my own photographic business one day, he said. Its one of those things that hooked me as soon as I picked up my first camera, I felt really comfortable with it.
I actively look forward to getting out there now and see every trip down to the lake as another chance to learn more about photography and about nature.
Will Nicholls, 16, of Haydon Bridge, has enjoyed a similar learning curve. He first picked up a camera when his family moved from the city to the country in 2007. Now he has won the RSPCAs annual national competition.
I started with a few pictures of sheep that were virtually on our doorstep, said the Newcastle Royal Grammar School pupil. I thought they were brilliant but, looking back, I can see they were rubbish.
His skills have grown exponentially since then, as has his love of the countryside.
I like being able to see wildlife in its natural setting and am always on the lookout for something new, he said. I see things other people might not notice.
Patience is definitely as much of a virtue as observation though. Will had to sit for a long time in a bush at Kielder Water to get his winning shot of a red squirrel searching for lunch at a feeding station.
Red squirrels are my favourite subjects, he said. Theyre just so full of character and are unpredictable in a good way.
Like Samuel, Will sells his work to support his photography and update his kit. But he doesnt see a future for himself as a photographer.
I want to be a natural history documentary maker and presenter and keep photography as a hobby, he explained. My dream is to follow in the footsteps of Sir David Attenborough and Steve Backshall.
And hes already well on his way. He has just finished his first 10-minute documentary on the wildlife of Northumberland, which is winning rave reviews on You Tube, and is preparing for a month-long trek through the wilds of Borneo.
I went to Ethiopia last year to help renovate a school for a community that had next to nothing, said Will. That was a real eye-opener. Ill be taking a camera to Borneo but not my full kit. I took seven kilos of equipment to Ethiopia and regretted every ounce. Ill be travelling light this time.