Wildwatcher Collections chats to Wildlife Photographer Alice

Wildwatcher Collections chats to Wildlife Photographer Alice

"I really enjoy the challenge of capturing a moment. Particularly one that you might otherwise miss. Capturing interesting behaviour is what really drives me, but this is easier said than done!".

Tell us a little bit about yourself? Originally from Devon, I moved to Moray in January 2022. Before I moved here I was living in Belfast and my partner, Will, had just moved here for work. I was back and forth for a while but we both fell in love with the place and it was a no-brainer that we made it a more permanent home. 

What do you love about your area/where you live? Where do I start?! I honestly never dreamt of being able to see wildlife like dolphins, gannets and osprey from my window. The sheer number and variety of species that we see in Moray is incredible. Something I find particularly special is seeing how things change with the seasons. When the Eider start to move off, before long the gannets start reappearing and dolphins sightings become more regular. Before you know it the Osprey are nesting again and the House Martens are swooping around the harbour. I’ve never felt so in-tune with the comings and going of migratory species until I moved here.

What do you do for work? My “day job” is an NHS physiotherapist. I also freelance as a photographer, videographer and writer. I also have a role as a Regional Rep and Plastic Free Lead for Surfers Against Sewage. Busy busy! 

Have you always wanted to do this? What attract you to it? I am often envious of people who can say they have always known what they wanted to do, and never deviated from it. There are countless careers that I could have happily fallen in to, the struggle I always found was picking one! I also think we are moving away from the thinking that everyone has to decide what they’ll be doing the rest of the life as a teenager. What attracted me to working as a physio, particularly when compared with other healthcare professions, is the desire to help people lead full lives free from pain and restriction. It’s incredibly rewarding, and working with people, often at an extremely scary and vulnerable period in their life, to work towards their goals and ultimately improve their quality of life is quite special. 

I’ve always been passionate about the environment, and so with my background in health I became increasingly interested in the health benefits of getting outside. When I was working on my Masters in Public Health I made this my focus and wrote my thesis on the mental health benefits of interacting with “blue space” (lakes, rivers, the ocean etc). Thankfully I was working on this in a place with plenty of blue space so I could reap the benefits myself! I am working on angling my work towards this area, and hope to get involved with more projects that support people to engage with outdoor activities for health benefits. 

You are also heavily into wildlife photography, how long have you been photographing for wildlife for? Wildlife photography has always been an interest, but I only really got hooked around 2020. I had been quite unwell with sepsis just before Covid kicked off, and spend the best part of 18 months quite physically limited. Having been super active my whole life, this was a huge adjustment, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic. As I was building my fitness back up with walks, I started taking my little point and shoot camera and taking photos of birds. Being forced to slow down allowed me to notice what was around me more, and photography gave more of a purpose to what was in reality, a very short walk! Purely by chance, I stumbled upon the Great Crested Grebes doing their famous courtship routine, the “weed dance” on a local lake. Of course this was at a fair distance and my equipment was not up to the task. I was pretty frustrated to come away from an awesome encounter with mediocre images. I told myself I wasn’t going to miss something like that again, so I upgraded to a DSLR and a telephoto lens and that was that! 

What is the underlying motive in your photography - what drives you? I really enjoy the challenge of capturing a moment. Particularly one that you might otherwise miss. Capturing interesting behaviour is what really drives me, but this is easier said than done! In a lot of ways I just love watching wildlife, and the photography comes second. One thing that I find really rewarding, is when people who perhaps aren’t able to get out so much enjoy my photos or videos. The joy of watching wildlife isn’t as accessible to everyone and I feel very lucky to not only have it on my doorstep, but to have the time, means and physical ability to get out and enjoy it. It’s wonderful to be able to share a little of that magic with people. 

Which species of wildlife do you enjoy photographing the most? This is a tough one, because they all come with their quirks and challenges! I would probably have to say the Gannets. It’s difficult to get any unique shots, but there’s something about the sounds and smells of a gannet colony that I love. I could watch them bickering on the cliffs for hours! That said, there’s also something great about photographing the more skittish species, like otters and hares. Particularly when your patience pays off! 

Which animals do you find the most challenging to photograph, and why? Anything nocturnal! We’ve had pretty awful luck with badgers! 

We noticed from your posts, you like travel photographing and video recording wildlife. Is this for pleasure or more related to your work? A bit of both! Sometimes work opportunities comes from projects that were just for fun and vice versa. This is definitely something I’d like to do more of and we already have a couple of things in the pipeline for next year. 

Seeing wildlife in the UK and abroad do you see similar issues that are effecting wildlife or are they different depending location? This is an interesting question! We were in Java this year, and one of the big threats to the wildlife there is the pet trade. Thankfully not something we have an issue with in UK species. Issues like pollution and habitat loss are quite consistent threats to species across the world, albeit with different causative factors and therefore require different solutions to tackle the problem. 

What’s particularly concerning at the moment is the impact of Avian Influenza. The World Health Organisation recently confirmed the virus been identified in five continents and in an increasing number of mammals. 

Where would you like to travel to next, and to see what specie/species? I’ve been super lucky this year to have had two amazing Orca encounters with the 27’s pod. I’d love to get over to Norway and see them there though! 

Finally, apart from work, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time to switch off and relax? The most relaxing thing for me is getting totally off-grid either camping or in our van. Last weekend we found the best beach-side spot, went for a long walk on the beach and fell asleep at 9pm! We woke up at sunrise for a sea swim and back to the van to drink coffee with an incredible view. It’s cliché, but life can be so demanding that sometimes I need to take time to enjoy the simple things. 

You can see Alice's fabulous wildlife images on her Instagram, take a look and even give her a follow! @alice.goes.places 

(Above Alice wearing the Osprey organic tee and Otter beanie

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