As someone who takes a fair amount of photos for this blog, I have a tendency to wander around places snapping away like mad at anything and everything that looks vaguely interesting, then getting home and working out which of the 600 photos are any good.

Likewise, I am not the sort who wants to hang around too long. Do the job and move on. OK, I’ll hang around for a few hours, and yes, I’ll get up at two in the morning if necessary, but hanging around all day for one photo. Not for me.

Therefore I am somewhat in awe of people who go to considerable effort to set up a scene for just one photo, or are willing to hang around for days, weeks — even months — just on the off chance that they can take a single photo of a moment.

Such people tend to be wildlife photographers, and their work is being shown off at the Natural History Museum at the moment.

As it happens I am often invited to photography exhibitions, but rarely go as “the art of photography” is not in of itself something that excites — it’s the subjects being captured that matters — so yes to buildings and wildlife, and no to fashion photos.

Therefore I cannot say if the display is unusual in design or not, but the concept they have chosen is a selection large backlit photos in a darkened room. I probably prefer that to the austere white gallery with small photos on white walls and people walking around while looking terrifically arty.

These glowing images can  however almost be seen as a gallery of David Attenborough documentaries, with TV screens with the video on pause.

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And the time taken to get a single photo is not dissimilar to capturing that 30 second footage of a rare animal in the wild. Some are genuinely lucky photos captured by people who happened to be in the right place, but also with the skills and thinking to get a good photo of the moment.

Others, such as a tiger in the snowy mountains meant sitting in a hide for over two months. Just for one fleeting moment.

Curiously I was less moved by the winning photo of the exhibition, which while technically brilliant and very carefully planned, just left me a bit cold in an infuriatingly difficult way to explain. I just didn’t really care for it. Sorry.

However, I was rather impressed with some of the birds in flight, mainly as I really struggle with capturing movement — one of the reasons why I prefer buildings and tunnels — even if reading the technical blurb attached to each photo leaves me with a deep sense of camera-envy.

But the blurb is worth reading, to learn how the photo was taken — some were snapped on the spur of the moment, others involved sitting in a hut for ages, and others were carefully created, sometimes by placing bait in suitable locations to encourage a bird to fly towards a camera.

Despite the quality of the photography, they are judged blind, that is to say, the judges have no idea if a photo was taken by a professional, or an amateur, so as a contest it is open to a much wider audience than usual.

The winner of the Young Photographer award said he would like to photograph in a specific nature reserve, but it was usually closed to the public. It was pointed out that as a world-leading photographer now, he should find that particular door easier to open.

A gallery of the photos is here, and the exhibition is open until the 23rd March 2014.

For me though, this was my personal favourite — visually stunning, but also a photo that can only be taken on a very few days of the year. They are the most rewarding photos to take.

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Resurrection by Marsel van Oosten


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