Oxford University Society talk at The Athenaeum

Thanks to everyone for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the show!

Lion King

Lion King

I just wanted to thank everyone who came along to my talk and slideshow last night at The Athenaeum. We had around 60 guests, and everyone seemed to enjoy the pictures and videos I showed them of my trip to Africa this year. I sold a few greetings cards and postcards, and one guest might even buy one or two of my prints, so fingers crossed…

Thanks in particular go to Cheryl-Lisa Hearne-McGuiness and her OUS team for all their help. There’s nothing like sandwiches, fruitcake and a glass of Laphroaig in an old library to finish off the evening!

— Graham
— Young
— Lynn
— Karen
— SP
— Mary

Lions of the Serengeti and Masai Mara

I’ve spent the last four months teaching photography at Klein’s Camp, Serengeti Under Canvas, Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp and Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp. Here are a few facts about lions I picked up from the guides along the way…

One of the male lions at Klein’s Camp

One of the male lions at Klein’s Camp

Klein’s Camp

  • The main pride at Klein’s Camp is the the Kuka or Black Rock pride (depending on who you talk to), which contains five male and seven female lions. The second, third and fourth oldest males may be from the same litter. There are also two other prides at either end of the valley called Buffalo Hill and (confusingly!) Black Rock.

  • The Kuka males can be recognised by the following features:

    • 1: Dark mane, circular bare patch in mane behind neck, crescent-shaped scar on shoulder 

    • 2: Black mark beside right eye, wound on neck in the mane, the mane is very close to the face

    • 3: No distinguishing features, no scars, darkish mane, but not a full one

    • 4: Deep, diagonal scar on face, scars on back, short mane (not seen since a fight with another lion, so probably dead…)

    • 5: ‘Bald’ on top, no scars

Lioness in silhouette at sunrise on the bank of the Maji Mbele pool

Lioness in silhouette at sunrise on the bank of the Maji Mbele pool

Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp

  • Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp is in the Grumeti pride’s territory, consisting of one male and a total of more than 50 lions.

  • There used to be a coalition of 12 brothers who used to hunt at any time of day - they were ‘killing machines’, according to Waziri, the head guide - but they haven’t been seen recently. 

  • There are three other lion prides in the area: Sabora (3 males, 5 females and 16 cubs = 24), Nyasirori (3+ males, 43+ total), Ranger Post/Kirawira (3 males - 2 dominant, 30-33 in total).

Three male lions take down a female buffalo in the Serengeti

Three male lions take down a female buffalo in the Serengeti

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp

  • At Cottar’s, there used to be one pride called Henry’s pride, but it split into two - both the males being ‘shared’ between them. The rump of Henry’s pride has 15 lions (2 males, 8 females and 5 ‘teenagers’), while the other ‘Scotch’ (or ‘Scotch Rocks’) pride has 10 (2 males, 4 females and 6 cubs of 3-6 months). There are also three big males called the ‘Georges’.

Can you spot which of the Kuka males this is?

Can you spot which of the Kuka males this is?

Facts and figures

  • There are only 20,000 lions left worldwide (compared to 700,000 leopards!), and their range is now only 8% of what it was.

  • There are 3,000 lions in the whole of the Serengeti in Tanzania.

  • Females come in season at the same time to avoid males fighting for them and to raise the cubs together or because a new set of dominant males has killed all their cubs, leading them to enter oestrus at the same time.

  • Lions mate for around seven days, starting every 10 minutes and slowing down gradually to once every 20 minutes.

  • There are around 1,500 matings to every cub that survives.

  • Lions are trained to hunt by their mothers when they are 7-12 months old. At 12 months, they start to hunt on their own, but by the time they are two years old the male cubs have to be perfect hunters because that’s when they are kicked out of the pride.

  • A lion hunts whenever it has the opportunity, whatever the weather, and an ‘opportunity’ is when a zebra, say, is less than 60-70m away.

  • Despite what we’re taught at school, it’s not just the female lions who do the hunting - as you can see from the picture above!

  • Lions sometimes roll in the droppings of the wildebeest or other prey animals to mask their scent when they hunt.

  • When lions yawn, it’s a sign that they’re about to move. 

  • Lions sleep and walk on the roads to avoid the dew in the long grass. 

  • Lions’ manes only fully develop after 4-6 years.

Wildlife sightings

“Lies, damned lies and statistics…”

The only question that really matters when you’re on safari is “Will we see X?” Now, ‘X’ may be a lion, a cheetah, a kill or a wildebeest crossing, but the frustrating bit is that you never get a straight answer. Guides will tell you that “You never know what you’re going to see” or “There’s a pretty good chance” or “We might see that”, but they’ll never use statistics to give you a proper idea of the relevant probability. Fortunately, the manager of Klein’s Camp kindly gave me copies of the sighting sheets for seven months in 2018 and early 2019, so I was able to do a frequency analysis.

First, a couple of quick caveats about the data:

  • The records are not complete. Data are only available from July 2018 to January 2019, there were no game drives on some days, and the guides only started counting sightings of caracal, serval, aardwolf, migration herds and kills in October 2018.

  • The figures are for ‘sightings’, which means it doesn’t show the actual number of animals seen. A sighting of a lion just means that one or more lions was spotted.

  • Figures are for a given day rather than an individual game drive. At Klein’s, there are usually two game drives a day, one in the morning from 0600 or 0630 until lunchtime and another from 1600 or 1630 until sunset (1830-1900). Sometimes the evening game drive turns into a ‘night drive’ for an extra couple of hours. A ‘day’ therefore amounts to around nine hours in the bush.

Despite the limitations of the data, it’s possible to draw a few conclusions.

  • There were 1,135 sightings of the Big Five, cheetah, wild dog, serval, caracal, aardwolf, migration herds and kills in seven months (215 days), making an average of 157 a month or five a day.

  • Lions were the most common sighting (312), followed by buffalo (311), elephant (284), leopard (100), cheetah (68), serval (12), wild dog and caracal (both 11), rhino (10) and aardwolf (1).

  • Kills were very rare, with only five spotted during the four months when records are available.

  • If you divide the number of days when each animal was sighted by the total number of days in the period, you can get an approximate probability of seeing each one on a given day (see chart).

  • The chances of seeing a lion on any given day were 81% from July 2018 to January 2019 (from 52% in October 2018 to 93% the following month).

  • The chances of seeing any big cat were 85% (from 55% in October 2018 to 100% the following month).

  • The chances of seeing one of the ‘Big Five’ (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo) were 87% (from 58% in October 2018 to 100% the following month).

  • The chances of seeing all of the Big Five on the same day were vanishingly small, only 0.93%! It only happened on two days, 1 and 10 October 2018.

The ones that got away

I get nervous before I go on photography trips. Part of that is just worrying about travel arrangements, visas and packing everything I need, but another part of it is worrying that I won't get the shots I want. Here are a few examples of 'the ones that got away'.

Taj Mahal

Before I went to the Taj Mahal, I was determined to get the classic 'Lady Diana' shot of the building from the end of the reflecting pools. That was the whole point of the trip, and I was really worried about it. I couldn't face the idea of screwing up what would probably be my only opportunity to visit the world's most famous building.

When I arrived in India on a G Adventures trip in November 2013, we went to the Taj Mahal early one morning, around 0530. We had to queue for a while and then go through security. At that point, I was about to rush off and take the shot I'd been dreaming about, but our tour leader then introduced us all to a local guide who was about to give us a 15-minute lecture about the building. What a nightmare! I knew that the whole place would be crawling with tourists if I didn't go and take the shot immediately, but it seemed a bit rude just to rush off without hearing the talk. In the end, I was too British about the whole thing and missed the shot of a lifetime. Too bad. On the plus side, I ended up with this image of the Taj Mahal.

'There once lived an exotic princess in a fairy tale castle...'

It's the very opposite of the 'Lady Diana' shot. One is all symmetry and clarity, the other is misty and mysterious. The higgledy-piggledy minarets and the blue haze make the building seem more like a fairy tale castle. I do like this shot, but I still regret being too polite to get the one I wanted...!

Jumping impala

Not quite sharp enough...

This would've been a great shot. It could've been a great shot. It should've been a great shot. But it wasn't. Why? Motion blur. If you look closely, you can see that the whole body is slightly out of focus, and that was simply because I didn't think to change my shutter speed. I was parked in a jeep in Botswana when a herd of impala came chasing across the road. They were galloping fast, but there were five or six of them, so I did have time to focus on each of them, one by one, as they crossed the road in turn. Unfortunately, I was using my default camera settings that were designed to capture animals that were standing still. I was using an 80-400mm lens, so I had my camera on 1/320 and f/8 with auto ISO. That would normally have worked, but not for a jumping impala! What I really needed was a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 of a second. I just didn't think...


This is what it looks like on Wikipedia.

A few years ago, I went to a talk given by Paul Goldstein somewhere in London, and one of the slides he showed was a picture of a caracal. I'd never seen one at the time, but Paul was very proud of his shot, which showed a caracal from the side running through long grass. The image stayed in my mind, and I was very excited when I went to Tanzania in January 2018 and actually saw one for myself! It was quite a way away, but I had my 800mm lens with me, and I was just about to take a shot when the driver told me to wait. He was going to drive around and get closer. Well, funnily enough, the caracal disappeared, and I never got the shot I wanted...

Polar bear

The best of a bad bunch

In June 2014, I went on an Exodus trip with Paul Goldstein to Spitsbergen to see the polar bear. It was a last-minute booking, so I got a good deal on the price, and I was lucky enough to share a cabin with a nice French chap called Eric, but the real prize was getting some good shots of a polar bear. We had 13 or so sightings, but, sadly, they were all too far away for my 500mm lens. That was in the days before I got into the habit of renting the Nikon 800mm monster, and I really wish I'd had it then. Amongst other sightings, a mother and her two cubs put on a great show for us on the ice, but, when I got back to my cabin to review my shots, I found they were all too soft and too distant. Ah, well, at least I have an excuse to go again now...

The kill

I've been to Africa several times now, visiting Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and Botswana, but I've never seen a kill. I've seen the chase, and I've seen the predator eating its prey, but I've never seen the crucial moment of the kill. Now, I know some people would be a little squeamish about seeing one animal kill another, but I don't think I'd feel that way. To me, it's the ultimate expression of 'the survival of the fittest', and I'd love to see a lion, leopard or cheetah kill something on the great plains of Africa.

I have many stories of 'the one that got away'. There was the time when I climbed Mount Kenya and arrived back at the camp, only to find that everyone that morning had spent an hour watching a pride of lions kill a wildebeest 50 yards away from the gate of the national park! Or there was the time on the same trip when I booked the wrong flight home and had the chance to spend an extra day on my very own personal game drive. We saw a cheetah 'timing' (or hunting) an impala, and it was the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me in Africa - but no kill. In Antarctica, I watched from a Zodiac as a leopard seal ripped apart a penguin, but I didn't quite see the initial attack. In the Brazilian Pantanal, I was watching a jaguar on the river bank from a small boat when the call came over the radio that lunch was ready. No sooner had we met up with the other boat than we had another call, this time to say that the very same jaguar had just killed a caiman! We rushed back and watched as the young jaguar made a mess of the whole thing. To begin with, he had hold of his prey by the throat rather than the back of the neck. This is fine if you're a lion, but jaguars prefer to kill caiman (or small crocodiles) by nipping them on the back of the neck. This jaguar was in a bit of a bind: he didn't want to kill the caiman the 'wrong' way, but he couldn't change his grip in case it got away. He spent 10 minutes humming and hawing before finally killing the caiman, but that was only the start of his problems. His next job was to find a safe place to store his prey, but the banks of the river were 8-10ft high and very steep, so he spent another 25 minutes trying to find a way up into the undergrowth, desperately trying to drag the 10ft crocodile with him. By this stage, around 20 boats had gathered to see the jaguar, and, when he eventually managed to scramble up the bank with his kill, everybody gave him a big round of applause!

I'd rather have seen the kill than stopped for lunch!



All this goes to show exactly how close I've come to the elusive kill, but no luck so far. However, I'm off to the Masai Mara in a couple of weeks, so maybe, just maybe I'll be able to bring back the shot I've been dying to get...

Watford Camera Club talk

Thanks to everyone who came along to my talk. I hope you enjoyed the show!

My opening pitch...

I gave a talk to the Watford Camera Club last night at the Friends Meeting House on Church Road. A very nice lady called Sarah looked after me, and she and a few other members helped me set up the projector, connect my laptop and lay out a few wildlife prints on a couple of metal stands plus a few business cards and a visitors' book for people to sign. After a few club notices from Sarah, I started my talk.

I was due to speak for around an hour and a half, which was a bit longer than usual, so I had to expand my slideshow by adding a few more images. I ended up with around 150 pictures from all the photographic trips I've taken around the world, and, as I went through them, I told a few stories and picked up on a couple of technical points as I went along. The audience also chipped in with a few questions. After 45 minutes or so, we stopped for a tea break, and then i carried on for another 45 minutes. I finished on time - which was a relief! - and I was given a couple of generous rounds of applause, so I hope the audience enjoyed the talk as much as I did!

Four people signed up to my mailing list, and a couple left some kind words in my visitors' book, so thanks again to everyone. I'm just sorry that Terri, my original contact at the club, couldn't make it on the night.

Your amazing photos!!
— Simon
Great presentation!
— Megan

My top 20 wildlife images

Verdict: Could do better...

Yours truly...

Yours truly...

I recently joined the Society of International Nature and Wildlife Photographers (SINWP), and one of the first things I did was to apply to join their mentoring programme. The criteria they use to rate the images are as follows:

  1. Impact
  2. Creativity and style
  3. Composition
  4. Image or print presentation
  5. Centre of interest
  6. Lighting
  7. Colour balance
  8. Technical excellence
  9. Photographic technique
  10. Story telling and subject matter

I submitted my top 20 images, and this is the feedback I received. I've made all the suggested changes (where possible), so these images are the new and improved versions!

01: Close-up of giraffe silhouetted against black background Verdict: Love this image, Nick

01: Close-up of giraffe silhouetted against black background
Verdict: Love this image, Nick

02: Close-up of right eye of Grevy zebra Verdict: Again, a lovely image, you just need to remove yourself from the eye

02: Close-up of right eye of Grevy zebra
Verdict: Again, a lovely image, you just need to remove yourself from the eye

03: Brown bear lying relaxed on rocky outcrop Verdict: The image just needs to be a little darker as it's a bit wishy washy

03: Brown bear lying relaxed on rocky outcrop
Verdict: The image just needs to be a little darker as it's a bit wishy washy

04: Intermediate egret wading through lake in sunshine Verdict: Like it, just watch the highlights on the back of the stork as the detail is being lost

04: Intermediate egret wading through lake in sunshine
Verdict: Like it, just watch the highlights on the back of the stork as the detail is being lost

05: Bengal tiger with catchlight in water hole Verdict: Great shot, shame there is movement in the head, making the image look unsharp

05: Bengal tiger with catchlight in water hole
Verdict: Great shot, shame there is movement in the head, making the image look unsharp

06: Malachite kingfisher on dead branch facing camera Verdict: If you can, tone down the background highlights a little more as they are distracting

06: Malachite kingfisher on dead branch facing camera
Verdict: If you can, tone down the background highlights a little more as they are distracting

07: Elephant giving itself dust bath on hillside Verdict: Love it, great capture, good movement in the image

07: Elephant giving itself dust bath on hillside
Verdict: Love it, great capture, good movement in the image

08: Lilac-breasted roller perched on dead tree stump Again, a lovely image. In my mind, there is too much tree stump, try cropping to just below the branch (about 25mm).

08: Lilac-breasted roller perched on dead tree stump
Again, a lovely image. In my mind, there is too much tree stump, try cropping to just below the branch (about 25mm).

09: Adelie penguin jumping between two ice floes Verdict: Another cracking shot, good use of movement and D of F

09: Adelie penguin jumping between two ice floes
Verdict: Another cracking shot, good use of movement and D of F

10: King penguin stepping over rock with another Verdict: Like it, but if you can take the snow / water down a little in the background that would stop the eye from wandering

10: King penguin stepping over rock with another
Verdict: Like it, but if you can take the snow / water down a little in the background that would stop the eye from wandering

11: Juvenile dolphin gull walks on sandy beach Verdict: The image is too light and needs adjustment, also the head of the bird doesn't look as sharp as it should be

11: Juvenile dolphin gull walks on sandy beach
Verdict: The image is too light and needs adjustment, also the head of the bird doesn't look as sharp as it should be

12: Close-up of Chilean flamingo head in mono Verdict: Like the shot, but would like to see it in colour. You also have a ghost line just appearing on the top of the bird's head.

12: Close-up of Chilean flamingo head in mono
Verdict: Like the shot, but would like to see it in colour. You also have a ghost line just appearing on the top of the bird's head.

13: Marine iguana among roots staring at camera Again, a great capture, just tone down the highlights and the background a little, would again stop the eye wandering from the main subject

13: Marine iguana among roots staring at camera
Again, a great capture, just tone down the highlights and the background a little, would again stop the eye wandering from the main subject

14: Bear about to catch salmon in mouth Verdict: Cracking shot, but the image appears too light and looks washed out

14: Bear about to catch salmon in mouth
Verdict: Cracking shot, but the image appears too light and looks washed out

15: Brown bear about to catch a salmon Verdict: Prefer 14, but the image appears too light and looks washed out

15: Brown bear about to catch a salmon
Verdict: Prefer 14, but the image appears too light and looks washed out

16: Close-up of golden eagle head with catchlight Verdict: Yes, good head shot. Not mind-blowing and not one of your strongest images.

16: Close-up of golden eagle head with catchlight
Verdict: Yes, good head shot. Not mind-blowing and not one of your strongest images.

17: Male azure hawker dragonfly flying through undergrowth Verdict: Put the image back into Photoshop and go to levels and add 27. The image then jumps off the page.

17: Male azure hawker dragonfly flying through undergrowth
Verdict: Put the image back into Photoshop and go to levels and add 27. The image then jumps off the page.

18: Pig peeping out from behind wall Verdict: Ha ha. Love it. The image again is too light. Go to levels again, also darken the background to stop the pillars being a distraction.

18: Pig peeping out from behind wall
Verdict: Ha ha. Love it. The image again is too light. Go to levels again, also darken the background to stop the pillars being a distraction.

19: Baby spotted owlet close-up Verdict: There is camera movement in the image. Again, as above.

19: Baby spotted owlet close-up
Verdict: There is camera movement in the image. Again, as above.

20: Grevy's zebra watercolour
Verdict: Like the shot, but not the effect. Also watch the horizon line and you also have a dead pixelated line around the head, which is noticeable in the dark area of the image.

Comments: Hi, Nick, you have some brilliant images here, just watch the camera movement and put them back into Photoshop and play with the density a little more to give the images more depth. But keep up the good work.

How do I make money from photography?

Hmm, good question...

My top-selling shot

My top-selling shot

The obvious question for a lot of amateur photographers is 'How do I make money from photography?' The answer, unfortunately, is that I don't know. All I can do is tell you what I've done and give you a few ideas. I'm still learning the business after just four years, but my approach has always been to knock on as many doors as possible, whether it's microstock, exhibitions, competitions, lessons or even talks. Every source of revenue has its part to play, and it's just a question of working out where to focus your efforts. I make just under half my money from microstock/stock agencies and half from exhibitions, but everybody's different.

Nick Dale Photography

I loved photography when I was a teenager. I bought (or was given) books on Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Ansel Adams and other great photographers, and I even bought myself an old Chinon CE-4 film SLR. I remember buying two 36-exposure films for it - one colour, one black and white - and using up every single frame in a couple of hours just taking pictures around the house! I took my camera on holiday to Majorca and the United States, developed pictures in a dark room at school and even talked to my mum about becoming a professional photographer. However, my mother said I could always take it up later – so that was that for 30 years! Fortunately, I was given a second chance in January 2013 when a friend of a friend invited me to climb Mount Kenya and go on safari with her and a couple of other people. I'd always wanted to go to Africa, but I'd foolishly been saving it for my honeymoon! As that didn't seem very likely, I jumped at the chance.

My first digital camera was a Sony DSC-HX200V bridge camera, which means it had a good zoom range (both optical and digital), but not a very large sensor. As a result, it was only around £300 and therefore cheap enough for me to buy without worrying too much. Fortunately or unfortunately, a week in Kenya with people using proper Nikon SLRs gave me camera envy, and I bought a Nikon D800 SLR with a 28-300mm lens as soon as I got home!

And that was how it all started. I took hundreds of pictures in Kenya of the people, the landscape and especially the wildlife. When I got back, I bought an Apple MacBook Pro to work on them, upgraded the editing program to Aperture and then sent them off to various microstock agencies to see if they would help me sell them. It was hard at first, but getting the new camera helped, and I had a cash pile from remortgaging my flat in Notting Hill after another property purchase fell through, so I was able to go on plenty of trips to take more and more pictures.

An important breakthrough came when I sold a couple of prints for £100 each at my local tennis club's Christmas Fair in November 2014, and another photographer told me about a cheap exhibition space called the Norman Plastow Gallery in Wimbledon Village. I'd always thought it would be very expensive to mount an exhibition, but this place was only £70 for a week, so I booked it as soon as I could! The only problem was that I didn't have any actual prints to sell, and here I was very fortunate. I'd recently joined the Putney branch of London Independent Photography (or LIP), and there I'd met a very friendly and helpful chap called James, who'd offered to do all my printing for me at very low cost. After buying a few cheap, black, wooden frames from Amazon, I was all set. I invited all my friends to the exhibition in May 2015 - especially a group of tennis players from my club - and I ended up selling seven prints. As I was just starting out, I'd priced the small, medium and large framed prints at £80, £100 and £120 and the unframed ones at only £30, but I still managed to make £550 in total. The gallery hire charge was £200, and there were a few taxis to pay for plus incidental expenses, but the show actually turned a profit - unless you count the thousands of pounds I spent on buying camera equipment and flights to Kenya, Botswana, Antarctica and the Galápagos!

And there's the rub. It's relatively easy to generate revenue from photography, but actually making a profit out of it is another matter entirely. As a result, I have nothing but respect for the photographers I meet who have managed to make a career out of it. I've been on trips led by Paul Goldstein and Andy Skillen amongst others, and, in a way, that's where I'd like to end up. Since that first show in Wimbledon Village, I've sold nearly 5,000 downloads through microstock agencies, sold 36 prints at solo exhibitions and art fairs, taught five photography students and given two or three talks to various clubs and societies. Overall, I've made around £12,000 from my photography - but that wouldn't even have paid for my trip to Antarctica!

The problem is that everyone has a camera these days - even if it's just an iPhone - and it's almost 'too easy' to take pictures now that cameras are digital. The world is also a smaller place these days, with the arrival of cheap flights and a general rise in income and wealth. It takes a special talent to make it as a photographer, and part of that talent is being able to make the most of it.

What do I need to do first?

  1. Buy a camera
    If you want to make money out of photography, your first job is to get yourself a decent camera, and that means a digital SLR (or DSLR). The easiest way to earn cash is through so-called microstock agencies - which means selling pictures online in exchange for royalty payments - and they usually require shots to be taken with a camera that has at least 12 megapixels, if not more. You can obviously try to sell holiday snaps from your 'back catalogue', but, as I found out to my cost, it ain't easy. Once you've decided to buy a DSLR, the two main brands to choose from are Nikon and Canon. There isn't much between them these days, and the only reason I chose Nikon is that I didn't want a camera from a company that made photocopiers! They both make good lenses, but, unfortunately, they have different mounts, so one you go with one or the other you're locked in. I have various lenses ranging from an 18-35mm wide angle zoom to a 105mm macro lens for close-up work to an 80-400mm mid-range zoom, but I also rent an 800mm lens from Lenses for Hire whenever I go on a major wildlife photography trip.
  2. Buy a laptop
    If you don't have one already, buying a decent laptop is great for photography. I take mine with me on all my trips, and it means that I can work on my images every evening after I get back from a shoot or a game drive. I should warn you, though, that the so-called RAW files from digital cameras are very large (in the case of my camera over 40MB each!), so I'd recommend getting as fast a processor as possible and as much memory and hard disk space as you can afford. You should also arrange a back-up system: the last thing you need is for your life's work to disappear thanks to a software glitch! You could use an external hard drive, but I prefer backing up to the cloud just to be on the safe side. I use CrashPlan, which automatically detects any added, edited or deleted files and backs up the changes in real time, but there are other similar products out there.
  3. Subscribe to Lightroom
    Adobe Lightroom Creative Cloud is the choice of professionals and serious amateurs for organising and editing their photographs. It only costs around £8 a month (including Photoshop), and it's a very powerful tool, as well as being relatively easy to use once you've mastered the basics. Digital photographs never come out of the camera looking perfect, so it's always a good idea to try and improve the contrast, highlight and shadow areas and anything else you need to. If you're selling through agencies, you'll also need to add titles, captions and keywords (plus any other fields you're asked to fill in), and all that is possible with Lightroom. It's a pain to do for each individual photograph, but you can 'synchronise' any changes you make across a number of pictures, and you only need to do it once. If you've never used it before, I suggest you to do what I did and watch Anthony Morganti's series of free YouTube videos on Lightroom. He takes you through all the functionality, and it's an easy way to learn.
  4. Start taking pictures
    If you're a wildlife photographer, this is just a euphemism for 'spend thousands of pounds on trips to long-haul destinations'! However, you don't have to travel far to take pictures. Whether you're a landscape, portrait, Nature, fashion, wildlife, wedding or sports photographer, there's always something photogenic not far from home, and you simply have to have the enthusiasm (and discipline) to be able to get out there and take more and better shots. Quality and quantity are both important. The quality of your images is ultimately what matters, but even a shot that'll never win a competition might earn you money on a microstock site. I give my shots three stars if they're good enough for Facebook, four if they're good enough to be sold via agencies and five if they're good enough to go on my website.
  5. Start marketing your work
    As a photographer, you have to learn to talk the talk as well as walk the walk. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to cover the basics, which means building a website, printing out business cards and having an active presence on social media. You can't expect to win a bid for a photo shoot if you're still using an old Hotmail address! Personally, I have this website powered by SquareSpace plus a Facebook 'fan page', a YouTube page, a LinkedIn account and a Twitter feed, all of which are printed on the back of my business cards. I post articles on my blog about photography trips, exhibitions and useful techniques (which also appear on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), and I tweet and retweet a 'Shot of the week' (which gets fed through to my Facebook account as well).

Yes, but how can I make money?

  1. Microstock
    Microstock agencies are online intermediaries that accept work from photographers and then market those images to potential clients such as creative directors of newspapers, magazines and other buyers. The advantage of using them is that it's 'making money while you sleep', in other words, it's a passive income that you can build over time as you add more and more shots to your portfolio. Some agencies sell a lot of images but with low royalty rates, some the reverse, but here is the list of the ones I've used (in descending order of sales):

    Getty Images/iStock
    Yay Micro
    Lobster Media
    Fine Art America

    I should mention that not all agencies will accept you, and not all your shots will be accepted by any agency that does, but you shouldn't take it personally. I've had over £5,000 in microstock sales since 2013, but my overall acceptance rate is only 41%! Even if your pictures are accepted, of course, that doesn't mean they'll sell. I've had around 7,000 downloads from microstock sites, but fewer than 2,000 individual shots have ever been sold out of a total of more than 5,000. The rest of them are just sitting there, waiting for a buyer. If you're lucky, though, you take a picture that does go viral, and I've sold my jumping penguin over a thousand times (see above)!

    The basic process is similar across all agencies. You add titles, captions and keywords to all your pictures and then export them as JPEG files to upload to each individual agency via their websites or an FTP service using a program like Filezilla. You then typically add the category, country or other data for each of them and submit them for approval. The agencies then approve the ones they like and reject the ones they don't. After that, it's just a question of watching the money rolling in! A useful way of doing that is by downloading an app called Microstockr. All you need to do is to set up your various agencies on the accounts page and then check the dashboard every now and then for any sales you've made. It's very addictive! Sales should come quite soon after each batch is uploaded, but you may have to wait a while for payment. Most agencies have a 'payment threshold' of $50 or $100, which means your first payment (usually through PayPal) might take months to arrive. You'll also need to keep adding more pictures. Buyers tend to sort images according to what's most recent, so you definitely get diminishing returns from your shots, however good they are.

    The other thing to say is that, with dozens of agencies and hundreds or even thousands of images, it gets very confusing. As a result, I've created a spreadsheet to keep track of the whole thing. With filenames down the left and agency names across the top, I know if each file has been uploaded ('u'), submitted ('s') or accepted ('y') and how many times it's been sold. I keep a record of the dollar value of all the image downloads on a separate financial spreadsheet. I suggest you do the same.

  2. Stock agencies
    In the good old days, it was much easier to make a living out of stock photography, mainly because the royalty rates were a lot higher. The difference between 'stock' and 'microstock' is simply the average price level. Stock agencies want to differentiate themselves from microstock agencies (and everything else out there on the web) in order to charge a higher price, so they generally ask for exclusive agreements over one to five years and set a higher standard for acceptance. I use Design Pics, and you can see that they sell my images for hundreds of dollars rather than just a few dollars for the microstock agencies. My general strategy is to offer Design Pics the first pick of my pictures before sending the leftovers to all the microstock agencies. (I've also submitted some flower images to flowerphotos and a few marine wildlife shots to SeaPics, but I haven't seen any sales from them so far.) Due to the long sales and reporting cycle, I didn't see my first sale from Design Pics until more than a year after I'd signed up, but sales are starting to trickle in now, so it just takes a bit of patience.

    If you're looking for a list of stock agencies, I recommend buying the latest version of Photographer's Market, which is the equivalent of the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. It has comprehensive coverage of the industry, including helpful articles and a wealth of phone numbers and email addresses for magazines, book publishers, greeting card companies, stock agencies, advertising firms, competitions and more. I suggest buying the Kindle electronic version, and then you can download everything on to your laptop. I did that and then simply emailed every stock agency on the list - Design Pics was the only one to say yes!
  3. Competitions
    If you just want the ego boost of seeing yourself winning a competition, then I suggest you sign up with Pixoto and enter the contests with the lowest number of entrants. It's a peer-to-peer site, and you can organise your own competitions, so there's a very good chance of winning something! That's exactly what I did, and I ended up with the Judge's Award in four competitions. However, there isn't much prestige to something like that, and it certainly doesn't earn you any money. Alternatively, you can scour the 2017 Photographer's Market for competitions, bearing in mind your chances of winning, the cost of entry, the potential prizes and the subject matter. The UK national press is a good place to start, too, and I recently won £250 in Wex Photographic vouchers in the weekly Sunday Times/Audley Travel Big Shot competition. 
  4. Exhibitions
    Putting on an exhibition may seem like a big deal if you've never done it before, but it doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. The Norman Plastow Gallery where I started out is cheap, but it's slightly off the beaten path, and you have to man the exhibition yourself, which is obviously impossible for most full-time employees. You realise pretty soon as a freelance photographer that the most expensive item on your tab is often the opportunity cost of NOT doing what you usually do when you take time off. As a tutor, for instance, I could easily have earned £1,000 during the two weeks of my first exhibition, but them's the breaks...

    If you're looking for a list of galleries, www.galleries.co.uk is a useful starting point. London is obviously the best place to look, but exhibition spaces there don't come cheap. I recently looked for galleries to use for an exhibition, and the ones in central London regularly quoted me thousands of pounds for a week! Everything is negotiable, though, so don't give up.

    I started out with 15 prints at my first solo show, but I also printed out a few postcards and greetings cards. You might not make as much money out of them, but at least you'll get something from punters who can't afford a print. There are some who say that cards are just a distraction, but it's so difficult to tell. I've had exhibitions with and without cards on sale, and it doesn't seem to make much of a difference. However, the main reason for an exhibition is to sell prints, so that should be the focus.

    One of the problems you'll almost certainly have is knowing how to price your work. Choosing your favourite shots is easy enough - although getting a second opinion from a friend is a useful exercise - but how much should you charge? I started off at £80 for an A3 print and ended up three years later at £2,000 for a 53" x 38" print, so you'll just have to suck it and see. Andy Skillen suggested a mark-up of two-and-a-half times your printing and framing costs to make sure your cashflow remained positive, but that's just a rule of thumb.
  5. Photo shoots
    Proper professional photographers make most of their money from photo shoots, but clients aren't easy to find. If you're a wedding photographer, I suppose you can put up flyers at various local venues such as churches and registry offices, but, for the rest of us, it's just a question of plugging away, taking as many good shots as we can and putting them online so that as many potential clients can see them as possible. It would be a dream to be able to rely on commissions from wealthy clients who called us up whenever they wanted pictures of something. A photographer told me once about a group of directors who asked him for a picture of five hippos in a lake looking at the camera. He sent them all the hippo shots he had, but they weren't happy. In the end, he told them if they didn't want to compromise on the picture, then they'd have to send him on an all-expenses-paid trip to Zambia for a week. Which they did! He got the shot within a couple of days and then spent the rest of the trip taking pictures for himself! That sounds like a nice way to make a living, doesn't it? However, until we're well established enough with a good enough reputation to get those kinds of jobs, all we can do is keep on snapping and use the networks that we have. I've worked for a milliner, a local councillor, a businesswoman and others, but all my photo shoots have come from friends of friends or personal contacts. I'm not very good at networking - and it's certainly not something I enjoy unless it happens naturally - but it's very important in this business.
  6. Lessons
    I work as a private tutor as well as a photographer, so I guess it was an obvious fit to offer photography lessons. It's finding the students that's the real problem, though. One of my tuition agencies provided me with a couple of clients, while the rest came from connections I made at exhibitions and talks. You never know when you might meet just the right person, so it's important to keep a few cards in your wallet just in case.
  7. Talks
    If you don't mind public speaking, then giving a slideshow and talk on photography is an enjoyable way to earn some pocket money. Camera clubs and other groups won't generally pay more than £100 (if anything at all!), but it's also a useful chance to take along a few prints to sell and to hand out business cards. I got started after meeting a very nice woman on an Antarctic cruise, and I've now given talks at her branch of the WI, two camera clubs and a local library. If you want to be proactive about it, I'd simply Google camera clubs (or WI branches!) and email all of them to see what happens. As my mum used to say, you have to cast your bread upon the waters...even if it sometimes comes back a soggy mess!
  8. Photography trips
    One final way of making money is to lead photography trips. A lot of photographers do it to supplement their income, and it's a good way to reduce your travel budget. I recently put together a list of tour operators and emailed them all one afternoon to find out if it could work, and I soon received a call from the founder of Gane & Marshall, asking me to lead a trip to Tanzania! I offered my services for free in exchange for the chance to go on an all-expenses-paid photographic safari. Now all we have to do is find at least five people to come on the trip and make it economic. Fingers crossed!

I hope all that was useful. If you have any more questions, please drop me a line at nick@nickdalephotography.com. It's not easy becoming a professional photographer, but we can at least take pictures as a hobby while we wait for our big break.

Here's to clicking and dreaming...

Basics of photography

The first things you need to know when picking up a DSLR

The Nikon D800

When you buy (or borrow), your first digital SLR, everything looks different, and it can be a bit worrying. What are all these buttons and dials for? Why is it so heavy? Where do I start? How do I change the shutter speed? All these are very good questions, and this is the place to find the answers!

Before we start, I should mention that I'm a Nikon user, and I have one D800 and one D810 camera body. The other major camera manufacturer is Canon, and they use slightly different terms for each function, but I'll try and include both to make life easier.

Our first job is to cover the basics of photography: exposure and focus. Without understanding those two things, nothing else will make sense!


Your first job as a photographer is to make sure that your images are well exposed, in other words, not too dark or too bright. Photographers talk about the 'exposure triangle', but that's just a complicated way of saying that how dark or light a photograph is depends on three things: the shutter speed, the aperture and the ISO. 

The level of exposure is measured in 'stops' or Exposure Values (EV), but what is a 'stop'? Well, if you increase your exposure by a stop, the light is doubled (and vice versa). For example, if you lengthen your shutter speed from 1/200 of a second to 1/100 of a second, your shot will be twice as bright. They try to use round numbers, though, so the gap from 1/60 to 1/125 is obviously not quite right! The maths gets a bit more complicated when the gap is only 1/3 of a stop, but the idea is the same.

The built-in exposure meter in your camera will work out what the best exposure should be, but it has to make assumptions about the world that may not be true. To judge the 'best' exposure, the camera needs a starting point, and that is that the world is, by and large, 18% grey. If it assumes that to be true, then it can set the exposure accordingly. However, anyone who's ever taken pictures of polar bears on the ice knows that that's not always true! In order to make sure the camera is not fooled by very bright or very dark conditions, you need to use exposure compensation. If the scene is especially bright, you can dial in up to one or two stops of positive compensation. If it's especially dark, you can do the opposite. It might take a few test shots to get it exactly right, but that's better than coming home with lots of shots of grey bears!

Shutter speed (or Time Value if you have a Canon)

In the old days, cameras used film, and the shutter speed controlled how long it was exposed to the light in order to take the shot. These days, cameras are digital and have electronic sensors at the back, but the principle is still the same. The longer the shutter speed, the more light reaches the sensor and hence the brighter the image. The shorter the shutter speed, the less light reaches the sensor and hence the darker the image.

The shutter speed is measured in seconds and can be anything from 1/8000 of a second to 30 seconds or more. The amount of camera shake increases with the focal length, so the rule of thumb for general photography is to make sure your shutter speed is no less than the inverse of the length of your lens, eg if you're using a 400mm lens, you should be using at least 1/400 of a second. Lens technology such as Nikon's 'Vibration Reduction' or Canon's 'Image Stabilisation' means that you might be able to get away with a couple of stops slower - ie 1/100 of a second - but that's about it. 

The reason why shutter speed is an important setting is that it controls how much (if any) motion blur there is in the image, and that is an artistic decision. Some people like shots of kingfishers catching a fish that look like they're frozen in time, with every single water droplet sharp as a tack. Other people prefer shots of waterfalls shown with creamy torrents of water cascading over them. There isn't a 'right' or 'wrong' answer. Just try both and see what you think.


The aperture is simply the size of the hole in the lens through which light passes on its way to the sensor, and the principle is similar to that of the shutter speed. The bigger the aperture, the more light reaches the sensor and therefore the brighter the image. The smaller the aperture, the less light reaches the sensor and therefore the darker the image. The only thing difficult about it is the numbers, which often have a decimal point in them like f/5.6 or f/7.1. The reason the aperture is not always a nice round number is because it is what you get when you divide the focal length of the lens by the diameter of the hole. Neither of those numbers is necessarily going to be a nice round number, so the result of dividing one by the other certainly won't be!

The aperture is measured in f-stops, which typically start at f/2.8, f/4 or f/5.6 and continue up to f/22 and beyond. A 'fast' lens is one that has a wide maximum aperture such as f/1.4. Photographers like fast lenses as they allow pictures to be taken in low light and offer great flexibility. 

The reason why the aperture is such an important setting is that it controls the depth of field, which is the amount of the subject that is acceptably sharp. The human eye is drawn to things it can see clearly, so making sure the subject is sharp and the background is an ideal way to focus the viewer's attention on an animal, say, but a landscape photographer might want his image to be sharp all the way from the boat in the foreground to the mountains on the horizon. Again, there is no right answer; the important thing is to experiment and find what works for you.

ISO (or ASA if you're still using a film camera!)

The ISO used to measure the sensitivity of the film being used, a 'fast' film with a high ISO being more sensitive than a 'slow' film with a low ISO. Now that most cameras are digital, we get the same effect, just with an electronic sensor instead of film. You might think that extra sensitivity is a good thing - and it is - but it comes at a cost. The higher the ISO, the 'grainier' or 'noisier' the image, in other words, the less smooth it is.

ISO is measured in ISO (funnily enough!), which just stands for International Standards Organisation. The lowest value is usually ISO 100, and the highest might be 12,800 or more, although the image quality at that value wouldn't be acceptable to most professional photographers.


Your second job as a photographer is to make sure that the subject of your images is in focus. In the old days of film cameras, there was obviously no such thing as 'autofocus', and focusing had to be done by manually turning a ring on the lens, but today's digital cameras have very good systems for making sure the images are sharp. In using the autofocus system, your job is first of all to choose the correct settings and secondly to make sure the camera is focusing on the right part of the frame.

There are lots of different focus settings, but the basic choice is between single area, shown as AF-S (or one-shot AF for a Canon), and continuous, shown as AF-C (or AI Servo for a Canon). Single area looks to focus on the area of the image under the little red square in the viewfinder (which you can move around the frame manually); continuous does the same but follows the actual subject if it moves. The best version of this on Nikon cameras is called '3D'. The other setting you can change is which button actually does the job of focusing. The shutter button does that on most cameras, but the disadvantage of doing it that way is that the camera stops focusing when you take a picture, which is bad news if you're tracking a cheetah running at 60mph! The alternative is to use 'back-button focusing', which means separating the jobs of focusing and taking pictures. The shutter button still takes the picture, but the focusing is done by pushing a button on the back of the camera. (You have to set this up yourself, but I use the AF-ON button, which I can press with my right thumb.)

Camera guide (based on the Nikon D800)

This guide won't go through every single setting on a DSLR, but it will show how all the main buttons work, not by saying what each one does but by answering the obvious questions. I hope that's the easier way to learn!

(All the numbers used are taken from the diagram at the top of this article.)

How do I switch it on?

That's simple. Just turn the power switch on the top right-hand side (1) to 'ON' (and back to 'OFF' when you've finished). If you turn it to the light bulb symbol, that just lights up the LCD display on top of the camera. 

How do I set it to Manual?

There are lots of exposure modes on a camera, such as aperture-priority, shutter-priority and program, but using anything other than manual is a bit like buying a Ferrari with an automatic gearbox - you just don't get as much control (or satisfaction). To select manual, press the 'Mode' button (50) and turn the main command dial on the back right of the camera (31). This allows you to set the shutter speed, aperture and ISO yourself, although I usually set the ISO to 'ISO-AUTO' by pushing the 'ISO' button on the top left of the camera (56) and at the same time turning the sub-command dial (21).

How do I make sure I'm shooting in RAW?

Press the 'QUAL' (for 'quality') button (47) and turn the main command dial until the word 'RAW' appears on its own. The word 'RAW' doesn't actually stand for anything, but everyone writes it that way to show that it's a file format that contains the 'raw' data from the sensor. The alternative is JPEG (which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group), but that's a compressed file format and therefore should not be used. Note that RAW files don't end in '.RAW'. It's just a generic term, so each manufacturer has its own RAW extension, such as Nikon's .NEF.

How do I set the white balance?

Press the 'WB' button 57 and turn the main command dial (31) to whatever is right for the lighting conditions. The icons aren't very easy to see, but the options are:

  • Incandescent (ie light bulbs)
  • Fluorescent
  • Direct sunlight
  • Flash
  • Cloudy
  • Shade
  • Choose colour temp
  • Preset manual

The white balance tells the camera the colour of the light you're working with. It's a bit like working out what colour the curtains are at the cinema. The camera can't tell the difference between something white that's lit by red light and something red that's lit by white light, so the white balance setting just makes sure it makes the right call. If you can't quite see the icons or want to set up a custom white balance or preset, you can always go through the menu system. However, if you're shooting in RAW, you can always change the white balance later on your computer, so don't feel bad about sticking with 'AUTO'!

How do I set the focus mode?

First of all, make sure your lens is not set to 'M', or manual focus, and that the focus mode selector (18) is set to 'AF', or auto focus. After that, press the AF-mode button (17) and at the same time turn the main command dial (31) to choose single area or - preferably - continuous. If you want the 3D option, you press the same button but at the same time turn the sub-command dial (21) until the LCD screen shows '3D'.

How do I set up back button focusing?

Press the 'MENU' button (46), scroll to the menu item with the pencil icon, select 'a Autofocus' and then set 'a4 AF activation' to 'AF-ON only'. Half-pressing the shutter-release button won't work any more, so don't forget to focus by pressing (and holding) the AF-ON button (30) with your right thumb while you shoot.

How do I set the shutter speed?

Half-press the shutter-release button (3) if the shutter speed is not illuminated in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen and then turn the main command dial (31).

How do I set the aperture?

Half-press the shutter-release button (3) if the aperture is not illuminated in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen and then turn the sub-command dial (21).

How do I set the shutter-release button to continuous shooting?

Press the release button next to the 'D800' symbol and turn the release mode dial (48) to 'CH', or Continuous High. The D800 can shoot five frames a second.

How do I move the focus point in the viewfinder?

Turn the focus selector lock switch (34) to the dot symbol (rather than 'L' for lock) and use the multi selector to move the focus point anywhere within the central area of the viewfinder.

How do I check the depth-of-field?

Press the depth-of-field preview button (20).

How do I add exposure compensation?

Press the exposure compensation button (52) and at the same time turn the main command dial (31) to add or subtract as many stops of compensation as you need.

How do I bracket my shots?

Press the 'BKT' bracketing button (55) and at the same time use the main command dial (31) to choose the number of frames (3-9) and/or the sub-command dial (21) to choose the exposure interval (from 0.3 to 1 stop).

How do I shoot video?

You have to use the monitor rather than the viewfinder for this, so first of all turn the live view selector (36) to the film camera icon, press the live view button and then, when you're ready, press the red movie-record button to start (and stop) video recording.

How do I look at my pictures?

Just press the playback button (22) and scroll through the images using the multi selector (32). To zoom in, either use the playback zoom in/zoom out buttons (43, 44) or set up the multi selector centre button to zoom immediately to 100%. This is very useful to check that images are acceptably sharp. To do that, press the 'MENU' button (46), select 'f Controls', then 'f2 Multi selector centre button' and set 'Playback mode' to 'Zoom on/off' with 'Medium magnification'. 
To play videos, just press the multi selector centre button (32).

How do I delete my pictures?

Just press the delete button (23). If you want to delete all the pictures on the memory card, the best way is to format it. Press the 'MENU' button, select 'Format memory card' and then select the appropriate card, either the small, thin Secure Digital (SD) card or the thicker, bigger Compact Flash (CF) card.

Universal Language

Thanks to everyone for coming along to the exhibition and the private view. I hope you enjoyed the show!

Guests at the private view discussing just how wonderful my pictures are...

My latest exhibition was Universal Language at The Framers Gallery (or Artefact), 36 Windmill Street, London W1T 2JT. The show was organised by Gabriel Fine Art and ran from 26 June to 1 July 2017 with a private view on the evening of the 28th. There was a Turkish dancer at the private view, plus an auction of various prints. I was also asked to give a talk about my pictures, but that never happened for some reason. Probably for the best...!

I exhibited three works (see below), the elephant and bear in traditional box frames and the flamingo printed in black and white on a sheet of aluminium. None was sold, but the flamingo will be appearing again in my next exhibition, so fingers crossed!

Bear about to catch salmon in mouth

Bear about to catch salmon in mouth

Elephant giving itself dust bath on hillside

Elephant giving itself dust bath on hillside

Chilean flamingo head against black background

Black, White & Silver

Thanks to everyone for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the show!

View of Victoria Harbour from the Peak

I contributed a few black and white landscape prints to Black, White & Silver at 508 King's Road. The exhibition ran from 24 May to 5 June, and I sold this image of Hong Kong from the Peak (above).

I particularly enjoyed chatting to guests and the other photographers at the private view.

Photographers + buyers + alcohol = happiness

Thanks, everyone!

508 King's Road 2016

Thanks to everyone for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the show!

And you thought flamingos were pink...

My Wildlife of the World show at 508 King's Road ran from 22-28 November 2016. It was the first time I'd exhibited at the gallery, but the staff were very friendly and helpful and even managed to secure the sale of the Chilean flamingo print on aluminium (above). Thanks, everyone!

Here's what people wrote in my visitors' book:

— Susan
— James
V. impressive
— Mark
— Emma
— Margo
Super shots.
— Chris
Just ‘Wow’
— Mathu

Glaziers' Art Fair 2016

Another pig print sold, but no stolen laptop this time. Phew...!

Glass half-full...

I went to the very first Glaziers' Art Fair last year when I was invited along by the Oxford University Society, and I came back this year with my four enormous wildlife prints. In fact, I originally only brought two, but then I was told that I could use a couple of easels, so I brought the other two on the second day. That was a stroke of luck, as it was the first time I'd ever been to an art fair with only two pictures on sale!

There were quite a few visitors at the private view on the Monday (22 October), including  Cllr Kath Whittam, Mayor of Southwark, but the next couple of days were a little slow - inevitably, perhaps, as it wasn't held over a weekend. I did sell a small print of my Pig peeping out from behind wall for £250, but I didn't bring along any unframed prints or greetings cards, so I didn't have that consolation this time around. Having said that, the fair is always an enjoyable experience. The staff and other exhibitors were all friendly and helpful, and I enjoyed talking about my work to whoever was interested. I even met a couple of people who might end up buying a full-size print for their home or office, so we shall have to wait and see...

Here's what the punters - well, one punter! - thought of my show:

— Rachel

Parallax Art Fair 2016

"Drink enough free wine, and you won't be able to see straight!"

A few of my many admirers...

As somebody once wrote, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I sold a print of my pig worth £495 but had a laptop worth £2,500 stolen!

It was my first time at the Parallax Art Fair at Chelsea Old Town Hall, which I found out about through Andy Skillen's website. He led the Brazil trip I went on in September 2016 to shoot the jaguar, and he's previously exhibited at the fair. However, I was only able to sign up a couple of weeks in advance, so I had to send a frantic stream of email enquiries to the fair manager before I was happy with all the arrangements. It was quite expensive to buy space as an exhibitor, but I wanted to show off my new 53 x 38" prints, so I decided to take the plunge!

When I arrived, the first problem was finding my prints. Genesis Imaging were supposed to send them over to a storage space on behalf of the fair. After that, who knows what happened. Using a bit of common sense (and ignoring what I was told by the staff!), I found them eventually and located my area. I'd only paid for a couple of metres of wall space, so I was expecting to have to rotate my prints every day, but I discovered that I'd actually been allocated a whole wall! I think they must have been struggling to find enough exhibitors, so I was lucky enough to be able to display all four prints at once. 

The next problems was mounting the pictures. Only one of them could be hung on a hook; the rest had to have a wooden batten nailed into a thin wooden panel on the wall, so the technicians were a bit worried the whole thing would collapse under the weight! Fortunately, I managed to persuade them to help me mount two of them on the panel and got permission to rest the other two on a couple of chairs, so we were all set.

The fair started off with a private view on the Friday night, and there were lots of people there. I was on my feet the whole time, chatting about my work to anyone who looked interested, so I hardly had a moment to myself. I didn't make any sales, but the artist who shared the space with me Ellie Spafford had brought her mother along, and she was toying with the idea of buying one of my pigs!

The weekend started badly. I'd been chatting to Ellie a little bit, and I wanted to show her a few lizard pictures on my laptop. However, when I reached into my bag, it wasn't there! It had been stolen. My stomach lurched. I couldn't quite believe it. It had been on the floor between a chair and a glass panel only five feet away from where I'd been standing. Fortunately, everything on it was backed up - including all my pictures! - but it wasn't the best start to the day...

Things picked up on the following day, when Ellie's mum decided to buy an 80 x 60cm framed print of the pig. At least that paid for my hire of the space - if not a new laptop!

Peekaboo pig...!

Peekaboo pig...!


Overall, I enjoyed the Parallax Art Fair. The staff were friendly and helpful, I was lucky to meet Ellie and her parents and it was a good chance to see and talk about my latest extra-large wildlife prints. And I even sold a pig! Roll on next year...


Here's what the punters thought of my show:

Fab pics!
— John
— Herta
— Kevin
— Eman
— Pamela
— Jonny
Gorgeous photographs, friendly, lovely photographer. YAY, I got a pig!!
— Lynda

Norman Plastow Gallery 2016

"Every picture tells a story"

Opening day...


My travel and wildlife photography exhibition is over now, so I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who came along. I hope you all enjoyed the show! 

Thanks also to the Norman Plastow Gallery and to Norman himself for dropping by again. I had 93 visitors in six days and sold 11 greetings cards, two unframed prints, two A3 framed prints and two 80 x 60cm framed prints.

Here are all the comments people wrote in the visitors' book:

V. good!
— Dave
— Emma
Beautiful photos
— Kathy
— Sarah
Love them all!
— Sarah
Just fabulous!
— Jane
Lovely work!
— Leigh
Wonderful photographs, Nick. Great sharing memories of the Antarctica expedition. Looking forward to your next show!
— Lynne
Must come back!
— Patricia
Great work and interesting talking to you.
— Lars