FORTY years ago, as an eagle-eyed six-year-old, Graham Parkinson’s interest in wildlife was sparked by I-Spy books – and the fact his gran had a large garden with a field behind it to explore.
“She’s in her 90s now, and it’s lovely to be able to chat to her about the birds I’ve seen and the ones she has visit her garden,” he says. “I’m jealous of her daily bullfinches.”
Flash forward four decades and Graham’s fascination with what’s happening in his own backyard is undimmed – but nowadays he is able to capture it on camera, as in this week’s picture choice, a remarkable if somewhat graphic encounter between a sparrowhawk and a goldfinch.
“I’ve always had a lot of different birds that visit my garden in Marlow, and enjoyed lots of walks in the local countryside, but I was always keen to see more of the countryside and wildlife,” says Graham.
2020 proved the perfect opportunity to explore his longstanding interest in photography, and in the past few months his pictures have proved a big hit on local nature and wildlife forums.
“I’ve been out of work, and my wife bought me a camera, a Canon 2000D (good beginner’s choice), and a friend lent me a good lens. I soon purchased a Canon 70-300mm lens, which was great, but even that wasn’t enough for wildlife.
“A kingfisher that came at the same time every day to Marlow Lock (for about two weeks) convinced me to upgrade the lens, so I now have a Sigma 150-600mm.
“I still love taking photos of bird visitors to the garden, and all of the insects (hoverfies can be beautiful when you get to see them up close) and what can be seen around town (peregrine falcons, for example) and love going to Spade Oak.
“But what I really enjoy is going on local walks, typically 7-10 miles, and capturing what I can of the local wildlife, flora and the broader environment.”
Using the Ordnance Survey OS Maps app to plan his own routes, he has visited many new locations, from local favourites like Homefield Wood, Farm Wood and the areas around Burnham Beeches to the many walks between Ibstone and Christmas Common.
“It’s been extremely rewarding, capturing wildlife I’ve never seen before. Also it’s great to take photos of great spotted woodpeckers in the garden, for example, but even more rewarding to spot one on a walk, to track it and then manage to get a good photo.
“I’m particularly interested in trying to capture a different pose or something that conveys the character or behaviour of the bird/animal I’m taking a photo of.
“The challenge with taking wildlife photos this way is that you are always on the move. I don’t wait long or have a hide set up at a particular spot where something is likely to come along. I do walk more slowly than I would normally, with all senses alert – it’s often movement that draws me to something.
“The other challenge at this time of year is the short days make it more difficult to complete the walks in daylight. Though that has made me set off pre-dawn and led to some great photos in the dawn sunlight.
“At some point I’ll upgrade my camera and probably purchase a landscape-focused lens and take two cameras with me on my walks to more easily capture the landscape alongside the wildlife.”
Professionally, as a director of analytics, he senses that some people might find that quite far removed from something “creative” like photography.
But he adds: “Good analytics tells a story through data, insight, and visualisation; photography is a story of my walks and my garden and the wildlife, flora and environment I see.” Perhaps the two are not so very different after all.
You can follow Graham’s photographs on his Instagram feed.