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christianpulham

Interview with Chris Pulham

Interviews

23 October 2014

Posted by Sally Hart

Hi Chris! Tell us about yourself in two sentences - who are you?

I'm a microbiologist by trade, but my passion lies in wildlife and wildlife conservation. Initially this was born under the surface of the ocean, which led to me spending a number of years as a Scuba instructor, but later developed on land. My interest in photography mirrored this pattern, initially as a medium for recording the sights I'd discover while diving, and later as a means for recording all sorts of wildlife encounters. I am by no means what I would consider a professional photographer, but more of an enthusiastic amateur, and I never would have dreamt about marketing my photos until I found Picfair!

QWhat's the weirdest situation you've found yourself in while taking a photograph?

AI've travelled a lot, either as part of my Scuba instructor role, or more recently to indulge my wildlife conservation interests, and have found myself in some 'odd' situations - inching towards a resting Komodo dragon wondering how close is really wise, or standing amongst a herd of elephant in the Thai forest - but for those situations where you stop to think 'what am I doing here?' I guess I'd look closer to home. I recall sitting in a birding hide in the depths of winter in Wales, freezing for what seemed like hours, waiting for a Bittern to emerge from a reed bed so I could get a shot, or laying flat in a particularly large puddle of mud just to get the perspective I wanted of a passing toad - attracting some strange looks (and the odd comment) from passers by..

QWhat do you shoot on? What's your favourite set up?

AI've been through a number of sets of kit over the years, my first was a 35mm sea-and-sea Motormarine II back when I was diving a lot. Once my interests in terrestrial wildlife developed I moved to an entry-level Nikon DSLR, with a Tamron 300-500mm zoom lens - eventually I managed to lay my hands on an second hand underwater housing to go with it. However, all this kit was very bulky - particularly for travelling abroad so I eventually changed it out for my current gear. I now use an Olympus OMD EM-5. It's a micro four thirds system, and the biggest benefit for me is it's portability as both the body and the lenses are significantly smaller than it's DSLR counterparts - the image quality is comparable also (particularly to those SLR's in my budget). I like to hope that some of my work may inspire those who are developing an interest in photography and/or may not be able to afford (or indeed justify) expensive professional kit. It is far more important to understand whatever kit you choose to shoot with, both it's abilities and it's limitations, and to develop a personal style within those parameters.

QWhat's your number one tip for an aspiring photographer?

AI've never been particularly technically minded, or overly 'serious' with my photography (I don't even shoot in RAW format). I have learnt pretty much by trial and error, so I guess my number one tip would be don't be afraid to fail - get out and try something new, and if it doesn't work you've still learnt something. After all, if we are afraid to experiment a little, we'd never use anything but the 'Auto' settings on the camera. There are a number of sources of sound advice for budding wildlife photographers, but the best advice I was given was just to get out there, even if it's just a spare half hour in your garden shooting garden birds or butterflies. While reading books and websites can provide no end of tips and tricks, it's practice that makes perfect..

'I guess my favourite shot has to be the Great White Shark taken just as it breaks the surface. This was taken on a weeks cage diving trip to South Africa. I had noticed that th... Read more

'I guess my favourite shot has to be the Great White Shark taken just as it breaks the surface. This was taken on a weeks cage diving trip to South Africa. I had noticed that the gulls would float on the surface and peck at the floating chum, they seemed to attract a particular shark that would periodically try his luck, lunging at the birds from below. the birds were too smart though, and always seemed to take to the air just in time to thwart the attack. In the spirit of experimentation, I tried using the birds escape as a trigger for a shot to capture the shark as it broke the surface. I ended up with a lot of shots of gulls feet, or a lot of splashing, but amongst these was this shot - my reward for patience and experimentation..' Read less

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Christian Pulham

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'This little owl was shot at a wildlife sanctuary. There were a number of larger and more impressive looking subjects to shoot, but the facial expression of this guy interested ... Read more

'This little owl was shot at a wildlife sanctuary. There were a number of larger and more impressive looking subjects to shoot, but the facial expression of this guy interested me. I just wanted to fill the frame with the shocked looking expression of the owl.Wildlife parks, sanctuaries and zoos have always provided me with an opportunity to shoot exotic wildlife between opportunities to travel and shoot such subjects in the wild. I expect that there will be those that would frown on such a practice and consider it 'cheating' but as long as I'm not claiming it to be anything it's not then I don't see any issue. It's also a great opportunity to practice and try different styles for those that are still learning (as I am).' Read less

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Christian Pulham

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'This photograph was shot on a dive in Turkey. I spent a Summer based in Kalkan, working as a dive instructor. On occasion, we would have an opportunity for a staff dive (withou... Read more

'This photograph was shot on a dive in Turkey. I spent a Summer based in Kalkan, working as a dive instructor. On occasion, we would have an opportunity for a staff dive (without paying customers) either to scout potential new dive sites or just for fun. This was at the end of one such dive. The dive, as I remember it, had been uneventful, but as we returned to the boat I noticed that the clarity of the Mediterranean sea allowed enough of the boat above the surface to be clearly visible to give sense of a destination for the diver above me, perhaps leading the viewer to wonder were he may have been or what he may have seen during the preceding dive?' Read less

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Christian Pulham

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'This was shot on an Indonesian holiday. We spent a few days at Camp Leakey in Borneo visiting the Orang-utan rehabilitation project. The apes were fairly used to people being p... Read more

'This was shot on an Indonesian holiday. We spent a few days at Camp Leakey in Borneo visiting the Orang-utan rehabilitation project. The apes were fairly used to people being present, so weren't difficult to find, or to get close enough to to shoot. The biggest challenge was presented by the limited light afforded by the dense rain forest, meaning you had to be selective with your subjects. The Orang-utan were incredibly expressive, and this particular youngster was really enjoying himself screaming at other adults (all from the safety of his mothers protection of course).' Read less

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Christian Pulham

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'The list of ultimate destinations for any Scuba diver has to include the Galapagos Islands. I was lucky enough to spend three months teaching on Santa Cruz island, although I n... Read more

'The list of ultimate destinations for any Scuba diver has to include the Galapagos Islands. I was lucky enough to spend three months teaching on Santa Cruz island, although I never made it to too many of the other islands, and never managed to get up north to Wolf or Darwin. However, one of the more local dive sites, Gordon Rocks, offered the chance of schooling scalloped Hammerhead sharks. It took weeks to find them, but eventually they showed, and the memory of this sight is still one of my most cherished.' Read less

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Christian Pulham

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'You don't have to travel to the far flung corners of the planet to witness extraordinary natural displays. There are always local opportunities to exploit. The murmuration of s... Read more

'You don't have to travel to the far flung corners of the planet to witness extraordinary natural displays. There are always local opportunities to exploit. The murmuration of starlings at the end of Autumn is one such phenomena, and I was on Aberystwyth beach this one evening to watch the Starlings arriving and murmurating before roosting under the pier for the night. As the balletic display drew to a close, I noticed the silhouettes of the birds on the superstructure of the pier. I looked for a section of the pier that presented an interesting selection of horizontal and diagonal struts, and that wasn't too overcrowded such that the individual birds were distinguishable. I tried a number of potential locations, and by trial and error found a few I liked.' Read less

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Christian Pulham

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