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Capturing Biology in Action

Posted by on June 30, 2015

Billy Clapham is a zoology student at the University of Sheffield and won the Society’s amateur photography competition last year.

Photography is a fantastic medium to explore and reveal the beauty of the natural world in all its forms. But beautiful photographs of animals and plants from all around the world, while no less special, are almost ten a penny these days, and making your own photos stand out can be difficult. One thing that can elevate a pretty picture into something more special is a photograph’s ability to tell a story, something that the Society of Biology’s photography competition lends itself to perfectly.

Billy-Clapham-The-Suburban-MumI was lucky enough to win last year’s photography competition, themed “Home, Habitat and Shelter”, with a shot of my garden’s resident female blackbird collecting food for her young. Somehow, my humble garden blackbird managed to fight off amazing photos from all around the world, and I think what the judges liked most was the story it told. To try and create a strong narrative of a wild animal thriving in such a humanised habitat, I chose a wide-angle lens to reveal the garden landscape behind the subject. By a stroke of luck my mum had hung out some washing to dry that day, and I think including such a bizarre but common-place object in the shot was part of the key to its success. Even the baby bibs and bra mirror the story of the mother blackbird caring for her own youngsters. Though I don’t think my mum has truly forgiven me for showing the world her bra yet!

Red deerThis year’s theme is “Conflict & Survival”, bringing to mind everything from the physical battles fought by males trying to access females, to specialist animal and plants struggling for existence in extreme environments. Like last year’s theme, there’s no need to stray far to find great photographic subjects, with the struggle for survival being faced every day right in your back garden.


Capturing a technically good and compositionally pleasing image is important, but don’t forget that nailing the theme and telling a clear and vivid story will really make your image shine.

The deadline for entries to this year’s competition is 31st August, so you still have plenty of time to take your perfect shot. The competition is free to enter and an amazing prize and stacks of publicity await the winner, so why not give it a go? You have nothing to lose!

See more of Billy’s photographs and find out more about the photography competition.

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