Our Members

Insights - Tim Downton, 07 March 2021

Insights - occasional articles about our club members - Tim Downton, 07 March 2021
I think most us in the Club will know Tim by reputation, due to his amazing wildlife images, and the wish that if only we could capture those ‘moments’. But how did it all begin?

From a young age Tim has been interested in wildlife; living in Weymouth gave him the opportunity through his childhood to spend time on the beach, ambling along the seashore and venturing to Radipole, not far from his home, to feed the ducks and swans that called in there. This was the start of his photographic journey; with the money from his paper-round, he bought a Zenith TTL film camera – built like a tank! However, with his enthusiasm in buying and sending films off to be developed, he quickly discovered it was going to be an expensive hobby (haven’t we all!).

Time passed, and in 2007 when he and Sue started to go out on walks, their interest in the wildlife around them was re-ignited. At this point Tim decided to buy a basic digital camera – a Fuji FinePix which was great, but the birds were too far away and were just dots in the sky. The ‘money pit’ of photography had begun and the wish for better cameras and bigger lenses was high on the agenda!

Not long after, (along with Sue) Tim joined the Club in 2010. Here he was persuaded by Jane Lee to enter two images in an Open Projected competition and was ‘very shocked’ that his image of a Red Kite came 1st! Of course, since then we have appreciated many of Tim’s stunning photographs – and indeed enjoyed watching his many successes.

Naturally to capture such images, has involved Tim in visiting different areas around the UK. One such visit he particularly enjoyed - when we were allowed to travel - took him to Scotland for two weeks in January 2020 and the areas of Aviemore and Glencoe. This was all about landscape photography – and was a revelation to him. He and Sue intend to return soon. Tim will be the first to admit that he struggles with the visualisation of Landscape images, unless it is an iconic location. However, this gave him the chance to relax and consider his image; with time he discovered the joys of this genre, producing pleasing photographs. But wildlife is his ‘big pull’ and so travel to Titchwell RSPB, Clay and Salthouse Marshes in Norfolk and Minsmere RSPB in Suffolk will be some of the main areas where Tim can be found and where he will see a diverse range of wildlife - from hares, Tawny and Barn Owls, Avocets to Bitterns, mostly in hides, but what a joy. This is also where Tim is most relaxed, but also constantly on the alert watching for action. If you lose concentration, or get distracted – you miss the shot!

In terms of planning any of his local visits, quite simply if it is not raining, he goes out! I like his style! However, he will normally get up at around 5am in the summer, or 7am in the winter, make a flask of something hot, pack some cereal bars and off he goes. Locally, as many of us know, he loves to return to Radipole, Lodmoor and Arne, where we are so lucky to live with these areas just a short distance from us. These areas offer so much diversity and many people will travel miles just to get a glimpse of a Dartford Warbler or Bearded Tit and they are just on our doorstep! Frustratingly, these have been off-limits for us all due to Covid restrictions, but hopefully the day is not far away when we can happily return and watch our native wildlife again.

It is not just the UK that Tim has relished for its wildlife. He has travelled to Hungary for some amazing bird photography and whilst this was mainly in hides, it brought him close to White-tailed Eagles, European Roller, Bee-Eater, Red-backed Shrike and the Lesser Grey Shrike. In Romania, he joined a specially designed photo-boat to travel the Danube Delta. Here he saw Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron, Collared Pratincole, Whiskered and Black Tern, Pallas's Gull and Penduline Tit. (You will have to Google these to see what they look like!)

Tim’s journey has been adventurous, but the best advice he has been given is that wildlife is more important than getting the photo and that it is sometimes better to watch and study your subject, because there is more chance that you will be able to second-guess what is going to happen next and be ready for the shot. Not only that, but you stand to miss so much by just looking through the viewfinder – so step back and enjoy.

We know Tim as a ‘wildlife photographer’ and as he says, 90% of his images are of birds. So, as he goes forward, he will now be looking to find more mammals and reptiles (not keen on snakes – who is?!) and also trying some macro photography, which has its challenges. On the flip-side, Tim enjoys Sport photography too and has won medals and awards in International competitions for his British Superbikes and Polo images – so a complete contrast.

With all the stunning wildlife images achieved by Tim is there a favourite? Yes, and it is the simple image of a Sika deer head; the deer was very close and filled the frame. For Tim it is the detail in the fur and hairs on the ears, along with the catch-light in the eyes, which for him, makes a very pleasing image – we agree.

So back to where we started and the ‘money pit’ – from Tim’s Fuji FinePix in the early days, he can now be found with a Canon 1DX in his hands, along with a 500mm lens and a 1.4 teleconverter, which gives him 700mm for wildlife and sport – and he always uses a tripod. Other lenses to be found in his bag will be the 70-200mm, 28-135mm and a 100mm macro lens (and just occasionally he borrows Sue’s 150-600mm Sigma lens).

The many months of Lockdown have been busy for Tim as a postman, mainly because with most people at home online shopping, the parcels and packets to be delivered have been like Christmas every day! Add to that the restrictions involved within the workplace and changes to working hours, this has not been good for the ‘body clock’. In essence, Tim’s nature photography has been ‘moth-balled’ (pardon the pun!) for the time being, but he is very much looking forward to when he can feel comfortable to take his tripod and big lens out again.

Hopefully this will be very soon for all of us whatever the ‘new normal’.

~ Janine Scola
Sika Deer by Tim Downton