Nature of Britain
The charity shops of Ilkley should be on red alert: many of the Society’s photographers may well have decided to throw in the towel and simply get rid of their cameras in despair at ever being able to match the calibre of this evening’s images. Peter Smith, on his fourth visit to the WNS in as many years, showed us the Nature of Britain in a dazzling succession of beautiful photographs, revealing some of the tricks of the photographer’s trade, including the use of everyday items such as a strategically deployed coffee table, as well as pretty branches and various hides and scaffolding constructions. His relentless pursuit of the perfect shot, including his readiness to climb to the top of a cherry-picker, coupled with field craft and expert knowledge built up over decades, have paid off, with handsome pictures of everything from plants and the smallest and most unregarded insects, through birds, to mammals including mighty dolphins and deer. Who would have thought that a sexton beetle dealing with a dead wood mouse could be so visually stunning? We gasped at a series showing the emergence of a swallowtail butterfly, and were given intimate views into the nests of rare birds, as well as enjoying images of familiar species seen from unusual angles. In the process, we gleaned new nuggets of information. Hedgehogs, for example, turn out to be extremely fond of sunflower hearts, while many other small creatures can be easily lured with jam and peanut butter. The watery environment was not neglected, with one particularly stunning image showing a swimming grass snake. All in all, this was a glorious tribute to the wildlife of these islands. Our next meeting is on 10 October, when David Mower will give a presentation about Leighton Moss.