local focus

cygnet©James Ball

James Ball was one of the winners in the Wren Wildlife Group’s photography competition, announced in Wanstead last month as part of their 50th-anniversary celebrations. Here, the estate agent explains the development of his interest in photography and local wildlife

I’ve been interested in wildlife for as long as I can remember. This continued into my teenage years when I also became interested in photography whilst travelling. Eventually, during my mid 20s, the two collided and I’ve been photographing wildlife for some time now!

As the years went by, my interests grew into a passion and I started exploring further afield. I ended up spending most of my spare time in Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and other places, basically, almost anywhere outside of London! All in search of different species of wildlife. Then, lockdown happened.

The restrictions lockdown brought us, the jump in fuel prices and environmental consciousness all really opened my eyes to focus more locally and lower my carbon footprint.

The Wren Wildlife Group provided me with lots of valuable information and those I’ve met so far have been very friendly and knowledgeable. I recommend anybody who has an interest in any nature-related topics to visit their website.

Working in a very busy environment at Theydons estate agents in Leytonstone can be full-on at times, but having the tranquillity of Hollow Ponds and Wanstead Flats so nearby offers a great lifestyle balance. 

I’ve been lucky enough to photograph owls, kingfishers, woodpeckers, foxes and kestrels, all within one mile (as the ring-necked parakeet flies!) from my home in Leytonstone.

The photo shown here was taken ahead of one of our busiest Saturdays at work earlier this year. An early morning walk over Wanstead Flats was required to reset before back-to-back viewings. The sun had not quite risen enough to reach this particular corner of Alexandra Lake, creating the crisp blue tone which I feel complements the grey down feathers of the cygnet. I also like the droplets still visible on the young swan’s bowing head.

Laying on my belly not only covered me in mud, but also allowed me to get eye-level with the subject, hopefully creating a connection with the viewer and adding emotion to the image.

As we approach the winter months, I look forward to not having to wake up at silly o’clock for a sunrise walk! Winter migrating birds will offer new photographic opportunities, and hopefully, I’ll finally get a nice photo of a redwing!

James has a display of his local wildlife photographs in Stone Mini Market, 721 High Road Leytonstone, E11 4RD. To follow James on Instagram, visit wnstd.com/jamesball

For more information on the Wren Wildlife Group, visit wnstd.com/wren

Author: Editor