Winner: Fergus Gill - Schottland

Seventeen year old Fergus Gill lives in rural Perthshire, Scotland. He took his first photographs at the age of nine, his interest was first sparked by his father who always encouraged him to pick up a camera and take photographs, usually of common subjects like garden birds. This interest in photography developed into a passion in 2004 when he won the 11-14 category in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition with a photograph of the Aurora borealis. Having this success inspired him to turn photography into a full time hobby, something he has continued to enjoy ever since, with further success in numerous competitions. Living in an area surrounded by arable farmland, woodland and moorland he has plenty of opportunities to get out and experience nature first hand.

Project: Winter in Scotland

Winter is my favourite time of year, it is a period during which much of our wildlife faces hard times and struggles to cope in the cold weather. I find nature’s ability to find ways of surviving to be inspiring. That is why during the winter months I aim to take photographs showing the conditions wildlife must endure, or scenes showing behaviour only seen at this time.
This gives me an opportunity to be creative with my photography. I search out wildlife when there is snow, I feel this adds an extra element to a picture; gives it a sense of atmosphere and an insight into the life of our wildlife. Snow transforms a scene, it has its own beauty, this is the beauty I strive to capture.

Much of my photography at this time of year takes place in the mountains; this is my favourite place; the landscape is beautiful and the creatures which live there are the hardiest in the UK.

Closer to home I take many photographs in my garden, during winter many species are attracted by the food we put out for them, this creates an opportunity for me to capture images of birds not seen at other times of the year.                                                                               

In this portfolio I have put together a series of images to show my approach to photography, bringing together photographs from the mountains and those closer to home, I hope you enjoy viewing it!

Fergus Gill | Der Blick | The Stare

The Stare
It was a typically cold winters day, the grass and trees were covered in a thick, glistening hoar frost. I put some birdseed on the ground and waited for the birds to appear, by lying down I concealed the food from my view and managed to get more intimate portraits, this one of a female blackbird was my favourite.

Fergus Gill | Hasensprint | Running Hare

Running Hare
I’d been stalking this mountain hare for some time, crawling towards it slowly and carefully, suddenly it sprang to its feet and sprinted off giving me the chance to get this action photograph. Moments later a couple of walkers came over the horizon, clearly the hare had heard them approaching long before I did.

Fergus Gill | Türkentaube | Garden Dove

Garden Dove
I placed many perches around the bird feeders and food sources in my garden; with this photograph of a collared dove taken during a winter snow shower. The snow began falling heavily and so I increased my aperture to try to get a slower shutter speed to record the snow as small lines rather than just individual flakes.

Fergus Gill | Rufendes Schneehuhn | Calling Ptarmigan

Calling Ptarmigan
I spotted this ptarmigan as I was walking up the hillside, I slowly crouched until I was kneeling and began to take photographs. After taking a few shots I decided to try to imitate the call of a cock bird, to my amazement I got an almost instant response from this male.

Fergus Gill | Winterfütterung | Feeding on the Oats

Feeding on the Oats

Part of a series of photographs, depicting one of the most colourful birds found in the UK.

Fergus Gill | Am Ende des Winters | The End of Winter

The End of Winter
At the very end of winter, ptarmigan were starting to moult into their spring plumage. It was a typical day in the mountains, bitingly cold with strong winds. The moisture and snow on the ground turned into ice crystals, carpeting the hillside. As I photographed this ptarmigan during a light shower of snow he heard the camera shutter and peered back towards me, giving me the opportunity to capture this portrait.

Fergus Gill | Schneehase, gut geschützt | The Snow-hole Hare

The Snow-hole Hare
On winter days it can be very cold and the mountains are often subjected to gale force winds. This means most of the wildlife are to be found sheltering, trying to keep warm. By lying down I was able to remain slightly below the hare, this allowed me to photograph the animal peering over the edge of the snow-hole. What I particularly like about this photograph is the eye contact, with the hare looking towards the camera.

Fergus Gill | Gefrorenes Schneehuhn | Frosted Grouse

Frosted Grouse
This photograph of a Red Grouse was taken very early one winters morning. I’d slept overnight on a grouse moor and woke to find everything covered in hoar frost. Before the sun had risen I was out searching for grouse, I spotted this one and managed to get close enough to take this picture; it had been so cold during the night that this grouse was covered in frost.

Fergus Gill | Schneehuhn im Lebensraum | Ptarmigan

Using a 70-200mm lens I wanted to take some wider shots of this ptarmigan to show the environment in which these birds spend their lives.

Fergus Gill | Hase am Berg | Winter Hare

Winter Hare
Nearing the summit of a hill I scanned the horizon for ptarmigan or hares, I’ve noticed that the animals tend to be found in sheltered areas, such as behind boulders or in small hollows. Finding the animals isn’t the difficult part, approaching close enough to capture images is the greatest challenge. I quite like this image as I was able to show part of the environment, I’ve taken many portraits of hares before so it was a pleasant change to have an image with a hare slightly smaller in the frame.