Seeing the beauty in your own back garden
Wildlife photographer Ugo Mellone reveals why the key to capturing a shot to be proud of is closer than you think.
You don't need to jet across the world to capture a spectacular and thought-provoking image of wildlife.
There are stories to tell in every corner of your garden, your nearest park, even your window box.
According to biologist and wildlife photographer Ugo Mellone, the best photographers get to know their subjects in great detail before venturing out into the field hoping for the perfect shot.
They spend time with animals and plants, observe their habits, and figure out where subjects are likely to be at what time.
The most satisfying pictures are often created at home, once a photographer has learned about the bugs and butterflies in their garden, the birds that circle above trees in the park during dusky evenings, and the urban foxes that prowl the streets unnoticed.
Ugo said: 'I love to travel, but I don’t think you need to go far away from home to tell a story about wildlife. If you have something interesting to say, the picture can be brilliant wherever you are. There are possibilities everywhere.'
Research meets art
Ugo bought his first camera in 1999, and has been doing scientific research in the field of raptor migration for 10 years. He now works as a freelancer in the fields of photography, research and wildlife documentaries.
Two of his images are in the Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, with one of them winning the Invertebrates category.
Ugo's image Butterfly in crystal was taken on the coastline where he grew up, in Salento, Italy.
He was in the area to take landscapes shots, but stumbled across a flash of yellow in the white salt crystals that form among the coastline's rocks.
He said: 'Photographers have to be open to surprises like this. I wasn't looking for this image on that morning, but I happened to see it. It was still early and the light was good, not too bright.
'I took that image in the place where I started to learn photography, 15 years before, so I knew the area well.'
This picture was taken on the spur of the moment, but many of Ugo's photos are meticulously researched in advance. He knows the best moment of the year to take a picture, according to seasonal conditions and species behaviour.
Forgetting about the camera
Focusing on the subject and not the technique is one of the ways Ugo comes up with his compositions.
He said: 'I'm not interested in the camera and the technology. It is just an instrument to tell stories.
'As a biologist, I want to focus on the messages about conservation that a beautiful picture can tell.
'I have loved wildlife since I was a child, but I could have ended up as a painter or another artist. The photography itself is less important.'
Ugo advises budding photographers to explore their local areas for inspiration before jumping on a plane to remote locations.
Even the urban sprawl of Britain's biggest cities contains hidden havens where a surprising diversity of wildlife thrives, and success lies in keeping your eyes open for the tiny details.
It could be a brightly coloured insect creeping across a leaf, the blooming of an unusual flower in the park, or ice crystals forming on a February morning.
The wildlife might be harder to find in London or Manchester than secluded jungles or sweeping deserts, but the rewards are worth the effort.
Ugo said: 'Anyone can get on a plane to a remote region, but a good way to start is your own home.
'You will learn things about wildlife that other people don't know if you look closely at what is around you. It might be easier to find possibilities in the Mediterranean region, where I live, than in other places in Europe, but there is always something you can find.'