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Baby it’s cold outside, but there is a warm glow in my heart because I’ve just been around the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. 

The Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opened to the public last Friday, 22 October. And the exhibition is certainly looking grand from the entrance this year. The arrival area has been opened up and there is a clear view to a vista of photographs, glowing like jewels in the gallery. 

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Andrew Parkinson's 'The drop', Animals in their Environment - highly commended

There are beautiful, memorable and skilfully-executed photographs in the exhibition, but for my money none so memorable as the One Earth category award winner, taken by Spanish photographer Jordi Chias Pujol, entitled ‘Turtle in Trouble’. 

Sailing between Barcelona and the Balearics, Mr Pujol was hoping to photograph dolphins, but instead, spotting an abandoned net drifting along, he dived down, and found a loggerhead sea turtle trapped in the net.  Mr Pujol notes ‘the poor creature must have been trapped for some days so knotted up was it…I felt as though it were looking at me for help as it tried to bite through the netting’.

The photograph shows the turtle, head on to the camera, flippers outstretched through the tangled blue shroud of fishing net.  And there is something about the way it is loosely holding a small length of the net in its mouth, fathomless dark eyes looking at the photographer that is really quite upsetting. It is only when I went down to the exhibition and read the commentary that I found the story had a happy ending.  I will leave to you to find out what that was.

I could only approach that stretch of the exhibition, the One Earth Award category tentatively. You will see some extraordinary photographs there. And in the new Wildlife Photojournalist category.

But I also laughed at the photographs of bird bottoms – the bottom of a fulmar launching off high sea cliffs in the Shetlands; the bottom of a mute swan on the Rhine seen from beneath; the bottom of an Arctic tern flying in to feed its chicks in Iceland.

 

There is something about these bottoms that warmed the cockles of my heart!
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Johan Gehrisch's 'Chick delight', 15-17 years Young award, highly commended

Anyway, After Hours kicks off again this Friday night, and you can experience all this and more for yourself. There is also the opportunity to take part in an exciting new series of biodiversity-focused discussion events in our Restaurant, ‘Biodiversity: the Next Step’ is the first one of these Discussing Nature events, with some great guest speakers. 

We will be rolling out a new ‘dining around Dippy’ experience, in addition to the normal set up in the Central Hall Blue Bar. So do come and join us for a meal, a drink, an exploration of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer or the Darwin Centre. Or to take part in a vital discussion on the future of global diversity.

And take away a new view on the world. From the bottom up.

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It was a real privilege to have Martha Holmes, the BBC Life series producer with us at our November After Hours night. Martha (pictured left) had very kindly agreed to give a talk on the making of the BBC's Life series and it proved to be a truly fascinating event.

 

The high-tech, very impressive Darwin Centre Attenborough Studio was the venue, a fitting place to be discussing Sir David Attenborough's new Life series. Martha was introduced by Nathan Budd, who used to work with her at the BBC Natural History Museum Unit in Bristol, and is now an Assistant Producer in our Interactive Film Unit here. Nathan is a member of the After Hours project team and the event was his idea.

 

Martha is a great speaker, and made a perfect, humorous and quite moving selection of images and film clips to illustrate her talk. And her talk was so engrossing, in particular the dedication of the cameramen in difficult environments was an eye-opener, as well as seeing clips of the animal behaviour that  Martha emphasised new technology is allowing us to see for the first time.

 

What came across most profoundly for me was the BBC’s commitment to excellence. Martha explained how only the very best shots were used in the Life series - even if that meant disappointing the cameramen who had endured horrendous conditions to get footage that would not ultimately be used.  It is this process of selection that ensures the very best footage comes to our screens.

 

I noticed a small, rapt boy in the audience with his parents - he was first in line afterwards at the book signing and went off happily with his signed Christmas present of the Life series book that Martha co-wrote with Michael Gunton.

 

As Martha signed away, Nathan told me how he’d spent a year living totally isolated from civilisation when he was working as a cameraman on the BBC’s Yellowstone series. He said that about five shots from his year’s footage were eventually used. He also told me some amusing stories of running away from the wildlife which, of course, included grizzly and brown bears. Now all I need to do is persuade Nathan to do an event about cameramen living in the wild...

 

Come along to our next After Hours on Friday, 29 January 2010, when we're planning another special event.