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In response to the Covid-19 pandemic we invited members of the public to share their photos with us in a project called Nature in lockdown: a breath of fresh air.
Recent months have presented a rare view of our world in which human movement is substantially minimised. Many of us spent months of 2020 confined to our homes, and that's changed how we interact with the world around us.
We were looking for photos that tell stories about the pandemic's impact on nature in the UK, and human relationships with animals and plants during lockdown.
Three winners and 12 finalists have been chosen from hundreds of submissions, by judges based in the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity.
Together, the collection of images provides a snapshot of how nature can support us during a time of crisis, as well as showing how human actions can influence the wildlife we share our homes with.
The pictures will be temporarily displayed in the Museum's Images of Nature gallery this Autumn.
The images were judged by Stephanie West (UK Biodiversity Training Manager), Chris Raper (Manager of the UK Species Inventory), and Jessica Wardlaw (Interim Citizen Science Manager).
The judges said, 'Not only were we looking for a fantastic photograph, but something that, on its own and in combination with the text that went with it, really spoke about the unique interactions people had had with wildlife due to lockdown.
'In the end, we think our top three photos really do that, showing that special connection that people found with the wildlife they were suddenly noticing more, and solace in nature from the anxiety and stress of the pandemic.'
Photographer: Ian Wade
Ian said, 'With the spread of COVID-19 and lockdown, social distancing rules were brought into place across the UK. This meant all building work stopped on our house temporarily. The local wildlife took advantage of this situation. On damp evenings, snails would use the scaffolding bars as a mini highway.'
The judges said, 'Ian's snail on the scaffolding is simply a beautiful shot of this much under-regarded, and much maligned mollusc, combined with the story of nature re-colonising suddenly abandoned structures it worked so well for this competition.'
Photographers: Jake and Alice Dunn
Jake and Alice said, 'This is Henri, a baby gull we got to know during lockdown. Henri stood out to us due to its missing leg. It landed at our window every day, awaiting a meal. Slowly, Henri’s trust towards us grew. Now it even comes when we call its name!'
The judges said, 'Alice's photograph with the seagull was particularly striking, showing the human trapped at home, reaching out to the gull, grateful for the opportunity to interact with another living creature outside of the four walls of an urban flat.'
Photographer: Sophie Barlow
Sophie said, 'May 2020: our first “non-essential” trip out as a family for two months. A beautiful afternoon, it was enough just to lie down in the sunshine, among the wildflowers and grasses and breathe in a sense of freedom and relief. It seems like a long time ago now.'
The judges said, 'Sophie submitted two photographs of her family seeking solace in nature after two months trapped at home. This one really caught our eye though; the photograph really speaks to how the connection to nature became vital to so many of us in alleviating the anxiety and stress of the pandemic and lockdown.'
Photographer: Sheena Batey
Sheena said, 'The allotment was a win-win situation for my husband and I in lockdown as visiting every day kept us upbeat and provided us with delicious home produce so less trips to the dreaded supermarket.'
Photographer: Sophie Barlow
Sophie said, 'Taking time every day to really appreciate the ordinary has been an essential part of lockdown for me. Shot from below and lit from behind by the evening sunset, a roadside verge of common cow parsley and wild grasses took on an unexpected and ethereal beauty.'
Photographer: Michael M Sweeney
Michael said, 'Hogganfield Loch, Glasgow, Scotland. Nature has had an uplifting and positive effect on me as a photographer during lockdown. The connection with the cygnet showed me what it means to be free in this moment and that nature has a special power to move us in hard times.'
Photographer: Grant Sambrooks
Grant said, 'An unprepared and ill-equipped encounter. Within a mile of industrial estates and, up until then, a bustling urban sprawl, nature itself decided to give me a lesson in finding beauty through a shroud of uncertainty. A deer in the Black Country.'
Photographer: Sarah Cunningham
Sarah said, 'When lockdown began, I found myself partway through my university placement at Attingham Park. Being able to wander the estate's 4,000 acres, I developed my wildlife photography skills. This photograph was taken at 4 o'clock in the morning and I feel proud and lucky to have captured the beautiful sunrise.'
Photographer: Ceri Leigh
Ceri said, 'It's not every day you can stand on the A40 and take a photograph. The old London to Fishguard road passes through the Brecon Beacons. During lockdown, there was much less traffic and you could clearly hear the birds singing.'
Photographer: Sandy Backshall
Sandy said, 'Children have an innate connection to the natural world. This photograph of a spider and its web was taken during an urban nature walk with my son. I wanted the viewer to see the spider and also feel the child’s sense of wonder reflected back through the web.'
Photographer: Sarah Cheesbrough
Sarah said, 'Beside a discarded latex glove, a solitary greylag goose nibbled on willow, nature’s aspirin. The tide was out and the ground slippery. Just 10 days into lockdown, this scene encapsulated flavours of our new life under COVID in a humorous way. Nature always uplifts me; it is my go-to medicine.'
Photographer: Jason A Miller
Jason said, 'During lockdown, I had to pivot from live music photography to something COVID-proof. This was a whole new world to me and I bought a macro lens to take photos in my garden. I watched this little guy for several evenings until I caught him at just the right moment.'
Photographer: Sophie Barlow
Sophie said, 'On an evening walk, I stepped out through the trees and encountered this glorious, fiery sunset. I couldn’t decide if it looked like the light at the end of a tunnel or the road to hell. Either way, I thought I'd take my chances and continue on my walk!'
Photographer: Michelle Benato
Michelle said, 'In June, I visited a local meadow that had been sown with flowers to encourage wildlife back to the area. I spotted this young child wading through waist-high flowers and grasses, captivated by the bees. The resulting image is a reminder that sometimes we just need to slow down and observe.'
Photographer: Olivier Zilio
Olivier said, 'During lockdown, I found myself unemployed and spending most of my time in the garden. I was lucky enough to meet James and Lily, two garden foxes. Shy at first, James became more comfortable with time, but apparently wasn’t too happy when we emptied the paddling pool...'