WPY 2014

Photograph Details

Finalist 2014


Sam Hobson, United Kingdom

Feral spirits

Just before dusk fell over London, the birds would start to appear. Sam says there were ‘swarms of them coming in low across the cemetery, heading for their roost in the trees just behind me. I’d keep having to duck.’ Ring-necked parakeets, an Afro-Asian species, are now well established in the wild in Britain – the result of escapes and deliberate releases from captivity – and they are thriving in London. Their winter roosts can be huge – Sam had checked out several before opting for this one. ‘There were probably 5,000 birds – the noise was amazing,’ he says. With a constant stream of arrivals squawking past in groups of 20 or30, Sam worked out the parakeets’ typical flight paths. He set up his kit, experimented with various techniques and realised they were coming close enough for him to use a wide-angle lens. With a burst of flash at the end of a long exposure to create their ghostly trails, Sam captured the essence of these eye‑catching aliens in the English urban landscape. By the time it was dark, an hour and a half after the first arrival, the fly‑past of thousands was complete.

Technical specification

Nikon D7000 + 17–35mm f2.8 lens at 17mm; 1/30 sec at f6.3; ISO 800; Nikon Speedlight SB-800 flash + PocketWizard Plus III remote release; Manfrotto tripod.

London, UK: latitude 51.5135, longitude -0.140737 London, UK: latitude 51.5135, longitude -0.140737

London, UK

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Sam Hobson, United Kingdom

Sam is best known for his work with urban wildlife. He specialises in storytelling imagery - either documenting conservation stories with in-depth photojournalism, or crafting stand-alone images that get up close and personal with wildlife by using remote triggers and camera traps. Sam writes a column for BBC Wildlife Magazine and has judged several photography competitions.

  • Nosy neighbour