Northumberland photographer impresses judges who select three of his wildlife images for competition shortlist

Members of the public are asked to vote for Steve Wrightson as the competition winner

© Steve Wrightson Evening Bear
Evening Bear

Crouched for hours in the cold of a Finnish evening, Steve Wrightson finally got his shot.

As the sun came down, a brown bear wandered past his photographers’ hide, backlit by the fading light.

Now, the stunning photograph, Evening Bear, is in the finals of the Scottish Seabird Centre’s Nature Photography Awards.

Judges at the awards which attracted 435 entries, picked out three of Steve’s pictures - showing brown bears and a swooping eagle- to make the shortlist in the competition’s Worldwide Wildlife category.

Steve, from Haltwhistle, Northumberland, said: “Evening Bear was taken in Finland. As the sun set a brown bear wandered past the hide and gave me the opportunity to take this backlit image.”

Steve’s second image, Bear Family, shows a mother and cubs in woodland, the alert mother standing upright on her hind legs while her three cubs nose around at her feet.

© Steve Wrightson Bear Family
Bear Family
 

The third, Eagle Fight, shows a mighty eagle attacking another against a snowy backdrop.

Steve said: “Bear Family was also taken in Finland, the mother bear standing up to look for danger as the cubs feed.

“Eagle Fight features a juvenile golden eagle taking a beating from an adult after hogging the food.”

Steve took up photography as a hobby just four years ago and it quickly became a passion.

He makes annual trips to the Isle of Mull and while the local landscape of Northumberland also provides plenty inspiration and is rich with wildlife, he said the opportunity to photograph golden eagles in Finland in 2012 is “something that will stay with me for a lifetime”.

The chance to return to the country and scout for brown bears came last year.

The nature of the job means he might sit in a hide for hours in the cold and get nothing - but when the patience pays off it’s priceless.

“We stayed in the hide for many hours and were only sleeping for a two to three hours at a time - exhausting but amazing,” said Steve.

Steve’s photographs are among 200 short-listed images currently on show in the Scottish Seabird Centre visitor attraction and conservation charity in North Berwick, where chief executive Tom Brock said this year’s standard has been “fantastic”.

© Steve Wrightson Eagle Fight
Eagle Fight
 

“They all demonstrate outstanding skill and a real appreciation of the natural world,” he added.

The competition is in its ninth year and the panel of judges includes Lorne Gill, an award-winning official photographer from Scottish Natural Heritage, freelance photographer Graham Riddell, and Richard Bath, the editor of Scottish Field magazine.

But the next stage competition is open to public vote - and Steve hopes people in the North East will get behind him.

Richard said: “It was really tough deciding on the shortlist and Steve has done really well.

“There were a huge number of beautiful and creative images which the public now have the opportunity to see in the exhibition. I’m sure they will find them both thought-provoking and inspiring.

“I hope as many people as possible head to the exhibition to vote for their favourites.”

Besides Steve’s Worldwide Wildlife category, where he is up against eight other short-listed photographers, the other competition categories are Scottish Wildlife; Environmental Impact; Creative Visions of Nature; Landscape, and World Flora. There are also two junior categories.

Members of the public have until February 22 to vote for their favourite images at www.seabird.org .

Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Scottish Seabird Centre on February 26, and prizes include nature and wildlife trips.

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