Paul Sawford’s images of birds are so good it is hard to believe he has only been taking photographs for 5 years. He gave up work as a BBC security officer so he could take up photography full-time and is in either in Kensington Gardens, St James Park or Richmond most mornings by 6am.
“My daughter did a photography course at school and she taught me,” says Sawford. “I did art at school but wasn’t very good but I love the creative arts and found a way to express it through my photography.” Sawford works a lot with dark backgrounds, waiting for light to spill onto his subject and says he really fell into bird photography by chance. He wanted to take photographs of wildlife but found wildlife is difficult to find in London. “I practiced in the garden and what comes into the garden? Birds. They kind of reel you in and you start to see their different traits,” he explains. As we are talking in Kensington Gardens Sawford turns his head. He has heard a Little Owl and we are soon looking at it through the branches of a tree. Since becoming a wildlife photographer he has developed stronger senses, good hearing and an eye always casting around looking for good light and movement in the leaves.
The trick to taking good bird photographs is knowing the birds. Sawford says: “It is anticipation and they do behave in a predictable manner.” He also sometimes shoots in burst mode, at 4-6 frames a second. He took this shot of a swan (pic, above) just before I met him in the park. He knew that after grooming the swan would shake it’s feathers out and was ready to capture the moment. After taking lots of shots over the years he wasn’t sure what to do with the images and didn’t want to just leave them on the computer. He ended up finding a photography group on Facebook where artists started asking him if they could use his images. Now he supplies several artists with his images, and in return they make donations to wildlife conservation charities. Also, cards and calendars are being produced by Friends of Richmond Park, and money raised helps park conservation.paul.sawford.5