Early career advice

I started thinking about careers advice for youngsters when my wife was looking through a box of photographs.  She came across this one.

What’s health and safety?

This was one of my early ‘tower’ hides which I erected to photograph a great spotted woodpecker nest.  It was very uncomfortable inside as you had to balance on 5 or 6 dead beech logs.  The main uprights are made up of one live beech tree and 3 dead ones, the dead ones were buried about 3 feet in the ground.  All of the cross pieces and diagonals are bits of dead beech tree and the whole thing is held together with baling string gathered from fields.  The canvas hide was industrial strength stuff from a lorry and stank of diesel and oil.  Stitching it together with heavy duty twine resulted in blisters and holes in every finger and thumb plus the palm of my hand.  The whole thing took so long to build (in very short stints each day so as not to disturb the birds) that the woodpeckers had fledged before I was able to take any photographs!  Talk about a waste of time.  I have a photo of me somewhere, which I hope I can find, of me standing near one of these towers sporting arms like an orang utan.  At the time I was on what would now be called a gap year at a factory where my dad worked.  The job was hauling around boxes full of hair and coils of steel, then for fun I’d go out and build towers.  I’ve never had better arm strength.

These days youngsters wouldn’t be allowed to build a tower like this in this country.  Kids in the 1960s and 1970s living anywhere near a wood would build dens like this all the time, some of them reaching for the tree tops.  It’s only a thought, but I believe any youngster with ambitions to be a wildlife cameraman would enjoy doing this sort of thing and after a certain age they probably already are.  Some of their friends might think they’re a bit odd, but fear not, most wildlife camera people are a bit odd, it is a qualification masquerading as a personality trait.

When you’re filming wildlife you come across entertaining practical challenges all the time.  Part of the fun of the job is making hides from local materials, and in a way it is like being a child again.  Dig holes, climb trees, get dirty, laugh about it! What a great job!