Wildlife Photographer John Birch on his recent trip to The Falkland Islands
I stood quietly in a long line of queuing passengers at the LATAM Airlines check-in desk at Terminal 3 of London’s busy Heathrow Airport. I had two bags, one to check-in and one cabin bag. My first stop of four was to be Sao Paolo in Brazil before heading onwards to Santiago, Chile for an overnight stop.
As the line diminished, my turn to approach the smiling check-in staff grew ever closer. Inside me, the stress mounted. Why, I hear you ask? I am not a terrorist, wanted criminal or smuggler. In any event, people smuggle illicit contraband from, not to, South America. No. I am a wildlife photographer heading on a two-week voyage to the Falkland Islands archipelago and the cause of my stress was that my hand baggage, although within the allowed dimensions, weighed nearly eighteen kilos and I had an allowance of just eight.
I needn’t have worried. The staff did not even glance at the bag, nor did they at the check-in for the subsequent three outbound and four return flights. The amazing Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS), however, weighed everything, including me. I have no complaints though. I was given advanced notice and charged a very reasonable excess baggage fee for my five internal flights.
I spent three weeks in the Falkland Islands capturing nearly thirty five thousand images and it was worth every inch of the stress to ensure that I was in possession of my precious, high quality Nikon cameras and optics.
I have been a pro photographer for about eighteen months. A lifelong career as a public servant and latterly as a consultant gave me a thirst to try something completely different. I am now a writer and photographer. I find both challenging and rewarding. In a short space of time I have managed to get six illustrated articles published in respected magazines; photographs published in several others; been shortlisted in international competitions; came runner-up in the 2017 BBC Countryfile Calendar (and published on the July page) and finally, won the Guardian photographer of the month competition in January of this year with one of those shots I captured in the Falkland Islands.
Despite all this apparent success, it is not very lucrative. If I am ever to make any money from my international adventures, therefore, I need to derive some income. The trip to the Falklands was inspired by the prospect of leading photographic tours or holidays to this and other wild places and a visit offered the opportunity to form partnerships with travel agents, landowners and others whom I hope to be able to do business with in the future.
It is nearly five months since I returned and I have been busy preparing for my first exhibition, both in the hope of being able to sell some photographic fine art prints of what I have seen, but also to promote photographic tours to the Falkland Islands during early 2019.
I spent several hours trawling the Internet looking for someone capable of providing high quality printing, mounting and framing at a price that I could afford and that would offer the opportunity for me to make enough profit to meet my costs and grow my business. I eventually determined that this exhibition was unlikely to be a one-off and decided to find someone locally with whom I could build a mutually beneficial relationship. Dave Smith and his team from Precision Imaging in Kings Heath are those people.
The level of communication and feedback is excellent and all the team are highly personable, friendly and easy to work with. The products and services are very reasonable priced. Their pride in their work and quality of products they have delivered for me has been outstanding and I would have no hesitation in recommending them to other professional photographers.
In only a very short space of time, we have developed a trusting relationship that I hope will last for a very long time.
If you would like to see our work (my photographs, printed, mounted and framed by Precision Images), please visit my exhibition at Chipping Campden Town Hall between 6th to the 8th June 2017 inclusive. I will be open at the ground floor room as follows:
6th June – 1200-1900
7th June – 1100-2200
I am also exhibiting at the BBC Countryfile Live fair at Blenheim Palace between 3rd to 6th August 2017. Find me in the Shopping Village at Stand 56.
And if you have a sense of adventure and want the opportunity to have unfettered, up-close access to amazing Antarctic wildlife, I will be conducting small group tours in early 2019. If you are interested, contact me via my website.