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Isles photographer wins top wildlife award

Dr Richard Shucksmith's photograph of a jellyfish has won top prize in the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2011. Pic. R Shucksmith/BWPA

A SHETLAND-based photographer has won top prize in the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2011…much to his own surprise.

Richard Shucksmith, who lives in Nesting, took his winning photo of a jellyfish off the small uninhabited island of Sula Sgeir (Gannet Rock), 41 miles north of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides.

The 37 year old hit the headlines a year ago when he and his fiancée and fellow marine biologist Rachel Hope discovered Europe’s smallest marine fish off Lunna.

The Guillet’s goby is the size of a grain of pudding rice and had never been found in Scottish waters before, though since their find several more have been spotted.

Lincoln-born Dr Shucksmith moved to Shetland about three years ago after living in north Wales and on the west coast of Scotland and said he has fallen in love with the islands’ “wilderness, wildlife and superb diving”.

Richard Shucksmith

He said he took his winning photograph while spending a week diving with a group of fellow “marine biology geeks” doing a survey for the national voluntary diving group Seasearch off the western isles.

“There was quite a few of us and we put out what we thought were our five best images to friends and asked them to rank which one they thought was the best and this image came out on top,” he said.

“I quite liked it because of the jellyfish and the colours and it’s quite simplistic and easy on the eye, but I was surprised it won the overall competition to be quite honest, though you can never predict what the judges think.”

Greg Armfield, photography and film manager from wildlife charity WWF, said of his snap: “A truly beautiful shot of a jellyfish that perfectly captures its iridescent colours and magical qualities. All the more remarkable that it exists in UK waters. Fantastic.”

Dr Shucksmith plans to add his £5,000 prize money to his savings to let him take more time off work to pursue his favourite pastime, wildlife photography.

He and his partner are also planning a series of audio visual shows of their diving around the Shetland coastline called Underwater Shetland, with which they hope to tour local communities next year.

More of Dr Shucksmith’s work can be seen at www.ecologicalphotography.co.uk and www.earthinfocus.com.

More winning photographs can be found at http://www.bwpawards.org/

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