Lesley Wood - Warrington's wildlife photographer hoping for some less dangerous assignments

PUBLISHED: 20:14 23 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:26 20 February 2013

Lesley at home in Stretton

Lesley at home in Stretton

A wildlife photographer from Warrington happily risked her life for these dramatic shots. Now Lesley Wood is hoping for some less dangerous assignments

Award winning wildlife photographer Lesley Wood was set to capture another classic scene of a group of elephants grazing peacefully in the blistering heat of Botswanas Okavango Delta when a scream from her guide made her turn to her right.

Heading their way was an angry and fully grown male bull elephant, charging, at full speed, directly towards them.

I heard someone shout: Get to the trees, recalled Lesley whose dash for safety came to an abrupt halt when her camera strap caught in nearby undergrowth.

I didnt want to leave 5,000 worth of camera equipment to be trampled so I yanked it free before making myself scarce.

Happily, the rampaging elephant careered past Lesley and her companions taking the threat of mammalian mayhem with it.

At the time you are too busy working out what to do next to be terrified, but when I got back to camp the sheer horror of the days events left me shaking. But I got a great picture of it charging! added Lesley, whose up-close and personal style of wildlife photography has already provided her with a series of life-or-death encounters.

In fact its hard to believe that this multi-award winning, globe-trotting adventurer, whose wildlife scenes adorn the walls of a growing number of homes across Britain, might never have become a professional photographer had it not been for a surprise birthday present of a digital camera.

Then she was a working mum of two who over two decades had carved out a career as a research biologist.

I cant believe the impact that camera has made on my life, recalled Lesley, as she relaxed in the studio that adjoins her spacious Edwardian home at Stretton, near Warrington. When it was presented to me by my other half Steve, I was really surprised.

It rekindled my childhood passion in assignmentsphotography and I started taking a few shots of people and places and before long I was hooked. I even found myself entering photographic competitions and winning!

As time went on, Lesleys interest in photography deepened. After completing a professional training course Lesley Wood Photography was born.

Soon she was busy with portrait work and wedding photography but it was a commission to photograph eleven newborn Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppies that would send her business into a new direction. Lesley won a national photographic award for the line-up of the adorable pups and it wasnt long before other pet commissions came flooding in.

I dropped the wedding photography and concentrated on people and their pets, mostly involving dogs, which was strange really because I had not been a dog person when I was younger, she explained.

My shots captured the bond between people and their beloved pets. Soon people were asking me to photograph their horses, now equine photography away from the show ring out on location, is a hugely important part of my business.

Lesleys interest in animal photography grew so much that she wanted to capture images of animals in the wild. And that led to her embarking on a series of photographic safaris around the globe. A trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe in 2010 provided her with her first photographic safari, where she captured dramatic images of lions, elephants, giraffe and zebra in the wild. Later that year she also went to India.

However, Lesley found herself coming face-to-face with danger in both the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon rainforest during safaris the following year.

In the first incident a huge, angry male Galapagos seal launched its powerful body from the sea towards Lesley who was busy photographing it, wrongly assumimg that it couldnt move fast!

It was terrifying. Fortunately I managed to get a shot of the aggressive seal as it was charging towards me.

During a trip to the hot and humid Amazon rain forest, Lesley had been concentrating on a shot of an exotic insect in the lush vegetation, that when she stepped back she didnt realise she was putting her foot in the midst of a leaf cutter ant trail.

Within minutes dozens of the inch long leaf cutters, which are armed with vicious jaws capable of delivering a nasty bite, were climbing quickly up her leg.

I brushed them off as fast as I could. Thankfully my jeans were tucked into my socks so I didnt actually have them on my skin. But it was scary nevertheless.

Further safaris and adventures look certain for Lesley who has now set up the websites www.wildearthfineart.com and www.lesleywoodphotography.co.uk to enable the public to see her work.

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