The art of pet photography with Lesley Wood
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 March 2015
Higher Walton photographer Lesley Wood has earned a place in the hearts of families across Cheshire, as well as a prestigious fellowship
Pet and wildlife photographer Lesley Wood was once more accustomed to taking shots of cockroaches and bed bugs. The 51-year-old former insect biologist and entomologist used to enjoy taking pictures of creepy crawlies to illustrate her powerpoint presentations at work.
Today, Lesley takes images of rather prettier animals. She captures stunning pictures of treasured pets for families across Cheshire and farther afield. Most of her pictures are of dogs, but she’s also photographed cats, horses, donkeys and even lizards on camera.
Much of her working life is spent exploring our county’s glorious landscape as well as many private country estates across Cheshire. Well-known beauty spots like Tatton in Knutsford, Marbury Country Park in Comberbach, near Northwich, and Walton Hall and Gardens, in Higher Walton, near Warrington, provide Lesley with spectacular backdrops for her eye-catching images.
She said: ‘I’m lucky to have lots of places locally to take people with their pets. There are many wonderful places which provide stunning backdrops. It’s a privilege to spend time with clients to get pictures they love that are taken either at their own home or in areas that are special to them.’
Lesley’s passion for photography was ignited as a girl. She spent hours taking pictures of toads, frogs and other wildlife in the back garden of her home in Widnes with her brother, Geoff, and father, John. They would then turn the bathroom into a dark room so they could process the images they had captured.
‘It was my dad who gave me my first camera, a Kodak instamatic, I think. He encouraged me to take it everywhere. And I did. I have many happy memories of family holidays to Austria. I’d come home with several rolls of film to send away for processing. It’s a shame he never saw me turn my passion into a career but he would be pleased for me.’
Lesley spent 20 years as an insect biologist but in 2007 decided to strike out and start her own full-time business. She had already won several local photography competitions but after encouragement from her late husband, Steve, who died last year, she decided to make it a career. After training in the Lake District she set up doing family lifestyle pictures. She gave pet photography a try when a dog breeder in High Legh asked her to take pictures of a litter of 11 Cavalier King Charles puppies. She entered the image into the UK Pet Photographer of the Year competition – it won a gold.
‘I couldn’t really believe it,’ said Lesley. ‘It took me two hours to get the pictures but it ended up working really well. They looked so cute.
‘But I never expected to win that. It was my first pet photograph, so I was really blown away by it.’
After that accolade, Lesley decided to focus on animal photography. Lesley also takes pictures of pets all over the country. She photographed a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, George, from the book My Life with George, as well as several Crufts champions. Lesley has also won awards for her fine art wildlife photography of animals in far-flung locations such as Botswana, Ecuador, Masai Mara and the Galapagos Islands. Images she captured earned her congratulatory letters from Sir David Attenborough.
She intends to produce a book of her images to publicise the Elephants for Africa charity, with its founder Dr Kate Evans. She said: ‘It probably sounds strange but there really is no difference in taking a picture of a lion in Africa or taking a picture of someone’s pet cat in their garden – other than you would not want to get too close to the lion of course.
‘I just love being able to take pictures of the animals that families love so much and bring so much happiness to people. It is a moment to treasure when you see people’s reactions when they see the pictures for the first time.’
Lesley was recently awarded a fellowship to the Society of International Nature and Wildlife Photographers. It is an accolade awarded to only the top one percent of photographers in the Society.
She said: ‘I am absolutely thrilled to have received the fellowship. It is an incredible honour. They don’t give it away lightly.
‘It was a real risk leaving my old job but I am so pleased I have done it. I know Steve would be really happy to see what I have achieved.’ n
For more information about Lesley Wood visit www.lesleywoodphotography.co.uk