About Matt

Outreach

What photography means to me

Having a background in environmental sciences has given me a strong understanding of our natural world and the processes that drive it. Photography provides me with a medium to bring the species and places that share our planet to a wider audience.

About Me

Based in the south of England on the edge of the New Forest National Park with my wife Polly and our dog Scooby, I feel lucky to be in reach of some wonderful coastal and inland environments. I grew up by the sea sailing, swimming, and later diving and can’t imagine living life far from the coast. I got hooked on wildlife photography during a trip to South Africa over 12 years ago and since then have been fortunate to visit some incredible places as both an ecologist and photographer.

I continue to work as a self-employed marine ecologist and balance this with an increasing amount of photography and filming work with several successful commissions now under my belt. Being self-employed gives me the flexibility to respond to clients’ needs and wishes as and when work arises. I am also a member of the Earth in Focus project.

Science and Photography

I started off my university life studying pure biology but this very quickly moved toward zoology and into marine biology which was really all I had ever wanted to do. I took these interests further and gained a PhD in marine biology from Bangor University and it was whilst studying there that I really developed my interest in ecological communities, their dynamics and their responses to human influences.

I then worked abroad for the NGO Coral Cay Conservation as their Project Scientist in the Philippines being responsible for the coral reef survey programme. I also worked with the local communities providing educational materials and working with fishermen toward establishing and managing no-take zones as a means of protecting their resources for future generations. Back in the UK I have worked in consultancy providing advice and evidence to public and private bodies with regard to the state and protection of our marine habitats.

Citizen science has fast become a buzz word, particularly in conservation circles. I volunteer on many days each year with the Seasearch project, gathering data on local marine habitats (some maybe never dived before) and providing data toward the establishment of Marine Conservation Zones. Various aspects of my activities have enlightened me to the importance of imagery as a means of providing evidence behind ecological records and as a way of engaging with new audiences. If we want people to protect our environment then helping them to appreciate its beauty and understand its complexity is just as important as showing its degradation and demise.

The Earth in Focus project has been set up by myself, Adam Seward, Richard Shucksmith and George Stoyle as a means of telling stories and providing imagery related to the environment, ecology and science.

Diving and Photography

I began diving in 1998 during a gap year, just before a trip around Europe. The dark depths of Portland Harbour in March plus a fellow student getting bent didn’t put me off and I was well and truly hooked. I bought my first underwater compact camera in 2006 just before heading off to the Philippines and was amazed at the quality of the images I could get. Returning home, a number of these images won me my first photography competition and I spent all the money on my first DSLR housing, allowing me to take my images to new levels.

I am qualified to PADI DM, BSAC OWI and HSE Prof SCUBA level and am often looking for new underwater sites to explore. I have however, more recently come to understand the importance of knowing a local patch (or at least repeatedly diving the same sites) which helps to recognise any changes occurring, understand animal behaviours even better and focus on a subject or project.

Awards

Publications

I am fortunate that a number of my images have done pretty well over the years in several high-profile competitions including…

  • 2017 – Runner-Up, UK Macro – Underwater Photographer of the Year, London
  • 2016 – The Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize for outstanding underwater research – The Black Bream Project
  • 2016 – Highly Commended, British Wide Angle – Underwater Photographer of the Year, London
  • 2015 – Overall Winner, Canon Iconic Images – Celebrating 10 years of the 5D SLR series
  • 2015 – British Underwater Photographer of the Year, Winner UK Wide Angle, Runner-Up and Highly Commended UK Macro – Underwater Photographer of the Year, London
  • 2015 – Highly Commended, Coast and Marine and Animal Behaviour – British Wildlife Photography Awards
  • 2014 – Highly Commended, Animal Portraits and Animal Behaviour – British Wildlife Photography Awards
  • 2013 – Highly Commended, Animal Portraits – GDT European Wildlife Photography Awards
  • 2013 – 3rd Place, Botanical category – Scottish Nature Photography Awards
  • 2012 – Overall Winner, Coast and Marine – British Wildlife Photography Awards
  • 2012 – Highly Commended – Scottish Nature Photography Awards
  • 2007 – Overall Winner and Runner-Up – British Ecological Society Photographic Competition

On several occasions I have had my work published in various books, magazines and newspapers including…

  • BBC Wildlife
  • DIVER Magazine
  • SCUBA Magazine
  • Wildlife Trust magazines
  • vår Fågelvärld
  • Vanity Fair
  • Terra Mater
  • Roots Magazine
  • Country Life Magazine
  • The Great British Year (nature book)
  • Ocean Guide (educational book)
  • Wild Hampshire and Isle of Wight (book)
  • UK National newspapers
  • Amateur Photography
  • Southern Leyte Times