Highlands & Islands

'Wildlife photography keeps me sane, it's not just a job'

Karen Miller Image copyright Laurie Campbell
Image caption Karen Miller says coronavirus has had an impact on her business

Karen Miller quit her job in Glasgow last year to work as a professional wildlife photographer.

Relocating to the Highlands in November, she had, until recently, been taking clients into the hills to photograph mountain hares.

While appreciating the need for restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the lockdown has come at a cost.

"The main impact is not being able to get out and work with clients and establish my business," she said.

Mountain hares are Karen's favourite subject for her photography Image copyright Karen Miller
Image caption Mountain hares are Karen's favourite subject for her photography

Bookings have had to be cancelled or postponed and plans to set up an Airbnb have been put on hold. Karen also has concerns about the 2020-21 winter season, not knowing how long the lockdown might last.

She does not qualify for government financial support because she has not been self-employed long enough.

But since the lockdown, she has been trying to build up her client base and her following on social media, along with researching other income streams.

Blue tit Image copyright Karen Miller
Image caption Karen said she was lucky to live near woods, so she could carry on photographing wildlife

She said she was lucky to live in a semi-rural area near woods, so was still able to go in search of wildlife to photograph.

But she added: "This is my favourite time of year for mountain hares as they change from white to brown, so its frustrating and disappointing on a personal level. I was looking forward to spending as much time as possible with them.

"Getting out with my camera and spending time surrounded by nature is what keeps me sane. It's not just a job for me."

Andy Howard Image copyright Andy Howard
Image caption Andy Howard said some of his clients had moved their bookings to next year

Andy Howard, a professional wildlife photographer for the last five years and based near Inverness, shares this sentiment.

"I live for my encounters with wildlife," he said.

Andy said he had been "very fortunate" that his clients had rolled bookings into next year, with many saying they needed something to look forward to. He is also working on writing his third book, although that will not bring in immediate income.

Goldfinch Image copyright Andy Howard
Image caption Andy said he lived for his encounters with wildlife

"Like so many others, all my photography guiding and tours are on hold until we are told otherwise," he said..

"All we can do is sit tight to see when things can return to as normal as possible.

"It's the hotels, restaurants and other businesses we support I feel sorry for. The ones with staff, offices and large day-to-day running costs."

Like Karen, Andy has access to wildlife on his doorstep.

"There is lots to keep me occupied while at the same time complying with the restrictions and guidelines set by government," he said.

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