Interviewer: Good afternoon, Adam. You’re one of the country’s most successful professional photographers. Yet, unlike some professional photographers, you keep yourself open and accessible to the amateur photography community. Why is this relationship important to you?
Adam: The simplest reason is that I was an amateur photographer myself ten years ago and remember what it was like. I struggled to get help on the simplest topics and a couple of well-established wildlife pros at the time were pretty rude and nasty to me. I vowed never to be like that and to remain accessible, which is one reason I now run workshops. Financially I don’t need to and sometimes they occur right in the middle of a project but I just get satisfaction from helping other photographers expand their photographic horizons. 
Interviewer: You often talk about professional ethics in wildlife photography, What exactly do you mean by this?
Adam: Well, simply that some photographers seem to think it’s more important to get the shot, rather than the actual process of taking it. But I don’t consider this honest. Wildlife photography, for me, is first and foremost a way of getting close to wildlife — it’s not about the equipment, or what software you use or anything else. This means you have a responsibility to what you’re photographing that far transcends any technical considerations that you might have.  After all, the camera won’t abandon its nest if you get too close and disturb it. It’s all about respect, whether you’re taking pictures of animals in the wild or in captivity.
Interviewer: How do you see the balance between fieldcraft — or knowing about wildlife — and being able to take a technically perfect picture?
Adam: Well, the technical element rarely counts for anything as most modern cameras are pretty simple to operate. Unfortunately, however, fieldcraft seems to be a dying art, as there are so many magazine articles these days on using software to enhance your photos, which is, in my book, an inappropriate way to approach wildlife photography. Yet there are occasional photographers I meet who have absolutely stunning pictures that clearly show they’ve spent ages becoming experts in their own areas of fieldcraft – one guy I met last year had the most amazing birds of prey collection. He clearly loved photographing them, that’s of course the key to everything. 
Interviewer: When you’re intending to photograph a specific animal, how do you usually prepare?
Adam: Mm, I treat everything as a project and never just rush in. Take the Great Crested Grebes that I worked on this summer as an example. I spent about six weeks watching them, working out what cause them to be to be scared and exactly how I could get close enough to get a decent shot. When they were on the nest, I observed them from a long way away, as I wanted to ensure that there was no chance that I caused any disturbance at the nest.  My only possible vantage point was to sit in three foot of freezing cold water under a dense thorn bush. There was nothing I could wear that would completely stop me from getting scratched to pieces and frozen solid after each shoot – but I always came out smiling.
Interviewer: You were an early adopter of digital photography when many professionals were slow to take to it. Why was that?
Adam: Oh that’s simple. I was spending tens of thousands a year on slide film, developing and creating high quality 70mm duplicates for my network of agents worldwide. This could have been better spent on my travel so I quickly saw that using digital equipment would save me a packet and allow me to channel the money elsewhere.  All I needed to do was to be convinced of the quality, which I pretty soon was
Interviewer: Mm, you recently received two awards in a prestigious wildlife photography competition. What do you feel sets your work apart from other people’s?
Adam: The competition is all luck. I know many photographers who enter several great images into competitions and get nowhere, conversely, some lucky people enter one image and get placed. So, it’s a lottery in any competition. My style is not that unique. I just take pictures of beautiful things – it’s as simple as that. I must say I have a particular fondness for the photos that won, I hadn’t really set out with a certain image in mind, I just made the most of an amazing opportunity that presented itself. Nature did the rest.  So I’m not sure that I deserved to win but the prize money comes in handy, of course, even though it’s not a lot.
If I were only able to save one of my possessions, it’d have to be this photo. It’s an unusual one, I know, It shows a sofa with a couple of kids lying on it. The people in it are actually two of my oldest friends. I suppose the main reason why I like it is that it brings back to me the day I took it. It still feels like only yesterday. I was only ten then and had no technical skills but somehow it really captures the atmosphere of the time and the place for me. I’ve always kept it close to me.  It used to be in my bedroom but now I have it in my office. It’s not on display or anything, just in a drawer  where I often come across it when I’m looking for a paper clip or a stapler or something
This vase is something I really treasure. It’s not got any great monetary value but it reminds me of one of the best times in my life. That was when I was a student and sharing a house with a friend. We had such brilliant fun together and have remained very close ever since – even though I’m afraid she’s now moved to live on the other side of the world. Anyway, she gave it to me one day and I love it.  I keep it on a small chest of drawers next to my bed.  I like to always have fresh flowers in it, blue and orange ones if possible, to match the colours in its pretty design.
This letter has got to be the most unusual and valuable thing I possess. I have it framed now and it hangs just above a bookshelf behind the sofa where I sit and read or watch TV.  It’s not what it’s worth that matters to me, though. It just fascinates me. It was written two hundred years ago by an ancestor of mine to his wife the night before the Battle of Regina. He was a General and is describing how he felt.  It’s very frank about his fears — justified unfortunately because they lost the battle — and it paints an incredibly vivid picture of how things were for him then. His wife must have put it in a secret drawer in her writing desk and I discovered it there when I was a child.
I always like to have this pendant on when I want things to go well, it’s a kind of mascot for me, I suppose. I wore it on my wedding day and when I was taking my final exams, on my first day at my first job, all that sort of thing and they all turned out well so it must have something special about it!  That’s what I like to think anyhow. I keep it in a really strange place, I guess, not in my bedroom with all my other jewellery as you might expect. It’s actually next to the fridge, in with all the knives and forks.  I put it there once when I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing and then decided it was actually quite a safe place for something with so much sentimental value.
If I’m asked to pick my most significant object, I always go for this painting – I love sunflowers and it’s the first thing you see when you come into my new apartment. It’s hanging on the wall between the doors to the kitchen and my study so I’m always passing it.  It was done by someone I’ve known since I was three — we were the only children in our little street and he’s now a well-known writer.  They say that most people in the country have got at least one of his books on their bookshelves. Anyway, he threw it away because he said he was useless at watercolours, but I took it from his waste paper basket. It may not be technically perfect but I love it.
Click to download this CAE Listening Test in PDF