Legendary wildlife photographer, Heather Angel, at the age of 75 is a force of nature, exuding enthusiasm, passion and creativity towards photography. After almost 50 years in the industry, she is at the top of her versatile career and still juggles between being a prolific published writer, and a successful manager of both her own stock image library and photography workshop company. On top of that she is also an inspiring lecturer often sought by Universities, Photographic Clubs and Horticultural Societies across Britain and China, to share her knowledge and unique perspective of the natural world. I was lucky enough to meet her during one of her talks, down in Cornwall and spend an afternoon picking her brains, in her hometown of Farnham, where she shed light on the keys to her success.
Originally from a background of marine biology, Heather had no photographic training and learnt it by trial and error: “Of course you don’t suddenly become a freelance photographer. What changed my life overnight was when Martin, my husband, suggested that I should write a book”. She told him: “Well I’m not going to write one if nobody is going to publish it, that’s a complete waste of time”. And Martin replied “Well, they won’t publish it if you don’t write it”. So she wrote a synopsis and never looked back. Fountain Press had faith in her and published in 1972 “Nature Photography: Its art and Techniques”. According to Heather, timing was crucial: “I did it absolutely at the right time. Believe it or not there was nothing in Britain on how to photograph wildlife. Suddenly, I was being asked by Amateur Photography and the British Journal Photographer to write for them”.
“Pollination Power”, her latest publication, is now her 60th book and it aims at studying the relationship between plants and their natural pollinators, as well as their incredible variety, from bees to beetles, flies, moths, geckos, birds and even bats. “I’ve always had this fascination of the way in which plants and animals interact. I just felt that it would be so much fun to do and I’ve learned so much about a wide range of pollinators and how they’re not just bees.”
Contrary to what one might think, Heather is not always travelling and photographing across countries. When she is not working with the Botanical Kew Gardens, most of the time she is actually working from home either in her studio, in her own garden, or in her local churchyard. When talking about her future projects, she mentions another pollinator book more orientated towards the scientific community or the “eager beavers” as she calls them; a possible Macro Lighting manual and even an autobiography! Her advice to young photographers wanting to enter the industry is: “It’s going to take time, especially if you want to be original and do your own stuff. Being a freelance photographer is hard work. But if you like writing then that is a big way of making it. ”
Heather’s diverse and outstanding career path can be accredited to her ability to adapt and evolve with her time, as she did in the past when she transitioned from film to digital photography, and today, with her engagement and keen attitude towards social media.