Image above: ‘Launch’; Photograph copyright Scott Margetts; Nikon D810 1/3200 f8 ISO 3200
‘The King of Brentford’
Professional photographer Scott Margetts, who lives in Brentford, took to going for a daily stroll by the river during the Covid lockdown periods, as many of us did. One morning he was “delighted, and beyond enchanted” to see a Kingfisher.
He has been back almost every day since, for three years, photographing the bird, and now has a collection of stunning photographs which he has just put on show in a free exhibition at Watermans arts centre in Brentford, from Monday (3 April) till Tuesday 2 May.
He talked to The Chiswick Calendar about his passion project and how the little bird has taken over his life.
Image above: ‘Morning Light’; Photograph copyright Scott Margetts; Nikon D810 1/3200 f9 ISO 1600
“Delighted, beyond enchanted to see them”
“I didn’t set out as a birdwatcher” Scott told me, as we sat by the river, looking through his images of the little bird in flight, feeding and generally going about his business.
Scott’s usual subject matter is the business and sports world: corporate work, 360 interiors for Google business pages, photoshoots for England Golf and such. The kingfisher is a passion project, which started quite by chance when he was taking his daily walk by the river and two flew past.
“I had never seen a kingfisher before, even though I have been on country walks before deliberately looking for them, and I do a lot of camping.”
Yet here, in a semi-industrial, very noisy atmosphere, they were.
“I was delighted, beyond enchanted to see them and that started three years of going down to the river every day, missing some shots, but catching others.”
Image above: Photograph copyright Scott Margetts, Photograph copyright Scott Margetts; Nikon D810 1/3200 f9 ISO 1600
He has learned that kingfishers are very territorial. They have a territory of about a mile. He has seen one around Brentford Dock and by the canal there, as far down as Syon House and The Island by The Weir Bar, but he has also seen one, which he presumes is another one, in Dukes Meadows at pond in the golf club.
“When they are breeding you can see two of them; they produce two or three broods during the year, but after eight to ten weeks the young ones are pushed out to go and find their own territory and the pair splits up.”
Has he seen chicks?
“Yes, the chicks have a little white dot on the tip of their beak, so I have seen them, but only realised they are young ones once I’ve got my pictures home and had a proper look at them.”
Image above: ‘Sunset’; Photograph copyright Scott Margetts; Nikon D810 1/4000 f8 ISO 1250
“He didn’t seem to mind me waiting with my camera and coffee”
One of Scott’s pictures was shortlisted for the British Wildlife Photographer of the Year this year. This level of wildlife photography is usually achieved by photographers spending hours in hides, hidden away so the birds can’t see them, in peaceful countryside.
The charm of many of Scott’s pictures is that they are so obviously taken in an urban, light industrial landscape, and he captures the proximity of the kingfisher to people.
The picture at the top of the page was taken in the early morning while the bird was feeding.
“He didn’t seem to mind me waiting with my camera and coffee.”
“I have got to know a lot of the local people who live and work by the river, the boat owners and people who work in the boatyard. The bird doesn’t seem to mind people or noise, though he doesn’t interact directly with people.”
Scott quite often photographs the kingfisher when he is feeding. A kingfisher’s diet is predominantly fish, but they also eat shrimps, tadpoles and insects, and he has seen the bird take a caterpillar off a branch. In several of his photographs he has captured the bird with a fish in his beak.
Image above: ‘Lock’; Photograph copyright Scott Margetts; Fujifilm XT4 1/4000 f10 ISO 3200
Hit and miss, depending on the weather
He can go a couple of weeks seeing the kingfisher every day and then the next couple of weeks not seeing him at all.
“They have to eat 80% their body weight each day, so when the canal froze over this winter, he had to go elsewhere to find food, and when it’s windy, high winds are very disruptive for a small bird, so he goes somewhere more sheltered.”
Scott uses a Nikon D810 camera with an 800mm lens (one of those huge ones that are about 18″ long). He also uses a Fujifilm XT4, which shoots 30 frames per second.
“That is both a blessing and a curse because it means I have so much material to go through, but one of them might just be ‘the shot’.”
The ‘King of Brentford’ exhibition is on display in the Riverside Gallery at Watermans until Tuesday 2 May. The prints have been produced by Snappy Snaps, Chiswick, and are available to buy through Scott’s website.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Artists At Home
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