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Award-winning photographer records Hampstead Heath’s wildlife and changing scenery

16:22 28 August 2014

Grebes on Hampstead Heath. Picture: Matt Maran

Grebes on Hampstead Heath. Picture: Matt Maran

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Globe-trotting snapper Matt Maran spent hours in the chilly waters of a Hampstead Heath pond to capture these stunning shots of great crested grebes feeding and caring for their young.

Matt Maran gets into the water to photograph grebes. Picture: Adrian BrookerMatt Maran gets into the water to photograph grebes. Picture: Adrian Brooker

The award-winning wildlife and landscape photographer has travelled the world in search of rare animals and remote terrain, producing work for the likes of BBC Wildlife magazine and National Geographic.

But last year he embarked on an ambitious project far closer to home – to record the diverse wildlife and changing scenery of Hampstead Heath.

The grebe photos were taken in the Men’s Bathing Pond in June and July.

The 37-year-old made about 15 separate visits, clad in a wetsuit and standing shoulder-deep in the pond for an hour each time, his camera raised just above the water, to meet the birds at their own level.

His efforts resulted in startling images of them ferrying chicks on their backs, swallowing whole crayfish, and catching perch to feed their offspring.

Mr Maran said: “The grebes are so used to people being around them, so they were not disturbed by my presence.

“When one caught a red swamp crayfish and swallowed it whole right in front of me – that was quite a sight.

“It took about three or four minutes to get the thing into the right position to swallow – that was definitely the most exciting moment.”

Ex-Fortismere pupil Mr Maran, who hails from East Finchley but now lives in Tottenham, is hoping to produce the first high quality photography book dedicated to the Heath.

With the blessing of the City of London Corporation, which manages the green space, he began the project about 12 months ago.

Getting the right shots is a time-consuming business and he will continue to make frequent trips throughout the changing seasons until publishing some time in 2016.

While he hopes to return to the grebes in February, to catch their unique mating rituals, kestrels are his current focus.

“Kestrels are much more challenging than grebes,” he said.

“They don’t stay around for too long, but they’re beautiful-looking birds of prey.”

Meanwhile, he is launching a series of Hampstead Heath photography workshops from next month.

The £90 day-long sessions are scheduled for September 27, October 11, November 15 and December 13 and will offer both creative and technical help.

Mr Maran says even those equipped only with smartphones are welcome to take part.

He said: “It really strips away all the technical side – you have one button so it’s all about composition and framing.

“Sometimes people become obsessed with technology, but it’s more about getting people to notice things, to take in the Heath.”

Visit bit.ly/1zpalqP for more information on the workshops.

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