|Me! - Taken by Gary K Mann|
My name is Matt Binstead, and I am the Head Keeper of the British Wildlife Centre near Lingfield in Surrey. My role there is to manage and care for the animals in our collection and the many projects we do, and to manage and care for the keepers which help me achieve these goals. I have worked at the BWC since 2004, been head keeper since 2008 and still have the same passion and enthusiasm for the job now as I did when I started.
|Feeding a Pine marten - by Andy Gray|
I am fascinated by the natural world around us and have always had a huge passion for British wildlife. Many people that visit us, if they are keen on wildlife, can tell us about lions and tigers, monkeys and elephants, sharks and venomous snakes etc... but don't know the difference between a stoat and a weasel... don't know how small a mole really is... don't appreciate that we have a mammal called a pine marten living here...
For me our British animals are just as exciting, if not more so because they can be found living in this country, in our back yard... it is our wonderful wildlife! Here in Britain we have one of the most powerful and ferocious carnivores in the Stoat. We have the fastest digging mammal in the world, the Badger. We have the fastest recorded animal in the world, the Peregrine falcon and we have weight for weight the most aggressive cat species in the world, the Scottish wildcat. It can't get much better than that!
|Otter keeper talk - by Gary K Mann|
Working at the Centre is a lifestyle for me. I live there too, and am at work usually seven days a week at all hours. It is a life I love, and enjoy nothing more than sharing my passion of our animals with the many visitors, children and adults, that visit the Centre every year. If just a bit of my enthusiasm rubs off on a few visitors to go out and show a larger interest in British wildlife, then I have achieved a worth while goal.
|Photographing badger cubs - by Gary K Mann|
I first picked up a camera during the summer of 2008. I had many regular photographers to the Centre telling me I was in the perfect position to take good photos. I kept putting it off, until eventually Gary K Mann lent me one of his cameras and refused to take it back until I had filled the memory card with photos.
I loved the quality of the pictures, and so gave in and bought my first camera. A Nikon D90. I originally bought a camera to take souvenir photos of the animals that I worked with and had developed a bond with, but took to it far more than I thought. Today my photos are almost exclusively used for the Centres advertising and signage etc, have been published in many books and magazines, used on cards and websites and have been lucky enough to win many awards.
|Photographing dancing adders - by Mark McElligott|
Still I see my photography as a hobby, and just another way to enjoy and spend time with the animals. Many people think I have all the time in the world to take photos because I am always here. But although I am always here, I am working. But when I do get some spare time, it is nice to be able to sit in with the animals and use the camera as an excuse to spend time with them. If i get a good photograph it is a bonus, and on many occasions I have not even taken the lens cap off while sat there watching them.
|With Ethel - by Izzy Coomber|
I am very lucky, and do have many advantages when it comes to photography here. Of course I can get in to any enclosure when I want to, I am here in the better light of mornings and evenings, I am here during the seasons such as when the bluebells are out and during the weather such as when it snows. I get to see all the action and behaviours of the animals life cycles, and all this helps... But the biggest advantage I have is the bond with the animals. I work with these animals everyday, and have built a mutual trust and respect which allows me to get closer and see them in their more natural behaviour.
|Squirrel man - by Steve Bottom|
We have many professional photographers who hire the Centre to teach other people how to take good photographs, and of course while working with them I have heard lots of advice, some good some bad, but all which has helped me. Of them all Andy Rouse has to be my biggest influence, and has offered me the most and best advice. But my main influence in photography, and still my mentor for any problems I have, is Darren Rowley. Darren kindly helped me with choosing my first camera, setting up all my cameras I have ever had, and generally any advice I have needed since with cameras and editing etc. Check out his website linked in his name for some truly inspiring model photography.
I now feel I have developed my own style, and for my very best photos I always try to get something a little unique, a bit different and something that would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to have taken in the wild.
|Feeding deer - by Steve Bottom|
Although I enjoy my photography a lot, I still see myself as a keeper first and a photographer second. I would say I am a keen amateur, who uses photography as another way to enjoy, experience and share British wildlife at its best!
When I am not working or photographing, I am usually surfing the web, reading or out on a walk with my dog Bess. I also have a guilty pleasure of playing on my PS4... I don't have time to explain why I don't have time to explain!
I hope you enjoy the photographs I share on this blog, and thanks for looking.