Dr Stephen Adams interview: The GP photographer

Dr Stephen Adams takes photographs of wildlife in Africa

How did you first become interested in photography?

I’ve always been interested in taking pictures, but as time has gone by, I’ve become more aware of what makes a good photograph, and I hope that I now have a better idea of composition and form.
I think there’s a good analogy with postgraduate learning – it’s easier and more enjoyable when you are
enthused about a subject.

My good friend Rick Packwood is a very successful professional wildlife photographer and seeing his wonderful images has inspired me to keep trying – often to the detriment of my bank account.

What do you enjoy about it?

It is very different from medicine. Our jobs can take over our lives and we all need the occasional escape to another world.

Photography is a creative and technical challenge – the manual that came with my current camera devotes 45 pages alone on how to use the focusing mode.

I enjoy post processing and recently have been having fun with high dynamic range photography, a technique that gives hyperreal effects.

Why African wildlife?

This goes back a long way. Some years ago my wife (also a doctor) and I spent some time working in Swaziland, in southern Africa.

The southern tip of Kruger Park in South Africa was only a few hours away by car, and having discovered it, we kept going back.

Since then, we have had a number of trips to Africa and travelled in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Hire a vehicle with a tent on top and you’re away, free to explore at your own pace. Even better, make sure that Rick comes with you and watch carefully what he does.

Any particular highlights?

Too many to mention. BBC campsite, on the banks of the Zambezi in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, is stunning. Spending time observing lions and leopards. Watching the intelligence, interaction and ingenuity of elephants. Just sitting peacefully by some water for hours and seeing what  happens.

Another highlight was something jumping on top of our ground tent while we were camping on Mount Kenya. I made a lot of noise to scare it away, but my wife told me to be quiet in case we woke anyone. Fortunately I ignored her, carried on being noisy, and it went off to eat something else. It turned out to be a male lion in search of easy pickings, so maybe that was a narrow escape.

Do your patients know about your interest in photography?

Some do. At Christmas, instead of health information on our patient information screens, we have a rolling photographic slide show, which makes a nice change.  

On my wall in the surgery I have a few canvas prints of local scenes, which sometimes helps to break the ice with reticent patients.

Recently a patient of mine who used to farm in Zimbabwe found out that I was going there.
He told me I should visit Chizarira National Park as it was spectacularly beautiful, and because he had helped to build the roads there.

We did and he was right, it was beautiful, but the roads didn’t seem to have been touched since he
built them.

What’s next for your hobby?

Not sure, but I’m looking forward to taking more trips in the future and to having more freedom to travel.

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