Wildlife photography has become something of a passion for Darran Marshall, Ecology Officer at Loch Lomond Golf Club, as he explains to Peter Britton.
I first encountered Darran Marshall as being the originator and administrator of the closed Facebook group 'Nature On Course', set up in the memory of the much missed Anthony Wainwright. The group includes other notable champions of conservation such as Eddie Ainsworth (Avro Golf Club), James Hutchinson (BIGGA's environmental officer) and Steve Thompson from John O'Gaunt Golf Club.
Needless to say, the group concerns itself with conservation projects on the golf course, from bees, to birds, to hibernacula, rough management, log walls and much more besides.
It also provides the members with an opportunity to show off their talents when it comes to wildlife photography, an area where the subject matter is often notoriously difficult to capture. One of those is Darran himself.
He grew up in South Norwood, close to Selhurst Park, the home of Crystal Palace Football Club, and began his career in greenkeeping at North Downs Golf Club in Surrey in 1989, before becoming Course Manager at another Surrey club, Woldingham. From there, he moved to Cherry Lodge in Kent but, in 2002, made the move to Loch Lomond Golf Club where he has been ever since.
He is now the club's Ecology Officer, which also requires him to look after a 660 acre estate that includes four SSSIs and Ross Park. "Basically," he says, "it's just me, but I can pull in other staff, as required, for such things as tree surgery."
Equally, he can be called upon to cut greens for big competitions and busy days. "In the main, I'm left alone to improve the conservation side of things and liaise with the golf club and estate on all conservation and ecology matters."
He started his photography just over two years ago. "I kept telling my partner about all this wonderful wildlife I kept seeing and she said 'you should take pictures of it'. One of my neighbours is a semi-professional photographer, so I asked him for some advice."
"I bought a secondhand camera off eBay - a Canon 450D which cost £85, plus one lens. I got the bug; it was like a drug, I just had to be out every day."
"I've still got the body of the camera, but have upgraded the lenses to a Sigma 600mm super telephoto lens and a Sigma Macro lens for close ups - flowers, butterflies, moths etc., plus a couple of bog standard Canon lenses for landscapes. My friends down south want to see what it's like where I live." He lives on Loch Long, which is eighteen miles from the golf course.
We have something here the locals call 'the golden hour', which is basically when the sun rises and sets and the light is simply stunning."
All Darran's pictures are taken for his own personal pleasure and to act as a record. "I show them on various Facebook groups and I've entered a few competitions, but never won anything ... yet."
"I'd encourage people just to go out and take pictures, especially with the quality of modern mobile phone cameras. Each day is new day. Once you've got the kit, it's free."