Musician turns to photography following life-changing events

Ivor Ottley's picture of a kingfisher's flight path has been shortlisted for the British Photography Awards Picture: IVOR...

Ivor Ottley's picture of a kingfisher's flight path has been shortlisted for the British Photography Awards Picture: IVOR OTTLEY - Credit: Archant

A globetrotting violinist who had to give up his career in music has been shortlisted for a national photography award after only picking up a camera four years ago.

Ivor Ottley, a semi-professional photographer from west Suffolk, who used to be a professional musician Picture: IVOR OTTLEY

Ivor Ottley, a semi-professional photographer from west Suffolk, who used to be a professional musician Picture: IVOR OTTLEY - Credit: IVOR OTTLEY

Ivor Ottley, from Hessett, near Bury St Edmunds, has made it onto the 2021 shortlist for The British Photography Awards in the category ‘Birdlife’ for a montage image of a kingfisher taken at Lackford Lakes.

The 54-year-old turned to photography after a series of life-changing events, including the sudden onset of tinnitus – a constant ringing in his ears – which ended his career as a violinist.

Mr Ottley, who had been a professional violinist and recording artist in Europe and the USA, was living in Sweden at the time and returned to Suffolk “broken hearted” at not being able to play his instrument.

He then learned following a check-up that he had heart problems, which required surgery, and while he was recovering from the operation his sister Julia Ottley, an artist, passed away.

The Sierra mountains in Spain Picture: IVOR OTTLEY

The Sierra mountains in Spain Picture: IVOR OTTLEY - Credit: IVOR OTTLEY

MORE: Photographer who gets ‘behind glitz and glamour’ of Newmarket horse racing receives special recognitionFollowing the tragedy, he bought a camper van and his first camera and went travelling – venturing to Scotland first - learning photography from YouTube videos.


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“I got on very well with my sister,” said Mr Ottley, a wildlife and landscape photographer.

“We were the creative ones in the family. It was her in a way that gave me the idea of photography. What else can you do that’s really quiet? With this type of photography, you are on your own. It’s almost like meditation

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“It doesn’t hurt your ears. I didn’t have to run around so it didn’t affect my heart. It was just a good fit really.

Ivor's camper van in Germany parked on the Rheine Picture: IVOR OTTLEY

Ivor's camper van in Germany parked on the Rheine Picture: IVOR OTTLEY - Credit: IVOR OTTLEY

“And there’s the editing side, which is similar to music.”

MORE: That’s lunch! See hungry birds go in for the kill in ‘amazing sight’ at Suffolk lakesMr Ottley, formerly a chorister at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, said the image of the kingfisher that earned him his place on The British Photography Awards shortlist was taken with a Nikon.

It came from a single burst of shots to create the flight path of the bird.

Mr Ottley said: “Photography is a lonely pursuit and I was very confident with music. With photography I don’t really know. It’s nice people like the image. I’m on the right lines.”

Ivor sat with photography editing screens Picture: IVOR OTTLEY

Ivor sat with photography editing screens Picture: IVOR OTTLEY - Credit: IVOR OTTLEY

MORE: ‘Positives are there if we choose to look’ - artist’s message of optimism during Covid-19He said on his return from travelling he had only taken landscape images, but found Lackford Lakes, a wildlife reserve on his doorstep in Suffolk. He went nearly every day for a year, learning the new techniques he needed to photograph birds, and in particular kingfishers.

“I learned a lot about the behaviour of birds. Really, you have to understand that before you can capture the image,” said Mr Ottley, who trained as a psychotherapist.

Members of the public can vote for his image in the competition here.

Public voting and second round judging is running until January 3.

Looking over a Scottish landscape Picture: IVOR OTTLEY

Looking over a Scottish landscape Picture: IVOR OTTLEY - Credit: IVOR OTTLEY

For more information about Mr Ottley’s work see here.

The viaduct in West Sussex Picture: IVOR OTTLEY

The viaduct in West Sussex Picture: IVOR OTTLEY - Credit: IVOR OTTLEY

Ivor playing the fiddle recording a session for the BBC's John Peel sessions in London Picture: IVOR OTTLEY

Ivor playing the fiddle recording a session for the BBC's John Peel sessions in London Picture: IVOR OTTLEY - Credit: IVOR OTTLEY

A swan dipping its head under the water Picture: IVOR OTTLEY

A swan dipping its head under the water Picture: IVOR OTTLEY - Credit: IVOR OTTLEY

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