Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Hello everyone, wow where has the last six weeks gone?! I can't believe it's the middle of December already!

Well, things have been very busy with the pop-up shop and Christmas craft fairs but I have been slowly making my way through images taken earlier in the year and putting together my favourite images and planning for next 2015. I will be sharing some of these images with you over the next few weeks, starting today with baboons!

Baboons are not everyone's favourite animals and are often overlooked, but they make wonderful photographic subjects from the babies through to the adults, you just have to spend time in their company. I spent an afternoon with this troupe of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) in the Western Cape of South Africa and the expressions and behaviours were completely captivating.

There is no doubting that proteas are one if their favourite foods, this young one was certainly tucking in!

The young ones are so much fun to watch as they eat and play

But away from all the fun and frolics of the young baboons with endless energy, the adults have some quiet time to relax and take contemplate the world. 

There is always a little time for grooming and eating

and some time to get lost in concentration, this final image I'm leaving you with is one of my favourite from the afternoon. I had such a wonderful time with this troupe and am already making plans to return in the next year or so. 

This year I have taken the time to get to know a few species rather than work with many and it has allowed me to not only learn about their lives and behaviours but also their characters and different ways to capture these. For now we are leaving the baboons behind and moving onto something somewhat smaller, but to find out what stay tuned! 

Friday, 3 October 2014

My Adventures With A Bag & A Very Special Story About Fox Cubs


Welcome back to another post, this time I am going to share something I have been working on pretty much since April and my adventures with a bag!

First up is a story about my adventures with my Manfrotto bag over summer shooting all kinds of bugs in the field for my Forgotten Little Creatures Project, you can read the article by following the link below. Having put this bag through it's paces I can certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a smaller rucksack to carry their equipment in.

Now for something very special, way back in April I took some photos of a couple of fox cubs that were taken into Secret World Wildlife Rescue in Somerset. Over the months to follow and I was back and forth taking photos of the staff as they care for these tiny cubs until finally the time came when they were to go onto the hands off stage. A few months later they were released into a soft release pen and after a couple of weeks the door was opened for them to make their first steps back into the wild. It has been incredible being able to record this whole journey that has a happy ending and I have to say it is all down to the dedication, love and care of the staff at Secret World.

Now that the five cubs have completed the journey and the pen has been taken down, I am happy to be able to share this video with you about their journey from rescue to release.

I hope that you enjoy it.

This story has a happy ending, and I hope that there will be many more, although I know that there are just as many unhappy endings as there are happy. But we don't always get to see the happy stories. I will actually continue to monitor these foxes through a camera trap and every now and then will share any interesting footage!

For now, it is time for me to get back to planning workshops for next year, I have confirmed four very special photographic days with Secret World. I am working on some different workshops for 2015 that will explore more than just taking pretty pictures, alongside these I will again be running my creative nature workshops in Spring and Autumn and looking at running a get to know your equipment workshop as well (this will be in February). I'm in the process of confirming dates but all details or workshops and how to book will appear on my website in due course.

Have a great weekend whatever you are doing. 

Bye for now

Victoria x

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Forgotten Little Creatures

Hello and welcome to the Forgotten Little Creatures launch post!

Although I am only really launching this project now, I have actually been working on it for a while gathering images to have something to launch! This is a project that I have been thinking about doing for quite a while now and with other major project commitments now completed I can concentrate on this. 

So what's it all about? 

It is a celebration of the smaller things we share our world with, so although it is called Forgotten Little Creatures there will be images of wild flowers and other plants in there as well as invertebrates and reptiles. It will come as no surprise to many of you that I love insects and the challenge they present, not just photographically but also in terms of getting people to maybe not love them but have an appreciation for them and their importance. 

What Is The Plan? 

Well, I am looking for the project to culminate in an exhibition of work with the potential of an accompanying book in 2016. This won't be just an exhibition (and book) of pretty pictures it will be filled with funny stories surrounding the images and how I took them along with information about the species. The images won't be the standard identification images, they will be artistic and creative aimed at making the viewer think about the whole picture rather than just the main subject.

Why Am I Doing It?

Over the last few years I have become increasing fascinated by all the smaller things that I see people walk past, in particular insects and snakes. So, over several months I challenged myself to just photograph and enjoy these smaller species and the enjoyment I got from spending time with them has ultimately lead to this project. A huge part of this project is about raising awareness of the smaller things around and the important role they play in the ecosystem and ultimately our lives.

What's Next?

Well, over the winter months I will be making lots of plans in preparation for next spring, in the meantime here is the promotional video for the project.

I hope that you will take this journey with me as I document the lives and beauty of all the smaller things. I will post regular updates and images from the project and towards the end of next year will post information about the exhibition and talks.

At the moment I am still looking for an exhibition venue, so if you are able to help in any way I would really appreciate it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I hope that you enjoy the images and videos to come.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Events Through The Rest Of The Year


I hope you have all had a wonderful summer and been enjoying all the lovely weather of late.

I've been busy working away on a couple of things over summer including some very special workshops to be announced very soon and my new project Forgotten Little Creatures, but there will be more about both of these very soon I promise. For now I just wanted to update you on various events taking place through the rest of 2014 so here goes:


Saturday 27th September or Sunday 28th September (both days will be the same)
Shepton Mallet
£60 each, limited to six people per day, for more details and to book click on the link below and select Autumn workshops, I still have a couyple of spaces left for both days and it will be the perfect time to learn some new tips, tricks and techniques ready to shot the stunning autumn colours.

Exhibition and Sale of Work

During the whole of October I will have work on display at the Cheese and Grain in Frome. There will be a selection of canvases and mounted and framed prints, all items will be for sale starting at just £40 and many of the items are one-offs so once their gone that's it! My work will be on display in the foyer, cafe and bar area, and we're just confirming a date for a meet the artist evening so stay tuned to my Facebook or Twitter pages for confirmation of a date.

Doulting Christmas Craft Fair

I will be there again this year and I will be having a bit of a stock clearance as well in preparation for next year, so it's a perfect time to pop down and see what I've got. It will just be me as Rosemary will be with her work at the South West Quilt Show so do pop along and say hello!

Saturday 15th November 10am - 4pm
Doulting Village Hall, Doulting, BA4 4PL

The last three events are all a collaboration between myself and my mum (Rosemary Hillman), showcasing and selling not only our individual works but also work that we do together.

Christmas Pop-Up Shop at the Black Swan Arts in Frome

We have secured the pop up studio just inside from the courtyard area (right by the cafe) for the last two weeks of November. The shop will have a lovely warm Christmassy feel to it and we will be launching a couple of brand new products that we are current;y working on.

17th November - 29th Novmeber (inclusive) 10am - 5pm.

Shillingstone Christmas Craft Fayre

This is a brand new one for us, but it promises to be a really good one with everything being handmade.

Saturday 6th December, 11am - 5pm
Shillingstone Church Centre, Dorset, DT11 0SW

Salisbury Christmas Craft Fair

We will be back at Salisbury again this year after a great time last year and this will be the last event of the year before we take some much needed time off over Christmas and New year!

Sunday 14th December, 10am - 4pm.
Salisbury Guildhall, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1 1JH

That is it for now, but in the next couple of weeks I am hoping to release details of my 2015 workshop schedule and will be sharing the launch poster and short video for Forgotten Little Creatures.

Bye for now


Monday, 25 August 2014

Grasshoppers, Nothing But Lovely Grasshoppers

Hello! Hope you are all well and have been enjoying summer (although today is most certainly an office day!), well I have been out and about a fair amount lately continuing with both my Somerset, Chapmanslade and invertebrate projects which are all coming together nicely, but as the title of this post may suggest there is nothing but grasshoppers here! 

People often ask me why grasshoppers, and indeed just the other day a lovely chap who was out walking his dog asked what I was photographing, was it butterflies? When I reply no he asked if it was dragonflies, again I said no and when I said grasshoppers he seemed very surprised replying "you don't often hear of people photographing grasshoppers people normally come here for the butterflies and dragonflies, why grasshoppers?" Well here is why: Last year I took what still remains one of my favourite images of a grasshopper and it was completely by chance as I had planned that day specifically to photograph orchids, before I go any further here is that photo:

I was actually photographing bee orchids when I noticed this grasshopper watching me, so my focus turned to trying to capture the expression on its face, and it was at this point that I fell in love with grasshoppers and wanted to really showcase how cute they are! And really that's it, I wasn't able to do much last year due to other work commitments but this year I have been out looking for them in numerous locations looking for different ways to capture their lives and comical facial expressions, during this time I have also been fascinated by the variety of colours and markings that they come in, including would you believe pink, orange and white! So here are the pink grasshopper (more about these later in the post including an explanation), the tango'd grasshopper and the ghost grasshopper (names I have given them). 

Away from the colours, there are so many creative photographic opportunities to be had. The next two images show two very different angles, the first (which is a Rufous Grasshopper Gomphocerippus rufus) peering over the top of a dead plant head. This was a difficult image to capture in focus as the head is not the biggest area to focus on plus on that day it was particularly windy! 

The second image, again a very tricky one to capture in focus (there were many failed attempts due to the wind) but also there were a couple of different compositions that I tried out and this one sticks out for me above the others. As you may be starting to notice by now I like to have a lot of space around my subjects when composing my creative shots but for me this helps to give a sense of place more than the close up images. 

My work with grasshoppers is very much ongoing and will continue through autumn and then start again next year when they start to reappear. For some reason not many people take the time to concentrate on grasshoppers as a photographic subject, which is fine by me as I'm happy to have them all to myself, but next time you're out and you see one just take a closer look. The more time I spend with these wonderful critters the more I start to notice, the other week whilst working with one particular individual, I noticed that as I moved my head to get a different angle it would mimic me and when I moved my head back it would do the same, this game went on for around five minutes!

Now, as promised earlier in the post some more details about the pink grasshoppers. So why are they pink?
Well, it is actually a little understood genetic mutation caused by a recessive gene similar to that which affects albino animals and is called erythrism. The mutation results in one of two things happening or a combination of the two: you get a reduction or even absence of the normal pigment and/or the excessive production of other pigments, in this case red which results in pink or sometimes purple morphs. Although the condition was first discovered in 1887 in a katydid species, it is still rare and not often seen. although there are more reports of them coming in but this could be that people are now actually looking for them!

So here are a couple more images of the pink grasshoppers I found in one particular location, I will be back next year to see if I can find some more!

I promise these haven't been altered in any way, they really are that colour! 

Right time for me to go and get on with writing an article about a bag, coming soon will be some beautiful butterflies like you have never seen them before! Bye for now and have a wonderful evening. 


Wednesday, 6 August 2014


Hello again, I hope you enjoyed my post on adders I will be continuing to work with these over the coming years, there is still the grasshoppers to come (including some pink and oranges ones!) but this post is all about orchids. Unfortunately I have been a bit strapped for time to get out to photograph orchids this year due to other work commitments and their short flower period but I have managed a couple of trips that have been wonderfully successful to both old favourite spots and brand new ones.

I have found orchids in woodlands, fields and grassland and really looked at things differently this year as part of my Somerset Project. Instead of just taking beautiful pictures, I have both taken a step back and shown them in their habitat and got up close and personal to show their textures, so here are some of my favourite images.

Bee orchid - Ophrys apifera

Green-winged orchid - Anacamptis morio, both the normal purple variation and the much paler pink variation, both were in abundance at this new site.

Early Purple Orchid - Orchis mascula

Greater Butterfly Orchid - Plantanthera chlorantha

Common Spotted Orchid - Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Unknown orchid - I found this close to greater butterfly orchids but it doesn't look anything like them and can't find anything that looks similar so if anyone can help with an identification that would be lovely.

Well, that's it for orchids for now at least! These for part of my on-going project capturing the smaller things in Somerset and I'm hoping to produce a wonderful book to accompany the project which will be full of photos and the stories behind them but I have a way to go before that stage!

Next up will be grasshoppers and my work with them and then a new project based just down the road in Wiltshire which I have just started but very excited about. I'm heading away for 10 days but there will be plenty more when I get back and lots of new images from a different part of the UK.

For now, thank you for reading, please share with friends and family and take care.

Victoria x

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Continued Work With Adders

Hello, seems I'm a little behind with my blog posts so time to play a bit of catch up with posts all about orchids, grasshoppers and an update on adders all to come in quick succession! First up is adders.

Way back in April, I mentioned about adders and a few locations I have been checking out for these wonderful creatures. Well, I have been back several times and seen adders every time which is encouraging and these sites are now firmly on my regular visit list, although I will not give out these locations for the safety and welfare of the snakes I will keep you updated as to what is going on. This has been a brand new experience for me and I have learned a lot about this species and in the coming months I will putting together an article on how you can enjoy seeing and experiencing these snakes in the wild without causing any harm to them and keeping yourself safe at the same time. First up are a couple of photos taken of an adder in amongst the gorse bushes, these were not the easiest of images to take and resulted in many prickles in places you really don't want to get prickled but I wanted to show the snake in it's habitat.

As you will know by now, the welfare of my subject always (no excuses) comes first and if this means missing a shot then far better than causing distress or harm to the animal. The following photos took nearly two hours to take and I just sat there watching the individual, she knew I was there but at no time showed any signs of distress or threat and as you can see that patient has really paid off.

 These truly are fascinating creatures and I will continue to work with them in the coming years, observing and recording their lives in these specific locations. And maybe just maybe convince at least a few people that they are really not some terrible beast to be scared off, they are just another animal going about their daily lives just as we do.

One thing concentrating on a few species and talking to people has helped me realise is that often species are either mis-understood or not understood at all which can lead to fear or dislike. Yes, with some animals, such as the adders, you do have to be extra careful but being allowed to spend so long in the company of one individual was amazing. Over the coming months and years I will be sharing my experiences with wildlife and nature as I document them in my own way, sharing tips on how you to can enjoy them and at the same time learn more about them and their place in their ecosystem. I will be following my subjects throughout the year rather than just one visit and move onto the next subject, in the hope that I can build up relationships and document changes over time. My main target species will be those that most people don't like, over look for the larger more charismatic ones or just really don't care about, so there will be bucket loads of artistic, funny and different images coming your way! That doesn't mean to say that if anything cute crosses my path or an opportunity arises I will pass it up :)

But for now, I have wedding photos to process and another two blog posts to prepare!

Take care and up next is orchids so stay tuned!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Up & Coming Events


Just wanted to share a quick update on events happening in the next few months.

Pop-Up Shop at the Black Swan Arts in Frome
16th June - 28th June
We will be open every day 9am - 5pm.

Sunday 22nd June we have booked the Tower room for talks and drop in sessions:
Talks are 30 minutes with time for questions, limited to just 20 people and tickets are just £2 each or £3 if you buy for two different talks and will be available from the shop from Monday 16th June or you can pre-book by contacting us direct on victoria.vikspics@gmail.com or rosemary.hillman@btclick.com the drop in sessions are completely free.

10am - 11am Free Drop In Session with Victoria Hillman
11am - 12pm Rosemary Hillman "Quilts To Snuggle Up With"
12pm - 1pm Victoria Hillman "Somerset"
1pm - 2pm Free Drop In Session with Victoria Hillman
2pm - 3pm Rosemary Hillman "Quilts For Decoration"
3pm - 4pm Victoria Hillman "Around The World"

To keep up to date with the Pop_Up Shop we have our own brand new Facebook page where you can also see some of the items we will be selling, many of which are one-offs or limited editions.

Manfrotto Takeover Days

Great in-store days with free talks and one-to-one sessions, exclusive offers, competitions and much more. I will be presenting a brand spanking new talk on Thursday 24th July at Clifton Cameras in Dursley at 12:30pm with some never seen before images and will also be available for one-to-one sessions. For more details click on the link below.

Autumn Workshops

Saturday 27th September or Sunday 28th September (both days will be the same)
Shepton Mallet
£60 each, limited to six people per day, for more details and to book click on the link below and select Autumn workshops, I have 6 spaces left on the Saturday and only 3 left for the Sunday.

Mid Somerset Camera Club Talk

Creative Nature
Tuesday 30th September, 8pm
Tor Leisure, Street Road, Glastonbury, BA6 9EF

Castle Cary Gardening Club Talk

Natural World Through My Lens
Thursday 2nd October, 7:30om
Methodist Schoolroom, Caslte Cary

And finally, I would like to share with you my event photography page (which I have finally got around to setting up!) and blog. I am running the event photography under my married name to keep the two areas separate, although I take my creativity that I use in my wildlife and nature photography over to my event photography to be able to offer something different.

Well, that's it for now, don't forget to pop in and say hello at our shop in Frome if you are in the area. Coming soon will be an update on the adders I have been photographing, some wonderful orchids and of course plenty of bugs! 

Bye for now!

My Thoughts On The Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Lens

I was lucky enough to be able to use this lens during my two week trip to South Africa where my subjects would range from penguins to lions and everything in between. There are numerous in depth technical reviews out there about the lens complete with comparisons, but I would like to offer my thoughts on this lens in terms of use for creative wildlife photography so I will not be covering all the techy bits and bobs, purely my thoughts and opinions on how it handles for producing different images. The reason I have written the article in this way is that I know when I am looking for a new lens, I want to read about how it handles in the field when used by a photographer, see some results and get a personal idea of what the lens is really like rather than reading all the technical reviews (which are great) but they don't give real situation reviews.

If you would like all the technical details for the lens, click on the following link that will take you to Sigma Imaging UK website:

I like to do things a little differently and am always looking for new and creative ways to portray wildlife and this includes foregrounds and backgrounds as well as the main subject when composing my shot, so I was itchy to get out and put this lens through its paces.

One thing that really sparked an interest was the f2.8 aperture through the range of the lens and the internal zooming which means there is no change in the length of the lens making it ideal if you are working in potentially dusty/sandy environments. On receiving the lens the first thing that struck me was the weight, it certainly is a beast in that department and I wondered if it would be possible to use it handheld. I received the lens a couple of days before we were due to leave so decided that I would pop out for a couple of hours to get to know the lens before heading off to South Africa.

I took myself to a favourite haunt to see if I could find some snakes, on finding an adder hiding in the gorse bush I decided this would be a good place to start. I wanted to show the adder in its habitat so this meant trying to compose a shot that is looking through the thorns of the bush. Both these shots are handheld, taken in colour and black and white. The focal point is the eye of the adder and with an aperture of f4, the thorns just above the adder are in focusing showing their sharpness whilst all surrounding thorns are out of focus giving the looking through the bush into the snakes world appearance. 

I really wasn't sure if it would be possible to get a sharp image handheld given the weight of the lens, but I am incredibly pleased with these first images and it really started to get my thoughts going about what I could produce during my time in South Africa. Although it is worth mentioning that I only worked handheld with the lens for around 5-10 minutes, any longer I would recommend using a tripod. With these great initial results it was time to go and put this lens through its paces properly. The first stop was the Western Cape for penguins, baboons, lizards and whatever else we could find and time to start getting really creative.

Two very different images both with bokeh backgrounds, this lens produces beautifully dreamy bokeh as seen in the black and white image and also slightly harsher bokeh as seen in the colour image. For me the background to an image can make it or break it so being able to produce two variations of bokeh is fantastic, the smooth creamy bokeh adds a real softness to the pair of penguins on the rock together, whilst the harsher appearance really helps set off the silhouetted penguin walking along the slippery rocks.  For both these images I used the fencing to rest the lens on. 

Away from the great bokeh that can be created, you can also have perfect smooth backgrounds which really make the main subject pop out from the photograph. 

Both of the above images illustrate wonderfully the smooth backgrounds that can be achieved perfectly at f2.8 making the main subject jump out of the image whilst at the same time giving the image depth. With the rock hyrax (on the right) the ability to blur the foliage in the foreground such that is merges with the background has truly made this image what it is, giving the real sense of the animal peeking around from behind the rocks and plants. For close-up portraits this is an incredible lens and offers so much flexibility for being creative with foregrounds, backgrounds and everything in between. 

But what about picking up a small subject in its habitat? This is where the ability to limit the focal distance using the USB hub really comes into play as you can set two custom settings, so I set one with a limited focal range specifically for photographing animals in their habitat. By limiting the focusing range, the autofocus wasn't continuously searching. The other option was to manually focus, but as there was no-where to set-up a tripod my only option was to balance on the fence and use autofocus in this situation. Ok, the penguin was a little easier, but the lens really had no problems at all picking up the rather small lizard in amongst the rocks. 

Ok, so the lens has performed beyond expectation in the above situations, now for some action shots. It's one thing to be able to have time to set up and compose a portrait, but when it comes to a penguin jumping, crashing waves or even a baby baboon on the run, then it's a different kettle of fish altogether. You need to be quick and you need for your equipment to respond in a very short space of time, with the crashing waves I had the chance to take photographs over and over...... 

But, with the penguins it was a different matter. I found one penguin standing on a rock that was being battered over and over by crashing waves and knew the image that I wanted to capture, but getting it was another matter. This is one of my favourite images, the penguin is in focus with the foam from the waves being frozen in time as it crashes over the little guy. Then there was getting a penguin jumping, something that took several attempts and several different penguins but I got there in the end! I am excited to say that this lens performed very well in both these circumstances capturing the moments I wanted perfectly. 

Baboons, particularly young ones, are definitely a challenge as the move quite erratically and fast. I was busy watching/photographing three young baboons playing when this little one came running passed eating a protea flower. I have to admit I didn't think I would be able to capture this little guy in focus, but the lens focuses quickly (and almost silently) to capture the action when you need it. 

Great, very impressed so far. Very responsive, quick focusing, so many creative possibilities to be had. However, all these shots were taken on very bright sunny days. Next stop on the trip was to be a different challenge, off to the bush in search of some bigger animals, the light would be more tricky and there would be less time and opportunity to compose the shot. I am lucky that I have visited South Africa several times, but this time I was looking for something very different from my photography. The first challenge was shooting late afternoon with animals that were constantly on the move, elephants and rhino! I have some wonderful close up shots, but the two I would like to share with you are taking a step back, showing the animal in their habitat and giving them space in the frame. 

The reason I picked these two images is because they show a different aspect to the other images in this review. I could have easily zoomed in to 300mm but opted to take a step back and show more of the habitat. Even though the aperture was set at f2.8, being further away from my subject more of the area comes into focus, but it gives me a fast shutter speed to allow a sharp image handheld. Although these images were taken late afternoon there was still enough light and luckily it was shining on the animals themselves. What happens once the sun goes down and you are left with the last remnants of light? Well, at f2.8 and with an ISO 500, I'd say the lens performs pretty well! 

So there you have it, my experience and thoughts on the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 DG OS HSM lens in the field. 

In summary:

Creative possibilities - many, many possibilities for creative images at any focal length, this is in part to the option to have f2.8 through the whole range. The lens itself will allow for fantastic bokeh effects and smooth backgrounds.

Responsiveness - Personally I found the lens to be fast focusing, very very quiet.

Ease of use - very easy to get to grips with, connecting the USB dock allows for easy customisation in several of the settings including speed of focus for autofocus and limiting the focal distances. Not being a particularly techy minded person I wondered how easy it would be to change these settings, trust me it's very easy to understand and change. You can set up two different custom settings.

Low Light - performs very well in low light levels, still picking up the subject well.

Design - personally I find the design works very well for me, having the zoom system internally so there is no change in the length of the lens is perfect for the smaller person!  

Any drawbacks?

For me the only thing was the weight, but it was still possible to achieve sharp in-focus images handheld, that is in part due to the great image stabilisation system. If you are using it on a tripod the weight would not be an issue (plus I'm only a small person!). 

So, I love this lens and if you looking for a multi-purpose lens with good focal range and great creative potential I would definitely recommend this particular lens. I hope you have enjoyed my different take on a lens review! I will leave with one last image of a lion.