Paul has lived in Clevedon all his life and like many local people, he was born in the Knoll Maternity Hospital which closed down in 1962. (Thank you to Derek Lily for the photo) I first got to know Paul through Stafford Garage which recently shut down, and where Paul worked for a mighty forty-two years. I tentatively asked him about the future and how he had coped with the closure but he was very upbeat saying that he felt it was time for him to retire because working in such an environment does eventually start to take its toll on the body. I was surprised when Paul talked about retirement because he looks so young; perhaps the secret is clean living – Paul does not drink or smoke.
If you don’t know Paul from his days at Stafford Garage, you may well know him through Paul Ruddock Photography or some of the magnificent photographs that he posts on the many Clevedon social media platforms. Paul was always interested in photography; he got his first camera, an OM10, at the age of twenty. He had two of these and a Bronica medium format. I asked him what or who had sparked his initial interest and he explained that it was the whole idea of recording history and preserving memories of everything that’s happening around you, because once it’s gone it’s gone. It is also a physical record that provokes not only memories but feelings and stories.
Paul took a break from his photography and took up scuba diving which he did for years, becoming a nitrox diver. For those who don’t know nitrox (also called Enriched Air) is a mixture of gases, which you can use for scuba diving. In comparison to “normal” breathing air, this mixture has a higher concentration of oxygen. Its name comes from both of its components, namely NITROgen and OXygen. Paul was also a gas blender which meant he could mix his own gases to dive.
Paul trained at Current State Diving and was also a member of the Clevedon Sub-Aqua Group; at the time he had his own boat which was a 5m rib. Sadly Paul’s diving came to an end following an accident which resulted in him becoming sea sick! He had to give up diving and took up travelling instead.
Paul is a very seasoned traveler; he loves the sense of freedom and adventure that if gives as well as getting to experience a new culture and being exposed to different languages, smells, colours, sights, sounds, and people. He has done tours of Africa, South America, China and Turkey; has traveled the Inca Trail in Peru and the Lost World Trail in Venezuela.
It was while on his travels in Durban that Paul met his wife Lee who was working in a Thai restaurant in Durban, Africa.
Lee and Paul will be celebrating their twelfth wedding anniversary this November. In travel terms, Paul’s only regret is not having visited India because Lee would have found the poverty too much to bear.
Paul has taken some magnificent photographs in the area of his second home which is just two hours from Bangkok, an hour’s drive from the River Kwai and half an hour from a former tiger sanctuary run by monks that he used to visit until it was shut down. His home is also near to a tourist attraction called the Rose Garden where he takes lots of photos and about half an hour away from a 600 acre park where he photographs lizards which are larger than him! He likens them to the Komodo dragon with its venomous bite loaded with toxins! I loved hearing the tale of his near miss!
When he first started, Paul used to dabble in weddings but didn’t enjoy the unpredictability of his subject matter! He admits he’s not a people person and the weddings were too hard because people just don’t do as they’re told! Paul explained that as time goes on as a photographer, you develop a style, and you tend to specialise and in his case, his specialism is macro photography of wildlife, in particular insects. It suits Paul particularly well as he does not mind spending time by himself. Spending eight hours lying on a path watching robber flies mating is a joy to Paul; he’s in his element. Paul explained that macro photography is simply photographing small items, often insects and flowers, but also still life like jewelry and small household objects. It encourages the photographer to take a closer look and to search harder for minute subject matter and to make the everyday objects appear extraordinary.
I have no great love of insects, although I would never hurt them but it’s impossible not to see them in a different light as Paul talks with such passion and excitement about snails mating, the loveliness and varieties of weevils, mating robber flies, the beauty of the mullion moth, the bee in flight, dragon flies eating damsel flies and damsel flies eating damsel flies, mating Scarce blue damsels, bloody nosed mating beetles………..
I was curious about Paul’s relationship with the Somerset Wildlife Centre which I noticed he interacted with a lot on Facebook. He explained that it links to his membership of YACWAG which stands for Yatton and Congresbury Wildlife Action Group; it is a registered charity whose aims are to establish and maintain nature reserves in the North Somerset Parishes of Yatton and Congresbury for the benefit of the public, and to advance education in natural history and nature conservation. He goes on bat surveys with them, and anything else he can get to, given the constraints of working. Now retired, Paul is hoping for much more involvement with YACWAG. One of his fellow members is the man who started up the Somerset Wildlife Centre; this gentleman does the filming and Paul does the photography. Paul also does talks on macro photography and judges local photography competitions. He enjoys researching the background to his subject matter and has a tsunami of knowledge about their habits.
Paul is a member of Portishead Camera Club and he also has a YouTube channel Paul Ruddock Macro which is designed for macro amateurs who want to see want to see what it’s like being out in the field. Paul said he could be out there for hours and get nothing but other days he can be lucky and get a wealth of material in a very short space of time; it all depends on the day and the conditions. Paul travels around in order to get exactly what he wants; he spends a lot of time on local wildlife sites like Middle Hill Common, Ham Wall, Walton Common. Sometimes he will go across to Wiltshire to Green Lane Woods, Strawberry Banks in Gloucester where they have lovely butterflies, Minors Pool and Priddy Pool on the Mendips.
Although Paul travels around to get his pictures, the best place for bees is his Mum’s garden where they are attracted to some wild garlic that comes up every year and which the bees love. It’s great for practising insects in flight which he loves doing.
Paul’s latest camera is a Canon 7D Mark 2 and he has a range of lenses for different works – he uses a 150ml Sigma macro lenses and he has a Canon EP65 which gives 1 to 5 times magnification. He also does a small amount of stacking work which he explained as basically taking small slices of pictures of insects and stitching them together to give maximum details so you can see absolutely everything. He rarely uses a flash preferring to let nature light up his subjects.
I asked Paul had he won any awards and of course he has a huge array. however he is steering away from the competitions and focusing more on talks on macro photography which gives him a way of getting greater exposure of his work. Paul also has CPAGB which is the Credit Award of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain and is preparing for his Distinction in Macro Photography and then his Masters.
I wondered if Paul had any other creative leisure activities fully expecting him to say no but how wrong was I? Paul used to do wood turning and was a member of the Weston Wood Turners Club. He still does this and is currently making some bird tables but his passion is definitely the macro photography.
Paul has also done some really interesting drone work with his brother Alan. They researched and filmed the Wrecks at Kinston Seymour, which were sunk by enemy aircraft at Torquay on the 27th March 1942. Later refloated and towed round to Cardiff to become block boats for the D-day invasions. From Cardiff both boats were towed away and anchored where they lie today at Kingston Seymour. They were used for target practice by the military air gunnery range and weapons testing site just off St Thomas’s Head. They were finally sunk by some over-enthusiastic Polish pilots using the gunnery range. Posing no threat to shipping they were left.
Paul is a hugely interesting and talented individual that I felt privileged to interview. I really hope he is successful in establishing himself as someone who offers engaging, informative talks within our community. If you want to get in touch with him he can be contacted here
Currently Paul and a friend, Rory Hailes have a website Clevedon Photographers which he would now like to spend more time on. He also has a stall at Kingston Seymour and Tickenham markets where he sells his pictures and the calendar that he and Rory have put together. He also sells through Splash Gallery.
Thank you Paul and all the best for the future; I’ll be looking out for those talks.