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Overcoming anxiety and embracing wildlife

My name is Liam Filtness and I am an 18 year old wildlife photographer and filmmaker based in West Sussex. I also suffer from anxiety. I hope that my story can help to inspire others to use wildlife to help them.

My story

For the last four years, I have been suffering with bad anxiety. As a result I lost confidence and didn't want to leave my house for a very long time. I wasn't able to meet up with any of my friends, or go to places where there were lots of people, or even go anywhere locally due to fear of the possibility that I would see my friends and that they would start asking me lots of questions. I became a recluse.

Due to this, and other issues I was dealing with, I decided to leave school and was home taught of a couple of months. After a short period of time, I was then sent to a place called "The Link" in Burgess Hill. There were lots of other people at The Link who were also dealing with problems like mine; the teaches encouraged and pushed us to engage with one another and talk about our worries and problems. 

Whilst at The Link I told some of the people about the passion I had for wildlife and photography. I started to feel more confident; I started to believe in myself and realised I wasn't caring as much about what others thought of me. Throughout all of this my family were very supportive and they have helped me immensely. 


Deer experience

In October 2014, I spent a day in Richmond Park with my dad. We were attempting to film and photograph the red deer, and were hoping to get some shots of them rutting. Upon arriving we could hear lots of stags bolving all around us and we headed off just as the sun was coming up to go and find ourselves some deer. After about 10 minutes of walking we came across a group of hinds with a fairly big stag. Unfortunately the sun was in the wrong position for the shot I had in mind - I wanted to get the deer in the golden mist. We spent about half an hour watching the deer and in that time I managed to get some decent images, if not the one I wanted.

My dad and I decided to go and see if we could find some stags rutting. We saw plenty of deer but none that were rutting though! After walking a bit further we came across an open space, where there were three big stag parallel walking; they do this to size each other up before actually going in for the fight. They continued for a couple of minutes, just enough time for me to set up my camera and tripod ready to capture the action. I had only just got my equipment set up when all of a sudden, two big stags locked antlers.

I quickly captured a couple of images before switching to video mode to record the fight. I sat down in the grass so that I could get some nice, low-level shots; it was probably not the best idea as the stags kept getting closer and closer to me whilst rutting! There were about 15 or more people stood behind me but they soon backed off when the deer came closer. I decided to stay where I was so that I could get the shots that I wanted, and I was happy to tak the risk. I'm so glad that I did because I got some great up-close shots of them! 


After returning home from Richmond Park, I couldn't wait to get the footage copied across to my computer and start putting a little video together. I spent the next couple of days, and many hours, making the video. I was happy with the end result and decided to upload it to YouTube for other people to see - from here on things just got better and better!

BBC Springwatch

After just a couple of days of the video being uploaded I had thousands of views and quite a few comments and shares. I also put the link to my video on a few wildlife pages for others to see. Later in the day I received a message from BBC Springwatch asking if they could use my footage for Autumnwatch! We chatted about my passion for wildlife and how I got the shots. What happened next however, I wasn't expecting. They asked me if I wanted to go to Leighton Moss and have a live interview about my film, and my passion for wildlife and photography!

We travelled up there and met with the producer of Autumnwatch Extra. Due to my nervousness, my dad was allowed to sit in on the interview. My deer rutting footage was shown and then the interviewer - Brett Westwood - asked me some questions. Before this, I would never have dreamed of being able to do this, but Brett put me very much at ease and I knew that my dad was there to support and guide me.

I spent the day with a cameraman, helped to film some video footage and then, after my interview and dinner with the crew, we watched the main live show before we were nin the audience of Unsprung. It was a remarkable day. 

Taking the next step

Recently, I was invited to go to Scotland by my friend Scott Latham, to spend some time with our friend Alan McFadyen at his hides - on one of the days we spent ten hours waiting for kingfishers to come - unfortunately we only saw the kingfishers a couple of times. Other days we spent time photographing red deers, sparrowhawks, red squirrels and badgers. I also met two other gentlemen called Dave and Bill, who were both wildlife photographers. 

In the past, I would never have been brave enough to go away on my own with my friends - this was a big step for me to take. Both Scott and Alan are aware of my anxiety issues and fully supported me throughout. I really enjoyed the trip and can't wait to do it again!  

Since my journey, I have been contacted by the National Geographic Channel and ITN for my red deer rutting footage, by the ITV for my badger footage and I have had several articles written about me, as well as providing guest blogs for several different wildlife campaigns. 

I hope this blog helps to inspire others. If there is something that you are really passionate about, go for it. Don't let anything hold you back - the more you do it, the more confident you can become. 

Liam Filtness



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