Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition

I went to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum yesterday, which is always worth a look.

Apart from the fact that there are loads of great photos, there’s the fun of deciding whether the judges have made the right decisions. I’m always a bit disappointed when they choose a portrait of a large charismatic mammal as the overall winner—a yawning hippo or a leopard or something—because much as I like those animals, I think it would be cool to see it won by a photograph of a shrimp or a toadstool or something. This year it’s an elephant (boo!) but it’s an abstracty kind of picture which I guess makes it a less obvious choice. And it is a good photo.

singing Corn Bunting

I paid slightly closer attention to what kit everyone was using this year; I was interested to see that the victory of digital is almost total. The only bastion of film was the ‘In Praise of Plants’ category; I guess if your subjects are stationary, it’s less important to be able to take thousands of shots and discard most of them without having to get them developed.

You can see all the pictures on the NHM website, so if you’re not going to pass through London before April, you might as well check them out. If you are considering going to the show, I’d suggest you don’t look at the website first, because the pictures look so much better seen large on lightboxes than as piddly little jpegs.

» the picture is of a Corn Bunting singing, with its breath forming rings in the dawn air. Which is cool. As you can see, it’s © Gastone Pivatelli.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

According to the blurb, this is Roth’s masterpiece. To which all I can say is… meh.

I don’t know. It’s a good book, a broad-sweep fat novel of the old school, but I wasn’t blown away by it. I don’t think Roth is much of a prose stylist, for a start. Perfectly competent, and sporadically rather better than that, but not one of the magicians.

And it’s just a bit… shouty. Perhaps that’s what the Guardian had in mind when they described it as ‘raging and elegiac’. He’s like the Bellman in the Hunting of the Snark: ‘what I tell you three times is true’. And he does say everything three times, hammering away at each point. Bang. Bang. Bang.

There may be a bit of trans-Atlantic disconnect going on here, but for whatever reason, this didn’t push my buttons.