Wild Arena is a photography company based in northern Scotland. It was founded in 2003 and now runs under the guidance and ownership of David Southard, Janet Southard (myself) and Adrienne Nicholas.
Based at Forsinard Lodge, in the beautiful and unspoilt ‘flow country’ of Sutherland, we provide photographic services, courses and tuition, accommodation and even a tearoom for those interested in the art of photography or just passing through this beautiful part of the world!
David and I have decades of combined experience in multiple genres of photography, shooting many subjects in many locations in both digital, analogue, and video formats. The business also has 20 years experience of running workshops and holidays where we have looked after, guided, and mentored thousands of wonderful guests.
Adrienne has a background in personnel and law, but her passion is baking, and she is the anchor of the catering at the lodge and the mastermind behind the tearoom.
Wild Arena was originally based in Hampshire and then had a 10-year residence at Knowsley Safari Park, where a love of animals and an engagement with the zoological community blossomed. David and I also have long standing connections to the wider photographic industry, and both still frequently work with corporate partners such as Canon, Manfrotto, Gitzo, Lowepro, Lastolite, Elinchrom, Samyang, Atomos and Cokin.
The bottom line is:
‘A love of photography, the beauty of the Scottish Highlands and good cakes are the things we love, so if any of these interests you, get in touch!’
Wild Arena goals
At Wild Arena we always aim to offer personal, caring, and friendly service to all of our guests and visitors.
We hope to provide expert advice and educational support for developing photographers within a range of events to provide inspirational photography and learning experiences. Our simple goal is to help our guests further their photographic journey whilst showing empathy for our subjects and care for our environment. We believe the journey is as important as the destination, so we make our events as enjoyable as possible for small groups of like-minded people!
We also actively support wildlife conservation and protection by working closely with other organisations. Many of our workshops and tours directly benefit partner organisations, so by booking with us, you are helping them to keep animals safe in the wild by financially supporting their activities.
Meet the Team
All the staff and guides at Wild Arena are professional photographers, experts in their respective fields, or have years of seasoned experience looking after guests. They all have a passion for photography and sharing their knowledge with others. Across the team we have a variety of specialised skills, and we work hard to constantly develop and update our collective knowledge.
We believe strongly in giving all our guests the individual time they need, and so always ensure we have enough guides on hand to provide help and advice. Our aim is to give everyone the level of support they wish for, at all times. Similarly, with all Wild Arena tours, we ensure each group is accompanied by a member of our team together with knowledgeable local guides to enhance the experience of our guests. Please click on the guides name to be taken to their website to see their work.
Program Manager (photo nerd)
‘I have worked in the photographic industry for nearly 40 years and have always been involved in taking pictures. After studying photography at college, I started taking Natural History image making seriously in 1986, when working as an assistant cameraman for a specialist wildlife filmmaker. During this time, I concentrated on technical macro work including time lapse and studio lighting. Of course, I ‘cut my teeth’ with analogue equipment, and still regularly shoot with film cameras, finding the simplified process both refreshing and therapeutic.
I have photographed many subjects both in the UK and overseas and as a result I’ve made many friends in the photographic and wildlife communities. I have been involved in management and photography training with several major photographic companies and also in event management since 1997. I founded Wild Arena in 2003, with the idea of sharing my knowledge with others and utilising my contacts in the photographic industry and natural world, to provide informative workshops that help develop guests’ photographic experience.
I also work closely with many industry partners, such as Canon, Gitzo, Manfrotto, Lowepro, Cokin and Atomos. I have been widely published in the photographic press having contributed to many titles over a number of years.
I love the Highlands of Scotland and have long felt them to be my ‘spiritual home’. The beautiful location of our Forsinard base, provides me with a rich and constant inspiration for shooting pictures, which I love sharing with visitors and guests.’
Lodge Manager (dog whisperer and legendary ‘fixer’)
‘I’ve been interested in wildlife and photography forever, through my dad giving me my first camera when I was 13, and I always had animals around me. I studied photography at college and worked in animal care at an animal rescue centre in Surrey. More recently I’ve been involved in customer service and have extensive experience at making things run smoothly for guests – a very useful asset when working with the less organized Wild Arena guides at Forsinard lodge!
I previously worked with film, medium format and black & white photography and now concentrate on Canon Mirrorless equipment. I’m particularly interested in photographs showing the beauty of the world around us.
I have been working as a guide with Wild Arena since 2006 and I was the official photographer at Knowsley Safari Park from 2012 to 2022. I’m also involved in wedding & social photography and undertake other professional assignments throughout the year for a number of commercial clients.
We now call the far north of Scotland home, and I am always happy to be out in quiet places enjoying nature and photography. I still also find time to work closely with friends in the photography industry, including Canon, Gitzo, Manfrotto, Lowepro and Cokin and regularly appear at trade events and shows.’
Food & Beverage Director (baking queen)
‘I spent 25 years in HR management for a number of organisations including The National Trust and Sainsbury’s. Taking a change of direction, I then completed a Law degree and qualified to be a solicitor.
However, a love of cooking and the attraction of a quieter pace of life, lead me to join the Wild Arena team in 2018, having known Janet literally all her life (I'm slightly older!) I started by helping out with Bird Fair, and then got gradually more involved until I joined full time. I now do my best to keep all the visitors, guests (and staff) at Forsinard Lodge, well fed and happy. We always remember the old saying that “an army marches on its stomach” so I pride myself on making the kitchen the heart of the lodge here at Forsinard!’
Tour Guide & Nikon Expert
‘I completed a photographic degree many years ago and worked in the commercial sector specialising in food photography. I then moved into Photoshop manipulation when this was in its infancy, before becoming the technical director of a creative agency.
I’ve always been interested in wildlife photography since my aunt bought me my first camera as a young boy. I now work at a local nature reserve, and as a wildlife photographer and guide, regularly having work published in a number of publications.
I’m an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and live in the Cambridgeshire Fens but I love to travel to some of the colder places on earth, especially in Northern Europe. When I’m not out taking photographs, I work as a field ecologist, monitoring and managing some of the UK’s most endangered wildlife.’
Wild Arena Guest Guide, Scottish Wildlife
‘I am indeed blessed to be able to call home one of the most stunning areas in the UK, the Cairngorms National Park, where I run my wildlife photography tours and image library. Both focus on a wide range of iconic species and locations near to my home and throughout the rest of Scotland.
My work is widely published and used in many national magazines like the BBC Wildlife magazine and national newspapers. Organisations like the Scottish Natural Heritage, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the John Muir Trust are also amongst my clients. In addition to these, my images have also featured in over 25 books.
Over the years I have been fortunate to have won several awards in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition including the Eric Hoskings Award in two consecutive years, I have also been a category runner up and had a further four images highly commended. In the British Wildlife Photography Awards, I won the portraits category with an image of a red deer stag, with a further 4 other images having been highly commended in that competition to date.
There is no better feeling than having these magical moments; when you have that one-to-one encounter with a wild otter and it never even knew you were there or standing on top of towering sea cliff looking out over a glistening sea with thousands of seabirds thronging around you. The sights, the sounds, the smells all make up the experiences that stir the soul and are all part of the image making, “take what you feel not what you see”.’
Wild Arena Guest Guide, Macro
‘I’m a professional photographer with my time split between Leeds (UK) and Abisko (Sweden), where I work full time as a photography guide.
I’m extremely passionate about photography and I’m multi-disciplined in numerous photographic subjects.
For the last four consecutive years my wildlife and macro work has been in the British Wildlife Photography Awards. I’ve been in the national press numerous times and also in BBC Wildlife, New Scientist, Digital Photography and Grand Designs magazine. I’ve even been flown out to Switzerland to photograph a wedding! In the last 12 months I have done numerous talks about my photography which I really enjoy doing.
My goal in photography, as well as in life is; “to ensure that everything is done as well as it can be” and therefore I try to constantly learn and push my boundaries.
I’m also a keen scuba diver (I’ve dived all over the world Hawaii, Gozo, Sri Lanka, Egypt and The Galapagos to name a few) and mountaineer (my highlights are probably climbing the Matterhorn, Illimani in Bolivia and being in the British Climbing team).’
Wild Arena Guest Guide, Photography Guru, Portrait and Visual Story Telling Expert
‘I’m a photographer, re-toucher and furniture maker based in the UK. I’m also a Canon Pro Imaging Technical Expert. I take on all kinds of work alongside my personal projects including commercial clients (covering all kinds of campaigns from stop motion animation to print ads), events and weddings, corporate headshots, and product photography.
I am a self-confessed nerd that is happiest when creating something new across multiple mediums. I love finding new challenges so that I might learn something new. I started photography in school, as it was pretty much the only way for me to be creative, I really couldn’t draw! It was a hobby that I only took seriously once I picked up some studio lights for a bargain price. I’ve been playing around with lighting ever since. I graduated from the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham in 2013 having earned a BA Hons in Photography. University helped develop my story telling, and while I was there, I was able to teach other students studio and location lighting techniques. I have since been freelancing, taking on work for a variety of companies doing family portraiture, making marketing materials for different products and shooting headshots.’
Wild Arena Guest Guide (Known to every Puffin in the Northern Hemisphere)
‘Born in Cheshire, UK, Kevin is a multi-award-winning wildlife photographer, tour leader and photographic guide with a passion for UK wildlife.
Widely published and with a formidable social media following. Kevin was last year a category runner up in Nature Photographer of The Year and was proud to see his Mountain Hare image grace the cover of the prestigious British Wildlife Photography Awards collection in 2018. He's also had multiple awarded images in international photography competitions such as the Nature Image Awards and Environmental Photographer of The Year.
Specialising in the British Isles, from the highest mountains to the coast.
Kevin’s work celebrates the beauty of UK wildlife across the seasons. He is an experienced guide who has been running 1-2-1 and group workshops for many years, using his experience and passion to pass on his knowledge of photographing the natural world.’
David, Janet and the Wild Arena business, have a long association with the wider photography industry and we have been very lucky to have worked with some wonderful people and businesses, as partners over the past 20 years. As a team, we have decades of experience of the photography industry in the broadest possible sense, and we believe that our continued engagement with this world makes us ideally positioned to support and advice our wonderful customers.
We also think it’s so important to keep the photographic manufacturing, distribution and retail businesses vibrant in the UK, so that we, as photographers, can have access to great equipment and valuable advice whenever we need it. If everyone just made purchases on the global internet, we would all likely lose this rich network of support. That’s one reason why we have so many friends in this area.
Here’s a list of just some of the lovely people in the photography world we work with!
We strive to deliver our goals by enabling our guest to take great pictures in rewarding situations with the support they need, be that technical, physical or emotional. We are passionate about high quality image making, together with furthering a better understanding of our natural world.
We also aim to provide a secure environment that values, inspires and encourages all owners, staff and associates.
The Wild Arena business operates a universal policy of minimal printed materials, concentrating where possible on electronic communication. This includes both internal communications within the Wild Arena team, communication with our partners/suppliers and our guests. Any printing that is unavoidable is completed on recycled consumables endorsed by the FSC where appropriate and our printers (solopress) do the same whilst also using vegetable-based inks.
We donate to the World Land trust to offset our carbon emissions for all of our business and personal carbon footprint.
Wild Arena (and all associated employees and staff) are committed to the welfare and proper husbandry of all the animals within our influence or care. We always have this commitment as a priority above ALL other considerations.
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
Trading and Liability insurance with RSA (Brooks Braithwaite).
FSB Incorporated Legal protection insurance with Abbey Legal Protection.
The Wild Arena business endeavours to operate with a strong ethical compass and function in a fair, moral and just manner.
We have been registered as a limited company since 12th February 2003 and are fully VAT registered.
We carry full employee and public liability insurance with ‘Brookes Braithwaite Ltd’ and operate within all known legal requirements.