Bob Gibbons obituary

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The quality photographer and writer Bob Gibbons, who has died aged 74, erstwhile conceived nan thought of visiting each nan astir colourful floral spectacles connected Earth. That was nary easy feat, for wildflower seasons are unpredictable. When he trekked to find nan spectacular alpine gardens of Washington authorities successful nan spring, he recovered them covered by 10 feet of snow. His journeys took him from nan Mojave godforsaken of California to nan “painted deserts” of Namaqualand, South Africa, and on, via nan Italian Dolomites, to nan Stirling scope successful Australia.

The result, Wildflower Wonders: The 50 Best Wildflower Sites successful nan World (2011), was a bestseller astatine location and successful North America. Bob had done nan aforesaid for Britain, successful collaboration pinch nan chaotic works kindness Plantlife, for a colourful carpet of much humble beauty that he titled Flowers astatine My Feet: The Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland (2002).

Successful wildlife photography depends partially connected method and patience. Technique tin beryllium learned, and Bob wrote a number of books connected really to get nan champion results, supra each connected overcoming nan problems of mediocre light. But he besides had nan rarer gift of “seeing” a image earlier mounting up his camera: moving retired much aliases little unconsciously nan correct angle, nan framing of a landscape, aliases nan posture of a vertebrate aliases animal he wished to capture. He liked to subordinate a type to its setting, emphasising nan nexus betwixt nan works aliases animal and its habitat. And he did it each pinch 1 arm. A puerility mishap pinch a firework had resulted successful nan amputation of his near limb beneath nan elbow.

Bob Gibbons had a uncommon gift for ‘seeing’ a image earlier mounting up his camera
Bob Gibbons had a uncommon gift for ‘seeing’ a image earlier mounting up his camera

Love and attraction for chaotic quality animated his full life. With nan thief of an exceptional memory, his knowledge was simply breathtaking. Of course, roaming Europe and nan world successful hunt of wildlife has its attendant risks. Once, unsocial successful Lapland, photographing nan endangered musk ox, he was abruptly charged by an enraged bull. Fortunately nan animal changed its mind astatine nan past moment.

Bob was calved successful Minehead, Somerset, nan boy of George Gibbons, a elder slope clerk, and Christine (nee Berkeley), a councillor for nan town. He won a danasiwa to Millfield schoolhouse successful Street, wherever he captained nan school’s badminton and squash teams, and played array tennis pinch brilliance.

An unusually agleam child, he was fast-tracked, and embarked connected his A-levels astatine nan early property of 13. Originally intending to study languages, he realised, pinch nan thief of an inspirational biology teacher, that what he cared astir about was earthy history. He took a biology people astatine Wye College successful Kent, specialising successful ecology, and went connected to study for a doctorate connected nan uncommon flowers of Upper Teesdale astatine Durham University.

In 1970, while astatine Wye College, he joined a chap student, Elizabeth Foster, pinch whom he would person 2 sons, Robin and Kit. He led a six-month botanical expedition to Afghanistan, pinch Liz successful complaint of nutrient and medicine, collecting plants for Kew Gardens and nan Smithsonian Institution.

A fewer years later Bob took portion successful a Durham University expedition to nan Himalayas, to hole nan groundwork for a nationalist parkland successful Langtang Valley (established successful 1976). It besides resulted successful his book The Himalayan Kingdoms (1983), written pinch Bob Ashford. Bob and Liz’s associated book Creating a Wildlife Garden (1990) was shortlisted for nan Natural History book prize. The mates separated successful 1993, and were later divorced.

A black-necked stilt feeding connected nan Texas shoreline.
A black-necked stilt feeding connected nan Texas shoreline. Photograph: Bob Gibbons

Bob’s early profession was successful quality conservation, first arsenic nan region serviceman for Cheshire Wildlife Trust, past arsenic nan serviceman for Hampshire successful nan past Nature Conservancy Council (now Natural England). By past he had already established his ain photographic agency. From nan precocious 1980s, his pictures were nan item of a succession of self-written section guides connected butterflies, dragonflies, insects generally, and chaotic flowers, some successful Britain and Europe. Later he wrote and illustrated guides to nan wildlife of Britain, France, Spain and Greece. He was nan main contributor of images to Flora Britannica (1996) by Richard Mabey.

The book he rated astir highly was Britain’s Natural Heritage: Reading Our Countryside’s Past (1987), written pinch Phil Colebourn, and later revised arsenic Britain’s Countryside Heritage. With nan thief of his pictures, it revealed really our earthy landscapes tin beryllium “read”, almost for illustration a book.The past 3 years of his life were devoted to a section guideline connected nan alpine flowers of Europe, now successful press.

Bigleaf maple trees successful bedewed temperate rainforest, successful nan Olympic National Park, Washington.
Bigleaf maple trees successful bedewed temperate rainforest, successful nan Olympic National Park, Washington. Photograph: Bob Gibbons

It was arsenic a earthy hold to his emotion of recreation and his communicative expertise that Bob group up his ain circuit company, Natural History Travel, which ran for much than 20 years. He led each travel himself – astir 7 per twelvemonth – often pinch nan thief of his partner, Libby Ingalls. Their astir regular haunts were nan Mediterranean, including Cyprus, Corsica, Sardinia and Crete, and nan upland ranges of Europe. There were besides further excursions to South Africa and Namibia, North America, Costa Rica and nan Galapagos. Unusually, Natural History Travel had a botanical bias, though Bob was arsenic adept astatine spotting and identifying birds, mammals and insects. What kept group returning was Bob’s bonzer knowledge and emotion of nature, and his calm, friends personality.

He is survived by Libby, Robin and Kit.
Peter Marren

Richard Mabey writes: In nan image of Bob that sticks successful my mind, he is connected his knees, focused intensely connected nan architecture of immoderate beetle aliases Mediterranean buttercup, and surrounded by devoted acolytes. These moments occurred many times connected nan tours he led alongside his outstanding profession arsenic a earthy history photographer. The coach doors would open, his clients would move out, and soon nan outcry would travel up from each quarters: “Bob! What’s this?” He was successful his element, his aggravated curiosity and joyousness successful nan earthy world fusing pinch his generosity of spirit.

I first worked pinch him successful nan early 1990s. With a drawstring of superb section guides already nether his belt, he was nan evident prime arsenic main photographer for nan encyclopaedic Flora Britannica I was compiling. He did a singular job, ne'er really needing nan prompts I gave him (“red version cowslips successful Barking churchyard”) and preferring to tease maine endlessly astir my officiousness. His humour – particularly his quickfire puns – was legendary.

Crete was a favourite destination for some of us. I person walked down nan heavy and heart-stopping Samaria Gorge pinch him, listening to him commentate connected nan vagaries of nan section chaotic peonies. Then he talked down a bad lawsuit of vertigo, stuck connected nan incorrect broadside of a crevasse, and carried connected his backmost a tired aged female complete a rocky patch. He was for illustration a characteristic from a Greek myth. No wonderment his tours were ever sold retired successful days.

A lark ascending.
A lark ascending. Photograph: Bob Gibbons

I deliberation his warmth, wit and prodigious knowledge of earthy history sprang from a communal well: a relish successful nan power and diverseness of each life. His ain power was bewildering. He travelled nan chaotic landscapes of some hemispheres, and moreover erstwhile his terminal crab was gnawing astatine him, he would return disconnected successful his disaster-prone camper van and thrust non-stop to nan Alps aliases Poland, conscionable to drawback a fewer precocious blooms.

Watching him return photos was to witnesser an enactment of loving attentiveness. I respect them arsenic nan finest portraits we person of plants successful their earthy settings. He had an uncanny knowing of ray and its narration to perspective. Intense prairie blooms look to travel inexorably from nan ice-capped Rockies. A shadowed Cretan oliva grove is lit up by plumes of citrus euphorbias and nan achromatic flashes of splintered rock, arsenic if it were a diorama of nan island’s ancient history. There is method artistry and ecological contented here, but besides a benignant of embrace. The cords that hindrance plants to their landscapes person touched a heart, and touch ours too.

Source theguardian