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Local visually impaired photographer's wetland journey to star in BBC's Winterwatch

Local photographer Alex Ditch is fulfilling his goal to appear in BBC's Winterwatch

Alex Ditch, from Sunderland, was born with Bardet Biedl syndrome; a genetic condition which causes a range of physical issues, including blindness.

The passionate 25-year-old has no peripheral vision and describes his eyesight as ‘like a dot’ compared to the norm. But this doesn't deter him from getting outdoors, exploring nature and enjoying the diverse habitats of WWT Washington Wetland Centre. With his camera in tow, he sets out to photograph his favourite subjects - birds - along with support from his mum, Pam.

Alex and mum walking.jpg

© BBC | Alex and him mum Pam, Washington Wetland Centre

My mum is my main carer when I’m out and about, and with my camera. When I know what I want to photograph, I can feel around my camera as I know where all the buttons are. I ask for help when I need it to check my focus etc, as sometimes I’m not sure if it’s my eyes or the lens which is the issue.

Alex Ditch - Bullfinch.jpg

© Alex Ditch | Bullfinch at Hawthorn hide, Washington Wetland Centre

Because of his sight loss, Alex uses his other senses to immerse himself into nature, listening more intently to the sounds of birds and other wildlife.

I know in my mind what kind of a picture I am trying to take and WWT has all of this for me.

Alex is a regular visitor to Wearside wetland reserve, WWT Washington Wetland Centre. He enjoys the familiarity of the reserve and knowing it very well, often visits with him mum to experience nature and challenge himself with taking photos of birds. His favourite spots are saline lagoon and Hawthorn hide, where he has experienced many firsts, including his first jay, which he was thrilled to get photos of.

There are so many different trails to walk and hides to visit, there is always something different to see.

Alex Ditch - Jay.jpg

© Alex Ditch | Jay at Hawthorn hide, Washington Wetland Centre

It gets me outdoors and I feel safe here and the staff are always friendly and very helpful. I get plenty of exercise and I can go at my own pace because of my mobility, which can slow me down.

Despite many visits to Lagoon View hide, Alex had yet to achieve his ultimate goal of photographing an elusive kingfisher, a small vibrant bird which often escapes people's eyes.

The story of Alex’s passion for wildlife photography and how he navigates our wetlands to capture his incredible images will feature on BBC's Winterwatch. The crew accompanied him on a wander around site to see if this dream might eventually become a reality with the cameras rolling…

Be sure to tune in on 25 January at 8pm to find out if it did!

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