The amazing photo at the top of this story showing two mice fighting on a subway station platform was captured by Sam Rowley of the UK and went on to win last year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award. While the image might look faked, it’s not, and was the direct result of Rowley’s doggedness and patience as a photographer of urban wildlife.
He also had to overcome his fear of mice to capture it as he explains in the revealing video below from BBC Earth on the story behind this incredible shot. Rowley shot the photo, which is called “Station Squabble,” while lying on his belly on the platform of the London Underground for a week.
“It was six or seven nights from about 10pm to the early hours of the morning. Obviously, I got lots of funny looks,” he says, adding that one person jumped on his back thinking Rowley was having a heart attack. “I mean that’s not what I’d do to try to save someone’s life if they’d had a heart attack.”
Rowley’s persistence and willingness to look foolish paid off. He shot a variety of interesting photos of silhouetted mice scurrying across the platform, which are also shown in the video, but it’s the one of the two rodents fighting that he knew instantly was “the money shot.”
“This one definitely stood out to me,” he says. “I think purely because you’ve got the interaction between two animals, which I think is key for a lot of photos. The rest were kind of nice portraits of animals in their environment in this tunnel network.”
One of the technical challenges he faced was trying to focus on the mice while down on their level because “the camera didn’t know what to look at.” To get around that issue, he would pre-focus on an area on the platform and wait for the animals to enter it.
“I’d framed this shot [Station Squabble] before the mice got up and fought,” he says. “So, I’d already framed it for another shot and then amazingly they got up and fought at the same time, so I was in the right place at the right time.”
The other obstacle was Rowley is “quite terrified of mice and rats.” In the end though he overcame his anxiety to produce the winning photo. “I think my fear did diminish slightly [by the end]. The things we do for photos.”