There are times when Ian Watson uses birdsong to escape the blare of ambulance sirens. This emergency medical technician is also a wildlife photographer. Two vastly different worlds which seem to complement each other.

Ian, 46, lives in Kirkbride with his wife Karen and their children Rebecca, 14, and Thomas, 12.

He spent 17 years working for Barclays Bank before two passions forced their way to the forefront of his life: helping people and capturing the beauty of nature.

"While I was at Barclays I did a first aid course in my holidays," recalls Ian. "After that I applied to become a retinal eye screener for patients who have diabetes. That's photographing the back of their eyes looking for any sign of diabetic retinopathy, which can cause blindness."

This job was with the North West Ambulance Service. After four years Ian moved into his current role with the same employer. Based at Wigton ambulance station, he is part of a two-person crew attending incidents across Cumbria. He works on an emergency ambulance responding to 999 calls, usually teamed with a paramedic.

"We attend lots of different types of incidents such as road traffic collisions, cardiac arrests, strokes, mental health crises, overdoses... the list goes on. Our job involves a whole range of healthcare including giving CPR to patients in cardiac arrest as well as providing pain relief, giving oxygen and transferring patients to different hospitals, sometimes to Newcastle.

"I'm very proud of working for the service and proud to wear the uniform. It's a job that can be saving a patient's life. I've got quite a few letters of thanks. They're nice to receive. It's nice to know that the patient is ok."

But in this line of work happy endings are not guaranteed.

"Sometimes unfortunately it's difficult... where children and families are involved, things like that can be distressing for all concerned. But there is always help from the service if you need it. Colleagues are great as well. You reflect on jobs and talk to each other.

"We do see some upsetting things on occasions. I think that's why my wildlife photography is a nice way to unwind."

Ian's interest in wildlife began when he was a child in Carlisle. He remembers being captivated by the bright colours of butterflies on buddleia.

He dabbled in photography, although his passion for capturing wildlife on camera has really blossomed in the last 10 years.

"Living at Kirkbride, there's so much wildlife on our doorstep. I just started photographing birds in the garden. A farmer I know at Dalston let me put some feeders up on his land. Red squirrels came. Then I got hooked."

Ian's stunning images include a bounding brown hare, a mountain hare feeding in the snow and a waxwing about to eat a mid-air berry.

The click of the shutter lasts a fraction of a second. The wider process takes much longer. That shot of the mountain hare began with a 3am departure for the Scottish Highlands and concluded with a 10-mile drive down an icy track and a hike up a mountain.

"It's hard to find mountain hares, obviously - they're white and it's snowy. Animals are aware that you're there. Some will just sit. Others, before you see them they're off."

Ian's longest wait came on the trail of pine marten in Scotland: "Eleven hours getting bitten by midges. You think 'Is it going to turn up?' There's always the unexpected. I've been at Watchtree Nature Reserve [near Great Orton] to photograph hares when foxes and deer have walked past.

"I don't put pressure on myself to get a shot. You always go knowing it's wildlife: things might not turn up."

To maximise his chances, Ian turns detective. Droppings indicate the presence of a particular creature. He uses infrared camera traps to determine whether nocturnal animals are around. Then there's the study of his subjects' routines.

"They have habits. About half a mile from where I live there's a pair of little owls. They've nested at the same location for the last four years. You get to know their routine.

"There is sometimes an element of luck as well. I've seen an osprey fishing in the estuary at Anthorn. When it caught the fish it flew the other way. You think 'I wish it had flown at me!'"

Asked to name his favourite photo, Ian chooses the leaping hare, which was taken at Watchtree.

"It's my favourite not just because of the picture. It bounded towards me down a path. I captured it in mid-air. It came right to my leg, sniffed my knee and bounded on. Then it turned around and looked at me.

"Sometimes you'll take some shots and think 'I hope I got that.' Then you'll zoom in and see if it's sharp. Some you nearly get. It's frustrating if you clip the wings off."

Mostly, though, this world is an antidote to frustration.

"You zone out. The sounds as well... you become attuned to what different bird calls are. If you hear an alarm call of a bird you know there's something about here. There might be a fox. There might be a sparrow hawk. As well as watching you're listening as well."

Ian's work has just been recognised in the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2017. He had seven images shortlisted. One, a little owl near Kirkbride, was highly commended. A roe deer near Anthorn is included in the awards' 2018 calendar.

His photos and greeting cards are sold at Fountain Gallery in Wigton, Caldbeck Crafters Co-operative and Daffodil Lane Gallery, Fisher Street, Carlisle.

Most of the images are taken around Kirkbride, Anthorn and Dalston. Ian is grateful to local farmers who let him use their land.

He would love to travel further, to photograph polar bears and Arctic foxes. This despite the problems cold weather can cause those who spend hours trying to capture wildlife.

"I like all the seasons. Winter is wonderful for the shots you can get. But you go through a bit of pain. There's times I haven't been able to press the shutter because my fingers were so cold - that's frustrating!"

* Ian's website is at