It is an image that any professional wildlife photographer would be thrilled to have captured, let alone a self-taught amateur who has never taken a photography course in his life.
Steve Houghton from Leicestershire says he has been stunned by the reaction to his photo of a bird formation – taken handheld – since he sent it to BBC East Midlands Today.
Such is the apparent incredulity over his amazing shot of the ‘starling-shaped’ murmuration – taken at Rutland Water earlier this month – that Steve says some ‘keyboard warriors’ immediately turned to social media to dismiss it as a fake.
‘I still don’t use Photoshop. It was a genuine image,’ Steve told Amateur Photographer in a telephone interview this morning.
‘It was a case of “right place, right time”…
‘People who know me more, knew it was genuine.’
To silence critics, Steve was forced to reveal other images he had taken in the series, and upload them to Facebook.
Steve, who lives in Thorpe Satchville, explained that he captured the moment using his Canon EOS 700D and Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens – without a tripod.
Steve published other images he had taken in the same burst in a bid to show that he hadn’t digitally manipulated the photo [Photo credits: Fourwings wildlife imaging 2015]
The exposure he used was 1/200sec at f/4 and ISO 400.
Steve had been at Rutland Water hoping to photograph a sunset.
He processed the raw files using Canon DPP software, adjusted exposure by 1/3 stop and carried out some image sharpening.
Steve, whose 25-year passion for photography also includes aviation images, said he was shocked when he realised what he had captured.
‘I’ve been absolutely staggered by the amount of interest in it,’ said the 49-year-old who is now hoping to make some money from the shot.
‘I’ve got photo agencies contacting me left, right and centre.’
Steve, who reads Amateur Photographer magazine, believes that a technique he uses when photographing planes helped him capture the moment.
‘I’ve got very used to panning fast jets and I’m certain that this skill help with the murmuration [image].’
Steve works as a civil servant and has recently started to ‘dabble with landscapes’.
He says he learns ways to improve his photography by taking lots of pictures and reading feedback of his efforts on the internet.
Asked whether his success has made him consider turning professional, he replied: ‘In a perfect world I would love photography to be my job.’
Steve revealed that he has only ever sold one photo – an image of a dragonfly, taken nine years ago.
That may be all about to change.
You can see more of Steve’s work on his Flickr page