HE spent a month waiting for the perfect shot...
But young photographer Tom Steele, who has won a top honour in an international photography competition, says it was well worth the wait.
The 18-year-old student, from Lytham, spent hours watching a sea lion at Blackpool Zoo before he managed to get the spectacular photograph of it emerging from the water.
His dedication paid off and the photograph has now been highly commended in the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2007 competition – the first contest the budding photographer has ever entered.
Tom, who thinks nothing of getting out of bed at 4am to get the perfect photo, said: "It's amazing, I was so shocked. I couldn't believe it when I got the results. It's beyond my wildest dreams.
"It was for a project for college and my tutor said I should enter it into the competition. I wanted to explore the idea that although the sea lion is captive in the zoo, it's still a wild 'animal' and is full of character."
Tom is studying BA Hons wildlife photography at Blackpool and The Fylde College, on Palatine Road, Blackpool.
His love of photography began when his dad gave him an old camera for his seventh birthday.
He said: "I photograph mainly wild animals. I'm besotted with wildlife. It is just so relaxing as you watch the animals in their natural habitat and it is worth the wait when you get that really good image."
Next week Tom will jet down to London to attend the Shell Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award ceremony and to see his photograph displayed in an exhibition in the capital's National History Museum.
He says he eventually hopes to become a freelance wildlife photographer.
He said: "I'd love to go to Argentina and Brazil. They'll be the next port of call. Those areas are so richly diverse; everywhere you look, there's wildlife. And I'd love to photograph polar bears as well."
To see more of Tom's work, log on to: www.tomsteelewildlifephotography.com