Sunday, 11 November 2012

Autumn’s End

Last time I went out I decided not to have any particular expectations of photographing anything, rather, just go out and see what happens.  This time I planned on seeing and photographing Roe Deer – one of my favourite British mammal – so it was up before dawn and on site at sunrise, which is the best time to see these timid animals.

It was over half an hour before I spotted my first deer, or rather she spotted me, and for a moment we both just stood staring at each other.  I’d hoped, as we were some distance from each other and with their poor eyesight, she would just ignore me but, although not seeming particularly alarmed by me presence, decided to trot off in the opposite direction.  Scratch one for the Roe Deer.  There’s three ways I’ve found you can see Roe Deer in a wood.  1) You simply amble through the wood and hope you stumble across one, usually just in time to see the white rump as it’s sprints off.  2) You can move stealthily through the wood and hope you can see them before the see, smell or hear you.  3) You can sit down at an advantage point, ideally a location you know they will pass through, and wait for them.  After trying number 1 option unintentionally first, It was the latter I decided to try next.

I sat down with my back to a large bush, netting over my lens and where I had a clear view through three different sections in the wood with the main one directly in front.  After around forty minutes with no sight or sound of them and the sun rising high enough for its rays to start hitting the ground and fallen leaves giving them a glowing effect, I decided this was too good a photo opportunity.  Now normally I would use my compact camera in this situation but this had decided to start playing up, and with all being quiet I decided to attach my 17-40 zoom lens to my main camera and see what I could take.


After around 6 shots, sods law, I glimpsed a Roe Deer to my right walking without pausing to my centre and tried as quickly as possible to re-attach my 500mm lens.  Normally this is a task I could do in around three seconds, but as I watched the deer moving past my first clear line of sight and then my second, I struggled to line up those two damn red dots on the body and lens.  It wasn’t helped by the netting draped over the lens was getting tangled up and in the way.

I got it attached just in time to see it in my third clear view point but moving away from me.  I still had to change the cameras ISO as I had set it low for the ‘landscape’ shot and it was giving me nearly two seconds exposure with the 500 lens.  I finally managed to get a couple of shots off at 1/640  which is slow enough but with the excitement of trying to change lenses in time and my hands being cold, it was a struggle to keep the lens still and avoid camera shake.

Normally the sound of my cameras shutter is enough for this curious animal to stop and look in my direction, only this time I had set my camera to ‘silent’ mode so the deer just continued moving away.  It stopped to rub its head against a tree and it must of eventually heard my shutter as it stopped and looked in my direction.  This gave me a few seconds to compose myself and take a few shots of it stationary before it continued to move off and disappear.

The images weren’t great – taken at their extreme for camera and lens.  A shutter speed to slow really for a lens of the size on a monopod and with the cameras ISO at its maximum 6400. Still, it was the best success I’ve had so far this year and a confidence booster.

You can see in my first, main, landscape image, in the far centre right clearing, it’s where I was eventually able to photograph the Roe Deer though this photograph being taken on a wide angle lens makes it look further away than it really was.


It seems every season has its advantages and disadvantages when looking for and photographing wildlife.  At this time of year, a definite disadvantage is all the leaf litter.  With a couple of inches of it on the ground, being ‘stealthy’ just doesn’t come into it.  Walking through the woods at dawn, without any wind give it an eerie silence despite hearing other bird calls, so when you crunch your way through the leaves and then tread on a hidden twig underneath it feels like every animal within half a mile heard you and has stopped and looked in my direction.


I was to see only two more glimpses of Roe Deer.  This year there seems a reduction in their numbers which I’m not quite sure of and those around seem particularly skittish.

I finished the day with some opportunist bird images, especially a woodpecker who obliged with a spell on a sun drenched tree.  Normally when I encounter them they are in a dark part of wood making images difficult, on this occasion, for the first images the brightness of the sun – remaining low in the sky at this time of year – was almost perfect without over exposing the images.

Since I seem to be on a roll at the moment I wonder what my next excursion with bring.  I think I might try either Red Kites or Kingfishers.  No pressure!



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