Saturday, 20 February 2010

February – worst month of the year!

…at least when it comes to my photography.  Looking at my photograph backups,  I notice I have nothing for the month of February since changing to digital five years ago – not a single photograph!  I guess this is largely due to the weather which is usually grey, damp, cold and windy and short dark days.  It might also be the time of year – Christmas and the New Year are a distant memory, back to the drudgery of work and Spring, never mind Summer, seems a long way off yet so motivation is difficult.  Photographing landscapes then means bad weather and grey, featureless skies.  Wildlife photography isn’t much better, seemingly more sparse and shutter speeds that struggle to get above 1/250th of a second.

The forecast for the weekend seemed quite good, cold, sunny spells, dry but for a light snow shower or two, and light winds, so I set my alarm so that I could get to one of my favourite locations by sunrise at 7:20am.  Woke up to find it had snowed during the night and was hovering just below freezing.


On arriving on location, the wood was covered in a blanket of snow, so I sat down in a location where I had a view of an open part of wood which I knew the deer crossed if they had been out feeding in the fields.  I decided on bringing my 400mm F5.6 lens which wasn’t ideal for the dingy wood lighting, giving me a shutter speed of 1/60th, manageable on my monopod if I could get my ‘quarry’ to stop and pose for me.  A cold 40 minutes later, with no sight or sound of any Roe deer or anything else for that matter, I decided to move on. 

Along a path I found to sets of recent Fox tracks which I followed until I lost one set and the other unable to follow.  In the distance I could hear barking – not a dog but a male Roe deer.  Stopping off and waiting at a few more places I new the deer could pass but still no luck.  This particular wood has a dense centre which is where the deer hold up during the day after feeding around the edges and in the out lying fields at night, so I know they make their way in a certain direction during the morning before making their way to the centre, depending on the time of year and how many people are out walking.

My first sight was a male which unfortunately saw me first and after looking at me for a while headed off into the woods centre.  Following close behind was a female deer which hadn’t seen me but must have been following the male otherwise it would have been coming towards me giving me a good opportunity to photograph it.  I did manage to get a few distant shots off but most had trees and branches obscuring the frame.  The best was the image below which was also a heavy crop and not particularly exiting or aesthetic to look at.


A few more encounters with similar results, either they saw me and moved away or were going into heavy cover. 


Roe Deer showing all the obstacles in the way of a clear picture

Eventually, I came across one which was feeding and slowly moving towards an open bit of space, so I moved slowly to a better location, using the trees to hide my approach and positioned myself only to hear someone walking noisily through the wood – ironically wearing a camouflaged jacket and carrying binoculars.  It’s amazing how many people go out into the woods or countryside looking for wildlife but don’t actually look.  Anyway, he scared it away.  This was the first time I had seen someone all morning and he had to stumble in on my best opportunity!

With the morning nearly over, I made the most of the ‘nice day’ and wondered around a few more hours to see what I could photograph.



As the day went on the spells of sunshine became less and less, when the sun went in or in shady areas, the shutter speed went down to 1/30th of a second making not only camera shake more likely but small birds tend to continually move around so most of my pictures were not very sharp.


Yellow Hammer


Long Tailed Tit- not sharp due to low shutter speed


The day finished with a few more photos of the trusty old Greys.  It’s a shame the Red Squirrels aren’t around in this part of the country anymore.

With one more weekend left in this month, there’s still a chance of doubling my photographic tally for February though I have to say I’m looking forward to the brighter and better weather that hopefully Spring will bring.