Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Autumnal Woods

With some time off, I thought I would get out and take some photographs of this years Autumn colours before the leaves have completely dropped.  With this in mind I decided to be more leisurely kitted out with a full frame camera, wide angle zoom, macro lens a 300mm lens good for telephoto landscape shots and a tripod.  The forecast was for a rare clear and sunny day which would help increase the colours.

I tend to have an image in my head whenever I go out to take pictures, in this case it was the first rays of dawns sunshine creating shafts of glowing light and illuminating the canopy of leaves.  Unfortunately when I arrived at the woods, it had only just stopped raining and there was no promised sunshine, just greyness.  By the time the sun did come out, it was it was late morning when it was more harsher and it was patchy.  I found myself sitting at a particular place, waiting for the sun to come to come out only for it to disappear as quickly as it came so it didn’t quite get the images I had visualised but when the sun did appear, it did make the woods look amazing.

I think for most people who take landscapes they do it to try and capture a moment in time and and the beauty of what they see.  When I got home and looked at the images I had taken, I was very disappointed – they were nothing like what I had seen.  I supposed it’s because it’s not just about the visual colours but the sounds and feelings of the moment, being out in nature, quiet and peaceful with just the calls of song birds, a Tawny Owl in the distance and a Roe Deer barking.


At one point, early afternoon I had been in the same spot for about an hour and a half quietly trying some macro and ‘artistic’ shots, when I realised I wasn’t alone. Up in the canopy I heard some rustling and ‘chipping’ sounds, looked up to see a couple of Red Squirrels chasing each other.  On the ground further up a couple were feeding, digging in the layers of falling leaves.  It had been over a year since last seeing reds here and I had start to believe the greys had taken over.

It was great just to sit and watch them, but I was kicking myself for not having the right photographic equipment at hand.  The best I had was the full frame 5D, the 300mm and converter attached – not ideal.  Amongst the leave litter the lighting and surroundings were ideal.  Patches of golden light, the red coat of the squirrels along with the red, yellow and orange fallen leaves and logs for them to pose on.  If only I had my normal camera I use for wildlife and 500mm lens!  I could return another day but no sunshine was forecast for the foreseeable future (this part of the woods is dark)  and besides, these are rare now, the chances of seeing as many as there was around at this time – about 5 or 6 – probably wouldn’t happen again for another 50 visits, if at all.


Red Squirrels are very shy animals and I don’t know if they saw me, they were certainly occasionally looking in my direction but maybe I was far enough away that they weren’t bothered by me so I was able to watch them for around an hour though the warning calls in a different direction from my position, by Magpies suddenly made them disappear.  It amazes me just how well they can do that.  You can surprise one, watch it go up a tree right next to you and you simply won’t see it again.

On this occasion, I was just about to leave when all returned again.  I watched them for a further half hour when, above my head on the tree I was hiding behind, I heard the typical scorning chatter of a Red Squirrel. Looking up there was one looking right down at me.  If they didn’t know I was there before they did now!  They were gone again, only this one stayed long enough for me to take some pictures of it while it continued to ‘tell me off’ before it too disappeared.  It surprises me that Red Squirrels are ‘bullied’ by their grey cousins as whenever a wild Grey Squirrel is surprised by a person, it will shot up into the trees and be gone.  The plucky red will stop first, give you a load of Red Squirrel abuse, then go up into the trees making more noise at it goes.  For me it gives them a bit more character than the greys and, along with their visual charms, makes them one of my favourite British mammals.


Below, a few images taken the day before of some Pheasants



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