Having spent weeks positioning the hide, my real desire was to obtain images of the parents bringing food back to the nest. Talons clasping marsh frogs and birds for example. However, allowing for light, wind direction and not wanting to move the hide and alert the adults, I only obtained a few images that although were nice to get weren’t quite as I had hoped. With this kind of work you really are at the mercy of the elements. The following images were taken over 3, 5 hour sessions. On some occassions I didn’t get any pictures at all though I always saw them. In total I spent 30 hours over 6 sessions.
The image below has been cropped considerably so you can see exactly the prey it was carrying. A young rabbit as it turned out.
The final image is one of my favourites. It’s all about the wing positioning with the late afternoon sunlight illuminating it’s underside. Although not the fastest birds they were quite hard to track. Indeed, when you are in a hide, your vision is restricted and so I would go by the mobbing calls of lapwings to alert me of their presence. I would then frantically look through each peep-hole to try and locate it. For all the images a 300mm f2.8 lens with either the TC-14EII (1.4x) or TC-20EII (2x) tele-converter was used on a Nikon D300. Stopping movement was the prerequisite so I selected an iso of 400 or 800 (depending on how late in the afternoon I was shooting) and the camera set to either shutter priority or manual.
It was a wonderful experience witnessing and photographing marsh harriers from such close range and even with the amount of preparation involved, I am sure in the future I will attempt to improve my coverage of this stage of their lives. In the next installemt I accompany licenced handlers ring and wing-tag the young birds.
The winners for this years British Wildlife Photograpy Awards have been announced with the winning image being of a……herring gull! That’s it, not a deer, otter or seal but a humble seagull. And what a great image it is too. Very different from the usual and incredibly eye-catching. Well done to Steve Young for that. Testament that fresh, exciting images are possible with even the most overlooked of birds. All the winners can be viewed here http://www.bwpawards.org/
I did enter but alas, fell short at the final hurdle with the image below of two young rabbits reaching the final round in the Animal Portraits category. It will however be appearing in the book, which is nice anyway.
Yesterday evening was my first attempt at photographing rabbits in silhouette. I was quite happy with my images from past sessions where they were lit from the front but this time I wanted to try something a little different.
The trickiest part is finding a location where the rabbits are likely to come out of their burrows and feed on a rise against the setting sun. Fortunately, this particular location, on the marshes, has a very high rabbit population with a number of holes in such a position. But, you can never be certain where they, like any other animal, will turn up and pose in just the right position. It was very much a trial run then as I lay flat on the ground, once again donned head to toe in camo with the camera on a bean-bag.
I could see movement all around and as luck would have it, several did appear in almost the right position. I would have liked more colour in the sky and this is certainly a project I’ll be returning to over the coming weeks and months. As the evening drew on, the mosquitoes became more active and attempted to search for any uncovered skin, which was just my eyelids. Funny, how you find yourself blinking like crazy trying to get them off not daring to swish them away!
I went back to a favourite spot of mine on the marshes to photograph rabbits. It was a beautiful evening, the wind was blowing in my favour and so, adorned in head to toe camo, around an hour and a half before sunset, I laid down adjacent to some nettles and waited. Within 20 minutes, a rabbit appeared 2m or so away, completely oblivious of my presence, or so I thought. Within seconds, I could feel, through the ground, the thump of it’s hind feet alerting others that ‘something’ was up. It obviously couldn’t be 100% sure that I was human, given that other than my eyes, nothing pale was showing. So, it ambled on and nibbled some grass a little way behind me.
Eventually, the whole clan came out of their burrows and bounded onto the grass infront of me. I resisted taking pictures for the first 5 minutes, allowing them to become accustomed to my presence. I started taking pictures and then, from the corner of my right eye, there was a hare! It had snuck up beside me and was now less than a metre away! I have watched and photographed hares more times than I can remember but never appreciated just how big they are. It too, took no notice of me and moved beyond me.
The next hour or so was spent shooting various images and was jolly fortunate that more often than not, they would pick the area bathed in sunlight, or maybe they just enjoyed the warmth of the setting sun.
It has been a very long time since I puposefully set out to photograph rabbits, but as mentioned in my previous post, working on our more common species has several advantages, not least their numbers. And, on the marshes of north Kent, there are certainly enough rabbits to choose from! Rabbits are not the hardest animals to get pictures of, unlike their cousin’s, hares, which, if disturbed, have a rather annoying tendency to run away a considerable distance. With rabbits, you can either work from your car photographing them on the roadside or, like me, lay flat on the ground, 8-10 metres away from their burrows, with the wind blowing in your face and wait. Expect to work like this for at least an hour, since it often takes 30-45 minutes for the surrounding wildlife to settle down before making an appearance. I increased my chances further by donning head to toe camo including a face net. They knew there was something there but with your human form sufficiently disguised, they carried on with their business.
After 30 minutes, a pair of shelduck, well known in these parts for their shyness, flew and settled 20 metres away and gave me enough time to align the lens and get a few images.
Shortly afterwards, the rabbits appeared and for the next hour I obtained a number of behavioural pictures.
I plan to return on a semi-regular basis over the coming weeks with a number of images in my mind I’d really like to pull off. Whether I do or not is an entirely different matter!
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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