To have any picture published is a great honour for any photographer, particularly these days when there are so many wonderful images available. So, you can imaging how happy I was to see this image of a buck fallow deer greeting a doe appear as a half-page in this month’s BBC Wildlife magazine illustrating the fallow deer rut.
It was taken some years ago, on film, using a Nikon F5 and 500mm f4P Nikkor lens. I remember the situation well and proves a fundamental point about wildlife photography that knowing the habits of your subject is equally, if not more important, that knowing your equipment.
Occasionally, during the rut, doe harems fracture and the odd once goes astray. I noticed this lone doe on the horizon against a sunset sky and knowing (hoping!) that the buck would gently “round her up” with a touching-of-noses greeting, I focused on her, exposed for a silhouette and left sufficient room to allow the buck to enter the frame which, thank goodness, he did!
I had to share this sunrise with you. The forecast was for cloud and sun first thing which can be perfect for sunrises. Clear mornings are all well and good if you want to shoot wildlife images where you often need decent light, but for landscapes there’s nothing like having interesting clouds to make an image, especially at sunrise and sunset. Clear mornings yield nothing more than a blue sky and within 15 minutes, that’s it. The sun’s risen and the moment has gone. But with some cloud cover, sunrise lingers considerably longer. Once at the location all you have to do is find something interesting to complement it such as a reflection or silhouette. Clouds are tinged with orange and red and the spectacle is very much worth the early rise.
As I parked the car and ran the 100m or so to where I wanted to take the shot (yes, I got there a little late!), I noticed a cow wandering toward me, which, as it got closer, turned out to be a bull. I was just to the side of its path. To get back to the car I would have had to run toward the bull. It looked rather cantankerous, swaying its head from side to side and making low moaning noises. Cattle are not to be underestimated, as has been documented over the last few months. I felt pretty nervous I can tell you. The only place I could go if it charged was in the water. These are not the kind of thoughts you expect at 4.30 in the morning. Anyway, it ambled past me and I got my pictures. Apparently, this particular individual was just roaming around the marsh keeping away from the alpha bull as it were, who, a week earlier had cornered a fireman at a local barn fire!
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!
The weather over the last week has been dreadful here in north Kent. Ok, so snow makes the country grind to a halt but at least it offers possibilities for strong images but when it’s just blanket grey (sigh) what can you do? Well, I edit images and prepare them for the agent but eventually you just scream for sun! I went out at first light this morning hoping for some sunrise shots and the forecast promised a bright day. Well if it did happen, it certainly wasn’t anywhere near me! I did get my sunrise shots however and it was nice but it lasted all of 10 minutes and then the cloud rolled over. So I thought I’d dig out a few images from 3 weeks ago when the light was a little more interesting.
Around two months ago I secured permission from the Environment Agency to access their land which connects to a local nature reserve. It now means rather than getting so far on the reserve then having to turn back, I can now do a loop as it were. If only there wern’t so many gates! It was a bitterly cold afternoon, the ground was solid and the sky was clear. I had spotted this hawthorn some while back and waited for the right conditions in which to illustrate it within its habitat rather than a straight silhouette.
As I drove slowly back across the marsh, light lingered in the sky and as I passed a clump of teasel I thought I would try something a little different. I enjoy this kind of work, mixing flash with daylight and always use off-camera flash to give the subject modelling. On this particular instance, with an exposure of 1 second at f8 and the flash set to Auto f8 (not TTL), I set the camera to self timer, walked around to the right then manually set off the flash when the shutter opened.
I didn’t expect much during a late afternoon stroll through local woodland. I had left it quite late but just needed to get away from the computer and stretch my legs. I came across a low, drooping hazel branch full of catkins and looked at possible images. They seem to appear earlier and earlier as each year passes. In the past I had photographed them against a blue sky and shedding their pollen using flash and with the sun rapidly setting I looked at a possible silhouette. I reached for the 105mm micro and hand-held, moved around the catkins until I was satisfied with the composition. The D2x was them mounted onto a tripod and the scene composed. Focus was critical since I needed to use a very wide aperture of f2.8 or f4 in order to achieve the effect I was after. This in turn resulted in a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/100th sec at iso 100 which helped as there was a slight breeze.
I always enjoy the feeling of coming home with something, even just a single image, that I know is a little different from the norm on days when I don’t expecting anything at all.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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