I am really proud to work and lead trips for Wildlife Worldwide, one of the UK’s largest specialists in wildlife travel. What I particularly enjoy is that the office is set within an old barn in the charming village of Bishop’s Sutton, what’s more is we have a resident pair of barn owls.
Earlier on in the summer I spent a bit of time trying to photograph the owls. They are really easy to spot, but not so easy to photograph, particularly as there are quite a few buildings around. Anyway, here is a little taster of what I have been privileged enough to watch after finishing work in the evenings.
As many of you will know, I live on the edge of the South Downs National Park. This is the UK’s newest national park, a range of stunning hills and rolling farmland, and is home to staggering number of roe deer.
I have become pretty good at photographing roe deer and luckily for me, I can often see them right behind my own house. In mid-May I noticed a handsome buck as I arrived home from the office and spent around 40 minutes trying to work out my approach. The wind had been swirling and it was nearly impossible to get close enough as there was a real lack of cover.
Eventually, I was able to get within 20 yards and the deer ended up approaching me – the perfect scenario.
To start with the male deer was actually too close to photograph, his inquisitive nature meant he approached to within only a few yards. I stayed perfectly still, the deer alert to my presence watched me, but never tried to run. It slowly moved away and into the dense crop of oilseed.
As you can see, I was blessed with a very cooperative buck, standing beautifully in the yellow flowers of the oilseed crop. It wasn't the longest photography session, as the deer decided to slowly move away into the deepest part of the field, but I managed to capture some beautiful imagery in the short time I was there.
All of the images were taken on my 500mm lens, which is usually perfect for photographing roe deer.
Since the start of spring I have been out trying to photograph my local population of Roe Deer. I have heaps of practice with this lovely species but they can still be a tricky subject to photograph. They have truly incredible hearing and a superb sense of smell ... you only have to make the slightest mistake and the opportunity will have passed.
Recently I haven't had much luck as my valley has been having a swirling wind pattern. This means I have been unable to keep down wind of the deer and they smell me coming from a long way off.
Finally the long, warm evenings have given me the perfect opportunity to get out and about to search for the local buck. I know the field that he likes to rest during the day but the challenge is to get close enough and stay down wind.
After a few attempts I finally succeeded and had one of the best, and particularly close, encounters with this magnificent Roe Deer Buck.
It was a truly wonderful encounter and what made it all the better, was that the buck wasn't at all startled and when I was done, I was able to slip off and leave him in peace.
I will be turning a couple of these images into high-quality prints which will be available in my online store. Please let me know if you have a favourite.
I am always astounded at the lack of knowledge regarding local wildlife, this really hit me during the annual deer rut when I said I was going to the New Forest to photograph Red Deer. People didn't believe me, saying that there aren't any wild Red Deer in the south of the UK except for on Exmoor.
Well I was determined to show them that there are in fact Red Deer only a stones throw from Southampton and Bournemouth. I spent a couple of weekends searching for this native deer species and was in luck.
As I reached my usual patch for the Fallow Deer, I heard a deer barking, but this was no Fallow Deer buck. This was an altogether deeper sound that resonated through the trees. I headed to the edge of the woodland, where the sound came from, and to my delight there were two large stags strutting their stuff.
This was the scene I was presented with (above) and then spent the next two hours stalking the larger of the two stags and his group of females. I had to work hard and a constantly changing wind direction made life particularly difficult.
The Red Deer of the New Forest are quite transient but are only found in the South Western side of the forest, sadly their population is controlled to stop interbreeding with the introduced Sika Deer found near Beaulieu. I was extremely lucky to get this close to such large wild mammals in the UK but I would like to stress this series of images took over 3 hours to capture, with long periods of stalking required.
If you see any deer in the New Forest, please don't walk straight towards them, instead make sure the wind is in your favour and keep yourself hidden. It is usually best to let the wildlife come to you, be patient and above all just enjoy what you see.
As I am sure many of you are well aware, I am now back at home in the UK ... it all seems pretty surreal to be back in the real world! Not to fear, I hope to be travelling again soon and taking plenty of exciting images for you all.
Whilst I have been looking for work, I have of course been out and about with the camera. I thought I would head out and see any of the locals, who are they I hear you ask? No more wombats, kangaroos or even a Platypus, not in this neck of the woods anyway! Nothing too exciting you might think, well if you like deer then it is exciting enough. Roe Deer are always close by to my Hampshire home and so I went to one of my favourite spots to see if I could find any of my old subjects.
I didn't manage any shots of my trusty local doe but I did find a handsome young male ...
Sadly, the weather hasn't been overly cooperative since my return. In fact, it has been pretty terrible and it really hasn't given me the opportunity to make the most of the longer evenings.
In the last week I have changed my subject choice slightly, I am still photographing deer but I have to travel slightly further afield to the New Forest and Petworth Park. The Fallow Deer is actually an introduced species to the UK, thought to have been brought over from mainland Europe by the Normans. I personally think they are a welcome addition, a beautiful and rather majestic deer that loves the woodland habitats across the New Forest and elsewhere in the UK.
The image above is the only one taken in Petworth Park, sadly due to the area being popular with dog walkers the deer are constantly disturbed and rarely left in peace. I decided that I didn't want to add any further stress upon the large deer population and I haven't returned since.
All of the following images are taken of wild Fallow Deer which are in know way tame or habituated to people. I have spent around 16 hours collecting this mini-portfolio and I am looking to spend more time photographing the rut later in the year.
It is incredibly hard to get close to these amazing creatures, I have to be constantly paying attention to the wind direction, always ensuring that my scent is being blown away from the deer. As well as this I have to be aware of my silhouette, if you walk through the forest the deer will simply run, you must make sure that you move slowly and keep a low profile at all times. With a bit of luck, practice, behavioural knowledge and a lot of patience you can also get some lovely portraits.
Finally, here is my favourite image so far, I just love the composition as it shows the animal in its proper habitat, I even like the fact it is being pestered by a buzz of flies ...
I will be continuing to build a portfolio of images of both Fallow and Roe Deer over the coming months so keep an eye on the blog for any developments.
Now I know that the Brown Rat is not everyone's favourite animal but personally I think they have a bit of a bad reputation. Yes I realise they can carry disease and the last thing you want is a rat in your home but outside I think these rodents are characterful and extremely intelligent.
Recently, I have been photographing a family of Brown Rats and I have been mesmerised by their cheeky nature and their adaptability. They are opportunistic and make the most of any situation that goes their way and for that I admire them.
Anyway I hope the following images don't make you cringe but instead give a you a greater appreciation for this very successful little mammal.
The images above feature a youngster that was particularly brave and not particularly afraid of me. The rest of the images in this gallery feature the rat I believe is the mother ...
As you can see I got pretty close and they were really rather relaxed. I am now tempted to actually do a project on these fascinating rodents. So, stay tuned and see if I carry on following this unusual photographic subject.
The female Roe Deer that has been around over the last few weeks was definitely pregnant ... and you can see the images below as to how I know. It seems she is much more alert now then she was and I am wary about getting too close and spooking her. I would love to carry on photographing her and her fawn(s) over the summer, let's hope she sticks around allows me to her share her summer life.
I have also had a few rabbits around as I always do but they are never easy to photograph being particularly skittish.
So you can see that she had quite an impressive belly and that has certainly disappeared now. She looks sleek and actually much more healthy, she has shed her winter coat and now looks fine in her shorter summer coat.
The Rabbits are always close by and if you sit still for long enough, you are usually within twenty yards or so of a cute individual.
I will keep trying to photograph the Roe Deer for the next few months but for the moment she is proving to be rather elusive.
For the last few weeks there has been a lot of deer activity around my house and in particular the field behind my house has been a hub of activity. In fact, I have been trying to photograph the deer for a few weeks but haven't had much luck.
This unlucky streak really proved itself when one afternoon I crept up on a group of three different Roe Deer and I was all set up to get some great images. I had been laying in wait for around an hour, the deer were resting on the ground and I was anticipating that they would kick into activity as dusk approached. However it really wasn't to be as suddenly the three deer came leaping by me and I knew that was that! To my surprise I turned to see two men standing, around ten yards away, and when they spotted me they screamed for me to put up my hands. They were two armed response officers pointing their pistols at me as someone had called 999 reporting an armed man in the middle of a field. After discussing with Hampshire's finest Police Officers that I was merely photographing some deer, they let me return the 100 yards home.
Anyway after a bit of persistence and some very good sneaking around the same field I have finally managed to get some shots which I am pretty happy with. I got absolutely soaked and it really wasn't a warm day but it was worth every moment. I was only around 10 yards away from this Roe buck and he was completely at ease with me, in fact as I type this he is still feeding behind my house.
Enjoy the pictures!
So, first off I have to say sorry for being off the radar for the last few months. I have had a completely manic few months but could have a few really exciting things lined up for the future and particularly regarding my photography. Also the weather for 2 months or so was absolutely diabolical with a lot of flooding and real lack of photographic opportunities.
So where do I even begin ... well first off I got an image in to the final round of Wildlife Photographer of the Year! Sounds great, and it was but a complete nightmare followed ... I ended up having a catastrophic hard drive failure and that one image alone was one of about 50 images that were not back up. I know it is completely my fault and it is definitely a lesson learnt.
Now I know exactly what I need to do for next year and I can't wait to get cracking on some projects.
Anyway here is a random selection of images from the last few months when I have been able to go out with the camera.
So after a busy evening already photographing the Fox cubs, the Roe Deer that turned up at the Fox den decided to hang around for a wee while and I photographed it for a few minutes before it moved off. I decided to head up the hill towards the local footpath and then back home. When I got to the top of the hill I noticed a young Roe Buck as well as a Doe. The wind was in my favour and I was able to get incredibly close, which of course meant I managed to get some images.
I spent around 10 minutes getting closer and closer until the wind changed and the Doe got spooked, moments later the Buck moved off too.
So a really productive evening again, Ropley is really providing the goods right now.