As those of you that follow my work regularly will know I spend my summers photographing a number of different species, but one I always return to is the roe deer. This species of deer (native to the UK) are particularly elusive, but are surely the most beautiful of species found here in the UK. I have spent many years perfecting my stalking and am very proud of the images I have been able to capture in the past.
This year I really feel that my work with the deer as at another level and I am really pleased with the results. The only downside is that after an incident I have been unable to run any workshops – my sincerest apologies to those that wanted to join me this year.
Anyway, I will now just let the images do the talking – I hope you enjoy them …
I hope you enjoyed looking through the above, I just wish I hadn't been driven away from the site for a period of time. Hopefully in 2020 I can offer the opportunity to come out with me once again.
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.
Today we awoke to some truly stunning scenery to the East and a shroud of mist to the West, the next land stop ... Greenland. We were working our way North to the High Arctic and aiming to visit a Little Auk colony (something I have always wanted to do). These little birds are superbly charismatic and fly in flocks of a few hundred to a few thousand, the colony easily numbered over 50,000 and it was absolutely breathtaking.
We arrived on shore, after another short Zodiac transfer, before arriving to the superb guides who were already checking out for Polar Bears. We were greeted by a pair of Arctic Skuas before the numbers of the group grew too big and eventually they flew off to the refuge of the rocky cliffs. We then slowly made away across the rocky scree slope towards the little Auks and the next couple of hours went so so quickly. I could have stayed all day long and photographed these wonderful birds but before I was even settled it was time to head back to the ship. Having packed some of the camera gear away I looked at my watch and realised a couple of hours had passed, it seemed like not time at all.
This afternoon there was to be no landing, instead we were to go on a Zodiac cruise from the Ortelius towards a glacier edge. As we boarded the Zodiacs the sun came out, the mist started to clear and we were soon surrounded by an intense blue with the white snowfields and snow-capped mountains.
As we started to make our way down this beautiful Arctic fjord we spotted a distant rock moving, as rocks obviously don't move we knew that we must have a seal ... we certainly did, our first Harbour Seal (Common Seal). We daren't approach too closely in case we scared it off so we made sure we left it alone after capturing a few record shorts. The ice in the fjord, which had broken off from the glacier, littered the water and the Zodiac was forced to weave in and out to avoid the larger pieces.
We then came across a posing Black Guillemot silhouetted upon the top of small piece of ice as well as a swimming and rather wary of us. The landscapes were just absolutely stunning and I really hope some of the images do it at least a little justice. We also came across an individual Arctic Tern sunning itself in the warm afternoon sun.
The Arctic, at this time of year, has 24 hours worth of daylight and that means the wildlife watching doesn't stop after dinner, in fact sometimes the best sightings are when you are getting ready for bed. This was just the first half of our day with plenty more to come ...
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.
After a lovely warm weekend I decided I had to make the most of the warm light on offer, as the sun started to set I headed out with my camera. I planned to go for a short walk and see what was about more than anything but I was in for quite an evening.
I set off across the seemingly endless, rolling crop fields, the wheat and the barley gently swaying in the breeze. The golden light creating the long shadows of a summer's evening and Yellowhammers singing from each and every part of the hedgerow. The odd Skylark singing its delightful song overhead and Swallows skimming across the crops as I made my way towards the hill top and the woods that lay upon it. It was there I startled a Roe Deer with an accidental snap of a twig beneath my boot, a big Buck that went bounding off into the distance. I moved down to the field boundary to then notice some movement upon a hay bale, to my amazment there were three Fox cubs, no more than 10 yards away! They weren't afraid of me as such but they did slink off.
So then I did my best to find them again, after nearly half an hour I thought that the opportunity had passed, and perhaps it was time to head back home. Then I saw that tell tale red coat and there they were, three Red Fox cubs (all nearly fully grown) all sat in a line.
So having been spoilt rotten with the foxes, even if it was at a bit of a distance, I then got an opportunity to photograph Roe Deer as two came down the field boundary straight towards me. But for now I will just leave you with one of the more simplistic shots as she munched on her preferred vegetation. Part 2 to this blog post will be up soon ...
On Saturday I was round a friend's house, they have a small pond and it was swarming with Damselflies. As I happened to have my macro lens with me I decided to get some shots.
Firstly my attempts were in vain and I really struggled to get close enough to get any images at all. Any slight movement I made the resting Damselflies took off and found a new perch. The ones that were not perched were flying at high speed after their prey, small insects that were also flying around the pond.
I eventually worked out that if I stayed relatively still, as is often the way then the Damselflies would land by me, with small movements I did my very best to get the shots set up as I wanted.
Below are the shots that came out best.
Two sets of images for you this week. To start with the Barn Owl was out hunting again, over the water meadows at work. It is an amazing sight but slightly worrying seeing it out in the daylight again. On the Sunday I went round to see a friend and with the camera on standby I went to see whether I would have any luck photographing some Fox Cubs. Luckily for me one of the little devils was cooperative and rather inquisitive.
A lovely set of sightings for one weekend and I hope you like the photos ...
Back at the start of the summer, some of you might remember that I was lucky enoguh to have a Water Vole living right outside the office front door. After a summer of heavy rain, plenty of food and lots of waterways to explore this Water Vole disappeared. There was the odd occasion where one of my colleagues would hear the tell tale "plop" as it ducked underwater.
Now, much to my delight, it seems to be back in the mill stream enjoying the vegetation and perhaps even the small amount of shelter and warmth the old mill provides. So over a 20 minute spell I went out with my camera and got rather close, in fact at one point it was probably only 2 feet away from ... well my foot! I hope you like looking through the portraits.
The first image, below, was the furthest the Water Vole was away from me throughout the session. All of the images were shot at an Aperture of f/2.8 or f/3.5 which helps the vole stand out a little better from the vegetation. Ideally I would have loved to have been in the water to get the lowest angle possible, this might have to wait for another day.
I lost sight of the vole at one point as he went off under the mill, I assumed he was going to disappear so I moved to the edge of the mill stream only to realise he was actually coming round and ended up only a couple of feet away. I was absolutely amazed, the vole knew I was there and I made my movements very deliberate so as not to scare it off. I slowly moved backwards as I didn't want to be too close and once I got a couple of metres away I tried to get a couple of images. The image below was my favourite from the mini series of images.
The image below was by far my favourite of the short session. The Water Vole had been moving to and fro feeding on the surrounding vegetation and was repeatedly returning to this spot to nibble its salad. The light improved and the little fellow turned to look at me, perhaps wondering what the noise of the camera shutter was. I love the colour, the composition and of course the cute factor of this little chap!
A really wonderful way to spend 20 minutes on a cold morning. Winter is definitely coming, the nights are getting longer and longer and the cold is starting to bite. It makes you appreciate the slightest bit of decent weather and when you get an opportunity to photograph something as lovely as this small mammal, then you really have to make the most of it.
Over the summer a pair of Pied Wagtails used the out-buildings around the Naturetrek office to bring up a brood of chicks. I can't be sure how successful they were as I couldn't get close to the nest without disturbing them. It does seem that the chicks fledged successfully though.
Now that autumn is turning into winter I haven't seen the birds all that often, but when the weather is nice and the sun is shining we often see a pair of birds hopping across the rooftops. Last week we had one such day, so I thought I would make the most of it and head out into the courtyard for a spot of lunchtime photography.
The light could not have been better, the sun was relatively low in the sky and lighting up the birds perfectly. The challenge was trying to focus on such fast little birds that are quite unpredictable. After 10-20 minutes (most of my lunch break) I started to have some success and they were seemingly un-deterred by my presence. I think my colleagues thought I might have been a bit loopy as I stood on top of the wall in the car park, trying to get a higher point of view.
For me the photo below was one of my favourites from the half an hour or so I spent photographing them. The light is great as I mentioned before and the bird is in such an interesting pose. It was actually watching a fly as it buzzed slowly by, only moments later the Wagtail flew off and intercepted the lethargic insect, quickly devouring it and searching for its next snack. The other thing that makes this picture stand out for me is the lovely colour and texture of the corrugated iron roof, it really adds to the composition.
Now the image below is what I tried to get from the outset, some fast paced Pied Wagtail action, the issue was it was so high paced I could hardly keep up. If you blinked you missed the bird take off altogether, then it was a quick spin around to try and spot the bird, only then realising it was back at the same spot it left moments earlier. Now with a 1D series camera my success rate might have been a little higher but I noticed significant improvement as time went on. After only half an hour I really started to be able to judge the timing for take off and managed to get some striking results. Landing on the other hand was a completely different matter (0% success rate :D).
More of a portrait for the image below, nothing particularly special other than a posing bird lit beautifully in the afternoon sun.
The image below is definitely my favourite image from the half an hour session, as I said earlier I started to learn when the birds were readying themselves for take off and that led to this shot. It was great timing, fantastic light and the wider format really makes the bird pop out! I have to say I was dead chuffed when I saw I had captured this incredibly quick moment.
For me this demonstrates exactly why you should have your camera with you at all times. I only got half an hour to go out with my camera and I probably got 10-15 shots that I was really happy with. That is probably better than when I go away to Africa. The fantastic autumnal light made it possible but it was a great half an hour with a species I had never even thought to photograph before.
Sorry for the delay in updating my blog, it has been a bit mad the last couple of months. I have been busy at work and the weather has been, well, awful! I have hardly been out with my camera since the spring, everytime I seem to get some free time and make plans to head out the weather quickly deteriorates.
Back at the end of August a friend of mine, Zane Engelbrecht (another wildlife photographer) invited me down to his local patch in Dorset to photograph Otters. Of course I could not refuse this opportunity, although it did mean an early morning start of 3.45 am.
The Otter had been struggling in the UK up until recently, the rivers were polluted and being at the top of the food chain did them no favours. The population crashed and it has only been recently that Otters have, once again, been recorded in every county in the UK - thank goodness! I have spent many hours sitting on river banks waiting for the briefest of sightings and never had much luck.
However the Otters outside the town of Blandford have become particularly comfortable around people and they are also extremely active throughout the day.
As the sun rose we set off in search of our charismatic subjects, and after nearly an hour walking up and down the river bank I spotted some movement on the river bend ahead. At last we found the family and I was astounded at just how close we got. There were moments when they were so close I could not focus on them, in fact the mother climbed up the river bank and had a good look at me before sliding back down into the water.
It was hard to keep following an individual, the stream of bubbles were the only clue as to where they were underwater. However, when they teamed up it was nearly impossible to follow one. They seemed to be eating shellfish which they were collecting from the river bed, and then working them around in their mouth, eventually crushing them open.
Occasionally the Otters would appear in a patch of the river that was lit in the beautiful golden light. It was definitely a perfect morning but I really struggled to get the Auto Focus to lock on. I am not sure whether it was my poor technique (I have never photographed Otter before) or whether it was my camera acting up again but a week later I sent the camera in for another attempt at sorting out a whole host of AF issues.
It really was a magical morning, the light was surreal and the surrounding landscape created an idyllic scene. I was pretty tired by the time I got home but I was on such a high, to get so close to one of the most elusive creatures in the UK was an unforgettable moment for me. It is certainly one of those stand out moments in life when you think to yourself, did that really happen? And luckily for me it did happen and I can't wait to head down there again and make a day of it.
I have a few plans and I am going to try a more subtle approach next time, I now know a couple of scenting positions, where I think I might be able to pull off some wonderful shots. Considering I thought of this as more of a recce I couldn't be happier with the results of the day.