Thursday, October 16, 2014

Autumn Reds

As autumn descends and fades the foliage to golden and amber hues, my thoughts often turn to deer. This is the time when the stags are looking their best and busy rutting with other males in order to exert their dominance and win and hold onto a harem of females for mating. This wildlife spectacle at times can be very impressive as the large stags, often caked in mud and virtually dripping with testosterone, majestically strut around. The air is filled with palpable tension and the primeval sounding roars of the stags announcing their presence. A great deal of posturing goes on but occasionally it breaks down and into an antler clashing and potentially life threatening battle of strength. This amazing deer ritual is easy for anyone to watch across the numerous herds of deer around the park-lands of the UK.
Of course as with all wildlife photography timing is a big factor to success and ideally a visit during the peak of the rut can produce some memorable images. At this time of year many photographers head to the well known parks such as Bushy, Richmond and Bradgate. However, I prefer somewhere closer to home, where the landscape is less flat and more interesting and the deer a good deal less approachable. My preference is for an ancient parkland area on the edge of the Peak District, Lyme Park. The deer here make you work hard for your images, there is no strolling up to them with a short lens at this site, and every photograph that ends up on you memory card is often the result of considerable physical effort. However, that makes it all the more memorable and rewarding experience. Now don't get me wrong I am not saying Lyme Park  is anything like the difficulty of stalking deer in the Highlands but it does present a good photography challenge.
So back at the end of September with the promise of some clear skies at the end of the day, I decided to make a mid-afternoon and into the evening visit with my friend Steve to see where the rut process had reached. It quickly became obvious we were a couple of weeks too early. The deer were in a few large groups that often included several stags, a sign that the rut had yet to get fully underway by the fact they were tolerating each other's presence. It would be a very different story once the rut had started.

There was the odd sign the stags were starting to gear up to this annual event with the occasional guttural roar  penetrating the still air.  The deer were typically very skittish and approach was as difficult as when I last visited. By the end of the session I physically felt like I had been on a trip to photograph Mountain Hare.

We managed to get a few photographs during the late afternoon. The deer remaining in tight herds made our task more tricky as it was difficult to single out individuals to photograph.

It was really during the last 30 to 40 minutes of the session that all started to come together for us and we ended up taking the majority of our photographs during this period. As the sun dropped away it created a gorgeous soft golden light that really lit up the golden tones of the long grasses.
As the light dropped further and became increasing more red which really enhanced the colour of the deer.
We finished off the session trying to get a couple of silhouettes and against a wonderful coloured sky.

A difficult but in the end a rewarding session and shows the importance of persevering until the light is no more. Hopefully I will get opportunity to return again this autumn when the rut is in full swing.


Jonny Langmyren said...

This was a nice series. really nice pictures.

Esben Reiersen said...

This was a very good series of this magnificent animal. Very good sharpness, light and view. I really liked nr. 4. Two proud stags.

Lasse said...

Very good series. Nice colours and poses.


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