Thursday, March 03, 2016

Upland Ramblings

The winter before last I started photographing Mountain Hares in the Peak District. Last winter was basically non-starter for them as terrible weather seemed to coincide with my free time and I only managed one unsuccessful visit.
So I was looking forward to this winter. However, as you will have realised from the last few posts the weather this winter as been dire down at sea level so you can guarantee it will be doubly grim where the hares live at around 600m. So as every weekend approached I would check the Mountain Weather Information Service for the wind speed and also the level of the cloud base. Up until the New Year the weather has been a no go. Then finally on New's Years day the weather looked favourable and while most were sleeping off the excesses of the night before I found myself in the early morning heading to the hills. Since then I have managed another two visits.

The first visit and with all the preceding rain proved very soggy underfoot on the upland peat deposits and by the time I had finished crawling around, which is inevitable when photographing these shy animals, I resembled something emerging from the proverbial black lagoon. At first I thought something was wrong as the places where I expected find hares were all empty. Had their been a population crash?  It took 2 hours searching before my first encounter. With the stiff cold wind the hares had decided to sensibly take shelter on the other side of the hill! In the end  I managed to put a couple of hares in front of the camera. I had forgotten what hard work is involved with photographing these beautiful animals. Every photo ending up on the camera typically involves large amounts of trekking across the hills, subsequently followed by a long crawl to get in close to them. Every image is a hard won.
The second trip was fairly unproductive for me and for the first time I took my friend Steve to show him where to find the hares. Steve did well on his first trip and was pleased with his results. It was just one of those days for me where the hares were sitting in the wrong place when I came across them. In fact I only kept one photo of this back-lit hare which for a change I decided to give the selective de-saturation treatment when processing to just leave that amber colour of the eye.

The third session was last weekend and needed an early start to get up to the hares for first light with the rapidly increasing day length. The ground was frozen and the wind light which meant making a quiet approach was going to present some challenges. It was interesting to note during this visit a change in the hares behaviour, as the spring hormone rush had obviously started to kick in. Many of the hares I encountered, instead of sitting in eroded peat gullies were sitting up on vantage points presumably scanning the area for other hares. Of course, this made the already difficult task of approaching these timid animals even more challenging.
I spotted a few chasing each other and also noted the hares tended to be more in small groups of up to half a dozen in one small area. Again this made the approach more difficult with several pairs of eyes and ears scanning for unwelcome movements and sound. However, I still managed to get a few hares in front of the camera.

This session was hard work involving lots of slow crawling to try and get in a good photography position on the hares. I was certainly feeling some aching muscles for a couples of days afterwards. Overall, it was another enjoyable sessions which produced a few more images for the slowly expanding library.


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