Cuckoo! Practical Photography Magazine feature – Spring Issue

IMG_3770Cuckoo! The Spring issue of Practical Photography Magazine, the world’s most popular camera skills magazine, has sprung.

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Check it out for my 8 page feature on this iconic seasonal herald. Thanks very much to the editorial team at the world’s best camera skills mag for supporting my work.

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Roe deer wildlife photography workshops 2018

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Introduction

I am very pleased to announce a full programme of roe deer wildlife photography workshops for 2018.

The Roe deer is perhaps our prettiest species of deer, making for beautiful images. They are also very shy. For the wildlife photographer this offers a real challenge and sense excitement that comes with photographing in the wild.

Each season presents an opportunity to create beautiful images.

Winter

Now is the perfect time to photograph Roe. The countryside has a bare beauty. The low winter sun and early morning frosts combining for some atmospheric compositions.

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Unlike Red and fallow, roe deer are more solitary in nature. In winter though they tend to group up as food resources start to dwindle. It is lovely to watch the social interaction in these family groups.

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The deep frost takes a hold, transforming the landscape into a perfect winter wonderland.

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With good fieldcraft it is possible to get close to the Roe. My methods are counter intuitive, built on establishing a relationship of trust between photographer and deer. I teach these methods on my workshops so that you clients can try to apply them themselves when the workshop ends.

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One of the things that I love about Roe deer is how their physical appearance changes with the seasons. Their coats taking on a slate grey colour in winter, broken up with beautiful white patches on their necks. The bucks drop their antlers and grow a new set, clad in velvet and looking very handsome.

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I have had an amazing time this winter photographing the roe. It’s a great time to start to get to know their habits and ways also before the activity in the Spring and summer.

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Spring

Spring is a time of renewal. The bluebells start to emerge in the forest and the kids are born.

I have a couple of beautiful locations for images of Roe in bluebells. I am also intending to spend the period from mid may to early June focusing on mothers and babies. I have a couple of private permissions that are ideal for these opportunities.

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Late spring sees the meadows on my local patch carpeted in buttercups which the roe seem to love.

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 Summer

Summer is the season where many photographers tend to focus their efforts. The opportunity to create the iconic shot of a deer raising its head in the middle of a crop of barley or wheat makes for some stunning images.

The next image won a Highly Commended for me in the British Wildlife Photography Awards.

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The next image was taken on a workshop I led a few years ago. The client’s version also won a Highly Commended in the British Wildlife Photography Awards and he was rightly very pleased.

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 There is a lot of great behaviour to capture in the Summer as the bucks tear around chasing the does and rival bucks fight. I’m hoping to focus my efforts this year on documenting this behaviour.

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I always think the bucks look their absolute best in the height of summer and I have identified some cracking bucks for this year that I am just dying to photograph in all their rutting glory.

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The does look stunning also in their beautiful russet summer pelage.

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I’m always working hard to push myself creatively. For me my photography is all about creating images that celebrate the beauty of nature.

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Those who follow my blog will know that after five years of looking I have finally identified a number of reliable locations for photographing what for me is the holy grail of roe deer photography, roe in blooming heather. After much thought I have decided to lead workshops to these locations this summer. The workshops will take place to coincide with the blooming heather and the price reflects the exclusivity of the opportunity.

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The meadows on my local patch are also in full bloom, carpeted in wildflowers, making for some beautiful images.

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Autumn 

Autumn this year was a revelation for me. With the Red and fallow rut in full swing, roe tend to get neglected. For me though it provided an opportunity to create among my favourite roe images. Early morning mist, golden sunlight. The countryside is ravishing, turned into a tapestry of colour.

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By late autumn the first frosts also start to arrive, a prelude to the onset of winter. The seasons always turning in perpetual cycle.

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Urban

Roe are hugely adaptable. As their habitat continues to diminish they are increasingly making their home in urban environments.

I first started photographing Roe deer in cemeteries in 2014. I now have a number of locations where I photograph them with the requisite permission from the local authority.

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Location

Southern counties. I have 11 reliable sites in the southern counties of England including Sussex, Surrey, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset. Location will depend on time of year and images you are looking to create. Due to the sensitivity of the sites I do not provide locations prior to clients booking on and providing payment. I also require signature of a non disclosure agreement. All sites are permissions.

Prices

2018 prices are as follows:

Winter, Spring and Autumn workshops

1 day workshop £150

2 day workshop £290

Early summer workshops (June 15th up to and including 14th July)

1 day workshop £175

2 day workshop £320

Annual Roe rut workshops (15th July to 31st July)

1 day £220

2 days £420

3 days £590

Roe in heather workshops (1st August to 21st August)

2 days £460

3 days £675

Please note: Rut workshop places are strictly limited and very popular. Based on previous years please book early to avoid disappointment

Maximum of two guests per day. Price of workshop includes guiding and tuition (both camera and field craft)•

To reserve your place,  contact me at mail@julescoxphotography.co.uk

• full payment is required in advance, Non refundable.

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Heatherlands

_K7R6174As I set out on my long term project to photograph the natural history of roe deer nearly five years ago I knew I wanted to include some images of roe in flowering purple heather.

Lowland heathland is a rare and threatened habitat occurring on acidic, impoverished, dry sandy or wet peaty soils, and is characterised by the presence of a range of dwarf-shrubs. These include various types of heather and gorse, as well as bilberry/bleberry, cowberry and crowberry. This habitat is also home to a variety of fauna, including roe deer. It’s sharp decline over the last 200 years makes it a priority for nature conservation

Terry, my deer mentor, who I wrote about in my last blog, and I had spent a lot of time trying to find a suitable location in previous years. Heather wasn’t a problem. But a site holding a good population of roe was. In 2013 I had spent most of the summer working at a private site in the heart Wareham Forest with permission kindly provided by the forestry commission with very little to show for it.

In one of the last conversations I had with Terry when he was in hospital I told him I was going to have another go at getting images of roe in heather and share them with him. Terry sadly passed before I was able to make make good on that promise.

In the weeks that followed, as I struggled to come to terms with Terry’s passing I found comfort and solace amongst the wild beauty of the heather lands at a new site I had identified in Dorset which had potential close to where I grew up.

Driven by grief I have probably never worked harder on anything in my life in terms of creative endeavour. I know I walked an average of 10 to 15 miles a day in search of roe deer with heavy camera gear slung across my shoulders. It was tough going with 3am starts to get to the site and late finishes getting home at close to midnight. The Roe rut is like that. I was so determined though to achieve the images I wanted in Terry’s memory it hardly registered.

Putting into practice the wealth of skills and fieldcraft Terry had passed on to me over the years, I was fortunate enough to have a number of wonderful encounters over the next few weeks, involving a variety of different deer from big mature bucks (beasts as Terry used to call them) to little yearlings. The selection of images below represent some of my own personal highlights from the project.

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_K7R6203After weeks of blood sweat and tears though the does eluded me. I was fast running out of time as the heather was starting to go over leaving just a few purple patches in those areas of the heath that received less direct sunlight. I decided to call it a day until next year. On the last night though I thought I would try one last time for a shot of a mature buck I had encountered at the start of the project.

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I set myself up just as Terry had taught me and waited…and waited. Nothing. The light had much gone and I was pretty much ready to call it a day when I saw movement out of my peripheral vision. A beautiful adult female doe, no doubt the dominant female in the territory walking past me through the heather. In that moment I felt Terry’s presence and voice very clearly and knew what to do (and perhaps more importantly what not to do to mess up!).

The next shot is the resulting image and the final one of my summer project. Taken at 1/25 second by some small miracle it is sharp.

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As I walked out of the heath in the pitch dark for the final time, listening to the sounds of the night, I smiled to myself at the thought of my magical encounter and my spirits started to lift a little for the first time in weeks. I knew Terry would have been proud and would always be there with me when I am out with the roe.

This blog is dedicated to Terry, a celebration of a  life well lived, filled with strength, beauty and vibrant colour. Just like his beloved roe standing among the flowering heather.

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Terry Copperthwaite – my mentor and friend remembered

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It is with great sadness that I write this tribute to my roe deer mentor and great friend Terry Copperthwaite who passed away a few weeks ago. All the images appearing in this post were taken with Terry over a number of years.

I first came across Terry five years ago when I was looking for a deer expert to help me with a long term project to document the natural history of Roe deer. Roe are perhaps our most beautiful species of deer in the British Isles. As a prey species though they are naturally shy and therefore difficult to get close to. In approaching the project I knew I would need to learn the specialist fieldcraft required if I was to have any hope of getting close enough to get the images I was hoping for. Terry appeared on a DVD I bought from Sweden about stalking Roe. Terry was introduced as a professional deer stalker, whose territory he managed lying in the beautiful rolling hills of southern England, holding a well kept and balanced population of Roe deer. The film features a variety of encounters with Roebucks during the rut. On each occasion Terry was able to get the Swedish stalkers to within just a few metres of the buck. At the end of the film the programme makers included a credit to Terry which simply read ‘Terry Copperthwaite – thank you for teaching us.’

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I contacted Terry to introduce myself and asked if he could help me with my project, teaching me the fieldcraft skills involved in stalking Roe. I wasn’t expecting a reply to be honest. Hunting is an emotive subject and the stalking community are naturally careful when it comes to unsolicited approaches. I was very surprised therefore when Terry came back to me almost straight away. That was Terry though, he would do anything for anyone.

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Terry said he really liked my work and proposed a deal, he would help me and in return he wanted my help with photographing the deer. Terry had a deep love and passion for Roe deer and whilst he had stalked Roe all his life he confessed that these days he preferred watching and photographing them to shooting. I agreed and so developed the start of a very long and rewarding mentoring relationship and friendship.

I went down to stay with Terry at his based on the outskirts of Salisbury and he would take me out to find deer early morning and late evening on the 24 or so farms he managed across Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset. The Roe rut takes place during high summer so it meant getting up early at 4am and we weren’t back to 11pm. These were halcyon days though. Terry was extremely generous with his knowledge and taught me so much about the natural history of Roe deer. He had also led a very interesting life, characterised typically by bravery and serving others, having previously had a long and highly distinguished career in the Metropolitan police before retiring in 2010 to set up his stalking business. We spent many hours talking and putting the world to rights. As well as being highly knowledgeable about his subject and possessing a huge generosity of spirit Terry also had a very dry sense of humour that suited my own and there was a lot of laughter. My times with Terry over the next few summers are now such treasured memories

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In 2014 Terry and I started leading Roe deer workshops together. To my knowledge we were the only people confident enough to offer specialist Roe deer photography workshops.

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The above image of a Roe doe in a crop of barley was taken with Terry. Called ‘Fields of Gold’ both Terry and I were proud that it won a highly commended in the Habitat category of the British Wildlife Photography Awards a couple of years ago. Those close to Terry will appreciate the way in which the title of the image now resonates.

Terry was more than just a mentor and business partner though, he was a dear friend. He was very caring and I will never forget the times he called me when I have been going through difficult times myself. His support during these periods made all the difference and helped get me through a stronger person. Terry was like that, just inspirational.

I count myself fortunate enough to be able to spend  time with Terry before his passing and got the opportunity to tell him how much he meant to me. I also made Terry a promise that I would finish the Roe deer project and that the resulting book would be for him. It will take me a few more years to ensure it is a fitting tribute but I intend to keep that promise

Terry was a true gentleman, a loyal friend, a superbly knowledgable naturalist and a passionate conservationist. I am going to miss him greatly. My thoughts are very much with Terry’s family at this difficult time. I would like to take the opportunity to thank them for welcoming me so warmly into it. I very much feel like a member of the Copperthwaite clan.

In the weeks since Terry’s passing I have spent a lot of time out in the wild with the Roe, determined to continue with the project. This has been a great comfort in dealing with my own personal grief. I have felt Terry with me, his voice and presence, as I have put into practice the fieldcraft and knowledge he generously passed on to me. I hope it shows in my work which will feature in my next blog, Heatherlands. In the meantime, I wanted to finish with the images below. Going back through my files these are the last two photographs I took with Terry on a workshop with a couple of clients during the Roe rut in 2016. I hope this blog is a fitting tribute to a very special person and role model.

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Terry Copperthwaite, master buck you’ll always be with me in my heart and thoughts – thank you for teaching me. My turn now to pass it on to the next generation.

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