Winter wonderland

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By mid December a hoar frost had taken hold of my local site where I photograph the roe deer. The landscape was transformed into a winter wonderland, with the meadow and fields a blanket of white.

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I love photographing in extreme weather conditions. Winter is my favourite season of the year.

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My most magical encounters with the deer are those very much on their own terms, Just before the turn of the year I had a very special encounter with this doe as she walked an ancient path through the frosty field just after sunrise to where she was in the habit of lying up for the day. I positioned myself so that I was contre jour so that the light from the sun rising above the tree line behind highlighted her breath. It was magical.

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The 31st of January saw the Super blue blood moon when the second full moon of the month passed through the Earth’s shadow. I took myself up to Devil’s Dyke to try to capture this rare astrological event. The moon is clearest and highest at this time of year and it was a beautiful to witness.

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I tend to avoid photographing the deer around a full moon, as, if the conditions are clear, the deer tend to feed more at night. No one seemed to have told that to my local deer though.

A lot of my photography through the season was focused around the meadows where they congregate in groups.

The bucks look particularly pretty in velvet as they grow a new set of antlers.

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By mid winter the landscape is all bones,  with just little tufts of  the last leaves produced for the year clinging to the end of branches, determined to have their time.

For a lot of the year Roes bucks lead a solitary lifestyle. The does lead a separate life looking after their fawns. With food resources increasingly scarce, the deer group together in to much bigger lose groups in order to share resources. It’s another fascinating aspect of the natural history of this beautiful and beguiling species.

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The mature Roe buck in the image below had a particularly beautiful set of antlers. Older bucks tend to be more cautious and come out later though. The image below was taken at 1/6 sec and manually focused. I used mirror lock up. It’s full frame and by some miracle is extremely sharp.  Good camera technique and fantastic camera technology combining to achieve the image. I always try to achieve the desired composition in camera preferably and to shoot full frame. I’m a bit of a purest in that sense.

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Snow drops start to appear at this time of year. Natural symbols of hope and purity they point to the lengthening of the days and the coming spring.

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Back at my local site, it was proving harder to photograph the deer as they tended to lie up for longer periods to conserve their energy. I was still able to achieve some nice images though.

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At this time of year, Hazel tree catkins start to appear. They are the tree’s male sex organs and disperse pollen while the tree is bare and there are no leaves to hinder it.

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_K7R5825 Winter for me was a time also to scout new sites. I was very fortunate to be offered help by a couple of amazing, incredibly knowledgable deer men. The shots below were taken on a private estate in Oxfordshire.

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Winter is a great time of year to photograph subjects backlit, mammals in particular, with the sun low in the sky and the light softer, creating a beautiful effect.

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Back on my local patch the buzzards were calling, performing their courtship ritual. Spending time out in the wild as the seasons turn really does make you feel closer to nature. It’s a real tonic for the soul and great for mind, body and spirit.

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This is my favourite local buck again just getting up for a quick stretch at a favoured couch site where he likes to lay up.

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And stretch….!

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As the seasons progress, the bucks start coming out of velvet with the younger bucks losing their velvet first.

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The next series of shots were taken at another new site, on private land with the permission and help of the land owner, this time in the East of England. It’s an amazing site with 11 deer grouped up in one field. All perfectly relaxed.

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_K7R6819 _K7R6825 _K7R6834 _K7R6846 _K7R6859 _K7R6914I would like to take the opportunity to thank Pete and Kim who gave me permissions for the two new sites featured in this blog. I really appreciate your kindness, time and generosity.

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When I started this project in 2013, the one thing I was hoping for was to photograph Roe deer in snow. With winters being increasingly mild in recent years  though this has become more and more of a distant dream. I am a greater believer in holding onto your dreams and never, never giving up. To photograph wildlife you need a lot of patience and just that little bit of luck. February and March are good months for snow meteorologically and my luck was about to change. More about that though in my next blog….

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