Out of the Blue

One of my favourite recent projects has been working with the Roe deer at a local woodland. It all started on a fine spring morning, a few years ago, while I was photographing bluebells in a clearing between the trees. Something caught my eye and a beautiful female deer moved silently into the carpet of flowers; she paused briefly and then faded away.

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I remember it as a lucky encounter rather than a missed opportunity, but I had witnessed a special moment, and trying to capture it became a bit of an obsession.

The best projects are the ones where you have a specific image in mind and must work to achieve it. I had two fruitless springs with only rare and distant sightings of the deer and nothing to show for my early starts and long days. The bluebells only display for a few weeks from late April into May, when the bracken pushes through and takes the light.

I visited whenever I could and walked many miles tracking the deer and their preferred routes through the dense woodland. My efforts weren’t totally in vain as I now had a better understanding of my subject and its habitat. It was early May, in the third year, when I finally got my chance.

Bambi in Bluebells.jpg

Arriving before sunrise in full camouflage and waiting for hours with only the midges and mosquitoes as company. I hear two deer barking and then a young doe emerges from the distant trees and slowly walks into the bluebells, I line a single focal point between her eyes and fire one shot, then she is gone.

Out of the Blue.jpg

I return to the woods each April with new hopes and ideas. As my knowledge of the deer improves, so do the opportunities. I have longer, more intimate encounters which have produced some very special images.

Nutty about Nuthatches

I have been a keen birder since childhood and this has increased through my life as a wildlife photographer. I am particularly drawn to some species, the Little Owl and Bullfinch, the Sanderling and Dipper; but my absolute favourite is the Nuthatch.

These are beautifully painted birds, steel blue and orange with a black eye stripe that fits perfectly with their bold character. 

Nuthatch are superb tree climbers and can move up, down and around the trunk and branches; typically they land above where they want to be and then spiral down head first. At bird feeders they dominate and will even wait patiently while the food is replenished, this habit just adds to their charm.

The Nuthatch has a very pretty and distinctive call but during my time with them I have noticed a number of other more subtle sounds, particularly when several birds are together. This is part of what I love about wildlife photography, learning those little character traits that can improve your chances of capturing the perfect moment.

I have spent many hours observing and photographing these lovely birds but still feel there is more to learn and better images to be made. This is how it is with some subjects, as your photographs improve your expectations grow and you have to keep going. Perhaps the shot I want will always elude me but at least I’ll get to spend more time with the Nuthatches.

Green shoots and Brown Hares

I always look forward to the arrival of spring as winter loosens its grip and the land awakens. My thoughts turn to arable fields and March madness; lying amongst the green shoots of winter wheat as the lark sings overhead and brown hares begin their courtship. Even well into March there can be more than just a touch of frost. Here a lone hare is highlighted by the rising sun on a crisp spring morning; the poor thing even has frosty whiskers!

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I’m fortunate in that I have access to several local farms with healthy hare populations. By visiting regularly, with and without the camera, I can develop an understanding of where the animals rest and the corridors they use between resting places. The shot below was captured at very close range as this handsome hare bathed in the light from the setting sun. I had observed a group of hares gathering in this area over several evenings and this knowledge allowed me to be in position, under camouflage, before they arrived.

These characterful creatures really do behave a bit bonkers at this time of year, but that doesn’t necessarily make them less cautious or easy to photograph. They will lie for hours in shallow depressions called forms, and are barely noticeable even in spring when the crop is low. Any approach, besides crawling, will result in the hare making a speedy retreat; along with any others lying nearby!

 

A typical view of a ‘Mad March Hare’ as it races across wet farmland.

Autumn Days

Autumn is a special season for the wildlife photographer as nature prepares for the onset of winter. Mammals are busy harvesting nuts and seeds, tits and finches return to garden feeders and thrushes fight over ripe berries in colourful trees.

Autumn brings low, slanting light as the position of the sun in the sky changes. This light is warmer and subtler than the harsh summer sun making it more practical for photo making. There is also more light available to the photographer as leaves fall from deciduous trees.

The fall carpets the ground with a bed of golden leaves as hedgehogs prepare for the big sleep. Little rodents scurry about as they scavenge for scraps of food, still cautious, but shy creatures become bolder and more approachable as winter draws near.

One of my favourite places to visit is York Cemetery which is a real haven for wildlife. As I walk among the gravestones a robin sings a wistful song and is a constant companion; especially when there is a treat on offer! Grey squirrels are more wary than usual but make nice subjects as they forage for nuts in the fallen leaves.

© Simon Roy Photography 2015