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Singing the Blues

Much of my photography involves long-term projects targeting a particular species, and in some cases even a specific image. Although this is rewarding, especially when you get the shot you were hoping for, it can be very insular, narrowing the field of view so that peripheral opportunities are not seen. Days and often weeks are devoted to the pursuit of a perfect moment, and a whole season can yield just a handful of pictures.

This is a lesson that I have learned over a five year period working with the Roe deer that inhabit a local woodland, trying to capture these wary animals in flowering Bluebells; a project that has totally consumed several springs. Spring is one of the best times of year for the wildlife photographer and, although I have made some lovely images, my portfolio has suffered for my obsession with the Roe.

One regrettable day, a few years ago, really stands out. I had been waiting at a woodland edge next to arable farmland when I realised that the field beside me was full of brown hares, running around and stopping occasionally to feed. The hares were so preoccupied with each other that I could have easily moved close enough to photograph them, but I chose not to, such was my focus towards the deer.

Last year I decided to take a more organic approach so that I could be receptive to sudden opportunities, I would still be targeting the deer but not in such a single-minded way. Along with the change in attitude came a new location, a little woodland, closer to home, with a small population of deer and a nice carpet of Bluebells.

I visited the site regularly throughout winter and early spring with good sightings of both bucks and does, but it was now early May and the deer had become as unpredictable as the weather. The one constant, apart from the blue flowers that surround me, is a little Wren singing in defiance to a distant rival. His favourite perch is a prominent piece of dead bracken, not far from where I’m hidden, in a very dense and vivid area of Bluebells.

This territorial singing seems to be part of the birds busy routine, it flies away to forage for several minutes before returning with another burst of song. With no sign of the deer, I decide to react to this more realistic opportunity. Waiting for the Wren to leave and then slowly moving into a position where I can frame the bracken against the blooming flowers.

I conceal myself and my gear using a camouflaged scrim net and then make adjustments to both exposure and white balance before repositioning a single focal point to precompose the scene. I sit and wait hoping that my presence has not unsettled the bird, but it soon returns, giving me a lovely and very successful series of images.


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