Yes, it was another bumper crop of deer photography this year, so this is the second half of the photos from this autumn. Part 1 featured foggy mornings and green foliage. Part 2 contains photos primarily taken in the latter half the of the rutting season, as the sun rises later, and the colour palette becomes much more golden.
It's great to be up and about on a cold autumn morning, and seeing these big old stags parading around and bellowing as the sun comes up.
I'm not really happy with the defined line of dark trees running across the photo above. It immediately signals that this is a man-made environment, and it's unhelpful aesthetically, too. Maybe I should have led with a stronger image. Well, there are some nice ones to come.
Below, it's the same deer, and I'd angled myself around to use the sun to obscure any sign of that background. That works, but now the whole this is a little washed out, and it's not very easy to see the stag in the end. But I quite like the subtlety of that result.
Black & White
After a colourful start, we're going in the opposite direction, to some black and white portraits. I really like the posture of this stag, and the look he gives. I might add this one to my Deer print gallery.
Sometimes, with a long enough lens, the deer will graze close enough to me for a shot like this. I've tried a few over the years, and they haven't quite worked out. It's easy to end up with an out-of focus head, motion-blurred antlers, or untidy legs But this one's good I think, and his look to camera was perfectly timed; capturing a brief connection. I do wonder what he makes of us.
Here's that sparring match from the previous blog post, but this time in black and white. I think this is probably the best frame of the tussle, where you can see each stag attempting to force the other backwards, while retaining eye contact with each other. They mean business.
Relatively close-up again here. It's hard to describe the sound of a red deer bellow. It's kind of like a cross between a cow moo and a chain-saw ticking over. And this particular stag was down the chainsaw end of the scale; really deep, so you could feel it through the air. For quite a while I kept this one in colour, but I was never happy with the colours in it, and when I converted it to black and white, all that distraction was gone, and we're left with a simpler image - which is usually my target with nature photography.
I like this one too. Sometimes the light is just right for emphasising the highlights of a subject like this. In colour it actually washes out the saturation of those highlights, which diminishes the result. But in black and white it concentrates the attention on those points of detail, and contributes to the result. Again, I'm banging on about simplicity, but I like the lack of any other focal point or distraction - despite the deer not being that large in the frame. And the background is nicely textured, without being distracting; owing to the fact that it's not getting any direct sunlight, unlike the subject. Yes, nice one.
This is another attempt at something similar to above. It's a matter of taste but I think it's slightly less successful. The trees in the background are more distracting, and the light is less focussed. It's a slightly less concise, less tidy image.
Sika & Fallow Deer
As well as red deer, Woburn is home to several other species, including these sika deer, which originate from east Asia. They're smaller than the reds, but quite charismatic in their own way. I like to photograph them when the opportunity arises.
I like the angle on this chap, and the autumn colour in the background.
This fallow deer was the only deer I photographed on this visit for sunset. The sun was setting to the side, and I couldn't get an angle to include both the deer and the sun, so I went for the silhouette against the blue sky once the sun was down and the sky takes on this rich twilight blue. I spent quite some time scrabbling around in the mud, at the cost to what little dignity remains, in order to frame up his antlers without any intersecting twigs, leaves, or branches from the tree above - which would have rendered the whole shot useless. Fortunately, the deer stood almost entirely still for a good 20 minutes, during this process, enabling me to keep working away at those angles. I'm also very conscious about legs in silhouette photos too, as they can often look awkward or three-legged, if there are any overlaps.
Fallow deer are easy to recognise, as they have flat, wide, 'palmate' antlers, a little bit like mini moose antlers. They were introduced to the UK by the Normans, back in the day.
We'll end with a little colour. It was a fantastic autumn for colour this year, on account of our good old friend; the climate crisis. It dealt us a powerful summer heatwave, which crippled parts of the ecosystem, and caused many trees to abandon the season entirely, casting their leaves off early. The earthworms would have been loving all the leaf litter around, but for the fact that the ground was too hard for them to penetrate, and reach their amber prize. So by October we were left with a lot of yellow and orange leaf coverage on the floor, as well as the colourful leaves left on the trees. And if you're lucky with the light, you get that extra splash of gold over everything...
Well, we saw one just like this, in black & white earlier. It was a different frame, but the same deer in the same place. Here I think colour works best. This image is about the colour of the autumn foliage and warm side-light as much as it's about the deer.
I just thought this was an interesting angle, as it's not often a deer will approach me directly. Of course I'm using a long lens (500mm at this point), so he's not as close as you might think. His low head doesn't exactly make for a triumphant posture, but I like the direct approach and the eye contact. Again the bed of fallen leaves makes for a really nice setting.
Oh, now then, this is more like it. One of my favourites from this year, for sure.
The photo above is a classic example of recognising an opportunity as the deer approached from the right, and getting myself in position with a nice supporting background - in case he stops to take a look at me - which they often do. I took two or three frames as he paused for a couple of seconds, and this was my favourite. Front leg slightly raised, reflecting the fleeting moment of pause, and the classic combination of bold-looking posture and cautious hesitation that makes deer such an interesting and relatable species for us. I think there's something innate in our DNA and our evolution that puts us in tune with animals from the deer family, which we've been living alongside for millions of years. Maybe that's why I find them so engaging time after time.
End of Another Year
Can you believe it? This will be my last blog post for 2022. I'm pleased to have managed another year of writing a blog post each calender month, which is the task I set myself each year. And come the spring, I'll have managed that for a full five years straight, which will feel like quite the achievement, given everything else going on in life, and the fact that I'm really more of a picture guy than a writer. So yay me.
And how about you? Hope all is well. If there's a subject, species, location you want to hear more about, let me know in the comments.
I think January's post is going to be appropriately ice-related. Until then, have a great Christmas. If you want any pictures of deer or anything else, you know where I am.