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Deer Silhouettes

Silhouettes can be great fun to play with, and fortunately for me, one of my favourite subjects; deer, are instantly recognisable from their outline alone.

silhouette of a Red Deer at Dusk
Red Deer at Dusk

One of the key threads in my photography is simplifying visuals. I can't stand clutter, and I don't like busy images or distracting backgrounds. In fact even when it comes to the subject, I'll often only show the minimum detail required - leaving the rest out of shot, or fading into a black/white background.

The photo above, was taken a few minutes after sunset, facing the opposite direction to the amber cloud of sunset. Here you see a sky which is more in the purple-blue spectrum.

I do like blue light in silhouettes. Here, a relatively dull afternoon light can be harnessed to spotlight the subject, amongst the woodland edge.

silhouette of a red deer walking through trees
Red Deer Walking Silhouette

Shortly before the sun sets, there's a brief window for this kind of shot.

Red deer bellowing at sunset, as the sun reaches the horizon behind.
Sunset Bellow

For my eye, it's too cluttered, and the horizon is too high. It's a frustrating nearly-shot, for me.

I spent several evenings following the deer last autumn. We were very fortunate with the number of clear days we had, but on very few occasions did the deer actually play ball and stand where I wanted them to. I can't tell you how frustrating it is when you have an idea in mind, the weather plays it's part, and the deer simply won't pose how I want them to. Night after night. It's maddening!

Below, is another 'nearly' shot. I spent the best part of 20 minutes watching the sun fall out of shot, as this deer refused to give me a better angle. Sometimes they seem to plant their feet, and won't move them, out of pure spite.

Red deer silhouette, with the orange sun setting behind
Sunset Silhouette

He would move his head, and bellow in each direction, but looking away from the sun doesn't work as a photo. He has to be facing the sun. If I move to the left, to get a better angle on this legs and body, his antlers overlap with the foliage of the tree, and the whole shot is lost. It's not like me to want to chop a tree down, but between you and me, I might have nailed this shot if I'd have had a chainsaw on a stick.

The same evening, after the sun had set, suddenly it was a free-for-all, and several stags started bellowing on the horizon. Compared to the previous two shots, the light is much more subtle here, creating pastel colours, with less intensity. I find that more relaxing, and it's easy to shoot too, even if I had to lay in dry deer poo to get low enough.

Red Deer Calling during the rutting season
Red Deer Calling

I don't like the protruding branch in the top-left here. For me, it pulls way too much attention from the subject. But it does help frame the deer, and it adds context to the image.

From The Portfolio

Well I've successfully criticised each of the silhouettes I've shared so far. But I have some older photos that demonstrate the style better.

On a misty morning, shooting towards the sun is a great way to create silhouettes - and soft light - if you exclude the sun from the photo.

Here, the sun is a little higher, the contrast is a little higher, but again, by shooting in the direction of the light, the deer is reduced to silhouette, for an appealing, simplified visual.

This is about as pastel as it gets. I've always liked the tidiness and symmetry of the deer's antlers in this one. We get this angle, in part, due to the way red deer tip their head's back to bellow during the rut.

Lastly, the simplest of all of them, and my favourite. I like the cool blue of a post-sunset sky, and the vast emptiness of the scene, which isn't easy to find around here.




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Red Deer Roaring, photographed in black and white


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