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Waiting for Autumn Part One & Two 10th September 2019

Each year from May to September I don’t really feel that energised to get out to do some photography. The only exception seems to be trying to get out to Peak District in August for the blooming purple heather. Every summer it feels like I’m just waiting for autumn to start. I don’t know what it is but I never feel the months from May to September are a productive season photography wise for me. I don’t know if it’s the very early sunrises or that weather wise it’s not as interesting or atmospheric either as a cold start to an autumn morning or the chance of snowy conditions in winter.

This year, like previous years, feels as if I’ve been waiting for autumn to start. I thought I would take this opportunity to look back at autumn 2018 and what I got up to.

Part One - Red Squirrels at Forest How 2018

September is one of my favourite times to visit Forest How in the Lake District. A mid September visit is a fantastic time as the change from summer to winter is starting. The change towards winter becomes noticeably in the landscape. The lush green colours of summer are starting to turn and the wildlife are busily preparing for winter. Sunrise times are much more manageable too, 0630 is practically a lie in compared to the 0430 in the height of summer or 0530 of spring.

I was out early before breakfast on the first morning which started damp and drizzly. Rain is something of a staple in the Lake District. It’s something you can come to expect when in the Lake District, after all how else do all of those beautiful lakes get there? I’ve come to love rain at Forest How, it just adds that something extra to photos and the Red Squirrels don’t seem to mind rain either. Due to the weather both the camera and I had our wet weather gear on. The problem here is it makes it much more difficult to move around so I decided to set up on the tripod in my favourite location......the stone wall.

Sadly the rain wasn’t really heavy enough to get long rain streaks but its always fun trying and worth getting a little wet for.

Knowing many of the images I’ve taken over the years are close ups with long lenses I’m keen to try to capture some more ‘environmental’ images too.

Sadly my attempts at getting some wide angle remote stuff didn’t work out this trip. Wide angle remote wildlife photography is something I like trying. It adds a whole new level of complexity but when it all comes together the results are worth it. Sadly this time the squirrels were more interested in the camera rather than being infront of the lens! This squirrel decided the tripod legs made a good hurdle!

During this trip I tried a few different locations hoping to get some different close ups to what I’ve got before. There are so many different locations to try

My favourite of those close ups was the image below of a Red Squirrel sat on the fellside log. I had to get low by laying on the ground so I could hide the wire fence thats behind the log.

I liked the low perspective so I tried some ground images too. Trying to get low for these is difficult as you don't know where the Red Squirrels will go.

Towards the end of the trip I spent some time at the stone wall. It’s no secret the stone wall is my favourite location at Forest How. I love the location as its such a natural setting, the lichen and moss cover stones are so photogenic.

The problem with the stone wall is it’s quite easy to get quite a few photos of the Red Squirrel’s eating (I’m quite open that I place a few hazelnuts to help get photos. This food is supplementary feed as there is various sources of natural food in the area surround Forest How).

Once again it was another worthwhile trip to Forest How. It’s always an enjoyable time spent watching and photographing Red Squirrels.

Part Two - Woburn Deer Rut 2018

Every autumn my main focus is my local deer rut. I love following the rut and watching it develop. It’s such a stunning wildlife spectacle and so accessible given the number of deer parks across the UK. I’m lucky to live about 25 minutes after from my local deer park. That lets me visit on numberous occasions. Often my visits only last a few hours, timed to take advantage of the best light and activity at the start and end of the day.

As usual my visits started before the rut had actually started. I like starting early as it lets me watch the rut develop into the full blown testosterone filled spectacular it is. The rut of 2018 was quite different for me, I struggled to find may Red Deer but had some great encounters with Sika deer. The Sika Deer rut occurs at the same time as the Red Deer rut. Usually the Sika Deer are harder to photograph, mainly due to there being less of them and they usually don’t stay around long enough to be photographed.

My first photo of this year’s rut was this young Red Stag with slight side lighting.

One evening the light was fantastic, the problem was I couldn’t find many deer within range. There was some good back lighting and the light on the tree was fantastic once again. One day I’m going to get a stag beneath this tree when the light is fantastic.

On an early morning visit thick mist was hanging in the old airfield valley. The mist was amazing, it hung low to the ground and gave some interesting opportunities for some unusual silhouettes.

I was lucky to find a couple of Red Deer stags one morning that gave a couple of opportunities as they bellowed.

One of the decisions I make is to go where the light is at it’s best rather than go where the activity is higher but in poor light. The problem with this strategy is the deer aren’t usually in the areas where the light is at it’s best. It’s a risky strategy but one that when the light is good and deer in range produces better results. During one morning the sunrise gave some fantastic backlight. Unfortunately the Red Deer couldn’t be found, but some Sika Deer were very obliging and gave a chance to make some good use of the backlighting.

Later that morning a Red Deer stag was found in a small wooded area. It was an opportunity to get some photos of a Red Deer stag, something that had eluded me quite often this rut.

Usually the majority of my photography is in colour. I like black and white images but struggle seeing tones. I had come across a stag on top of a ridge and the sky wasn’t doing anything so it was perfect for black and white. Black and white images is something I should try more often if the chance appears.

As I was walking into the park one evening after work the fence beside the path was rattling. I was expecting a deer may be caught in the fence considering the noise and movement of the fence. Once I was in the park I found it was actually two fallow deer fighting but with a fence between them! They were really going for it, trying to hit each other hard. The problem was neither were going to win as they were fighting the fence rather than each other. Neither seemed to be giving up either. It was the most bizarre fight I’ve ever witnessed. I watched them for a few minutes expecting it to end but it was still going when I left them to it. An hour later I passed them once more after retracing my route back along the public footpath and they were still going!

The 2018 rut wasn’t was productive as the previous year. I hadn’t made as many visits in 2018. I also struggled to find Red Deer, they were always just out of reach in areas i couldnt access. That’s one of the problems with Woburn, you have to get lucky that the deer are close to the public footpaths. It means visiting as often as you can but knowing you could walk away with nothing.

To be continued..........

As this has been quite a long post I will save part three - the Lake District for another post.