Over the last month the weather, despite the somewhat Indian summer we have had, has been getting noticeably colder. The nights and early mornings have been drawing in and will continue to do so almost until Christmas. (What is that I hear you screaming, Not Christmas already!) Any heat that is in the sun, when we get any, will have little effect on the countryside and frost hollows will stay, often, throughout the day. Shadows will stay long throughout the daylight hours and in many places, the fog will refuse to lift. This is undoubtedly Jack Frosts month!
Animals and Birds
The wildlife in our countryside will be feeling the effects of the winter in much the same ways as we do, and for similar reasons. The winter will take its toll on them and the severity of that toll will be quantifiable by the severity of the weather. Frosts make the ground hard, making food for some more difficult to get at. This is a time when the early bird has a harder time getting the worm and has to wait for the ground to soften a little!
Imagine also, having to eat food straight out of the freezer without the aid of a microwave! Even herbivorous mammals will be having a crunchy time of things. The advantage to the photographer is two-fold. Firstly it is easier to see signs of the activities of these creatures and secondly, they will be more willing to be slightly more adventurous in their search for sustenance. I have mentioned before in this column about feeding stations and that once set up, they should be maintained throughout the colder months, and now is not the time to lose your resolve. Over the next three months or so, it is vital that any stations set up are kept supplied.
Additionally, if you live in a location that you can visit a suitable area on a regular basis, say two or three times a week, then any non-processed scraps can be left out. This will be rewarded by mammals visiting the area you leave the scraps (put out in the early morning so they dont freeze too) and you can photograph them from your downwind hidden position!
Landscape and Habitat
Deciduous baldness is the order of the winter. But the starkness is a subject in its-self and should be exploited to the full. We saw last month how the shadows and low-level light can make such a huge difference in a short time and December has even more variations. Don't waste them because after the holidays the evenings will start drawing out once again.
Contrasts are also a tool that can be used to your advantage with coniferous trees and shrubs mixed in with the deciduous varieties holding snow off the ground and keeping the woodland floor clear of snow that can be feet deep a few meters into the clearings and fields. Mist and fog can add atmosphere to a scene that would be extremely difficult to replicate accurately in Photoshop!
Despite the cold, make the effort to get out in the countryside this month, wrap up warmly and pack a spare set of batteries, preferably in an inside pocket, and look for the patterns in nature as well as the spectacular colours of the mornings and evenings.
Even the most hardy souls will find times when it is more prudent to stay indoors while Mother Nature vents her worst anger but these times can be put to good use in processing, cataloguing and backing up your images. It is always worth going through the pictures you have taken previously, as invariably you will find one or two that are worth visiting again and perhaps re-working. You will see things that you never saw the first time around.
Despite the time of year, or perhaps because of it, there are a number of meetings that have been organised by ePz members over the coming weeks. Most are free to join in with apart from entry fees for any of the venues so dont be afraid of coming along and enjoy yourselves. Have a look in the meetings forum for any that I have missed as some come about at very short notice!
This brings us to the end of the wildlife year, one that has passed very quickly for me and I hope has been worthwhile for you all. A dozen articles totalling around 10,000 words, some 60 odd pictures, plus a few from some friends to whom I am extremely grateful, have gone into this column.
If any one of you would like to let us all know what you get up to over your photographic year, perhaps on a different subject, Im certain Pete would love to hear from you. For now, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year.
|A year of wildlife
This month I have chosen a few of my favourite images of the last twelve months and give the reasons why I chose them
Taken late last year, this shot of a Red Fox entitled Looking Back was taken in a wildlife park. It has won over 500 in competition prizes, been shown on 6 websites and published in two magazines. Sigma SD9, 170-500 lens. 1/90sec at f/5.6 ISO200 and set at 500mm hand held!
Spending time in a hide can have hidden rewards and this picture is of a Little Egret who entertained us for many hours during August and September. Being a youngster, it had no idea how to catch fish and its antics while learning were a joy to watch! Canon 300D. 400mm + 2x converter. 1/640sec at f/10
Very occasionally you come upon a scene that is as rare as the proverbial Rocking Horse droppings. Although severely under-exposed, the sequence of two young kingfishers fighting over fishing rights put the biggest grin of the year on my face. Well worth the time spent trying to rescue the files, which were shot in RAW. (Thanks Keithh) Canon 1D, Tamron 200-500. 1/2500sec at f11
Having found a subject like the young female kingfisher, victor of the battle, many many shots have been taken of her. This is just one, representing the pleasure and privilege of being able to photograph our native wildlife. Nikon D2H, Sigma 300-800 f/5.6. 1/640sec at f/9.5
Despite controversy over captive animals, they are still a valid subject for the photographer. Using traditional and digital techniques to make the photograph look as though the animal is in the wild is fine as long as you dont try to con the viewer. Sumatran Tiger at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent. Pentax *istDS, 50-200mm at 200mm. 1/500sec at f/9.5 and ISO200
(Background is Stodmarsh Reserve, deliberately OOF on SD9 with 170-500mm.)