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ePHOTOzine Deer Shoot! - Matt Wagster joins another bunch of intrepid ePhotozine members at Dunham Massey.
An early meeting at the Swan with Two Nicks, a group of bleary eyed EPZ’ers stood in the chill morning air at 6:30 am, waiting for the one… Would he arrive? Was he even out of bed?
Well I did make a few minutes late, and I was the closest to the meet as well!!! Even Mal(johns) made it before I did, and he had made a three and a half hour drive to get there on time!
On with the meet, it was dark; we were in a pub car park all rearing to hike into the darkness that was Dunham Massey. Before we made it out of the car park the near silence was broken by the shrill sound of a car alarm! Had the landlord rumbled us and set about the cars? No, just Stevieb’s alarm with a mind of its own (I’m sure his car sulks when he isn’t sat in it…) A relatively short walk across a river and down a track, we made it to the park wall, fortunately I hadn’t needed to bring the ropes and grappling hooks to gain access, as some thoughtful soul had built a style and large gate making our entry into the grounds very stealthy, almost as stealthy as Phoenix… Had he not been chatting on the walk to the park I’m sure he would have gone missing, resplendent in his full camouflage outfit (including hat and portable hide).
|Once in the park the sky was starting to lighten gradually as sunrise crept ever closer to the horizon. Gathering the group together a quick explanation of the park layout, watches synchronised, meeting point agreed people splintered off into small groups.
Quickly into position for the sunrise shots and a problem was discovered… Morning Dew!
And not the carbonated soft drink (or was that Mountain Dew?), the real cold, wet stuff was offering a free misty filter, a distinct liking for glass on the front of the lens or on a filter, it wasn’t fussy. Wiping it meant streaks, leaving it gave a soft effect… Plan b, change filters every few minutes seemed to work. As soon as the first rays snuck over the horizon, it was over…
It only seemed like a few minutes, but forty shots safely on the card. As it brightened the swans woke, seeing a few barmy photographers stood at the edge of a pond they made a bee-line for us. Two proceeded to swim around in front of us parading their feathers and generally showing off, the other two harassing us for food. That was until a few Canadian Geese swooped in for a landing, as they hit the water a swan was off, half flying, half paddling across the water making a right racket to bully the geese, it worked as they were off again.
Now the fun began… On with the Deer shoot! Don’t get upset, the only shooting was done with film or sensors, although a few had started to get the wrong idea from some of the google ads that appeared beside the meet forum… Trudging across boggy ground, and long grass making a poor attempt at stalking our prey we found several mushrooms, unfortunately they were starting to decay so weren’t worth photographing. Onto the supposed meeting point to find nobody there, obviously they were having better luck in locating the usually abundant deer.
Suddenly the Holy Grail was there before us, a deer! Not wanting to disturb it we hid behind trees, scurrying between trunks trying not to make too much noise, then waiting for the perfect moment a flurry of shutters sounded in the shade of the trees, the deer looked up, and decided that it didn’t fancy hanging around to chew the cud with this bunch of lunatics…
So we followed slowly, firing off a few more shots. After one or two members had thoroughly pestered the poor dear (yes, the pun was intended…) we set off to find more, soon another target was found. Unfortunately this one appeared to have suffered an injury during the rut, it was slightly lame in one of its back legs, this made for an easier shot and it didn’t seem to be suffering too much, other than a slight limp.
Slowly we made our way around the park grounds, where a rare breed was spotted. It was a Cokinman, slightly late but still enthusiastic. I think I heard him mention something about finding that bloody pub! Slowly the group made its way back round to the main hall, where a couple said goodbye and made their way back to the Swan car park. A certain Stevieb was found cursing those deer. Apparently he had had enough of the deer running away from him, so had set up in one place, certain that they would come to him… Well that was the plan, after the group got larger; this plan seemed less likely to work.
Fortunately the time was right, and the smell of grilled sausages and bacon drew us over to the courtyard café. I’m not sure the café staff were quite prepared for a horde of hungry photographers invading the café. A few other diners looked concerned as bags and EPZ’ers slowly spread out taking up three tables. After a snack to boost our blood sugar levels we were off again… This time it was the fungi’s turn!
Heading to a known fungi sighting a small crowd gathered as one un-named member took an age to set up a low level shot of fungi on a tree stump (thanks for the picture Stevieb!). I was surprised at how long a group of photographers would stand and watch one person setting up a shot… Spotting a wonderfully lit deer we lined up the shot, just in time for a large bunch of twitchers to trample through noisily, spooking the deer and ruining the shot. The phrases used are not repeatable on a site such as this, needless to say, they were less than complimentary!
|Continuing our saunter through Dunham Massey we lost another few members somewhere, maybe the deer decided to mug them after going to far into their territory? Approaching our original entrance we happened across those b****y twitchers again, plans were discussed for revenge, but as nobody was carrying industrial sized fire works the plans were doomed to fail… Which was unfortunate…
Heading back to the Swan with Two Nicks and the cars the days events were discussed and jokes exchanged. A few had brought prints to show off (me included) these were discussed in the car park, before a few set off home. The remaining handful retired to the bar for a swift pint and a further chat.
As the meet drew to an end it was decided that it was a success, even the weather had held out for us. Plans are afoot for yet another NW meet; just keep your eyes on the meet forum for more information…
Article by Matt Wagster