NATURE

All images ©ericweight 2015

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After a long absence from the farm, I thought it time to begin the new seasons hare project, so on Saturday I nipped down to check things out with a view to spending Sunday morning there with Lawrence. When I had last checked my hide maybe six weeks ago, all was well. On Saturday morning however all was not well at all. It was still tied to the big tree, but my ten inch stakes had been ripped from the ground by strong winds and the canvas had come off worst in its tussle with the barbed wire fence. The final ignominy is that while it was flattened against the tree, the pheasants had been using the exposed and very dry soil beneath as a dust bath! One of the joys of wildlife photography is the number of opportunities one gets to make do and mend, and so I staked it all back out, found some more substantial posts to tie it to and on Sunday morning armed with all the usual camera gear plus a huge roll of gaffer tape for emergency repairs we turned up ready for battle.

On Saturday I saw three hares, today we saw our first within ten feet of the jeep. Of course all our cameras were well packed at the bottom of our bags and we crouched furtively behind the hedge while Lawrence freed his gear from the confines of the rucksack. As usual with Lawrence, that was cue for the hare to run straight towards us. He got some nice pictures with his short 300 while I watched on.  It was a great start and something of a relief, it’s always a worry when you have a guest, that you may be wasting their time. Not today though.

We spent about four hours in the hide. There were pheasants, including the stunning bird pictured below, some English and French partridges, kestrels, buzzards and hares, but nothing really came near us. That may make the morning seem like a waste of time, but time in the field is never wasted. I now know what routes the pheasants take around this field and where the hares spend most of their time. Information that will come in handy if I can wrestle enough time to get back regularly.

My shot of the day is at the top of the page. The light was always changing and for a minute or two, the sun’s spotlight fell on this distant field of dead grass and the single tree in the middle of it. A mixture of heat haze and contrast combined to make the whole scene look just like a painting. Up close the tree has little detail in the bark and looks just as if it has been applied by brush, while the unlit trees behind and in front have a wealth of photographic detail. A curious and interesting phenomenon which I can claim no great credit for.

My hide sits at the edge of a small, remote copse containing my feeders, but looks out over a barren field of winter wheat. It doesn’t look very promising but it is surprising how many variations of light and scenery  are within range of a long lens. I am always interested in the way that the light moves around the landscape even on a pretty average day  like this one, so I spend a lot of time gazing at distant trees and hedges lookig for any little vignettes caused by changing conditions. I have a growing collection of images containing this naturally cloud-pruned pine in many different weather conditions. A timely reminder that if you put your mind to it, there is always a picture in front of you to be had, the problem is that it is easier to stop looking when you become over-familiar with a view.

I did have the second camera set out and operated from my iPad, but it became clear after a while that it was in the wrong place. The pheasants were more interested in courtship than food and would not come to my bait. Observation suggested moving the camera to a position that they regularly visited anyway but it was just too far from the hide for the wireless signal to reach reliably. I found that moving the camranger transmitter off camera and bringing it as far as back towards the hide as the lead would reach, made a big difference but it still wasn’t quite enough. I have ordered a 10 metre usb extension/booster cable to see if that might enable me to work with the camera further away, time will tell. It is so much easier to use the remote camera with this device than it is to second guess where the subject is within the frame. I can switch the camera to live view once a bird is in the vicinity , check its position within the frame (despite the considerable lag in the picture), I can refocus, change iso, aperture, you name it. With the live view enabled there is no mirror slap enabling me to get more images without spooking shy subjects and when they have gone, I can switch it off again, saving battery life and preventing the sensor overheating-protection cutting in and switching everything off. Its a real boon for wide angle wildlife photography, but you still have to get the camera in exactly the right place and the subject within 2-3 feet of the lens. That is the really hard bit.

For the next couple of visits, I shall travel light and stalk my hares, then once I better understand their behaviour  and whereabouts, I can return with the equipment to make more wide angle images.

My nature