Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spent some time looking over the images I’ve taken over the course of 2014, deciding on my favourites, the ones I’d like to improve on, and the gaps in my photo libraries that I’d like to make the most effort to fill in 2015.
On the whole, 2014 hasn’t been a bad year for my photography. I was delighted to have a image make it through to the final round of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, especially as it was the first time I’ve entered that particular competition. Reaching the short-list in the British Wildlife Photography Awards for the second time was also a nice moment. Both have helped motivate me to try and progress further with my photography and to get it to a level where, hopefully one day, I may actually have images that feature amongst the winners.
It probably hasn’t been the most productive year so far in terms of output, but I would like to think that represents a move towards quality over quantity… It has been very much a year of “local patch” photography – almost all my favourite images from this year were taken no more than 15 minutes walk from my front door, but that presents a challenge in itself. Over the rest of this post I’ll look at a few of the species I’ve focussed on over 2014 and post a few of my favourite images of each.
Towards the beginning of the year I spent a few cold evenings photographing a small group of foxes. It presented a new challenge for me as it was the first time I’d dedicated any real effort towards photographing something that would involve working in almost complete darkness, relying on flash to provide most of the light. Having chosen an area where I knew there was a lot of fox activity, I set up a couple of flashes at spots I hoped the foxes would pass by and then laid down with my camera to wait for them to make an appearance. At this point I wasn’t particularly optimistic of my chances of success, and certainly didn’t expect to get any of the close-up shots I had in mind without resorting to using the camera remotely. However, I hadn’t bargained for just how bold some foxes are. One, who was easily distinguishable from the others due to its complete lack of tail, was particularly curious and, as such, became the main star of my photos. Over the course of a few memorable evenings, I ended up working predominantly with a 50mm lens, handheld, and still achieved some incredibly close images:
At one point I was even able to use my wide-angle 10-20mm lens for a slightly different perspective:
Unfortunately a number of the group contracted mange not long after the photos above were taken, at which point I chose to stop photographing them. I did visit the site on a few occasions across the rest of the year and, whether due to the mange or some other unknown reason, their numbers seem to have dropped quite significantly in the area. Sadly, my tailless friend appears to be amongst the missing. I do hope to return for more photos at some point during 2015 though.
Having begun photographing them in earnest in 2013, the local roes continued to hold my attention in 2014. One of the aspects I started to explore in 2014, which I ignored (or possibly even deliberately tried to avoid) in 2013, was their “suburban” environment.
I continued to follow the progress of the two offspring from 2013, and the interaction between the different members in the group including this tender moment between mother and daughter:
And this shot of the young buck playfully head-butting his sister:
Frequent visits over a relatively long period of time meant they started to become very accepting of my presence which did give me the opportunity to capture some very close-up images of them, including this one of one of the bucks feeding:
Over the second half of 2014 I spent far less time photographing them than I had at any point in the preceding 18 months or so in order to give myself time to properly work through the images I had captured up to that point and to work out what I still wanted to capture. I have plenty of ideas now and hope to put some of them into practice over the course of 2015.
These charismatic insects are something of a highlight of my photographic calendar every year. I’m lucky to live in an area where they are a relatively common sight (and to have a family member who is one of the leading experts on the beetle!) so each year I generally get at least a couple of opportunities to get them in front of the camera and to try and capture them in a way that is at least slightly different to how I have in previous years. Sometimes, though, it’s best just to fall back on old clichés, and my favourite Stag Beetle shot from this year is probably this one of a male silhouetted in front of the setting Sun:
A decent in-flight shot is still on the agenda for 2015, although I probably got closer than I ever have before with this photo of one on the point of take-off:
Red Deer Rut
Another regular feature in my annual photographic calendar, and yet, despite four rutting seasons having passed since I took up photography, I realised earlier this year that I’d somehow never quite managed to make it out in time to capture the rut at sunrise, meaning I was missing out on those spectacular images of stags bellowing in a sea of misty, golden light, surrounded by clouds of their own breath. 2014 was the year that changed and, while I’ll no doubt be back for more in 2015, I do now have some of those images of my own. However, my favourite image from those I took during this year’s rut is this one:
Taken in Bushy Park at first light, the skyline of Kingston Upon Thames was just visible in the distance through the mist behind the silhouetted stag. Generally I try and avoid any urban elements when photographing in London’s deer parks, but I think an occasional reminder of just how close to busy towns they are is a nice thing to have.
That brings my review of 2014 to an end. I’ve got plenty more planned for 2015, not only do I plan to revisit all of the subjects I’ve shown in this post, I really hope to have far more opportunities this year to also get further afield and get a far broader range of animals in front of my camera. I’ll try to keep this site up to date over the course of the year, so do check back on my progress.