The deer start looking really good during September before the rutting period begins in earnest and you can get some nice images of them at this time of the year. However all the real action takes place later, usually in October for the Reds and slightly later for the Fallow. Weather conditions play a big part in the timings and usually a cold spell is needed before the ruts begin in earnest. The main location that I use for my group workshops, and have done for the last twenty years, is Richmond Park. Not surprisingly, after all this time I have an intimate knowledge of the best locations to get those natural shots that don’t reveal where the image was actually taken. Look at his fantastic rack that stretches back to his rump almost.
There is nothing in this image to indicate that it was taken in a public park, in fact this picture could have been of a wild stag taken in Scotland. An important aspect if you are looking to sell your images. At the other end of the scale the juvenile fallow deer provide lovely images as they canter across the open grassland.
You will need to be prepared for plenty of action shots because you will have the males roaring and fighting around you. Stags will often come close, indeed very close, and when they do you just have to hold your nerve and keep that motor-drive smoking!
As part of their diet most deer browse on the leaves of trees creating what is known as a browse line. Here a red hind has to stand on her tip toes to forage creating an unusual image.
I also know where the best rutting grounds are and the whereabouts of several wallows and scrapes for capturing this bizarre behaviour. Wallows are muddy pools that the stags and bucks urinate into before rolling in them. This coats their fur in urinated mud and presumably helps them to maximise the spreading of their scent. A bit like using aftershave perhaps! Another thing that very few people ever see is that the red stags in particular pee constantly when they are fighting (I thought you might like to know this useful bit of information)?
The longer the lens you have the better your chances of not disturbing your subject and consequentially you will be rewarded with much more natural behaviour. It allows you to get great images like this one below of the stag safeguarding his hinds and warning off other stags that these hinds are spoken for.
Part of my tuition on the day will be directed to using long lenses especially when coupled with extenders. Are you reluctant to use an extender because when you do you lose critically sharpness? This is a common fault that shows up more with a 2x extender. Remember the more you magnify the subject the more you magnify any faults in your technique. On these workshops I will show you what you are doing wrong and how to fix it once and for all. Tripods and tripod heads will also be discussed in detail being integral elements for successful images especially when using long telephoto lenses for intimate shots like this one.
As well as deer, the park has a large colony of Ring-necked Parakeets and these often can be photographed feeding on the seeds and berries hanging in the trees. However I do have a really great location for them where, using your car as a mobile hide, you can get up really close so make sure you bring a beanbag to facilitate shots like the one below.
The park also has some interesting and rare fungi, so if these also appeal to you don’t forget to put a macro lens in your bag as well.
Over the last few years I have also run deer workshops at two other locations but I have never revealed their whereabouts publicly. These locations are for 1-1 and 2-1 clients only as in my opinion, they are really not suitable for group workshops. They are both very different and offer opportunities to get some unique images that you just cannot get in Richmond Park. One of the sites is in Surrey and the other in Sussex and for now I will just refer to them as location two and location three.
At location two there is a similar mix of red and fallow deer as Richmond Park but the numbers are significantly less but this is not a problem. What makes this site so special is that you will get unique opportunities to photograph deer in water.
Many clients in 2016 captured them standing in water and roaring, crossing streams, wading and swimming in lakes, one stag swimming up with just his head out of the water and one person did get the ultimate shot of two very big red stags fighting in the middle of a pond. Once again if you sell your images as prints or supply photo libraries then this is a wonderful opportunity to add some new and truly unique images to your portfolio.
Incredibly my third location does not have any red deer at all! There are just fallow deer there but what fantastic fallow they are. I am reliably informed that they are the largest fallow bucks than any you will find in the South; I personally think they are the largest in the UK!
Just to be surrounded by them, to witness them fighting at close range and hear the crashing sounds of their massive palmate antlers is a staggering experience I guarantee you will not forget in a hurry. However there are times when your own safety becomes a significant factor as here. These two look pretty wild to me and I would not like to be on the receiving end of their aggression!
There will be plenty of opportunities here to photograph the Fallow Does and their youngsters in a variety of colour forms as you see above with the juveniles. In the picture below taken early in the morning, the mist provides the perfect foil to show a fallow group around the master buck.
Here the early morning mist has provided the perfect foil to show off this group of fallow protected by a magnificent buck with a superb head. However when I took the shot I did not notice the prickett amongst them – what’s he doing there?