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An early, misty morning with the Red Deer.

7 a.m., I’m standing in the middle of a field of bracken, the sun isn’t up yet, it’s foggy and all I can hear is the roar of unseen Stags coming from all directions…this is what nature and wildlife photography is all about…! Go back an hour and a half, it’s 5:30 a.m. and my alarm has just gone off. A little voice in my head says ‘roll over, go back to sleep’, I’m so glad I ignored it…

Stag in runrise mist

Stag in sunrise mist

I was going to save these images to go in a post about the deer rut in general but I decided as this particular morning was such a great one I’d do a write up about it. I don’t get out with my camera gear nearly enough, so when the weather forecast for this particular weekend was good I decided to make the most of it seeing as it coincided with a weekend off work. I had already been down to my local deer park once the week before to check out the rut and vowed to return as much as I could over the coming weeks. I visited on the Friday evening, the Saturday morning & evening and again the Sunday morning.

The early bird catches the worm
As the saying goes…and as we all know, it’s true. I so often think to myself I need to get up and out in the mornings to make the most of the early morning ‘golden hour’. And when my alarm went off on the Saturday morning I had to remind myself of this to give me the will power to get out of bed. Arriving at the park at about 6:45 there was worry that the deer would not be found in time for sunrise due to how foggy and misty it was. However this proved easy as the second I got out the car I could hear the bellowing of the males. Now although park deer are used to people walking around, I was very aware that it’s the rutting season and the males are very protective of the females! So as I was heading in the direction of the roars I was constantly trying to do my best to spot any potential danger, i.e. somehow getting between a male and female by mistake in amongst all the mist and bracken. There had already been a lady with her dog pushed in to a pond and a photographer attacked a few weeks earlier and I didn’t want this to happen to me!

Stag amongst the tree's

Amongst the tree’s

This could be good…if the light plays ball
I made it to some tree’s and found a whole gathering of deer amongst them, males, females and young ones. The fog and mist was still quite thick so I wasn’t sure how the light would go as the sun came up but I decided sticking with this group would be my best bet regardless of the light. I wasn’t too hopeful as I started shooting, colours were still muted badly by the fog and as I waited I could see the sky getting lighter and lighter but no real sign of warm morning sun…

Waiting for the sun...

Waiting for the sun…

Hello sunrise!!!
As the sun finally started to rise up you could just make it out through the thick fog and at first I was thinking there was a little too much of it to stop the warm light coming through, but as the sun got higher and the fog started to burn off things took a drastic change for the better! The light was getting warmer and warmer and the hues produced were just incredible…I
Standing proud

Standing proud

literally found myself not knowing where to position myself or what deer to shoot next as there were opportunities everywhere I looked ranging from shooting in to the warm light as it filtered through the fog and tree’s to turning away from the sun to get cooler tones right down to shooting behind me to get the cold foggy tones that the sunlight hadn’t reached yet through the tree’s.
Misty sunrise

Misty sunrise

Once the sun was higher in the sky it burned away a great deal of the mist so there were lots of clear patches of ground as well as a few thicker fog covered area’s so I got some shots of the dear in the clear morning sun too. All in all I was there from 6:45 until 9:45 when I decided to call it a day and head home for some much needed breakfast!

600 + 1.4 TC

600 + 1.4 TC

It was a great morning and one of my most memorable shooting experiences from this year. I only hope now that I can get some fighting action before the rut ends…fingers crossed!

Morning sun

Morning sun

You can see a few more of my favourite shots from the Deer rut here.

About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

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