Start of the Red Deer Rut

It’s October, the leaves have begun to turn on the trees and Autumn is fast incoming.  For red deer, October means just one thing: the rut.  

The last week we have had a high pressure weather system lingering over the UK.  The weather has been mild, blue skies, little wind and morning mists.  Wonderful.  I was hoping it would last to the weekend so I could get some deer photos today.  I was up before dawn for a 40 min drive to make first light.  Unfortunately we had light clouds this morning so the light wasn’t perfect but it was still a great morning and fine time to be out.  

As it turns out, the rut is only just beginning.  The stags are warming up and there is a good deal of bellowing going on to establish who’s top but the hinds are, it seems, not really ready to mate.  So most of the time the stags are just rounding the hinds up into groups but there’s not much attempt to defend a territory and no exciting action.  No point in getting exhausted for no immediate reward.  It will develop over the next few weeks as the hinds come into heat.  So I hope we get at least a few more autumnal morning sun opportunities to photograph in.  

Nevertheless, quite a few of the ‘tuning-up’ photos to be had with an example here:

The females (hinds) are less spectacular than the males and are easy to overlook as they gather into groups.  Most of the time they seem fairly uninterested in the competition around them and continue with their grazing. Often, photographs of these groups are not very interesting as they tend to be looking in random directions.  Here is an exception.  For a few moments, attention is focussed in one direction towards me.  (I’m not entirely sure why - possibly something behind me or the breeze changed and they just caught a scent - because I’d been in the same place and not moved for over 15 mins.) 

With no sun and morning mists, colours were muted and it needed a fast ISO setting (mostly ISO 1600). I’m very pleased with the way the D7200 delivers with 1600. It’s very usable. ISO3200 is ok but getting more noisy while 6400 is above what I’m comfortable with out of the camera - they definitely needs specific noise reduction post processing in my view.  All the images today were shot using the Nikon 200-500mm f5.6.  This lens is proving to be very very good; the more I use it the more I’m enjoying it.  I was also shooting using a tripod and with a loose pan/tilt head (Uniqball) to improve stability. I still used Vibration Reduction on the lens because the ball, though smooth and firm wasn’t locked. The VR is proving itself very useful because I wasn’t shooting much, until later in the morning, above 1/400 to 1/500 sec and I was getting sharp shots under 1/100sec (down to 1/50sec) at 500mm.