Wildlife Photography Workshop in Order to Photograph the Red Deer’s Rut in Charente-Maritime – September 2018

The red deer’s rut of the September of 2018 will remain engraved within our memories. The excessive heat (more than 30 degrees Celsius during the day, or 86 degrees Fahrenheit) delayed the deer’s rut. The lack of water in Charente-Maritime (more than two months without rain) did not permit the ferns or the trees to develop themselves correctly during the summer.

Nevertheless, all 6 photographers were successful in realizing some very beautiful photographs including red deer and wild boars. These exceptional weather conditions did not hinder their enthusiasm or obstinacy in creating beautiful photographs in a realm of nature which remains above all else exceptionally beautiful and unique.

The participants to the wildlife photo workshop dedicated to the rut of the red deer in France in 2018 : Annik, Jean-Philippe, Pierre, James, Dominique and Pascale.
The participants to the wildlife photo workshop dedicated to the rut of the red deer in France in 2018 : Annik, Jean-Philippe, Pierre, James, Dominique and Pascale.

The Heat Perturbed the Deer’s Rut

Charente-Maritime did not escape the phenomenon which has impacted every region of France where the deer’s rut can be photographed. The elevated and abnormal temperatures did not allow the doe to go into heat. The bucks did not get excited. They did not experience the habitual increase and rise in testosterone. The deer’s rut was more discrete than those preceding years in Haute-Saintonge.

Each and every morning, we placed a photographer in a strategic position for their stakeout. It’s just about the only moment in time where the deer come out of the forest in order to rut a bit and feed themselves. Next, as the temperatures would rise, sometimes even reaching some 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), the bucks and does would return back into the forest in search of both coolness and shade. They would but reemerge at around 1800 hours (6 p.m.) as the temperatures descended with the approach of night.

When the bucks aren’t crying out, it is difficult to locate them. In addition, the locations of the event in question have changed. We’ve had to go over our entire strategy once again as well as focus on the usual locations where we’ve tended to position our blinds and plan our stakeouts.

Despite these issues, the photographers were able to adapt to these unusual conditions in order to create beautiful wildlife photographs with very beautiful decors.

An Autumn Abundant with Wild Boars

Another strange phenomenon from this year of 2018 concerns the abundance of wild boars and especially their young piglets.

Normally, when the deer’s rut begins, the wild boars hide themselves amongst the neighboring forests and undergrowths. As to be expected, throughout this period bucks become violent and do not hesitate to lash out and throw passing kicks, hits and glances to the woods around them. The wild boars whom usually inhabit these parts prefer to from thereon stick to the said undergrowths, there where the trees act as a sort of barrier to the deer by bothering them and getting in their way.

Yet Autumn is also the season of acorns and chestnuts. Wild boars love to feast upon these by eating those having fallen down unto the forest floors.

Yet this year of 2018 during which everything is strange, the wild boars were quite many in number to roam back out into the open prairies so as to dig up wads and packs of dirt in search of earthworms and other large insects.

The most extraordinary part of all this however was the sheer mass proliferation of very young wild boar piglets whom still sported their spots and stripes. Truth be told, the year of 2017 was abundant with food. Certain young sows grew fat quite late within the mating season as nuts were abundant. They gave birth to piglets even later down the line. It is for this reason that we observed so many young wild boar piglets.

In the Field from the First Day

The rendezvous point was preordained as a group in Charente-Maritime just before noon to meet up and prepare ourselves a hearty lunch in the typical and local flavor of cuisine. It was undoubtedly the occasion for us to better get to know each other and present our plans for this photography workshop.

Once each individual had had their rooms and bunking arrangements worked out, we set off in a Land Rover in a reconnaissance mission of some 800 hectares (~1977 acres) of forests, undergrowths, woods, ponds and prairies that would, for the following six days, serve as our photographic playing field. Each participant was equipped with a map to inform them of the various pedestrian roads and tracks, the important locations marked so as to provide orientation at their discretion.

At around 5 p.m., once the sun had started to fall slowly back down towards the horizon, it was time to put things into motion. We divided up our sandbox into large geographic zones, with each of these said divisions encompassing some 150 hectares (~370 000 acres) to themselves.

For this first outing and day, we take two of the participants for a unique and specialized training session. This act repeats itself every day of the workshop’s duration. The photography trip begins in earnest. The rendezvous time is set for dinner at 8:30 p.m.

An Organization Based Around Patrols

This year we changed things up a little regarding the workshop’s organization.

Usually, we drop off photographers in different zones in order for them to do their stakeouts. Following that, they can then wander and hunt at their leisure should the animals be lying low or making themselves scarce at the time.

Near the end of each photo session which lasts around 4 hours, each intern would then have to reach a rally point in order to be picked up via a 4x4. It was simpler as none of us otherwise knew where the others had gone. The region is vast, so not always accessible by car. Yet this technique was tiring for the photographers and took away from some of the time that could have otherwise been spent on continued observation and photography.

This year, each intern would send us an SMS (text message) to indicate their exact position and we would come and pick them up no matter where they were. The interns appreciated it as they could now make best use of the available lighting all the way ‘till each session’s end.

Days Organized and Split Between Image Captures & Photo Analyses

Every day followed the same ritual. A filling breakfast is expected at 5:30 a.m. every morning. The departure time, either on foot or by Land Rover, is previewed by 6 a.m. Certain areas are rather far off from the house. The most effective method we could come up with was to drop off the photographers at predetermined locations to have them endure unnecessary two-hour long walks. Next, they would either set up shop with their blinds or continue on walking and attempt an approach by stealth.

Every session we accompany a lone photographer to teach him new techniques and their section’s terrain and topography. In reality, the ability to achieve good images and wildlife photographs necessitates an almost perfect knowledge of the surrounding environment in question. We show them the locations of the most favored ponds for animal bathing, mud baths for wild boars, bushes for bucks and brambles in whence roe deer find shelter. Only the day’s chosen photographer has a camera. We bring only our pair of binoculars. We have not come along to take photos but to teach how to take them.

The time of return in the morning is set at 11 a.m. at the latest. We from thereon engage in a quick image review so as to ascertain our progress, answer questions and offer suggestions and ideas in order to improve the next batch of images. Throughout this stay, every participant has presented us with some five images daily.

From a technical standpoint, as the photographers’ level of expertise was elevated, we chose to broach the subject of artistic animal and wildlife photography. These somewhat new concepts have encountered great success among the participants. This proves yet again our profound interest and trust in our ACAPN method to realize photos based on nature.

Following a very hefty and very rich lunch as the physical expenditures are intense, comes the so eagerly awaited midday nap for rest and recuperation.

At around 3 p.m., we meet up once more within the auditorium for an informational expose. Wildlife and animal photography require specific settings and adjustments in terms of software. Every day, we have developed new subjects so as to approach subjects including trimming, the reduction of noise pollution, all the whilst broaching issues such as pixel quality and image definition. All forms of technical subjects are taken into account, even the exporting of photos with added watermarks.

Testimonies of the Trip of September 2018

Pascale Pascale.

This year of 2018 really isn’t a good year for the deer’s rut. The deer didn’t cry out all that much. It doesn’t have the same amount of energy or activity as the previous years did. It’s too hot. The lighting is present, but the vegetation is not a beautiful as it usually is. However, there is always something with which to occupy oneself. The animals are very skittish as they cry out less often. When deer rut, they pay less attention to us. This year isn’t an easy one as the herds are spread out all over the place. You’ve got to search through a lot of forest.

I didn’t capture as many snapshots and images as usual, but I think I realized some excellent ones. Notably, I realized one whilst in a blind one morning. There’s a pond in the background. The lighting is beautiful. There are gorse bushes in the foreground. It’s the kind of photo you know will pan out well when you press the trigger. It’s a superbly satisfying type of sensation.
The ambiance this year, once again, was truly sympathetic. We had a riot of laughter.

Concerning the organization, the fact that this year you come and pick us up at a location of our choice is a real boon. I’m all for it to the max. I think it’s superb. The act of sending you an SMS (text message) to tell you where we are, avoiding having to walk back towards a rally point, this saves time. We can stick around longer to conduct actual photography.

It’s really comfortable. For example, at the end of the day accompanied by some beautiful lighting conditions we can stick around longer.

I’ll keep in mind that this year there were a lot of young wild boar piglets. They’re still wearing their ‘pajamas’. They come up real close to the blinds. It’s incredible. I had a feast concerning the wild boars.

Annik Annik.

Despite the somewhat difficult conditions in this year of 2018 due to the excessive heat and that the deer’s rut was only just beginning, this workshop went along smoothly. I realized some very beautiful photos.

This year as opposed to the last, it was difficult locating the deer as we couldn’t hear them. Yet in the end it was a real challenge as we needed to find them. Despite these very peculiar conditions, I am very happy.

This year, you accentuated your artistic approach in terms of the wildlife amongst your exposes. I adored it. I’m completely convinced. However, it is not an easy thing to apply while out on the field. Yet I also learned that I needed to apply this creative aspect during the development of my images. With every workshop I participate in along with yourself, my level of expertise increases a notch. I really appreciated your method for defining each individual’s artistic profile.

This year, I found that the deer were even more powerful than they were last year. They seemed bigger, taller, larger. I photographed an enormous number of does but especially wild boar piglets. We can find them everywhere. I happened to find myself nose to snout with some piglets on the various small forest paths.

The ambiance throughout this workshop was the best that I’d ever known. Is it because I was more receptive? We laughed a lot. Everyone had their own style. It was enriching.

This year, I found the fact that you could come and pick us up at the location of our choice to be more practical. We didn’t have to come to a rally point. Once on the terrain, we focus on nothing but our photographs. That’s all. It’s superb. At most we walk some 50 meters and you come back to pick us up. It’s complete and total liberty and freedom.

If I had to conserve a nice moment from this workshop it would be from yesterday afternoon. First of all, you helped me find a nice spotting location. It’s not always evident as you have to know how to handle the lighting and the wind. Finally, we succeeded in photographing the deer. The preceding day I’d taken only 3 photos. Yesterday I shot an enormous number of pictures. It was awesome.

Dominique Dominique.

This year was bizarre due to the excessive heat. The herds did not completely form themselves. I saw for example a herd composed of three bucks and some fifty or so does. The bucks tolerated each other. It’s not normal. The rut has begun but it’s rather timid. This year it’s really difficult. It’s too hot. In France’s Vercors Mountains there’s the same problem.

Despite these peculiar conditions, the rut in the region of Charente-Maritime is superb. The decors are magnificent. Yet I have not yet accomplished those photographs that I wanted to create.

I came to Haute-Saintonge for the birth of the fawns during the summer. I awaited the fall season with impatience. Yet it has not yet begun. The colors are not yet present. The lack of water renders the present colors strange. Really a bizarre year.

Your technical exposes on artistic wildlife photography were very interesting. They opened new doors for me. I’ve begun to reflect upon my approach in terms of a professional photographer. I will put into practice everything which you explained to us. Yet on this type of terrain it’s difficult. But I’ll hold on. My job has changed. Your technical exposes are a real plus. Without them, we’d be doing basic, normal photos.

The ambiance as is the habit was excellent. We had a good laugh. The photographers are perfect.

The organization surrounding this rut of the deer was perfect as usual. Everything is going well. We let ourselves get carried away. We focus on nothing but our photos.

If I had to preserve a good memory from this week, it would be that of Monday’s afternoon. I had the chance at 1800 hours or 6 p.m. to see a buck cry out some 6 meters (~20 feet) ahead of me. The observation was exceptional. Yet the week’s ambiance was great as well.

Pierre Pierre.

I am delighted by having participated in this workshop. I am someone who’s really connected and plugged in. I spend a lot of my time on the internet. I’d discovered your workshops. I told myself that by coming along with yourself, I’d certainly be able to concentrate uniquely on the deer’s rut. I’d read the previous photographers’ comments and testimonies. I came with complete confidence. It also happens that among my acquaintances, I knew someone who’d been along on one of your workshops.

My general impressions of this workshop are very good. The welcoming was sympathetic. The cadre of people were enchanting. The house which you rent was very nice. The beds are comfortable. It’s very important. During this workshop, we spend a lot of time in the field. It’s important that everything be comfortable.

By coming on this workshop centered around the deer’s rut, I wanted to see some deer. I’m from Alsace. Encounters with deer are not guaranteed. I also wanted some nice decors. Here the oaks and gorse bushes are magnificent. I would have liked photographing the deer whilst they were in water. It will be difficult to do during this workshop. This workshop answered all of my wishes. There was always something to photograph.

The ambiance during this workshop was very nice. I wanted to encounter new photographers to discuss technique. The participants mingled amicably and got along well.

The organization is very good. I find you very close to your photographers. You’re a really cool person, chill too. Being with you is a fun experience.

If I had to preserve a good memory from this week, it would be your exposes pertaining to artistic photography. I really appreciated them. I learned that a photographer must make use of his feelings and being when creating his images. It’s very important to me.

James James.

The deer’s rut is a bit of a break during the year. It’s a beautiful break as the forest is magnificent. The animals are beautiful. It really is an occasion to realize beautiful photos.

I’ve already come along with you multiple times on your workshops. This year was particular. The weather is magnificent with copious sunlight and lots of heat. We don’t hear the bucks crying out. It’s too hot. I didn’t realize that many photos. But that’s okay as I’d also come along for the ambiance, for the forest, the stay and the friends.

Your workshops are very open and accepting. Ideally, they would also be for creating nice photos. This year, there will be fewer but very beautiful.

The ambiance this year was perfect. I’d known only one photographer. Everyone was very friendly.

This year with your patrolling system where you come pick us up from our stakeout positions was practical. When we’re dropped off rather deep within the forest, we can stay there without having to come back towards a rally point. This avoids us having to sometimes walk several kilometers or miles.

If I had to conserve a nice memory from this workshop centered around the deer’s rut, it would be that of a small red fox who came to see me as I was doing a stakeout in a ditch. He passed by and in front of me by some 10 meters (~33 feet). As I wasn’t moving, he didn’t get scared. Thereafter, a wild boar passed by running. When using blinds, the advantage is that the animals can come rather close without getting scared.

Pascale Jean-Philippe.

Due to conditions pertaining to the weather, I have not yet been able to photograph a deer rutting (even if I could hear them doing so). On the other hand, however, I did witness, and photograph bucks locked in combat. The workshop was very welcoming and friendly. We all ate to our hearts’ contents. The ambiance was excellent.

I came here to Haute-Saintonge as in this region the animals are free and very easily spooked. It’s difficult to get to them up close and personal. We must always pay attention to the lighting, to the direction of the wind. Yet thanks to you, you point out those spots where it’s best to carry out our stakeouts and use the blinds. You permit and allow us to realize the best snapshots possible. Here in Haute-Saintonge, we have no choice and are obligated to use blinds in order to realize photos. To me, personally, it makes up 70% of what is necessary to successfully create good photographs. It’s a given and certain that you’ve got to be patient as you don’t know if an animal will pass by. There’re always some surprises. Yet this warms my heart. The ambiance was incredible. We had a lot of laughs. We got along well. There was a lot of sharing between the photographers. The organization with the big house all to ourselves and the fact that you have a Land Rover to accompany us on the field, it’s perfect. With your system of patrol, this avoids us having to walk too much. The biggest advantage is that you drop us off at our blinds and stakeout positions and that you come and pick us back up again later. The meals were excellent. The rooms were magnificent. I wasn’t aware of Haute-Saintonge. The landscapes are savage, pristine and all natural. There are a lot of bocages. There are many forests. It’s the ideal place to practice wildlife and animal-based photography. If I had to conserve a nice memory from this workshop it would be the fight between the bucks from this morning. I am very happy

Some Pictures Taken by the Students

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