October 2020. Wildlife Photography Project in Charente-Maritime, France, to Photograph the Bugle of the Red Deer
The 2020 season of the bugle of the red deer stag has been marked by a capricious and totally unexpected weather this year in Charente-Maritime in France. Unceasing rains and high temperatures did not prevent the deer from bugling, however, the conditions for taking pictures were difficult to work with.
Nevertheless, everything went well. The first deer started to bugle around September 25. The first herds began to build up. My first field observations in Haute-Saintonge showed several promising herds of a dominant deer and about ten hinds each.
At the end of September, the morning temperatures were between 12 and 17 degrees Celsius (53 to 62 Fahrenheit). I had placed a few blinds in some strategic places near some large hundred-year-old oaks and some beautiful chestnut trees.
The first sessions were successful with nice encounters and beautiful pictures of deer stag bugling. I still rely on my 500mm lens and the blind technique. Personally, I find it difficult to photograph deer walking with a long focal length of several kilograms. I always use a tripod and a gimbal head to facilitate the shooting.
My technique for using a blind is simple. The day before, I spot where the herds are. For that, I listen to the deer bugling. In general, a herd can travel several kilometers during the night in search of food, but deer and hinds are greedy. At this time of the year, acorns and chestnuts are the food of choice. To capture photos, you must stand near spots where acorns and chestnuts are prevalent, and then hide yourself while waiting for the animals to arrive.
I always sit in my blind when it is completely dark. I multiply the chances of not being spotted.
I usually say that the technique of the blind grants many awards. Even if I do not use the camera for several hours, there is always a deer that will come looking for food. Patience is my best ally.
Moreover, the blind is an interesting technique because at this time of the year, autumn is often very cool in the morning. Under my tent, I am well sheltered.
But this year, my tent not only protected me from the north wind that blew for more than 10 days at the beginning of October, and the rain also accompanied me for days and days. The shooting conditions were often difficult because the camera speeds were frequently incredibly low (around 1/60th of a second) despite the high sensitivities (more than 1000 ISO). This gloomy weather was unfavorable, but I persevered.
These peculiar conditions for the Charente-Maritime continued until October 31st, which marked the date of my last photo session.
However, I had some nice surprises, such as a few sunny mornings, as well as four excellent photo sessions in the fog. This is certainly what I prefer the most. The conditions to obtain dense fog are complex. Fortunately, the Haute-Saintonge is studded with numerous ponds that allow the humidity necessary for the fog to create itself after a sunny day and a cool night.
These early mornings bathed in a soft light allowed me to take some incredibly beautiful dreamlike and evanescent photos. The gallery that will follow the text will give you an idea of the atmosphere that cloaked Haute-Saintonge.
This year, I decided to spend more time in the undergrowth and forests. These are places I do not visit very often because the 500mm lens is not very suitable. I had the chance to do some interesting deer portraits, but the trees and the sometimes-dense vegetation create environments that are not very conducive to creating ethereal photos.
These photo sessions dedicated to the deer's bellow are part of my global project dedicated to deer. My goal was to create beautiful photos using high-key and low-key techniques.
As always, the goal of my photos was above all to symbolically transcribe the emotions I feel when I am on the field in the breathtaking wilderness, untouched by man.
Once again, I wanted to illuminate the grace, beauty, magnificence, and elegance of the king-like glory of the French forests. In my deer photos, I always prefer magnificent forms, which expertly capture an elegant attitude and symbol of power.
These few weeks of photography in a peaceful nature far from the hassles of the world and the hubbub of men encouraged me to return to my original sources of creativity. I highly encourage you to do the same, should you ever get the chance to rediscover inspiration through the unique experience of the bugle of stag.