Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

September 13, 2010

The bold and the beautiful

Filed under: September — Hennie van Heerden @ 8:48 am

This week the rutting season has started in full flow among the beautiful Red Deer population at Holland’s National Park “De Hoge Veluwe”. It is really near to where I live and I go there everytime I can.
The vast heather fields of the Veluwe form a wonderful setting for the huge Stags, going through the complicated rutting rituals like forming a rut-harem, fighting off the intruders in fierce dominancy fights, trotting around proudly and calling out from the top of their lungs, to warn off any other Stag that might try and lure one or two hinds away from his harem. It’s better than any soap opera! There’s drama, love affairs, bitch fights, ego clashing, emotions flaring..

There are two fields at the Hoge Veluwe where the deer can be seen very well and although a lot of wildlife photographers claim not to go there, because of the mass of photographers the event attrackts every year, I think it’s wonderful. The deer are used to the enormous line-up of tripods, lenses and people and are not disturbed by it. As opposed to when everyone would wander off into the ‘wild’ resting areas, trying to get their unique shot of the rut. I’m pretty sure that when everyone would do that, a lot more disturbance of these proud and beautiful animals would be the result. I don’t mind getting in line. To me, I enjoy the scenes and the animals and I don’t care if some other photographer gets the same shot. And it’s even fun, because you get to meet a lot of people and it’s more or less also a social event (although wildlife photographers are often enough not the most socialable people!). It’s also a challenge because you try and get that unique shot nobody else has.

I must admit that that is a hard thing to do, with dozens of photographers watching the same scene. But every once in a while you are lucky. In that respect I was só happy with below shot! It was already late and the light went rapidly. Most photographers had packed in their gear and went home. But one of the most dominant stags was still very active and ran around, chasing off other younger stags. Because of the lack of light it was almost impossible to capture the full force the Dominant Stag puts in his charges. It is amazing the speed a huge animal like this can gather in his short but incredibly forceful attacks. I raised iso values, set the camera to the minimal aperture and hoped for the best. At his next charge I followed with the camera at 10 frames per second. The shutter speed was down to 1/80 even with the 1000 iso. I didn’t expect much so the more thrilled I was when one of the shots appeared to have the stag sharp while the background blurred out because of the panning of the camera. I just couldn’t wait to get home to see if that was really true. And it was!!

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