A winter walk

A winter walk

I love this quiet time between Christmas and New Year.

As with most people, my Decembers get ridiculously busy with parties and family events – but being a musician and teacher also fills the month with concerts and performances. The camera has taken a back seat for a few weeks but today was the perfect day to get out there shooting again; the manic Christmas period is over, no school, other people back at work, a crisp, cold, magical morning of frost and ice, and I woke up just a few minutes away from Richmond Park. I set off for a walk at 7.30am with my Canon 6D, my 50mm and 24mm lenses, a monopod and, of course, a cup of tea.

I entered the park via Sheen Gate and headed straight towards White Lodge (the Royal Ballet School).  I was dismayed to see a thick band of fog hanging over the park, but I finished my tea and took some test shots of the landscape.

Psst! Click any photo to enlarge! 

I thought the mist would make it difficult to spot deer, and I hadn’t seen any during a long walk through the park the day before. Luckily, my worries were unfounded – as I crossed the roundabout, I spotted lots of deer grazing in the meadow. I started taking a few shots and began to wonder whether I would get any good photographs without a zoom lens; moving closer would mean risking startling the deer, yet staying back would mean not getting any close up detail. I wasn’t the only person there taking pictures, but the other photographers I spotted had seemingly mega zoom lenses and wouldn’t need to get close to the deer to get the shots they wanted! I went for it anyway, despite the inner monologue telling me I was wasting my time and the coldness making it difficult to review images on my camera because the screen kept steaming up.

I snapped away, moving around slowly and trying to be patient even though my fingers were freezing. I had to take only a few  shots and then plunge my hands back into fluffy mittens straight away. This meant everything took longer, but I think the effort was worth it…

The weather started to close in and a thick mist dropped over the open meadow. The fallow deer moved on, with some larger red deer wandering down the bank to take their place. Two young stags even engaged in some play-rutting – possibly to keep warm! – with a third standing by as umpire.

At last, after  an hour and a half with the deer, my hands got too cold. I gave in and decided to head indoors but I managed to fumble my 24mm lens onto my camera for a few more shots as I left. The mist, frost, soft light and faded winter colours made for some magical scenes.

What I learned today:

  • Hand warmers only work if you actually leave the house with them.
  • A fluffy leopard print coat and red tartan scarf are possibly not the ideal items of clothing when stalking deer. But – they did keep most of me warm!
  • My 50mm lens is more than capable of taking good wildlife shots if I can just be patient and move around to frame the shot correctly. However, I am going to look into zoom lenses as most wildlife isn’t as used to humans as the Richmond Park deer are….!
  • Don’t be put off by what other people are doing. I’m sure other photographers got some stunning shots this morning (and Instagram confirms this!) but I am rather happy with the shots I got too!

Oh and lastly – I was very spoilt this Christmas, and in particular by my three siblings. Two indulged my love of handbags (!) whilst my youngest brother treated me to a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera. I used it for the first time this morning…..and I learned that maybe sub-zero temperatures are not ideal for this type of photography! However, not a bad first go and I’m looking forward to playing with this toy a bit more – thanks Stevie  🙂

Fingers crossed this fine, cold weather holds – I’m heading home to East London and I want to explore Victoria Park tomorrow morning!

See my gallery of highlights here.