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canon 7d mk ii

Enough To Make Your 'Hare' Stand On End

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Enough To Make Your 'Hare' Stand On End

I remember our last night on Safari back in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa like it was yesterday. We had been searching, without luck up to that point, for a Leopard. As time ticked by (we were actually driving towards the gate for the final time) it seemed like we were going to be unsuccessful until our spotter, Given, noticed something in the thick bush. A quick  reposition of the jeep (aka hold on tight, this search just got real) and there she was - an adult female. I can still remember the feeling as we watched her stalking. The hairs were standing on my arms as I excitedly took Nicola's hand - we both just sat there awestruck at the sight of this beautiful creature.

Wildlife encounters can leave you breathless

Fast forward a few months later (to this morning in fact) and I was reminded that I don't need to head to Africa on Safari, the Arctic Tundra in search of Polar Bears or indeed the rivers of Alaska for the great Salmon run to be treated to a wildlife experience that not only gets my blood pumping, but fills me with the same excitement I felt that balmy evening back on the truck in South Africa.

Over the past few weeks I had been neglecting the Hares in my area so with a favourable sunrise forecast I headed out to a spot I knew not only had good numbers, but also was favourable for dawn shooting due to the direction of the light. Using my car as a mobile hide I got setup and within 20 minutes was treated to my first encounter - although looking at the image below I'm not too sure this particular Hare was too pleased to see me - how rude !!

How Rude !!

What I was really interested in however was to see if there would be any male / female interaction, chasing or boxing. And it would seem my luck would be in. Across the other side of the car (and directly into the sun) I spotted a couple going at it hammer and tongs across the field before watching them disappear behind the car and out of view. I flicked a few switches on the 7D MK II in anticipation for what was hopefully to come.

Heart racing, dirt kicking, full on adrenaline rush

Suddenly out of the scrub, and despite me thinking I was ready, without too much warning came the two Hares - at full throttle. Now I'm not the smallest of chaps and my car (which as I said was being used as my mobile hide) is a 2 seater MX5. Certainly not the easiest to move around in, especially when wielding a 400mm lens out the window. Still I managed to get them into the frame, lock on AF, and fire off a couple of shots. I love the menacing look of the eyes of the male behind in the shot below.

Eyes For You

They were zig-zagging left and right as the female tried to loose her pursuirer and I have to admit I lost them a few times with the 7D (mostly my own lack of experience) failing to lock on (aka plenty of sharp grass shots if there is a market for those). Still the last frame on the sequence, before they disappeared behind the car and out of sight, was quite pleasing. Still not as sharp as I would like but that's to be worked on.

On Your Tail

The whole sequence lasted less than 5 seconds and as I paused to reflect I realised that the hairs (or should that be Hares) were standing on my arms and my heart was beating as fast as it had been that night in South Africa. The encounter once again showed me that magical wildlife experiences can be found right on your doorstop - and that is the most exciting thing of all.

Now excuse me while I go and try to dislodge the seatbelt buckle from my nether regions after a few hours spent in the MX-Hide ...

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Return of the Short Eared Owl

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Return of the Short Eared Owl

For the past week I've been spending quite a bit of time at Burwell Fen. Despite, what I would consider not to be a particularly cold Winter thus far, the conditions have brought a number of Short Eared Owls into the area. These for me are iconic of cold Winter days, with their piercing yellow eyes. I first saw one up on the Island of Mull and am so pleased to see them return in reasonable numbers to my local patch. Short Eared Owl

Certainly going to take quite a bit of field craft to get close over the coming weeks - but hey that's one of the things I absolutely love about Wildlife Photography and I fear something that a lot of people, who want instant results, try and short cut.

Also I've been out with a new Camera - a Canon 7D MK II. I actually swapped this for my used 1D MK IV which was only getting used behind the goal at matches. (Main bodies are 1DXs). The crop sensor on the 7D MK II (1.6) gives me a 640mm focal length when paired with my 400mm, without loosing at f stops ....  Certainly a cheaper way to get 600mm reached without dropping over £8k on a lens.  And then when I really want to push things pairing this combination with my 2xTC will give me over 1200mm reach, albeit at f/5.6.

Over the coming months I hope to put the 7D MK II through it's paces in various environments and will post my feelings here later.

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