Rutting stags and rumbling steam trains.
So, a long weekend ahead planned and a chance to escape from the desk and screen.
Friday was an early morning start and I'm really not an early bird but we drove to Richmond Park to meet Neil Neville (wildlife photographer and seriously great bloke) and were the first ones in the queue, waiting for the gates to open.
The plan was to photograph the red deer and we were hoping for mist and a beautiful sunrise, to catch a picture of a bellowing stag - his breath hanging in the air! Instead there was no mist and an overcast sky but, hey, the stag's were amazing when we spotted them.
You could tell where they were from the distant bellowing, along with the cyclist's in the park kindly pointing them out. Lounging in the bracken with a garden hanging from their glorious antlers, the stag's were resting, waiting to check out the opposition - or scare the wits out of passing runners, who were so wrapped up in their music that they didn’t see them – several soon turned tail and scarpered. Anyway, got a couple of good piccys' in Richmond Park and decided to move onto Bushey Park, after a well deserved sausage baguette and cappachino.
As soon as we arrived at Bushey, two massive stags started sizing each other up, then antlers clashed and they pushed and shoved each other into the lake. Neil and Ian were a lot quicker off the mark than me in getting some shots, I'm a weakling and a Nikon D500 camera with Sigma 100-600mm lens is actually quite heavy (I know, lame excuse).
It was great to watch but I'm glad the stags were on the other side of the lake! And so it continued... 4 fallow stags climbing through a fence to sharpen their antlers in the gorse, a young red deer stag trying to impress a hind, a giant stag relaxing in the sun and, lastly, the daddy of them all ... 16 point antlers and strutting his stuff, a beautiful, majestic stag - he had no need to fight as the others stayed out of his way. How extraordinary that this amazing creature could wander so calmly through a public park. Not much could top that....
Now it was time for another coffee and to dissect the morning - fantastic parks (you wouldn't believe you were in the capital), amazing wildlife, great meeting other wildlife/photography enthusiasts and generally nice people, good coffee plus many thanks to Neil Neville (check out his website for some fantastic pics) for a truly fabulous lesson in photographing these massive animals.
Mr A (Ian) decided on a change of subject, so we planted ourselves at Little Horsenden level crossing and waited for the 1.30pm diesel/steam train from Chinnor to Princes Risborough. I'm not that bothered about photographing trains, but love the romance of steam, so get a real buzz when they huff and puff their way past (cue Ivor the Engine voice and “Toot Toot”!!!). Once again we met some enthusiasts and gained more hints and tips - black and white piccy's, with moody skies and use of filters.
Well, that was my first ever blog and it was just like doing homework!
Next time, Snowdonia and possibly a zip wire, god help me.