A reader’s su­per shots of moun­tain hares

Wildlife lover Louise Gib­bon shares her moun­tain hare pho­tographs after fall­ing in love with the an­i­mals in the High­lands

NPhoto - - Contents -

Fol­low­ing a visit to a na­ture re­serve in 2009 I took up wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy and have en­joyed it ever since. Each year, in Jan­uary, my hus­band and I take a trip to the Scot­tish High­lands, the main aim be­ing to spend time with moun­tain hares. These are hardy an­i­mals, sur­viv­ing in sub-zero tem­per­a­tures dur­ing win­ter. They have brown coats in sum­mer that turn white dur­ing win­ter, act­ing as per­fect cam­ou­flage in snow from preda­tors like golden ea­gles.

The con­di­tions for our trip this year, how­ever, were very dif­fer­ent. When we ar­rived there was no snow and tem­per­a­tures were mild. This isn’t good news for the hares be­cause their white fur is con­spic­u­ous against the darker ground, in­creas­ing the risk of pre­da­tion. The milder tem­per­a­tures also made the hares very ac­tive, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to find a con­fid­ing an­i­mal.

Over the fol­low­ing few days, after much walk­ing and search­ing in the area, we did find some more trust­ful hares, which we stayed with for a while. Spend­ing time with wildlife gives you the op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve

be­haviour and cap­ture spe­cial mo­ments, so pa­tience is key. It’s best to ap­proach a hare slowly, so as not to cause alarm. If it ap­pears alert as you move closer then stop and ob­serve un­til it be­comes re­laxed again. Stay­ing down low un­til you are at closer range helps pre­vent the hare from run­ning away. One hare was so re­laxed with us be­ing there that it fell asleep! It is a true priv­i­lege spend­ing time with the hares, and I feel more ap­pre­cia­tive of their strug­gle for sur­vival in harsh con­di­tions.

N-Photo says

These are some lovely shots here, Louise. As you pointed out, it’s clear to see how easy a moun­tain hare could be spot­ted in the win­ter with­out snow on the ground, but that’s good for preda­tors and for pho­tog­ra­phers alike as it makes it eas­ier to find them.

Your first im­age [1] cre­ates a great sense of in­ti­macy. The fore­ground and back­ground are both blurred, with only the hare in fo­cus in be­tween. The fo­cus­ing is spot-on; you’ve man­aged to get the eyes and face sharp while let­ting the back of the hare fall out of fo­cus. Even though you’re us­ing an aper­ture of f/6.3, it’s the long fo­cal length of 350mm that em­pha­sizes this shal­low depth of field. Us­ing a D500 has helped with the feel­ing of in­ti­macy be­cause its crop (DX) sen­sor mul­ti­plies the per­ceived mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of the fo­cal length by 1.5x due to the sen­sor cov­er­ing a smaller area of the frame. This ex­tends the 350mm reach of the lens to an ef­fec­tive fo­cal length of 525mm – a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease that doesn’t re­quire spend­ing a small for­tune on a mas­sive lens.

The hare’s ex­pres­sion tells us that it must have been very cold out dur­ing this day; the an­i­mal is hunched over and curled up into a tight ball, pre­sum­ably try­ing to keep warm. Its body is low to the ground and ears slicked back to re­duce sur­face area; per­haps it’s spot­ted a preda­tor that it’s try­ing to hide from?

Your sec­ond shot [2] is sim­i­lar to the first, but the hare’s more alert pos­ture makes it dif­fer­ent enough to in­clude in the port­fo­lio. Get­ting a sharp shot is one of the big chal­lenges of wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy. You’ve used a shut­ter speed of 1/1000 sec here, which is fast enough to freeze most move­ment, but to do this you’ve had to in­crease the ISO dra­mat­i­cally to 3200. This isn’t a prob­lem though, as there is next to no noise, thanks to the D500’s ad­vanced sen­sor and the well-bal­anced ex­po­sure.

Your fi­nal im­age [3] shows the in­clement weather com­ing in as the pre­cip­i­ta­tion falls all around the hare. The wider com­po­si­tion, and in­clu­sion of neg­a­tive space on the right of the frame, draws at­ten­tion to the weather. The hare, now with ears pricked, seems to be very aware of im­pend­ing dan­ger. This cre­ates a sense of drama be­tween viewer and sub­ject, and although the hare’s eyes are al­most com­pletely lat­er­ally placed on its head, it feels as if it’s star­ing right at us.

Won­der­ful work, Louise. We hope that the weather im­proves for the hares in the High­lands to al­low you to con­tinue shoot­ing these won­der­ful crea­tures for many more years.

The hare, now with ears pricked, seems to be very aware of im­pend­ing dan­ger. This cre­ates a sense of drama be­tween viewer and sub­ject


2 Not a Hare in the World Nikon D500, 150600mm f/5-6.3, 1/1000 sec, f/6.3, ISO3200 1 Bad Hare Day Nikon D500, 150600mm f/5-6.3, 1/400 sec, f/6.3, ISO3200 2

3 Hare’s Look­ing at You Nikon D500, 150600mm f/5-6.3, 1/250 sec, f/6.3, ISO1000 3

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