Back in 2016 I attended a two day Deer Rut photography trip. It was most certainly one of the most eventful of trips! Firstly it bucketed down for most of the trip and my camera died after getting drenched. I also ended up following the wrong person in a car convoy which was fun. However, despite these hitches it was a fun experience and despite the weather produced some good photo opportunities.
Deer Rut Workshop
The Deer Rut is when the stags (males) compete for females. It usually occurs in October for a couple of weeks and when combined with autumanal colours makes for an exciting wildlife spectacle. There are many places in The UK where you can watch deer go about this ritual. Bradgate Park in Leicestershire is popular as is Richmond Park in London. Richmond is where the two days of this particular workshop occurred.
The workshop took place over a Saturday evening and Sunday morning. This usually would allow us to photograph the deer at sunset and sunrise. When we first arrived in the park we discovered a race was on which meant lots of people in the park. This meant that the deer weren’t in their usual locations but we quickly found some to photograph. This was really just an “early exchange” to get a few shots in the bag before moving on to consider compositions. Sadly the weather had other ideas and the heavens opened making it just too wet and dark for sunset shots.
Tesco Bags Are Not Photo Covers
The weather wasn’t much better on the Sunday morning, but OK to head out with the cameras. We convoyed to Richmond Park which should have been a straightforward exercise. Instead I ended up following the wrong car which resulted in the driver of that vehicle pulling over. I presume they were either wary they were being followed or thought that my Evoque was a police car. The mix up was amicably resolved but I’m not sure who was more worried – me or the other driver.
Once back with the group it was time to photograph the deer again – in the rain. Unfortunately I didn’t have a waterproof cover for my Sony A77ii! But I hoped that a Tesco Carrier Bag would suffice to keep the rain off. For the most part it did the job and we got a few shots of deer covered in leaves and debris as well as bellowing stags. When photographing deer you’re advised to keep a safe distance, approach slowly and not make sudden movements. Not every photographer follows this advice and it’s fascinating to watch people try and get up close and personal with a testorone fuelled stag.
By 11am the rain had passed and the sun started to shine. The deer were looking great too but sod’s law decided to take effect. Despite working well in the rain, the Sony A77ii had got just a little bit too wet. Damn you Tesco Carrier Bag photo cover. The result was the shutter not working and a real concern that I’d drowned the little black box. Sadly this put an end to my photography for the day. Once home the camera went into the airing cupboard with some rice and survived. I now always have a proper rain cover with me at all times. Lesson learnt!
This was a particularly enjoyable workshop despite the weather. It showed me that you can always get shots even in the wet. Sean Weekly, who guided the trip, was excellent and also offered some Lightroom hints and tips during the Saturday evening. I do like guides who take an interest in their clients – Sean was always on hand for advice regarding settings, composition and ideas. Some guides I’ve encountered spend all the time doing their own thing rather than putting their clients first.
Choosing A Workshop
Sadly I’ve not been able to return to Richmond Park since 2016 and the company I went with no longer offer the trip. However there are opportunities for me to view the rut closer to home and I’ve visited Dinefwr and Margam Park. They do have deer although they do tend to be away from the main visitor areas and most certainly not “up there” when compared to Richmond. I’ve not done any other deer rut workshops but know that there are plenty of options, especially for Bradgate Park. Note you may have to book well in advance as places tend to be limited.
Discover Wildlife offers a list of the best places to see rutting red deer in the UK. Their post also gives some useful information about the rut and what to expect. My advice is use the list and then search for “location deer workshops” on Google. Typically you can expect to pay £100 or so for a one day workshop. If you’re not keen on a workshop you can always do it yourself. If this is the case then make sure you have time to do both sunset and sunrise photography as – weather dependent – this will hopefully get you some amazing shots. Do check in advance that your location will allow you in to be in early and/or leave late – and whether permits are required.