Autumnal magic in southeast England
Southeast England in the grip of an icy autumn can be a photographer's dream come true - preferably when the sun shines, which it seems to do a fair bit in September and October these days, certainly more than it does in summer!
I've noticed over the past five years or so that late October usually brings together a combination of factors that would make superb photo opportunities in their own right. The trees turn various shades of yellow, red and orange. The sun invariably shines, although it is often interspersed with stormy showers and bone-chillingly cold winds.
Morning frost turns the landscape into a natural wonderland - it doesn't have quite the gravitas of a heavy snowfall but there are few sights more captivating than frost lying at the feet of a mighty oak. Then there's the mist which accompanies a frost and precedes the sun. Get this photo right, and it can add mystery, atmosphere and a dose of drama to your shots.
The light is also ideal at this time of year. It is low in the sky, much warmer than the harsh glare of summer, and it bathes everything autumnal in an extra shade of gold.
Finally, there are the animals, more specifically the stags. In autumn they are in rut so they put on a grand show, providing endless photo opportunities. They spar almost constantly with every other stag which challenges them for mating rights with their harem.
Not only do you get opportunities to snap the stags fighting (I've taken a few this autumn but, alas, not one is in sharp focus owing to the lightning speed with which the stags join battle) but their preoccupation with each other means they allow humans to get a lot closer than they normally would.
In addition, the stags do a whole lot of bugling - not a particularly attractive sound (it sounds like somebody being sick) but if you can catch them doing so early on a frosty morning, set against a dark background, you should get the classic shot of their misty breath pluming outwards, so renowned in photos of stags in the Scottish Highlands.
Again, this is another shot I was after but failed to get because the bugling stag insisted on standing on a hill with the dawn sky as a background, meaning the misty breath effect was nullified.
Ah well, there's always next year...
Photo credits: Davidgarry.