A day photographing Red Deer and Dippers on Exmoor
A wildlife photography adventure
Would you like to:
- Hone your wildlife photography skills?
- Experience the thrill of tracking and then photographing Red Deer, the UK’s largest land mammal?
- Follow this up by homing in on the tiny Dipper, an iconic bird of our moorland and woodland streams?
- Spend a day in some of southwest England’s most beautiful and wildest countryside?
If you can answer ‘Yes’ to these questions then this day of photography is for you.
What the locations and photography consist of
We start by meeting on the edge of Dunster, in the northeast corner of Exmoor National Park. From here, we walk out into countryside that is a mix of fields, forest, birch scrub and open moorland, spread across a large and steep hill.
At any point while in this countryside we could run into groups of Red Deer, though there are certain spots where they are most usually found. You’ll always need to be ready with the camera, as you could just stumble upon deer at any time.
Fallow Deer can also be found in this area, but they are generally much more difficult to come across.
We will spend about three hours following the Red Deer before returning to Dunster. We will then drive to Lynmouth (about 45 minutes away) to photograph Dippers (for the full-day course).
Dippers live along clean fast-flowing rivers, such as those on Exmoor and Dartmoor, and are a classic bird of this environment. They are generally rather shy, but along the banks of the East Lyn River, at Lynmouth, they have become quite used to the presence of people. This makes them quite approachable and hence photographable. We will spend the rest of the day attempting to photograph this charismatic bird.
What you’ll learn about
This wildlife photography course will aim to teach the following skills:
● How to look out for, track and behave around wildlife;
● The use of telephoto lenses for wildlife photography;
● Catching the moment with a quickly and erratically moving subject;
● Controlling and making use of the balance between shutter speed and lens aperture to gain the best exposure, plus controlling depth of field (ie the amount of the image that is sharply in focus);
● How to use some of the camera’s most important features, such as semi-manual modes, in particular shutter-priority, in order to help you to get away from ‘auto-everything’, as well as the ISO settings, image histogram and exposure compensation;
● Executing the image, using positioning, perspective, focus control, use of light, and lens focal length to create simple, strong compositions.
Full day or half-day?
To photograph both the Red Deer and the Dippers requires a full day (7-8 hours). If opting for a half-day (up to four hours), then the itinerary will be able to do either the Red Deer or the Dippers, not both. We would recommend concentrating on the Red Deer. Opt for the full-day to gain the whole experience.
Half-day (up to four hours): £250 for 1 to 4 people, and £65 per person for each additional person;
Full-day (seven to eight hours): £350 for 1 to 4 people, and £95 per person for each additional person.
What you will need
Inevitably, telephoto lenses will be needed, so will need to have one with a focal length of at least 300mm.
You may also want to bring a wide-angle lens in case you see any landscapes you’d like to photograph during the day.
Depending upon weather conditions, you may want to have a tripod and flashgun, so if you have these please bring them, just in case.
Good hiking boots are a must, as some of the ground we’ll be going over while tracking the deer is quite rough and steep.
Make sure you have good weather-proofing for both yourself and your camera gear. Sadly, I cannot guarantee that it will not rain!
Our meeting point in Dunster is at a small pay-and-display car park on the southern edge of the village. There are normally spaces in this car park in the morning.
In Lynmouth there are several car parks and on-street parking alongside the river.
There are places to buy food and drink in both Dunster and Lynmouth, but it is best to bring at least some of your food and drink with you. At the very least, have water and snacks to carry with you while photographing.
We usually have a picnic lunch in Lynmouth.
Public toilets are available in both Dunster and Lynmouth.
The course will be spent wholly outdoors, so there is always the likelihood that we will be rained upon. Be sure that you can protect your camera gear.
Due to the vagaries of the British weather, we cannot necessarily set the date of a course in stone, and some flexibility may be needed. If we are faced with a severe weather forecast in the final few days running up to the intended course date it may be necessary to postpone and rearrange for a later date – preferably just a day or two later, as soon as the bad weather has passed.
Please bear this in mind my planning your travel arrangements.
The course’s location
The day will start in Dunster, the meeting point being a car park on Park St, on the southern edge of the village, just off the A396.