This winter (2016 / 2017) I began running Photography tuition days with the fabulous mountain hares (Lepus timidus) in the Cairngorm National Park, Scotland. Based near Aviemore we had some absolutely fantastic encounters.
Mountain hares are a rare species in the Uk, simply because the ecological niche they inhabit is limited to high mountain moorland. Even in this limited niche they are shot for 'sport' and by keepers who believe they have an effect on their grouse populations. In a few places where the landowners are more philanthropic the mountain hares thrive side by side with good populations of red grouse. Even here though, global warming is impacting on their lives as lack of snow means they stand out conspicuously against the heather and are therefore more prone to predation from foxes, eagles and human hunters. All this makes photographing them a rare and exciting privilege.
On my photo tuition days we concentrate not just on camera kit and settings but also on field craft. Teaching clients how to get close enough for amazing photographs whilst leaving the hares undisturbed and relaxed enough to continue there daily routines of stretching yawning and grooming resulting in very happy clients and undisturbed wildlife.
Before Christmas there was very little snow and the hares stood out in their fabulous white winter coats against the bleached winter grasses and heather on the mountain side. This made them a little easier to find but more difficult to approach. Later in the season during some visits in January we had deep snow where the animals were almost buried in their snow holes which made for wonderful images.
By late January the snow was coming and going and some of the most memorable encounters occurred as the snow was falling on a dark background, slowly returning the hares to their camouflaged state.
The clients who came with me all had a fantastic experience. Many had not experienced being in an extreme environment like this or even been on a mountain before, but all came away saying what a fantastic experience it had been and with some superb images to prove it.
We already have bookings for 2018 so contact me here; Gowild@freeuk.com as soon as possible if you would like to join me and the hares in Scotland next winter!