Cairngorms Break – Day 3 Red Deer & Red Grouse

With the weather forecast looking decidedly grim, we chose to use the ‘mobile hide’ today…. the car! Usually low light conditions like this would render photography almost impossible with the Canon 7D, as I could not shoot above ISO 800. With my new 7D MrkII, the ISO capabilities are far superior. For those who are not photographers, this means that the camera has a sensor that is much more sensitive to any available light. Subsequently, you can achieve a faster shutter speed at low light levels. Today the light was so poor that I would never have been able to get the kind of shutter speed necessary to get a sharp shot. This new camera allowed me to photograph in conditions that I would not have normally even got my camera out of the bag!

We decided to head up to the Glen Affric area to look for Red Deer. The driving rain and low cloud can actually make for a pretty dramatic and atmospheric shot and the wet ground can enhance the wonderful colours that are present at this time of year. As we drove up to the area, the sky darkened, yet every now and then, the cloud would clear and the rain would ease…. we were confident that we could get some shots even in these conditions. The great thing about digital photography is that you can experiment and attempt shots and, even if they are a little dark, levels can be raised in processing if you are shooting in Raw.

Meandering up a series of windy roads, the landscape was truly dramatic and very much epitomises the Scottish landscape… I knew the Red Deer were going to look amazing in this environment… if we could find them!

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The deer are incredibly difficult to spot as they are exactly the same colour as the landscape! With the rain, many were also sitting, hunkered down, in the bracken. Often it was only their antlers that gave away their presence.

We soon spotted some and started to take some shots…

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They just look fantastic in this landscape… very majestic!

I played around with some shots as I wanted to show the expanses of grass and dried bracken and how well these deer blend in with their surroundings…

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On a couple of occasions, some individuals came quite close, meaning that Pete and Andy, with their larger lenses, struggled, yet me with my 100-400mm was more manoeuvrable (doing gymnastics on the back seat to get the shot out of the window!)

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This individual came up behind the car, posed a few times and actually crossed over the road behind the car!

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After driving around for a couple of hours, with varying degrees of success, we were treated to a couple more views, before we decided to head off and see what else we could find….

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We decided to head up to the moors to see if we could find some Red Grouse. With the rain now seemingly set in for the day, the light levels were deteriorating and we wondered whether our quest to get an ‘atmospheric’ shot was a little too ambitious!

I had to knock the ISO up to 5000 to achieve 200th of a second shutter speed , but the wet weather had made the colours really vibrant and I was actually pretty pleased with the shots I got. These are just screen captures and it is only when I look at the full RAW files, that I be able to see how much ‘noise’ there is on these images, but they look fine to me and WAY better than the 7D could have achieved.

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By half 3, it was like dusk and there was hardly any light. We had a quick drive up to Berghead Harbour to see if there was anything in on the high tide, but in the gloom, we could see nothing. It was time to head back after another superb day in the highlands!