Shad does a Stag-do!

The stag in question was not an intoxicated man celebrating his upcoming wedding; it was in fact a beautiful Red Deer with magnificent branched antlers, an auburn coat and an alluring cream coloured patch on his rump!  He was strutting his stuff amongst the vibrant greens and rich autumn browns of Bushy Park, home to both Red and Fallow Deer that roam freely across the grounds.  Red Deer are the largest of the UK’s resident deer species and can weigh 90 to 140 kg (up to 22 stone) depending on the food available.  This young man was about a metre high (almost 4 feet) and seemed to enjoy sweeping his antlers across the reeds and bushes by the river.  He ended up wearing a crown of twigs with pride.

 

The 320 deer currently residing at Bushy Park contribute to the diversity of plant and insect life by grazing which, unlike cutting, creates variation in the structure of plant life and does not damage the anthills, thereby adding character to the grassland.  This chap certainly added character to his environment, with his funny hat and funny noises.  He emitted a kind of bellow, like a loud creaking door or a grizzly human baby having a squeaky grumble.  May be he was getting ready to attract the ladies as part of ‘rutting’ behaviour during breeding season.  Apparently the stags invest much time and effort competing with other males for the females by having roaring contests and walking in parallel, bobbing their heads up and down and barking.  Unfortunately, all this puffing of chests and clashing of antlers can sometimes lead to conflict, causing injuries or even death.  It seems like an awful lot of effort just for a date.  They should take a leaf out of my book and try swinging swagger and a cheeky grin!

 

Anyway, when deer are in rutting season (September to November) or when they are caring for their young (May to July) they can feel a bit vulnerable and defensive, so John and I hid behind a tree some distance away, ninja-style.  The advice is to stay at least 50 metres away and not to touch, feed or photograph them at close range in case they become aggressive.  They are wild animals after all.  Here’s a little bit of info you might find useful at the next pub quiz.  Only the males grow antlers which are made of solid bone and are shed and regrown annually, becoming progressively more branched as the stag gets older.  Re-growing their antlers is a demanding business that requires a lot of energy and nutrition to complete, but a fresh undamaged set each year gives them an advantage, and quite frankly looks darn good!

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Shad contemplates his career

These pictures are of one of my pretty domestic feline cousins.  She absolutely insisted that I share it with you.  Vain, yes I think so!!  But she’s cute so she gets away with it.  Her name is Muffin and being a sleek black cat like me, she is a little tricky to capture on film.  The facial features and subtle colour changes of black cats (just like white cats) can be difficult to see on camera because there is no contrasting colour for the auto focus to lock onto.  With practice, such photography becomes easier and I was pleased with the pictures John and I took of Muffin that day.  So was she, as you can tell from the self-satisfied expression on that adorable little face!!

John and I have been amateur photographers for many years and decided to go professional in early 2013.  It’s been an exciting year given that I am passionate about camerawork and had the opportunity to shoot different people and animals in a wide range of places and contexts.  I’ve learned so much and seen an improvement in my work and I’ve gained a name for myself as a photographer who listens to his clients and creates images that leave a lasting impression.  We’ve also had so much fun and I think it’s important to laugh and enjoy your vocation and help people relax.  But it has also been the most challenging time.  There are so many photographers charging too much without delivering on their promises, or charging too little, reflecting their bargain-basement attitude.  It’s a competitive industry.

Making a success of the business sometimes feels like an arduous task and no matter how honourable and capable I am, there’s always someone out there waiting to get one over on you!  But John and I make a good team.  With John’s skilful use of the lens and his technical expertise, and my impeccable charm and eye for composition, we’re determined to rise to the challenge.  By the way, in case you’re curious, Muffin has a personality as endearing as her petite velvety nose, and we’re just good friends!

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