Every Spring I start with the intention of spending as many evenings in the hide photographing Red Foxes as I can. In reality by the time I have factored in the evenings where I am either giving talks, away on location or attending an exhibition, these days actually amount to fewer than I would like. However, I was keen to improve on my images from last season with the location of the new hide and using new equipment.
I began shooting back in April this year, as time is needed to give the foxes a chance to become accustomed to the sound of the camera shutters. As these are wild rural foxes they can be shy, so minimal lens movement is important aswell as not firing off a thousand frames! The activity was steady during April with two males coming back and forward in front of the hide but the busy vixens only coming onto the site after dark. It was not until early May in which the activity really started to pick up and where I opened the hide to the public in partnership with Nature Photography Hides.
Although I was consciously trying to achieve simple portraits this year, I am constantly thinking about new angles and settings. Having a few wild flowers in the foreground added a hint of colour and there are some exciting ideas for next year in the pipeline already. Whenever the opportunity arose this year with this particular male, I would use a 500mm lens and a 1.4x converter to try something different as he did not mind coming quite close to the hide.
Although traditionally during May this is too early for the cubs to be coming in front of the hide, I love shooting at this time of year as the grass provides such a lush green out of focus foreground and backdrop to the images. It was exciting news when I first noticed that vixens were lactating and felt reassured that this would be the third year in a row that I would be lucky enough to see cubs. From those three vixens emerged two different sets of cubs which kept me guessing on their arrival all the way up until the 1st week in July, a whole month later than last year, but finally they stepped out into the meadow for the first time.
All together I saw 5 different individual cubs, though three of them were very shy and so most of my photographic opportunities came from the smallest cubs of the group. With fantastic large marble eyes and beautiful black tear drops on their face they provided some perfect moments over of the 2 months. The cubs grow extremely quickly and there is only a relatively short window in which the cubs are at their cutest!
The height of activity is now over for this year but now the cubs are significantly larger I am hoping to keep working on a few ideas with autumn colours through the coming months. This is a long term project that I could never tire of doing. Each night is different, some evenings see far greater activity than others but that is the nature of wildlife photography. Those moments where the inquisitive young cub almost walks right up into your lens hood only happens once or twice in a season but is worth the wait! If there is any snow forecast for this winter, there will be a last minute booking option on the Nature Photography Hides Website. Bookings for 2015 in the hide will open early next year, so if you fancy taking your own pictures of rural red foxes you can click on the link to register your interest: Nature Photography Hides