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White On White: The Mountain Hare

With the lack of snow so far this year in the South of England, I was keen to head North into the Cairngorms National Park to make the most of the wintry conditions. My target for this trip was to photograph the Mountain Hare who at this time of year have their fantastic white winter coats.

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I was guided by Mark Hamblin who took me to a stunning location to begin our search. Without his superb ability to spot a Hare a mile away and his general knowledge with the lie of the land, photographing these mammals would have proven very difficult. I learnt a great deal about the Hares not only their habits, but the field craft skills necessary to take the images. I could not have asked for better conditions to work in over the few days. Fresh snow every morning left the mountain side covered in the purest of white.

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Finding the Mountain Hares was one thing, getting close enough was another. Just when you had hauled yourself up the mountain side, unpacked your camera and crawled 20metres across the snow on your stomach, the Hare decides he has had enough and decides to move spot. Determination was key. I much preferred to try and sit with one Hare throughout the day observing its feeding, and grooming behaviour than to photograph lots of individuals. In this way I would hopefully end up with a better portfolio of images.

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The Hares tend to keep as low and sheltered as possible throughout the day. Although the majority of the days were overcast, there were moments where the low winters light was cast over the mountain tops turning the shadows into an icy blue backdrop. After up to three hours of lying in the snow waiting for movement, it was great to see the Hare spring into life. They are fantastic characters to watch.

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AV8R1930This was my first attempt at photographing Mountain Hares and I must say I started to find it addictive. When the conditions were as good as they were, I could easily spend a few weeks there as each encounter was different and gave new perspectives. Thank you so much to Mark who’s help, and advice made for a very productive and enjoyable trip.

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