Andrew McCarthy Photography

Andrew McCarthy

Macro Photography: 6-Spot Burnets

Managed to get out this morning to photograph the common but rather beautiful, newly emerged 6-spot burnet months at a site I have worked for a while now for slow worms and adders, up on the Haldon Ridge and about 10 minutes from my home.

It is a roadside waste site and is botanically quite rich, so has plenty of ragwort, a key species for another iconic species – cinnabar moth; in this case the caterpillars.  A lesson on working in poor light again – although the wind was fairly light – at least in the morning, the light was very patchy and from time to time was pretty horrible; flash needed to be used for most of this shoot.

As I said, I have been working this side for adders for a while now; I first came across this place a few years back when I was working in an Environmental Impact Assessment for a local road realignment and needed to trap and translocate reptiles, in particular adders, to this site from a location nearby.  Since then it’s developed into a really nice grassland and scrub site with a pretty good invertebrate diversity.  

I have noticed though that recently a number of reptile heat ‘refuges’ have appeared in the grass, as well as dormouse tubes in the adjacent scrub.  Clearly a local ecological consultancy is surveying this site, which in turn means the site is likely to be subject to a planning application sometime soon; I guess I had better start looking round for another adder site! 

Photographing Foxes in Devon (part 5)

I took a friend and her two boys out this evening for some wildlife watching and you really could’nt plan for this!  The vixen and cubs are now so relaxed that they came right up to the camera and to the visitors – spellbinding.  The boys loved it.  

The vixen and cubs were so close most of the time that the 500mm was more or less redundant; just as well then that I had my trusty 70-200 f2.8 in the bag, as this was bang on the right lens.  The light was nice too and the resultant shots were unusual / a bit differnt.  All in all a great session.

Photographing Foxes in Devon (part 4)

Another wonderful session with ‘my’ foxes this evening (I am starting to think of them as my friends – strangely!!  I have been trying for a few days now to get some shots of the vixen and cubs interacting, and they really decided to play ball this evening.  

The main cub in the picture is the one my wife (who has been down with me a few times) called ‘the naughty cub’.  Its far more confident and larger than the other two and it will be interesting to see how it develops compared to the rest of the litter as time goes on.  

There were three cubs with the vixen tonight; there were five when I first saw them, one of which was killed on the road a few weeks back.  Road accidents are a worry for the vixen and the cubs, as the earth is near the road and the cubs are getting more confident…  fingers crossed they are OK till they disperse later in the year.  

Photographing Foxes in Devon (part 3)

I had a great session with Mrs Fox and her cubs this evening.  They are becoming relaxed in my presence now and so the hide is not now needed.  I just sat quietly and watched the vixen and cubs at play.  The vixen is getting really relaxed about my presence; she seemed quite happy to pose for pictures and this seems in turn to relax the cubs.  

Apart from a short period at the end of the session the light was challenging (as it always is at this site) since the sun dips behind trees quite early, so there is no opportunity to use the really warm light of the ‘golden hour’.  The site is also very tightly constrained and I had to work really hard to get nice clean backgrounds to the shots.  Still, what a magic way of spending an evening!  A couple of shots from the session are posted below:

Photographing Foxes in Devon (part 2)

I have had a few sessions with the cubs since my first encounter in early June (in the earlier blog) but what with work and other commitments, I have not had a chance to really catch up with the patterns of activity of this fox family and consequently I felt as though things were a bit hit and miss.  

Over the past few days though it has become clear the cubs are spending more time away from the area where I had originally spotted them and I have eventually managed to track the second earth down to an old area of outbuildings and hard-standing adjacent to a house. The householders have been extremely helpful when they realised what I am trying to achieve and have given me more of less free access to the area around the den – ideal!  My first early morning session was poor – at least in photography terms – since the cubs did not present any really good photographic opportunities whilst I was sitting nearby.  On the plus side though it was clear they are getting used to my presence.  

The best encounter that morning (although not from a photographic point of view) was whilst I was walking back to my car about 6.30am to get ready for work; the vixen (who I have not seen until now) just walked casually by me, on the other side of the lane about 10 feet away… She barely noticed me and only deigned to look back as she turned into a nearby field, where she wandered showly off.  A magic experience and it goes to show that you dont always need to get the shot to make a session worthwhile.  Later that same day, in the evening, I had a nice session with the vixen close to the earth and got this nice shot of her in typically casual pose.  

Photographing Foxes in Devon (Part 1)

Driving home a few nights ago I was greatly surprised to see a vixen and her five cubs playing in the sunshine in a field fairly close to home.  Seeing foxes in such a public place is really unusual, and since I have been looking for an accessible, active earth for a number of years now, it seemed like a golden/too good-to-miss opportunity which needed checking out.  

A few enquiries later (which comprised a visit to a local farmer and to a nearby householder) and the following evening I was tucked quietly under my bag hide in the corner of a field waiting for the cubs to emerge.  I have shot pictures of foxes in the past and they are nothing if not unpredictable.  The vixen often has more than one earth and she will move the cubs frequently – especially when they are young – in an attempt to avoid them being predated. Predictably then, despite having prepared well (I checked out the earth location first, my shooting position was with the sun behind me and the wind was in my face) the cubs appeared behind me in a less than ideal positon from a photography point of view.  

I still managed to squeeze off a few shots, including this one of what my wife later christened ‘the naughty cub’ for reasons that should become clear in later blog entries!  This cub spent five minutes or so stalking my hide, before sitting some distance away, preening and keeping an eye on this camoflaged ‘lump’!

Macro photography: Garden Cross Spiders

I spent this morning photographing garden cross spiders Araneus diadematus. My main subject was a plump female spider with a web which stretched right across the garden path.  Rather cooperatively, she kept to the middle of her immaculate web but not unusually with this kind of photography, I was hampered by the slight breeze, which kept blowing the web about at critical moments.  

This kind of photography is not easy and is really, really weather dependent.  Good timing and luck play a big role, as well as good technique!  Of all the images taken this morning, this was the only one I was really happy with.  

Kit:  Sigma 150mm macro, Gitzo tripod, Arca Swiss ball head and 250mm Lastolite reflector to provide fill light.