Monthly Archives: September 2019

rutting season - red deer stag in Richmond Park

Red Deer in Richmond Park

The red deer rutting season is here again!

Every Autumn Richmond Park attracts an influx of photographers who want an opportunity to photograph the red deer in rut. It is easy to understand why. The deer are not really afraid of people so photographers can approach them, to within the reach of a long lens.

Health and safety!

Although the red deer in Richmond Park do allow people to approach them there is always an element of risk. These deer are large and powerful animals, and they can cover large distances very quickly. In the rutting season the stags can be dangerous, and while they do not naturally target humans, they do sometimes attack people who approach too closely.

So it is best to be cautious and keep a safe distance away. The park authorities recommend keeping at least 50m away. But that 50m can quickly disappear when your back is turned!

I recommend that if you want to photograph the red deer in the rutting season, you should always be very aware of your surroundings. These deer can cover ground very quickly are are free to roam in the park wherever they wish.

Subtle family relationships among red deer

I am not an expert on red deer. But what immediately becomes obvious if you spend any time watching them in Richmond Park is that they have a complex social structure. And when you bear in mind that individual deer have lived among the other deer here all their lives, it stands to reason that they all know each other as individuals.

If you want to quickly find out a bit more about red deer this is a good link.

I do not want to anthropomorphise, but many times I have seen what give the impression of real affection between the deer. I have seen it between females and stags, and between individual adult females too. I have previously noted that the relationship of stags with their “harems” seems to be far more subtle than many programs on the telly would suggest.

A pictorial “cautionary tale”

These photographs were taken on 27 September 2019. It may be relevant that the rut is still in it’s early days. The stags aren’t going at things “hammer and tongs” yet.

This story starts with a stag and his “harem”.  Here he is doing some bellowing…

photo of red deer stag in Richmond Park and licking the air…Red deer stag licking the air - rutting season in Richmond Park
What follows is my interpretation, which should be taken with some caution. The stag reacts to some other stags who have been strutting and bellowing (off stage camera left) for some time and he has been provoked into sorting them out. So he leaves his females and walks towards the other stags who are approximately 150 meters away.

On the way he pauses to pound his antlers in the ground and do some urine spraying. Isn’t it good that men don’t behave like this?

red deer stag - rutting behaviour in Richmond Park
He continues on his way…

photo of red deer stag in Richmond Park

I notice that his route seems to be heading directly towards this (photo below) although it is difficult to tell because of the distance between us.

photo of photogapher in Richmond Park. Better look out!
Surprise!

Now what was I saying about the need to be very aware of your environment? But I don’t believe this photographer was in any real danger. The stag has only one thing on his mind, and that is the other stags whose behaviour has been provoking him.
Red deer are not usually aggressive to humans even in the rutting season

I am not the only interested onlooker. Note the presence of flies around the head. These are pretty well constantly buzzing around the deers’ heads;photo of beautiful young red deer stags in Richmond Park
This (below) is my final photo of the first stag. He then goes off to strut up and down with the other stags who attracted his attention in the first place.

red deer bellowing
But meanwhile… look who is approaching all the females that he left behind!
wild red deer stag in Richmond Park
This dude has a serious set of antlers, and he “takes up residency” with the females the other stag just left behind. So “whose” females are they? I suspect he is a very eligible stag because very soon a whole new gaggle of additional females come sauntering over to join him! I can hear them giggling from here.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that the females are not “owned” by any of the stags. They appear to have a lot of freedom to come and go as they please. This surprised me at first because it contrasts with an impression I got from watching wild life documentaries on the telly.

Rutting season for red deer in Richmond Park

I do not know what the next two photos mean. She looks so tiny compared to him. Has there been some kind of misunderstanding?

Rutting season for red deer in Richmond Park

 

Rutting season for red deer in Richmond Park

 

Red deer stag doing his wolf impression

Now he is doing his wolf impression. Very good too.

Red deer stag doing his wolf impression
beautiful red deer stag
Technical information

Just for people who are interested;
Camera: Olympus OMD EM-1 Mk II
Lens:  M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm IS PRO

I am not a professional wild life photographer and I only take wild life photos as a hobby. I bought this combination of camera and lens specifically to provide me with a professional quality long lens. I could not justify the ‘cost’ (in all senses of the word) of buying a professional long telephoto lens for my Nikons. (I use the Nikons and professional Nikon lenses for most of my commercial, family and baby photography).

The advantage of the Olympus kit is that the 300mm lens on a micro four thirds body gives a magnification that is “equivalent” to a 600mm lens on a full frame body. At the same time this setup is a lot smaller and a lot lighter than a 600mm lens on a full frame body.

The disadvantage is that in my opinion the highest ISO at which the EM-1 MkII can take professional quality photos is 800. This opinion is shared by several other Olympus users I have spoken to, but perhaps not everyone.

Most of the above photos were taken at ISO 800.

actor head shot for Kevin Mangar

Actor Head Shots for Kevin Mangar

Actor head shots for character and variety

Kevin Mangar asked me to take some actor head shots (and also some other photos, but I will talk about those another day).  Some of the resulting images are conventional actor head shots, while others are more “portraits”.

Kevin Mangar often lands roles as villains. Do you think he looks the part?

Well do you, punk?

Curiously, immediately after writing the above sentence I googled “Kevin Mangar” and discovered he played a character called “Eastwood” in the film The Take Down.  What an extraordinary co-incidence! (For people who don’t know “well do you punk” is an iconic line spoken by Harry Callaghan, played by Clint Eastwood in his “Dirty Harry” movies. Look at this clip and then this clip).

According to film buff website IMDb Kevin Mangar is also known for roles in Spider Man 2: Another World and Redcon-1.

What is an “actor head shot”?

Actor head shots are intended to give casting directors an idea of what an actor or actress looks like. However Kevin and I didn’t want to just limit ourselves to conventional actor head shots. So Kevin played some roles, and I fiddled with my lights.

Lighting for head shots and portraits

One light

Here are five “head shots”. In the first, I lit Kevin’s head with a single key light located directly above the camera’s line of sight. You can see the reflection of the key light in Kevin’s eyes. The flash was modified by a gridded white beauty dish. Just the one light (technically this kind of lighting is called “butterfly lighting” because the shadow beneath the nose might look a bit like a butterfly. Allegedly.

very simple actor head shot

Three lights

In the next photo the key light is exactly the same, but I have added two additional lights, one on each side of Kevin’s head.  The photographer has to be quite careful where s/he places these lights in order to create the desired effect. I was using two tall slim soft boxes fitted with grids.

Actor head shot of actor Kevin Mangar

Two lights

Kevin’s third “head shot” shows what happens when the key light is turned off, and the two lights on either side are on. This isn’t really an “actor head shot” at all, because you can’t see the detail of Kevin’s face. But the image makes a very atmospheric portrait nevertheless. I think you will agree this lighting creates a sinister mood? So, not really an “actor head shot” but definitely a “portrait”.

sinister portrait of actor Kevin Mangar

Two different lights

For the fourth head shot in this series I moved the key light to one side, a bit higher than Kevin’s head. It is still modified using the same white gridded beauty dish. I have also moved one of the tall gridded softboxes further back behind Kevin, and brought it’s brightness down. These are the only two lights on Kevin in this photo.

Actor head shot of actor Kevin Mangar

Three lights

Next I threw some light onto the black background, making it grey. The purpose of this is to make Kevin’s outline more visible. I call this Kevin’s “Patrick Stewart” picture.

actor head shot of actor Kevin Mangar

I call this Kevin’s “Patrick Stewart” photo. I assume both actors will find this flattering…

A softer look

As I wrote above, Kevin Mangar often gets typecast as villains. He does a “hard man look” very well. But why don’t we bring out his softer side too?

Kevin Mangar - actor head shot Kevin Mangar - actor head shot Kevin Mangar - actor head shot Kevin Mangar - actor head shot Kevin Mangar - actor head shot

Photoshop post production

Just in case anyone is interested;

Photoshop editing was kept to a minimum.  I made a small number of global adjustments to  basic variables like colour balance, the tone curve, clarity, and maybe one or two other of the sliders that adjust the entire image. I also did a very small amount of eye brightening – very subtle. Otherwise Kevin’s head shots and portraits are as the camera captured them.

Acknowledgement

I thank Kevin Mangar for asking me to take these actor head shots, portraits and other photos (I may write about some of the others later).

British Museum

Visiting the British Museum

Do you know the British Museum allows it’s visitors to take photos of it’s collection?

I treated myself to a “day off” and visited the British Museum

One of the excellent things about the British Museum is that they allow visitors to take photographs. At least in the form of “tourist photos” which is what I was doing. I arrived before the queues had built up, and after going through security and bag search, I was in.

photograph of the British Museum, main entrance

The British Museum’s iconic roof window

This was my first visit to the museum since the iconic roof window was built. So, being a tourist, I took some snaps.British Museum. Photo of the magnificent lobby with it's iconic roof. British Museum. Photo of the magnificent lobby with it's iconic roof.

Walking stone sculpures

I don’t know if the British Museum curators know some of their statues can walk about? I took these photos of “stone sculptures of female deities” from Huaxtec. It was only later I noticed that the deity at the front took a step forwards before I took the second photo! Her movement is a lot more obvious if one can toggle between the photos (rather than scroll).British Museum; photo of stone sculpures of female deities from Huaxtec, Mexico. British Museum; photo of stone sculpures of female deities from Huaxtec, Mexico.

Alien versus Predator

I didn’t read the description of the following, but I think I recognize it as coming from a huge pyramid in an ice cave deep beneath the Arctic somewhere.Photo of artefact in the British Museum. Alien versus Predator? Maybe not. But it looks familiar.

Even deities have bodily functions

Here is a photo of a grumpy female deity doing a dump (I don’t know how the experts know it is a female deity).

Photo of statue in the British Museum - grumpy female deity doing a dump

A real conundrum

The next three photos were taken in succession, and I have no explanation for the pure whiteness of the second photo. Did my camera capture a moment of enlightenment?

British Museum - photo of Buddhist statue accidental photo of enlightenment? British Museum - photo of Buddhist statue

“Head forward and up”…

How not to do the Alexander Method (Buddhist sculpture in the British Museum)

        …or maybe not

(This joke is for followers of the “Alexander Method”)

How not to do the Alexander Method (Buddhist sculpture in the British Museum)

A very subtle self portrait

Can you see me?

British Museum - wrapped blue paper and reflection of the photographer

The nine planets

The British Museum contains many priceless objects of eye watering beauty and craftsmanship. The museum kindly and gently educates us just enough to know what we are looking at. Assuming the information is accurate of course.

For example, just inside the museum’s rear entrance (in Montague Place) you can see statues of the nine planets. These are eyewateringly beautiful sculptures of gods and demons that represent the 9 planets of Indian astronomy, astrology and myth (according to the plaque). As usual, the museum educates with a few well chosen words.

British Museum - photo of one of the "nine planets" of Indian mythology British Museum - the nine planets of Indian astronomy, astrology and myth British Museum - the nine planets of Indian astronomy, astrology and myth

Back into the British Museum’s iconic lobby

Where one can buy some expensive refreshments and rest one’s feet. On the day I visited about 60 or 70 percent of the visitors had an oriental appearance. You can see one of them sleeping in the second photo. He was still there after I finished my refreshments.

British Museum - photo of it's iconic lobby and ceiling

British Museum - photo of it's iconic lobby and ceiling

The British Museum has an excellent collection of Ancient Egypt

Some people look very content when they are dead (stunning craftsmanship).

British Museum - photo of beautiful sarcophagus from Ancient Egypt

Heiroglyphs

Is this evidence that the ancients talked too much?

British Museum - photo of Egyptian Heiroglyphics

The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum

Talking of talking the British Museum also has the Rosetta Stone. It was surrounded by a crush of visitors, so I didn’t take a photo of it. I’ve seen it before anyway (will people recognise this is a joke?) If you want to find out more or see a photo follow the link.

Bah Ram Ewe

I have included this photo because I feel an affinity for it

British Museum - statue of ram figure from Ancient Egypt

Assyrian collection

Another example of extraordinary craftsmanship

Photo of Assyrian Frieze in the British Museum

Detail of the handbag and wrist watch

Photo of Assyrian Frieze in the British Museum - detail showing handbag and wrist watch

 

A final view before leaving

British Museum

Technical info

For what it is worth these photos were taken using an Olympus OMD EM-1 MkII fitted with a 12mm lens (equivalent to a 24mm lens on a full frame camera). This combination is extremely light and easy to carry around. Worn with a Black Rapid camera strap one doesn’t really notice it at all. I did bring another lens with me, but I didn’t use it.

In my (allegedly humble) opinion all cameras are a compromise (for variables that include but are not limited to price, weight, size, speed of shooting, performance in low light, resolution and image quality, etc, etc)

The EM-1 MKII is quite severely limited by being unable to take professional quality images at any iso higher than 800. But it is extremely light, and it has some excellent lenses. Personally I also don’t like the controls. But it can shoot totally silently… and bla bla.