A dark shadow fell across my body and I stifled a sigh. I turned my gaze towards the darkening sky, disappointed to see the final rays of sun being concealed behind a thick blanket of cloud. Suddenly a mere T-shirt under my light-weight jacket didn't seem like a good idea. Oh why, oh why did I take off my cozy hoodie? I mean, it is February after all, hardly summer weather. I awkwardly took-off my aviators and shoved them in my back-pack. Won't be needing those anymore. I had wondered why I was the only one wearing sunglasses today.
The car bounded over the smooth tar surface that snaked through Tatton Park. It was a far cry from the sharp gravel roads of Namibia and oh, how I miss those roads.
It felt strange to be in Tatton Park again. I hadn't been here since I was a kid. My parents used to take me for outings here - to the little farm where I got to bottle-feed a lamb and just for walks. I remember I learnt to ride my bike in this park and by learnt to ride a bike what I really mean is I lost control on my first ride down a slope and careered into a tree. Ahhh, good times.
What is Tatton Park? Sorry, I perhaps should have opened with that. Tatton Park is owned by the National Trust. It refers to a stately home its vast grounds located in Knutsford, Cheshire in the north west of England.
I was here today on this unexpectedly cold Saturday to do some photography. Since returning from Namibia, I had really thrown myself into photography, spending hours looking at tutorials on understanding cameras and reading through articles. I think the key catalyst in my new-found love of serious photography was my new camera - the Panasonic Lumix GH5. You can read my article on my first impressions of the GH5 here.
As we drove towards the lakes I spotted a group of deer in the distance. My eyes lit up at an instant. Deer! I think my ultimate passion with photography is wildlife photography. Nothing lights my fire quite like it. But I had to hold my tongue for now as the plan was to photograph at the lakes first to see if we could get any shots of birds in action. I was on today's photography expedition with Lewis and both of Lewis' parents and we had to balance what we all wanted to shoot.
The car rumbled to a halt in a pull-over beside one of the lakes. As I exited the car, I shuddered in despair as a vicious gust of wind hit me, biting at my bare skin. Damn! I threw on one of Lewis' coats from the back-seat. He was already in a hoody and never felt the cold as much as me so I guessed he'd be okay without it. I really picked a bad day not to wrap up.
As we walked down to the lake it became apparent that Lewis was not okay with the cold. I gave him his coat back, taking a hit with the cold. I did cause this issue after all. However, turns out as soon as I'm behind the camera I become immune to the temperature. I really should photograph more often!
Satisfied that we had enough bird photos, it was time to find some deer!
Fallow deer at Tatton Park
Tatton Park is home to two types of deer: fallow deer and red deer. When you think of deer you probably automatically think of the tall, majestic red deer. Fallow deer are much smaller and are paler in colour with white spots. When I first laid eyes on them, I thought they were babies!
I noticed the fallow deer first and started to head over to them, heart pounding with excitement. I hadn't really expected to get as close as I did but I suppose they must be used to humans. The deer were extremely active and every so often a group of them would start cantering across the field as if startled.
At one point a small white terrier started racing towards them, its distraught owners on its tail, screaming its name. It reminded me of that video that went viral of the dog 'Fenton' who chased some deer in a park but only a much less extreme version. If you don't know the video, take a look here. There was a moment of chaos as the herd of fallow deer cantered around the field, pursued by a small dog. It yielded some good slow-motion footage, I must admit. Fortunately, no animal was harmed and the terrier's angry owners managed to reattach their canine to the leash.
The fallow deer look so cute and little
The tension was building between two male fallow deer
Then I noticed some deer in the distance, much larger than the fallow deer we had been following. Yes, it was the red deer! Compared to the fallow deer, they looked really impressive (no offence little fallow deer) and strutted their stuff in front of a wooded area.
I wondered how close I'd be able to get without startling them. Wild animals are not to be underestimated, even deer, as my brother learnt the hard way when he was only a toddler. He'd been trying to photograph a baby deer in a nature park in Barbados with his disposable camera. Momma deer clearly thought he was getting too close and pelted after him, giving him a nip on the butt to remember her by. Ahh, it was funny. I'm getting quite nostalgic in this post, eh?
Remembering that story in the back of my mind, I began to slowly creep forwards, seeing how far I could push it. At first the deer didn't seem to notice but as I got around 20 metres away, some of the does started shooting me glances, clearly trying to see what I was up to. I decided not to push it any further and stood a perfect distance away from them, watching them go about their business.
Majestic red deer
Yo, what you looking at?
I had never seen deer so close-up before and I had certainly felt humbled to be so near to them. After no more than a few minutes, the herd moved on, crossing a path to get closer to the woods. I took it as our cue to leave, only just realising how cold I really was. My hands were bright red and I could barely hold the camera anymore. But worst of all, I couldn't stop shivering.
There was a sudden break in the clouds and a warm ray of sunlight filtered down onto the grass. The park turned a warm orange colour, welcoming the evening sunlight. It was a beautiful end to what had been a successful trip to Tatton Park.