Rory champion photography

EXPLORING WILDLIFE, LANDSCAPES AND NATURAL HISTORY THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY

How to photograph hares

Hares are difficult to photograph whether you're  an amateur or professional photographer as they are most active during the night/dawn/dusk, are skittish beyond belief and are exceptionally fast runners. However there are certain steps to take when photographing hares which will help get you some good shots. You can read more about my attempts at photographing hares here or read on below for a brief summary of my findings. This is, of course, based on personal opinion and experience and all I can really advise for certain is to know your subject, have patience and be still and quiet. The rest you should figure out yourself - it's a great deal of fun.

What photos of hares do you want?

To start with, decide what types of photos of hares you are after, as this will help you home in getting what you want. For example, it is easier to get photos of hares at a distance in their wider environment than it is to get closeup portraits. Most people want the closeup portrait photographs of hares, and this does require good skills in tracking, observation, and patience. Also, whilst you don't necessarily need a professional camera and lenses, your equipment's capabilities in dealing with low light and fast-moving subjects will significantly dictate the quality of your photos. That said, photos of hares close up can be quite dull. There is potential to produce interesting work from greater distances and with more composed frames. You only have to look at the award-winning 'Hare in a Landscape' to illustrate how well landscape/hare juxtapositions work.

What quality will you be happy with?

Also, decide what level of quality you will be happy with. For example, with all of my photos I am not really satisfied unless the photos I take require little of no editing, especially cropping i.e. I want the original frame size to be the final image I use, and I keep in my mind parameters that I would need to stick to if I were entering images into a competition e.g. minimum print dimensions, colour corrections etc. Cropping to zoom in on the subject also removes detail and, if you're using amateur-level lenses, you will also lose sharpness.

Equipment needed

It would be great to have the very best lenses available, but if you're an amateur and on a budget then this is out of the question. What's more is that you will learn much less about wildlife, photography and wildlife-photography unless you can understand what it takes to become undetectable by your subject. However, there is no getting round the fact that you will need a telephoto lens to get the best chance of photographing hares with reasonable detail. I can only speak as a 'nikonian', and the following equipment I recommend:
  • Body: DSLR - full frame is better for lower light, but a cropped sensor DSLR will give you a bit more reach with your zoom lens. The caveat is that if low-light prevails, then I'll switch back to a full-frame body.
  • Lens: Nikon 70-300mm VR f4-5.6. This is a great lens if you don't have thousands to spend. The VR (vibration reduction) means camera shake is reduced to a minimum.If you have unlimited funds, the 300mm f2.8 VRII is ideal, as you could add in a teleconverter and still be able to deal with moderate light conditions. And whilst you're in the process of hammering your credit card, you may as well add in the Nikon 600mm F4 for 7k.
  • Teleconverter: Consider a teleconverter like the Kenco Teleplus MC7 DGX 2X, as it will extend the reach of your zoom lens by double. Teleconverters with the above lens work best when there is good light (sunny), otherwise the autofocus does not work properly and you will waste time waiting for it to focus. In lower light, you will need to focus manually. If the light is so low that your shutter speed needs to go below 1/80sec don't bother using the teleconverter, as you're images will turn out blurry.
  • Tripod: If you're staying put in one place then this is worth using, however don't bother with a tripod if you're walking around.
  • Camouflage clothing: Once you've found a location which holds a population of hares, you need to blend in with your surroundings. Ensure you are dressed in camouflage clothing. More on this in the tactics section below.

Location

Hares are to be found in arable farmland in Norfolk and Suffolk, such as Buckenham Marshes or RSPB Havergate. If you have seen the odd hare about near you, spend some time early morning and late afternoon with some binoculars looking out over farmers' fields nearby. Also, ask local people like farmers or dog walkers whether they have seen any about. Hares are creatures of routine. If you see a hare in daylight, it will likely regularly return to that area.

Tactics

The main problem in photographing hares is that they are very shy and timid, and will often be already running off in the other direction even before you have even spotted them. The trick is to identify an area where you know hares regularly use. Then pick a spot at the fringe of a field which has some tree or foliage cover. Sitting very still and quietly behind small camouflage blind (which you can easily build with a few camouflage materials and wood from ebay) or photography hide will obscure your movements and you will hopefully go unnoticed by hares walking into the area. If you don't have a hide, try and sit behind some foliage. Get into position just before dawn, so that the effects of any interruption you have caused will have subsided by the time the sun has risen and you are ready to take photos.

Hare photography composition

Many people just focus on closeup portrait shots, which are great, but could have easily been faked. As well as portrait shots, consider showing hares in their wider environment. Boxing hares is perhaps the holy grail of hare photography, and for this you will need a fast shutter speed of at least 500/s, which means you will also need plenty of light.

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