According to the meteorological calendar, winter begins in the United Kingdom on the first day of December. Winter brings many changes to the natural world and with these changes, come opportunities for the nature photographer. With the weather forecasting the first snow storms of this winter to hit the Peak District, my focus turned to the wildlife that remains on the high moors in the Peak during the winter and in particular Red Grouse. Whilst not as hard as in Scotland, the first snow fell on the higher areas of the Peak including the Staffordshire Moorlands giving enough coverage to photograph Grouse in wintry conditions.
With the snow falling, I returned to an area of high moorland where I had previously photographed Grouse. On this occasion, I was please to find that the Grouse were present in significantly higher numbers than in previous years. Speaking to the one of the local gamekeepers, he confirmed that the Grouse had had a good breeding year as a result of favourable weather conditions earlier in the year. In previous years, wet and cold springs had caused a high mortality rate amongst the young Grouse chicks.
Between snow showers, the sky would at times partially clear affording the opportunity to make images of the Grouse in their habitat under a wintry sky.
Photographing when the temperature is below freezing presents many challenges. When concentrating on making images, it can be easy to overlook personal comfort and safety. Equipment has to be protected to ensure that it continues to function whilst exposed to the cold and condensation does not form inside it when re-exposed to warmer air inside vehicles and/or buildings.
If you were to ask most non-photographers what they consider to be good weather, their answer would in all likelihood be a warm summer’s day with the sun high in a clear blue sky. For photographers, and particularly nature photographers, good weather means the opposite and what most would consider bad weather can present opportunities to make images that convey the raw beauty of the natural world. The key to photographing in snow storms is finding a strong subject that acts as the focal point of the image, Grouse make such subjects.
As well as making images of the Grouse in their habitat and during the snow storms, I also worked on making close up portraits of them.
With the high number of Grouse on the moor, I observed some large coveys forming and flying over the moor. Whilst photographing one such covey, they took flight directly over where I had set up.
As winter deepens, hopefully more snow will fall on the Peak and I will be able to return to the high moors to continue to work with the Grouse and the other animals that inhabitant these wild places during winter.