Getting Close To A Roe Deer

At close range, there's no way of evading the deer's senses. Subject knowledge and habituation will get you far closer than camouflaged clothing.

One the first things to deal with when trying to take a photograph of a roe deer is to be close enough to enable you make the subject large enough in the frame to make the type of image you want to create.

Now, clearly in the image above, the deer is overwhelmingly large in the frame, and normally, you wouldn’t to make the make the subject so big that you can almost not see anything else in the picture. The image is virtually uncropped and was taken with a long, telephoto zoom lens.

How Did I Get So Close To This Deer?

I had been with this adult buck for about half an hour, as he was moseying along a line of blackthorn bushes, picking off choice leaves for his consumption. This deer’s behaviour was well-known, and I knew he had a favourite spot where he’d like to lie down and to take a rest for a while.

Sure enough, within a short space of time, down he went and I was able to take this image of him watching out across the field in front of him. It was a very pleasant experience to be in his presence for another three-quarters of an hour, before someone, a dog-walker, moving the far horizon caused him to get up and take refuge in the bushes behind him.


What Can You Do?  

  1. Know your subject. This is crucial. And there are two things you need to know: the biology of the roe deer and something about the habits of the deer themselves.  

  2. Habituate the deer to your presence. Over time, given constant environmental conditions, you can get the deer used to your presence without causing them adverse disturbance.

But the points given above are relevant to sustainably photographing roe deer over a protracted period of time, not a one-off photography session at a new site. Habituation cannot be achieved in a single visit.

In another article, I will expand on these points in more detail.

I just thought I’d need to mention one more thing before I finish this piece: Wearing a ghillie suit to blend in with the surroundings will only get you so far.  When it comes to roe deer, I have found that camouflage gear will make you less threatening to the deer, and they will come closer to you than they might have done without it, but overall, they know you’re there and will therefore keep their distance, whether you’re wearing the ghillie suit, or not.

Knowing your subject and allowing the deer to know you, is the most reliable way of making photographs of deer showing them behaving in natural manner.

Technical Details of Image

Shutter time: 1/400 s Aperture: f/5.6 ISO: 720 Focal length: 550 mm

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