Had some great news today after finding out I’d won the 12-18 category in the British Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. Can’t say how thrilled and I am at getting the award especially given all the other fantastic entries. I thought it might be nice to provide a little bit of background to my image.
I live in a typical suburban road but which also borders on lots of open spaces and farm land so with the best of both worlds so to speak we’ve always been lucky enough to have foxes on our doorstep. Typically they would frequent neighbours gardens who after playful games would curl up in a favourite corner for a quiet snooze, most of which I would watch from bedroom window.
The year before last a vixen and a one eyed dog fox which I presumed to be her mate regularly began to venture into our garden so I began to film them first using my Trail Cam and then more intimately using my old playhouse as a hide. It was a great experience, one of those wonderful highs you get when you experience nature first hand (so much so the BBC came to film it !).
This year I decided I needed to concentrate my photography in the form of some longer term projects and when in early spring the Vixen and her mate again returned to our garden I was presented with the ideal opportunity. I didn’t have a specific idea in mind but simply set out to photography the pair over the course of time and hopefully if I was luck would even see some cubs.
Over the course of several months I patiently took the time to gain their trust initially taking few photos and instead concentrated on building their confidence and encouraging them to visit the garden more regularly by enticing them with leftover food scraps. I would put the food out at the same time usually in the evenings to the point it eventually became a routine for the Vixen to visit expectant of a treat !
Increasingly I began to photograph her graduating from the relative distance of our kitchen stable doors to the patio and finally alongside her in our garden. This all took time and became a patient game of grandma’s footsteps and a lot of “belly” crawling gradually edging closer, stopping each time she looked up and only continuing when I felt she was comfortable. None of which is easy when you’re also trying to move and position a large heavy telephoto lens (Canon 400mm).
I should mention at this point that my subject was almost exclusively the Vixen, the one eyed dog fox very cautious to start with became an ever more reclusive visitor only joining the Vixen on rare occasions.
After about two months I managed to build up an amazing amount of trust with the Vixen such she would be almost within touching distance of my lens hood quite happy to be photographed. At times, perhaps bored being the centre of attention, she would simply curl up for a nap right in front of me !
Her visits in search of food also became much more frequent throughout the day though she stayed less the reason for which became apparent when I heard the sound of cubs squabbling from the Den several gardens away – her priorities had changed and she was clearly more interested in taking food to her cubs.
Unfortunately the timid nature of the cubs, only venturing out during twilight and the distraction of GCSE’s meant I didn’t manage to get many shots of the them together but to be honest it was nice just to put the camera aside and watch them interacting with the Vixen.
It has been a memorable experience, my first real project and the first time I’ve tried and managed to build up trust with a wild subject. I didn’t set out with any particular goal in mind but at the end of it I hope I’ve managed to capture a different image of our suburban foxes and present them as the beautiful animals they are and as a contrast to their reputation as a villain and troublesome pest.
It all started about five months ago and whilst things have now quietened down my Vixen still comes to visit so I hope to continue my project through the winter months and who knows the cubs may even return.