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The night project.

A couple of years ago I worked with a rescued hedgehog that visited my garden for one summer. Because the hog was fairly tame I could take images of it without it flinching when the camera shutter fired. This is a common problem when many people work with wild hogs and which gives the poor animal a frightened, cowering look in the final image. The image I liked best from that summer was one of the hog feeding on snails on a step in my garden using the house as a frame in the background.

During this last summer I have been lucky to have two foxes, an occasional badger and a couple of bats visit my garden. I decided that as the nights draw in and I was home for much of this summer I would try to replicate the hog image where I had used my house as an urban backdrop in the image. I baited the foxes every night and when they turned up remotely fired the camera which looked back to my house from within my living room. I could now watch telly, have a nice cuppa and keep an eye out all at the same time!

The foxes never really liked the camera noise, though one, the older male was far more tolerant then the younger female. Only once did a badger show up when I was watching. I guess that the foxes arrived earlier every night and the badger never got into a routine because there was seldom any food left!

Towards the end of the summer I noticed that one bat in particular flew every evening at almost exactly the same time around the garden at dusk for about 15 minutes then it disappeared. I have photographed wild bats before but with limited success so decide that I would have a concerted effort at trying to produce a set of images, particularly as I have mentioned this in my new book!

After many trial efforts I eventually came up with a workable method using multiple exposures and different lenses. The main problem was to actually get an image of the bat that is sharp. The lens has no chance of auto-focusing because the little blighters move so fast and erratically. I therefore used a 70-200 at 100mm fixed its focussing distance and at a high ISO and with a flash set to manual fired every time I thought a bat had strayed into range. If I got the bat in the frame I was doing well! Once I had what I hoped was a good image of the bat I then changed lenses twice to get the moon and house into the picture. After 20 nights at it I have managed 3 images that are presentable!    

I have not finished the project yet as I aim to create a whole series of images of different animals with my house as the backdrop. Next year I will work on frogs, invertebrates and again with the badgers and bats. I showed some of these images recently and was accused of living in a super remote rural area. ‘Not true’ I replied, I live in urban Sheffield, I am surrounded by other houses and don’t have a massive garden. All I have done is work hard to make my garden as wildlife friendly as possible.