The most amazing wildlife moment I ever experienced

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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I know the title sounds very clickbatey, that wasn’t my intention but it wasn’t a exaggeration. On Wednesday morning, after finishing my night shift, I decided to hang around in the farm fields behind my workplace. I found a nice spot to sit down at the edge of an open field and I was overlooking reeds at the edge of the field (behind them flows a small stream of water). So I decided to sit down in the freshly cut grass and wait to see what happens ... and surely enough after about half an hour waiting I see something orange with pointy ears coming out of the reeds. At first I though put it was a cat from one of the farms behind me, it was barely bigger then my two shoes put together, but after putting my big Oly E-M1 With the Panny 50-200mm to my eye and zoomed all the way in I realise:

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A baby fox, no more then a year old I think. I tried to stand as still and quiet as possible, only moving to track. I was already at grown level, maybe 30 to 40 cm high. I put my camera in AF-C, Manual mode, 1/500 second, f 4, ISO Auto (fluctuated between Low and 250), Electronic Sequential Low of 6 FPS, Centre-Weigth Metering, Smallest single central AF Point, RAW only, Lens IS only.

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It kept coming towards my direction and I was getting even more excited.

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It did keep an eye on me, stopping once in a while and observing me, I was standing as still as I could (lucky I was already sitting down with my feet crossed and a bit hunched to support the lens and camera with my elbows).

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To my unrelenting surprise it came to around 3 to 4 meters in front of me (my best guess) and didn’t seem all that interests in me, more interested in looking for something to eat in the grass. Maybe some poor snail or but insect.

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The most heartbreaking part was I didn’t realise at that time but after I got home and started pulling up the shadows (since the sun was behind the baby fox he exposure was a bit of a challenge to keep the beautiful fur not to blown out along with the freshly cut and condensation soaked gras) and I saw that his/her right eye was completely mangled by a huge claw like scar gong half the face. I can’t even imagine what he/she must have gone through to survive that, so young and yet life was so cruel. Most farmers in UK will tell you foxes are vermin ... I don’t feel that way.

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Never in my life have I ever experience something like this, such a shy and beautiful creature come so close to me (birds and bunnies not included, they are a different matter :p ), it felt so amazing. Admittedly I grew up in the city and it’s where I spent most of my life, I got into wildlife photography only in the past year (and more serious with highest success rates in the last 2 months) so I don’t have much experience or even just seeing wildlife. Also haven’t been to a Zoo since I was 8 and that’s was 23 years ago.

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Unfortunately this was the last picture I made before he/she went off in search for food. I scared he/she off because ... well ... I was making about 25o pictures at this point and for the past 5 minutes I had a huge ass fly crawling on my face and my tolerance was running short because it was getting to close to my eyeball and I just snapped and ... slapped my face hard trying to kill it (with pure anger, dunno for sure) and I scared the little one.

I do hope I get more chances like this, maybe some better light. I now know where they tend to be and what hours they tend to come out looking for food. Also it did put in my brain the idea of a longer lens, something around 600 to 800mm as I don’t think I will get a chance to be this close again.

Also, kind of a weird question, would wearing camouflage clothes help sneak better towards wildlife? (Not like full Ghilli suite, I might get the British SAS after my ass if people see me sneaking around in that). Just military type camo shirt and trousers and maybe a cap (would help with the sunlight beating the crap out of my poor eyesight).
 

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archaeopteryx

Gambian sidling bush
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A baby fox, no more then a year old I think.
Young of the year, most likely born around late March to early April.
Also, kind of a weird question, would wearing camouflage clothes help sneak better towards wildlife?
You've already found the best method, of being part of the scene when the wildlife arrives and letting the wildlife do what it needs to do in its home. In my experience avoiding bright colours can sometimes help some, but not nearly as much as as having the patience to learn and remain still and quiet.
 

Phocal

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nice images and experience

Also, kind of a weird question, would wearing camouflage clothes help sneak better towards wildlife? (Not like full Ghilli suite, I might get the British SAS after my ass if people see me sneaking around in that). Just military type camo shirt and trousers and maybe a cap (would help with the sunlight beating the crap out of my poor eyesight).
To answer your question, Yes. Camo makes a big difference in getting close to wildlife. I have tried camo and just going with earth colors and camo makes things a lot easier. It breaks up that human outline that most animals will be cautious of. It also allows you move a bit more without the animal noticing you because of the broken up outline. Now, there are differences in camo and you need the right kind to really help. Military camo is designed to fool the human eye, which is no where near that of an animal. Personally I only wear Real Tree, they have some of the best patterns out there. I have multiple patterns of camo for the different locations I go to, matching camo to environment is very important.

my 2 copper pieces,

Phocal
 
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I really enjoyed your story, you told it well :) Countryside foxes are very shy usually, unlike urban foxes that have lost a lot of natural inhibitions when it comes to humans, although I still find them fascinating.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Thank you so much for all the wonderful replies. I’ve been learning a lot on the go about wildlife photography. I am lucky that my workplace is outside of town (but still walkable as it takes only 30 minutes to get there by food) and I get access to fields with tree lines so there is a wide variety of animals from small to big that I can find.

I can also get very lucky with the light as well since I travel to work around sunset and get out from work in the morning (though not very early morning so I can’t quite catch the first rays of light in the day and the morning mist/fog during the summer).

My usual clothes travelling to and from work is deep blue trousers and either a white shirt or a red shirt. It’s why I asked if getting some more foliage type colours or patterns like green and brown. Bunnies are the easier to scare, even from 200 meters away (but not always), buzzards notice me quite from far away and very easily spooked (I will have a similar post to this one to make this afternoon, but not as exciting as the fox or as high quality pictures), small birds is a tossup, foxes I’m not 100% about the quality of my sneaking skill level yet.

But it will be an improvement I plan to get for the next season for sure.

I’m a bit lucky that I learn d to move extremely slow and quiet and the patience to do so (I have crawled through tall grass for half an hour about 7 meters to get closer to very young bunny a few months ago) many years ago when all I had was an old manual focus nifty fifty trying to get extremely close to butterflies. Always moved sideways with one foot first then the torso, put the tip of the foot down then the sole of the foot, keep camera up to the chest pointed downward, move very slow with no sudden or apparent change of size or shape of my body, always tried to be as close to the eye level of the subject be it on the ground or on a tree, always control the “big eye” with slow movements and no sudden change or fast changes of direction, Electronic over Mechanical Shutter.

No I just look for a good view spot and sit there for about half an hour to 2 hours and just see what happens and most of the time (about 66%) something interesting does show up.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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That's an amazing opportunity which you captured very well! I noticed the eye right away, that's a sad sight but a tough fox!
It didn't notice in the moment through the EVF, possibly because the sun was at 10:00 behind the fox so half of it was in pretty deep shadow, I did not want to expose to off 0 EV balance because I didn't want to have issues pulling down highlights or pushing up shadows and, it seems, that the dials can be very noisy to turn for some (even this one) subjects.

Great story, great shots! I have been seeing a small fox on my way to work early in the mornings lately. Every time I see him/her I think "I should really bring my camera with me to work every day" yet I never do.
This is why I bought into Micro Four Thirds, I always carry my camera with me at work because it is small, light and easy to carry (I would not be doing that if I had a Nikon D800 with a 200-500mm or a Sony A7 with the new 200-600mm or the 100-400mm).

You're going to have to change your name to L0n3R3dF0x :)
I love all animals but I am a dog person ... and a puppy personality (goofy 99% of the time) :)
 
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Mikehit

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What a great story - and great pictures. Are foxes exotic? Nope.But I sure as hell get a buzz from seeing them even in urban environments and knowing that the opportunity arose only because you got your fieldcraft right adds to the buzz for me.

Regards camo gear, then yes, it will probably help but having read many discussions about camo gear, some take the view that predator eyesight is so good that they probably know you are there anyway and the biggest thing by far is to keep still.
If you are looking at 'off the cuff' occasions such as the one you describe the better bet may be not camo gear but a bag hide. You can get some very lightweight ones (more like scrim netting) that pack down really small and may well fit in a camera bag along with your gear - and it is probably less bulky than carrying camo trousers and top.


BAG HIDES | SCRIM NETS | WILDLIFE WATCHING HIDES AND SUPPLIES

I have also bought a very cheap three-leg folding stool from Decathlon for about £6 for more planned occasions.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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What a great story - and great pictures. Are foxes exotic? Nope.But I sure as hell get a buzz from seeing them even in urban environments and knowing that the opportunity arose only because you got your fieldcraft right adds to the buzz for me.

Regards camo gear, then yes, it will probably help but having read many discussions about camo gear, some take the view that predator eyesight is so good that they probably know you are there anyway and the biggest thing by far is to keep still.
If you are looking at 'off the cuff' occasions such as the one you describe the better bet may be not camo gear but a bag hide. You can get some very lightweight ones (more like scrim netting) that pack down really small and may well fit in a camera bag along with your gear - and it is probably less bulky than carrying camo trousers and top.


BAG HIDES | SCRIM NETS | WILDLIFE WATCHING HIDES AND SUPPLIES

I have also bought a very cheap three-leg folding stool from Decathlon for about £6 for more planned occasions.
Awesome information, it’s of really great use. I may look into getting such setups in the future. I wish I could put more time into photography and even dedicated trips where I could spend an entire day in the woods hiding and waiting for photo opportunities.

Alas, at the moment most I get to do is around 10 hours a week for photography, mostly in the evening while going to work and in the morning after work, while going home. While I am learning the hard way about patients and awareness I do tend to me more mobile and searching for photo opportunities. My concentration level, being able to spot and even tack animals can be quite difficult after a night of work, making sacrifices to still be able to do my love for photography I tend to be awake and out for 24 to even 36 hours straight (usually after work), hence I wouldn’t be able to even survive with the big Full Frame telephoto lenses (no matter how good the IQ would be).

My thoughts on camo setup was a remembering that my entire family had a very long history in the military (mom, dad, grandpa, uncle) and I remember they had military issue colour patterns for anything from T-Shirts, Vests, Shorts, Trousers, Caps and I used to get a few of them when I was a kid (it was very cool at the time) and hey were high quality, comfortable and light to wear. I’m sure there is some commercial variants available (of course I wouldn’t expect them to be as high quality).

My expectations is reasonably modest to their effect in the field. Since I a quite mobile I expect the noise of my footing (as slow and methodical as I try to be) would be the 2nd biggest effect of getting noticed (first big the “big” cyclop eye). What I would hope is to get a few more extra seconds or minutes before I lose the subject (worst case scenario) or to let the subject be less stressed of my presence (I do care a great deal of the effect I might have to the subjects well being and habits, I would never sacrifice an animals meal, for example, just to get a good shot).

The rabbit hole of wildlife photography is very deep (hardy har :p ) and, at the moment, I’m still circling around it taking small peaks inside.
 
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archaeopteryx

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some take the view that predator eyesight is so good that they probably know you are there anyway
Depends largely on the selection feedbacks between a predator's niche, its hunting methods, and its form. In humans and raptors vision's been favoured. Among terrestrial mesopredators, such as red foxes, there's not been a lot of detailed vision assessments but the data I'm aware of indicates good vision but not at the level of acuity humans have. Smell and hearing are usually rather better than human, though, and most critters devote substantially more effort to maintaining situational awareness than most people.

Hunting using on acute hearing are well documented in central North American red foxes (Vulpes fulva fulva and Vulpes fulva macroura, Statham 2014) (e.g. Henry 1996). I'm aware of extensive evidence supporting the similar hunting methods European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes vulpes) and have routinely observed essentially the same methods in island foxes (Urocyon littoralis). As such, I'm less concerned about being seen and more concerned about being quiet. So far as I can tell, I've never had an island fox not know I was around, but I can try to leave the soundspace as open as possible so as not to obstruct the fox's ability to find a meal. Keeping still and running silent mode with electronic shutter seems a basic courtesy.

Critters, like people, are individuals. So, in my experience, it also depends substantially on whom you're trying to negotiate a photographic opportunity with. Some are cool with whatever, others want nothing to do with it. All too often wildlife photographers intentionally (in recent E-M1X threads, for example, one forum member repeatedly describes disturbing raptor nests in order to get shots) or unwittingly ignore signals to back off. It's nice to see approaches like @L0n3Gr3yW0lf's where respect is given.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Well, looks like luck has come again:

This morning I went to the a field nearby the last one and after coming right behind a big hedge I found:
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I perched myself down on my stomach and out of the grass I fitted my camera slowly above my head and held it with my elbows as like tripod feet:

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Hence the frame has so much grass in the foreground. I was noticed and I seem to have disturbed the fox, I tried something more subtle and new (to me) hoping the fox would relax, I added a bit of video editing and cute soundtrack before uploading it unlisted on YouTube:


After the fox left I turned back and right before my eyes, on the opposite side of the field:

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I kind of froze when I realised and immediately dropped down to grass level. I wasn’t sure what to do, I could have backed down and go 5 meters behind me where there was a tree line opposite the deer and I could have gotten some images without to much disturbance ... but I made the wrong choice and I crawled about 7 meter through the grass ahead. The deer was in a depression I. Front of me and the only thing I could get was this:

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Before it flew off like the wind through the trees, over the stream and to the fields beyond my reach. I made the wrong choice this time.
 

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