Backlighting Foxes

The longer I’ve left blogging about our garden foxes, the more difficult it has been to work out what to talk about. I had been hoping for fox cubs, but despite clearly having given birth to a brood, Wolfy (our semi-resident vixen) has thus far not brought any of her offspring into the garden. Given the amount of time that has now passed, I doubt we’ll see them. So, instead I’ve spent the past few months developing new ways of taking the same old photos of a garden fox.

The main innovation (for me) has been finally to get the flash off the camera. This creates a more realistic sense of shadow and depth in the final image. Here’s an example of what I mean. The fox is Stumpy, a year old male who is missing half his brush. Apart from that though, he is very handsome and has a fine coat.

young male fox

Young male fox. The flash was set to my right – his left.

For that kind of photo I’ve had the flash positioned at about 45 degrees to my right, but I’ve recently gone slightly more extreme.

It started a few nights ago when Wolfy took a close interest in the remote flash unit which, as you can see, is positioned at ground level.

fox and flash

Wolfy and the camera flash

A day or so later, she wandered in front of the flash, allowing me to get this shot of her her, almost entirely backlit.

backlit profile of a fox

Wolfy the vixen, backlit

Given my liking of dark backgrounds and backlit photography, I decided to push it a step further by placing the remote flash at the rear of the garden. This meant I would be facing the flash, with the fox (hopefully) in the middle. My first attempt was last night, and – as seems to be her habit – Wolfy’s first reaction was to go and investigate the flash unit.

fox looking at flash unit as it fires

Here she is looking at the flash unit as I take the shot.

Having decided that it wasn’t a threat she started to ignore it, and moved forward to the scattered food scraps and peanuts. That placed her nicely between me and the flash. These are the resultant shots.

Backlit fox

This one works well, but I would have preferred her ears to be pointing forward to give a stronger silhouette. But it’s definitely on the right track.

Backlit fox

You can’t beat a fox with open mouth. She’s probably trying to bite on a peanut!

Backlit fox

In this final shot, she’s turned slightly towards the camera. Her expression isn’t perfect, but one ear is at least pointing in the right direction.

Those were all a first attempt at this and I’m certainly happy enough with the results to know that it’s something to develop. The main refinements will be in positioning the flash and adjusting the strength of light. Plus of course persuading Wolfy to point her ears forward!

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 70-200mm f/4.0L IS II USM lens. I used a Canon 580EXII flash unit as the controller and a 430EXII unit for the actual flash

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  1. Darko June 14, 2020 at 2:28 am #

    I thought it would be startled when a flash goes off but it seems Wolfy understands the technology in a simple way – it is not a threat. Nice photographs.

    • Words June 15, 2020 at 10:46 am #

      She’s generally ok with the flash, but some of the foxes do get spooked. With this she was just a bit surprised that the light was coming from the wrong direction, but soon got used to it.

  2. Aurora Stone June 14, 2020 at 11:19 am #


    • Words June 15, 2020 at 10:46 am #