Four Foxes

If you follow my posts on Twitter (and more sporadically on Facebook) you’ll know that there are several regular foxes who visit our garden. As well as direct observation I keep track of them via a trail camera, so I know what’s happening even if I don’t see it direct. So for example, as well as the main fox group we have a couple of hedgehogs, plus the occasional badger that visits. There’s also one further fox with a long but tatty brush who shows up every now and then. This blog though is about the four main foxes, and I’m going to restrict it to one photo of each (having now managed to get semi-decent pictures of the two more reticent foxes).

First up is the shyest of the four. He’s a large dominant male and, I would think, the oldest of the group. So a significant fox, even though the shyest with humans. I have only managed a handful of photos of him (which makes selecting just one easier!). As you can see he has a fairly rugged coat and – typical of some of our recent foxes – has a quantity of grey/black mixed in with the typical red colouring. We simply call him the dog fox.

large male fox standing

The large dog fox

The second fox in the group is known as Longtail, which is something of a default name to distinguish him from the next fox. He’s quite shy, but is becoming a little bit bolder. Most of the time he hangs back from the others if I am in the garden, but on his own he does venture forward a little. I would guess he’s about a year to 18 months old. He spends a fair amount of time with the other regular foxes and is clearly part of the main family group.

young male fox

Longtail foraging.
He has distinctive black markings on his face, as well as a healthy brush.

Fox number three is the easiest to identify. He’s a young male (I would guess a sibling of Longtail), but he has suffered a tail injury at some point which has resulted in the loss of the lower part of his brush. This doesn’t seem to bother him at all, and he is otherwise in very good health. He’s also become increasingly confident over the past few months. He will venture to the front of the garden and is also comfortable with the camera and flash units. We call him Stumpy (my names are all very basic and descriptive).

fox with shortened brush

A portrait of Stumpy.

The final fox needs no introduction. It’s Wolfy, the vixen. She’s been around the garden since she was a small cub (born 2018) and is entirely comfortable around us and the camera. In that time she’s had two broods of cubs (although we have not seen any of this year’s youngsters). It’s probable that Longtail and Stumpy are cubs from her previous season. She’s is undoubtedly the most dominant and visible of all the foxes, and it’s noticeable that both the younger foxes defer to her if there is any food on offer. She also spends much more time than the others gathering food from other sources and has a fairly regular routine of heading out early evening, probably to other friendly gardens in the area. There’s no doubt: she’s the boss!

fox looking up

Portrait of Wolfy the vixen

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 70-200mm f/4.0L IS II USM lens.

Posted in Foxes, Wildlife Tagged |

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

Posted in Foxes, Wildlife Tagged |

Garden Flowers

Well the lockdown has given an excuse to potter in the garden, and there is certainly plenty out there to keep me occupied. There’s weeding to be done and shrubs to be cleared. That said, there are also lots of flowers to be photographed, which has given me the opportunity to develop this aspect of my photography. Most of these were taken with a macro lens, or the long end of my 100-400 zoom. And I got down low to take them, occasionally using a tripod and remote trigger for the very small close-up shots. They were all photographed in natural light.

forget-me-not

Forget-me-nots


I shot this in strong light, but deliberately under-exposed to kill the background. There was a small amount of tidying up needed in processing (stray leaves and bits of light on the ground), but less work than you might expect. It’s fairly typical of a lot of my photography, with the background providing a strong contrast to the subject.

buttercups

Buttercups

Daisies

Daisies


Our ‘lawn’ is more like a meadow, part of the problem (or benefit) of being on the South Downs. I do like the buttercups and daisies though.

Herb Robert

Herb Robert

Herb Robert

Herb Robert


This tiny flower is Herb Robert, which has sprung up all over the place. It’s very pretty, but quite invasive, but it adds a nice splash of colour.

grape hyacinth and anenome

Grape hyacinth and anenome


These have also seeded themselves. The grape hyacinth is dying back now, but was everywhere in late March. Same with the anenomes, which have now faded.

Cornflower

Cornflower

Cornflower

Cornflower on textured background


The cornflowers are steadfastly appearing everywhere but the flower beds. They are pretty and I had a bit of fun with processing the second shot with a textured background for a more ‘artistic’ feel! Maybe a touch of lockdown fever got to me, but I’ve been learning a lot about processing during the past few weeks courtesy of Foto-Buzz, the photographic learning community run by Andrew James and Jon Adams.

The final shot for the moment is another plant that has ‘taken over’ – a very pretty cyclamen coum. And as with the first photo I’ve made use of the strong light and under-exposed to get the dark background.

cyclamen coum

Cyclamen Coum

Posted in Plants, Wildlife Tagged , , |