Although most of us probably won’t ever get the chance to photograph mountain hares in the snow, it’s an interesting concept. It’s the opposite of shooting somebody in a black suit on a black background. Although, the principles are pretty much the same. The only real differences are that out in the wilderness with hares, you don’t get much control over the lighting and they don’t take direction very well.
Landscape and wildlife photography YouTube channel, NatureTTL took a trip to the Cairngorms in Scotland to go find mountain hares to photograph. While they are the typical brown colour during the summer, in winter they turn white, making them quite difficult to spot. But spot them they did, and came away with some great photographs.
The key with these hares is patience. As I mentioned, you can’t really direct them, and they’re hares, so they’re quite nervous. You have to be invisible and just wait for them to do something interesting. This may be a yawn or simply stretching their legs, but something other than simply being hunkered down in the snow.
One of the great things about snow, especially when it’s soft and quite deep, is that the signs to find them are quite easy to see. Footprints lead you straight toward them. Knowing where they’re going allows you to choose a place to get a good vantage point. And while on the way to that vantage point, there’s plenty of other wildlife to be seen, too.
But when you find a good spot, and you’re patient, the hares will come. As far as the camera’s exposure settings go, it is possible to do it in one of the various automatic or semi-automatic modes. But, you’ll want to dial in a couple of stops of exposure compensation. Otherwise, your images will likely come out very underexposed. It’s a lot easier if you shoot with manual exposure settings. But be careful you’re not blowing out those super bright details.
As for the gear… Well, in the video Mark appears to be using a Canon 6D or 6D Mark II, along with a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens. Although he does mention grabbing a couple of shots with a 500mm lens. I think it’s quite safe to say that with the size of these animals, and the distances you have to be from them, your 70-200/2.8 probably isn’t going to cut it.
The one final thing you’ll want to remember is to wrap up very warm. The snow, especially in the Cairngorms can get rather deep.
I have a trip to Scotland planned sometime over the next couple of months to try to catch some of the landscape in the snow. I hadn’t planned to pack any 300mm+ lenses, but it looks like I might have to after seeing this.