Red Deer II, and the ‘Luck Factor’ in Photography

We are nearing the end of the ‘rut’ again of this season, and so my hopes were not very high when I went to our National Park ‘Hoge Veluwe’ a couple hours before sunset to see if the deers were up to any action. And indeed, no deer in sight; it was probably my most ’empty’ visit ever since visiting the park for the past three years or so.

So just before sunset while heading back, my fellow photographer friend noticed a group of red deers (too) far away and in the shade, so no chance of any useful shots. I had actually switched to my D500 with TC-20E III attached to give me that ridiculous 1800mm effective focal distance, but the shots were horribly soft. I switched back to the D850/600mm f/4 combo while I wasn’t expecting anything useful anymore: the sun had already begun to set and we were approaching darkness.

Suddenly, some of the deers decided to take a walk right towards us and crossing our view of the setting sun. Most photographers seemed to be unaware of what was happening and the uniqueness of the situation. I was suddenly triggered and acted instinctively: I knew I only had one or two seconds to catch a young male deer walking right in my field of view of the setting sun. The 9 frames/sec. of the D850 ‘saved the day’: out of the 15 shots or so about 12 were totally underexposed as I was shooting straight into the sun while I had my shutter speed and aperture fixed (I usually shoot auto ISO). But while I was going through the shots on my D850, there he was: Mr. Deer, right below the sun as it was starting to touch the horizon, and for some reason the D850’s metering was able to make sense out of the combination of ridiculous highlights, blacks, and white balance -although I have no idea whatsoever how that camera would ever be able to calculate white balance of a deer against a fiery setting sun… but it did!.

Lots of lessons learned from this one I guess, but most important of all: every photographer needs a bit of luck now every and then…

“Sun Deer”
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/4, 1/640 s., ISO 64, +0.7EV exp. comp., hand-held

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