2016 09 - Wild Photography

18th September 2016
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
28th May 2016
Images by Des Lloyd

Wild Photography

Member Des Lloyd, winner of the daily Mail Great British Wildlife Photography Challenge 2016 has recently returned from the trip to the Carpathian Mountains in Slovakia, which formed part of his prize. In his words the trip was ‘memorable and tiring’.

For the four days he was there, he was asked to get up at 2.15am each morning ready to set off on a 25 kilometre drive into the mountains by 2.45am. When they arrived Des and a fellow student tucked themselves into small hides in areas selected by the full time rangers of the National Park where the trip was based that the bears were known to frequent. The area extends to about 20,000 hectares and Des described it as ‘very, very wild and forested, with wolf packs and wild boar known to be in the area as well as the wild brown bear we were hoping to photograph’.

Des and his fellow student were briefed beforehand that it would be dangerous to wear aftershave, deodorant etc., and that under no circumstances should they take any food or drinks such as coffee as this would attract the bears to the hide. Des remarked ‘The warning that they would try to break into the hide to get at the food - which if they did get in would include the occupants - i.e. us - was very clear. Needless to say we only took water to drink.’

The morning sessions lasted until between 8.00am to 8.45am depending on where on the reserve they were on that day. On returning to the hotel, breakfast was served followed by a sleep catch up prior to going out again at around 2pm. The second trip of the day lasted until around 9.00pm at night, when they returned to the hotel for the evening meal. This was followed by a quick pint and bed, ready for the start again the following morning at - you have guessed it - 2.15am.

They saw very little during the daylight hours, although a female bear and two cubs could be made out in the dark at around 4.30am one morning. A lone wolf was spotted on the Saturday but too far away for a chance of a good photograph, even equipped as they were with powerful lenses. Four wild boar also came through one of the areas just prior to them leaving the hide on the Friday night, but, frustratingly it was too dark to hope to capture a good image.

It was beginning to feel like a fruitless exercise until the Saturday night when two brown bears came into view, only for something to spook them after a period of 15-20 seconds when they ran off back into the forest. Seeing them flee, Des said ‘Believe me when I tell you, you would not outrun one of these animals in full flight. I don’t think Usain bolt assisted by a rocket could out run these animals.’

This brief sighting resulted in a couple of decent photos, so Des went into the last day in a more buoyant mood. Sure enough at around 6.30am three bears came into the clearing and although they were looking directly into the sun as it rose over the trees, the bears remained in the area long enough for Des to capture a number of good photos.

Des summed up the trip: ‘Overall it was very tiring, but also an experience I will remember, despite many hours of waiting and watching in the cold and dark. I guess if you want to take photos of truly wild animals in their natural habitat this is what you have to put up with.’
One of the benefits of belonging to the club is that the members have the privilege of seeing the results of the work of people like Des, who have spent the long, cold hours waiting for that special shot. We look forward to seeing more of his results in the new season, which starts in September.