2020VISION: Mountain hares in the Scottish uplands

2020VISION, Britain’s most ambitious conservation photography initiative, has just sent the first of its photographers on assignment - to the Scottish Highlands.

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Mountain hare in snow by Mark Hamblin

Winters in the Highlands can be harsh, but it’s a great time to photograph specialists like the mountain hare resplendent in their white camouflage. Mark Hamblin has been in hot pursuit as part of the Scottish uplands assignment.

 
iWitness Assignment: Scottish uplands/mountain hares
Location: Cairngorms National Park
Photographer: Mark Hamblin
 
Mountain hares are relatively easy to locate, but they have an annoying habit of disappearing at the first sign of a human.
 
My previous experiences have involved lots of sweating and cursing but precious few images! So I was determined to make the most of the perfect winter conditions.
 
As I plodded very slowly uphill through knee-deep snow, a number of thoughts entered my head: why am I doing this? Surely there is an easier way of making a living? And why didn’t I invest in a pair of snowshoes?!
 
The going was tough – really tough – and I nearly turned back several times. I enjoy a challenge, but this was ridiculous and I hadn’t even seen a hare, let alone get one in the viewfinder!
 
Eventually I flushed several hares about 200m in front of me, which typically raced straight out of view. A few paces on and two more shot from cover.
 
Eventually, after breaking through the snow’s hard crust and disappearing down a hidden gulley for the umpteenth time, I arrived at the spot where the group of hares had flushed. I took off my backpack and rested for a while, not really sure what to do next.
 
All of a sudden, a hare appeared over the ridge in front of me and began to run in my direction. A string of expletives followed.
 
The hare was bearing down on me, fast, and my camera was still tucked in my bag. Trying to quickly extract a 500mm lens from a zippered bag with numb fingers in a state of mild panic was bound to fail – and, sure enough, it did. 
 
The hare was long gone by the time I was ready – and my patience was wearing very thin.
 
However, they say that fortune favours the brave and, believe it or not, a second hare appeared and did almost exactly the same thing. Unaware of my presence, it came to within 10m of me – in fact, it came too close! But I wasn’t complaining. These were my first images for the project and to capture a hare in full flight was just what I was after.
 
I returned several times over the following weeks, but nothing really came close to that first memorable encounter.
 
These hares were simply not approachable, but ironically, had they been, I would perhaps not have captured my favourite image of a flushed hare running across windswept snow in late afternoon light. Sometimes size (in the frame) isn’t everything!
 
Mark Hamblin mountain hare
 
 
MARK HAMBLIN'S TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIP
 
When working in snowy conditions try to travel as light as possible. Carrying heavy gear can be really exhausting, so just take what is absolutely necessary, know your limitations and tell someone where you’re going.
 

Snow-covered landscapes often make superb backdrops for your wildlife subjects, so whenever possible photograph animals within their environment. This helps to convey a real feeling of the wintry conditions and elevates the image from a standard portrait to a picture that tells more of a story.     

  

2020VISION is a multimedia project that highlights the link between people's well being and the restoration of natural systems.

Uniquely, it pairs the talents of 20 of the UK's most skilled outdoor photographers with writers, editors, videographers, sound artists and scientists to make a compelling case for rewilding landscapes - for wildlife and for people.

To see some of the best images taken on 2020VISION assignments so far, click here.

To find out more about 2020VISION, click here.

 

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