Garden surprise

Living in the countryside is great. From time to time I do miss the shops and city life but being close to nature more than compensates.

From time to time we find ourselves in close contact with local wildlife such as wild boar – usually hurtling past a great speed to find cover – but recently I was surprised to see a couple of ibex casually walking through the olive grove next to the house. Quickly I grabbed my camera, attached the 70-200mm lens and set off up the garden hoping to get a shot of them as they continued up the hill. I wasn’t really expecting to get close to them – they’re shy animals and it’s hard to sneak up on them – but I thought a long distance shot would be good as a record of their visit.

My garden merges with the olive grove and the top part is more or less as it has been for many decades with olive trees that are over 100 years old, and wild species of sage, asparagus, garlic and rosemary. I was delighted to find they had wandered from the olive grove onto my land – perhaps to sample nature’s buffet. Even better, their way out was restricted because of my neighbour’s fence so I had a better chance of predicting where they would run when they saw me. With the camera set on aperture priority, f5.6 aperture to help blur out some of the potential foreground and background distractions, ISO 400 to help boost the shutter speed (just in case) and of course the shutter drive on continuous, I slowly approached and managed to get within about 20 metres before they decided to make a run for it – wow they’re fast! It was all over in about 30 seconds as they first split up and then ran back together before heading out into the surrounding countryside.

These two shots are the ones I’m most pleased with. Nice and sharp because of the high shutter speed (1/6000 sec in the first and 1/1000 sec in the second one), a fast autofocus system and the image stabilisation built into the Canon lens. Sharp enough to see the detail of the rings on their horns – a new ring each year – so they are quite young. As they get older their horns curve back and become a lot thicker. On reflection I possibly would have liked a greater sense of movement but it’s suggested through their positions and I particularly like the small dust cloud around the hoof in the second image. It was all over in seconds but a great surprise and a very pleasing record of their unexpected visit to my garden.

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