Oops, I did it again…!
I admit, I did it again in 2017. I regularly gave in to my fox addiction. Foxes in winter mode. Playing foxes. Hunting foxes. Vixens and their fox kits. Foxes in blizzards and foxes in beautiful warm summer light. Sleeping foxes, jumping foxes, foxes with autumn leaves and foxes in heavy rain. In fact, every scene, every stage in a fox life, every type of weather serves as an excuse for a fox quest. And when that happens, you know you’re a fox-junkie. But this year I came to repentance. Maybe.
‘Best’ of 2017
1. Instant snow and red foxes
The year started promising, with snow. And indeed – old habits die hard- with foxes.
Maybe you remember I wrote about our new and improved instant winters? No weeks of preparation and certainly no looong period of tiding up. It’s just like instant coffee. You add water. Or: cold in this example. You stir and shake well and in a few hours we have our self a beautiful white winter with a nice 15 cm thick layer of whiteness. The most perfect decor one could wish for. But…be aware: it should be used quickly, as it is gone before you know it! So grab your cam, run outside and click like a madman. If you’re lucky…you might have around 1000 clicks before the first cracks in the ice appear. After about 1500 clicks, the snow really starts to get mushy and the sound of dripping trees begins. At 2000 clicks you should have really done your trick because at this point the decor starts to crumble down and loses its winter feeling. The first green becomes visible and the trees have already transformed from perfect Christmas items to just trees…. Quite drizzly looking trees to be honest. And after 2500 clicks all the magic has gone. Just like that. If we hadn’t had the photos, who would even believe we lived a fairytale the past few days…?
That snow, at the beginning of 2017, gave taste for more. In the Netherlands we ran out of snow, so we drove abroad, where the white stuff was still available. To Belgium, to be more precise. And not in vain: oh what fun we had, with half a meter of snow, we could plough through it for hours. To our happy surprise, the sun appeared to rise in pink in Belgium; what a beautiful gift! And even better: I proved to be able to capture a snow landscape without fox!
3. Enlightened Lambs
Spring is arrived and snow fun is over. I bravely ignore the call of the first fox cubs and exchange the dunes for the polder. The first lambs are allowed to enter the pasture and on a beautiful evening I witness a group of enthusiastic lambs, that jump fanatically towards enlightenment and add a golden edge to my day.
4. The power cuteness
Courageously, I keep battling my fox addiction. In order to get my daily cuteness-fix, I choose to photograph the feathered version of fox kits: ducklings! Unfortunately these cuties serves as cat, pike and heron snacks and this story is about to end very unhappy. Fortunately I discover the power of the pen and just in time I manage to write them all back healthy and safe!
5. Fox kits
Somewhere early spring, I experience a relapse.
For years, I had to walk, search and wait for hours and I used to be happy with one decent photo a week. This year, foxes, once again honor their unpredictable nature. No long walks or waits: the cubs report spontaneously. They are not shy at all shy and they love the camera. Even if I just try to photograph a dragonfly, I have to put aside a few cubs and the temptation eventually becomes too strong; I succumb. It had never been easier, so I have no choice. Mea culpa.
6. Wet & salty
Although a fox addiction is not necessarily unhealthy, it is a pity of all those beautiful missed (photo) moments. So somewhere at the end of the cub-season, I decide it’s time for a rehab; doing something far out of my foxy comfort zone. To avoid any association with the object of my addiction, I choose a totally different type of lens and a whole new kind of photography : slow shutter speed photography. With this kind of photography you actually have seas of time. 1 photo per 40 seconds. In that time I could have made 320! Despite my sincere intention to capture boring silky seascapes, I hopelessly fail. As always: a model appeared in my frame. But hey: it’s no fox, so … I’m on the right track ..!
At the end of summer I’ve become so defoxed, that I feel strong enough to deal with another mammal: the hare. I like hares. Despite their serious looking expression, they are….funny in a way. Growing up in the polder, they were part of my habitat. Unfortunately they are hunted upon, which has made them very elusive and I mostly see them from a far distance. As a child we used to play ‘Haasje Over’ (Hare over) where we jumped over each other’s backs. Years later I stumbled upon 4 hares that were actually jumping over each other. They were really playing Haasje Over! Nature is so full of (funny) surprises. I already liked hares a lot and since that day…I’m a hare-fan!
Foxes? What foxes?
Now that I’m almost completely defoxed, I suddenly face seas of extra time. Time for sundew, tree frogs, birds, dragonflies, swans in the mist and even the time to go on a fox-free vacation!
9. Red Deer Rut and Photographers Gathering
Late summer is boring, when it comes to photographing foxes. The adolescent cubs do nothing but frolicking on long summer evenings. So instead, I decide to visit the (very popular) red deer rut and join hundreds of colleague photographers. There we are … all neatly aligned, waiting for the ranger to lure the deer with a basket of apples.
Although this might sound like a nightmare, it’s actually quite nice. It is one of the largest open air nature photography meetings in the Netherlands. Unlike usual, no wrangles or fights, but a nice, friendly atmosphere. To my pleasant surprise, it was not only fun to be there, but also more beautiful than expected.
10. Cooperative fallow deer
And then there’s the ultimate test: Will I be able to visit the dunes, without capturing a fox? So close and not give in?
The red deer rut merges seamlessly into the fallow deer rut and one morning, everything just came together. Mist created a fantastic atmosphere and a beautiful rising sun made almost completed the picture. Only a model was missing. And as on command, a proud buck entered this sparkling fairy tale. He positioned himself exactly in the right place and waited patiently until my last doubt disappeared and I finally took my camera. But hey; no fox!
I wrote it before: autumn…should be done. I’m not saying it’s easy though. Autumn storms steal your decorations, while fierce rain showers threaten your expensive gear. And yet…Every year it’s a joy to sniff up at least a bit of autumn atmosphere. This year I even learned to create my own light in dark times, but that’s another story.
12. Snow and back to square one.
The year ended like it had begun: with tons of snow. Enough to paint the whole world white. Or at least my world. Again, a beautiful model popped up to nicely adorn this perfectly white canvas with a blob of color. And then it happened; I succumb… That perfect wintery white, with one tuft of red, I just can’t resist. I grab my camera and ….click. And click … and click … I photograph foxes, like there’s no tomorrow. And worse: I like it! I fully indulge in it and realize that this is what I want. So fox-junkie? Yes! And to be honest, I fear in 2018 I won’t be able to do without my fox fix either. But hey, worse habits are conceivable, aren’t they?