Growing in popularity, but still not well-known, woodcock photography hunting sounds like a dream to us. Find all of our top tips and hear from those who enjoy the taking these photos.
It’s 10 a.m., and the dogs have already been searching out woodcocks for an hour, in this forest there is a great display of the most incredible autumnal colours. All of a sudden, everything falls silent: the two setters have just come to a standstill in front of some birch trees at the edge of a patch of fir trees. The woodcock takes flight, and I quickly squeeze the trigger several times. The dogs continue their quest, seeking out this woodland beauty. As for me, still under the spell of the emotion of the scene, I rush to take a look at the display screen on my camera. In the middle of the image, I spot a red mark... That’s it, I’ve finally taken my first shot of the season.
Over the past few seasons and given the boom in social media, we’ve been seeing more and more hunters posting incredible woodcock wildlife photographs. Shots of stunning landscapes, equally as stunning dogs, some shots of Scolopax Rusticola in flight, and even, for the luckiest among us, some shots of the bird spotted on the ground.
Taking woodcock wildlife photos is no easy task: Woodland hunting in itself is an initial challenge. Effectively, in this enclosed environment, the lack of light is the first foe encountered by the wildlife photographer. Plus, the woodcock’s near-perfect imitation of its woodland surroundings and the way it flies so quickly makes the activity very complicated indeed.
First of all, you need a pretty high-performance camera, with a relatively high photo throughput rate. In terms of lenses, I'd recommend a 70 - 200, with an aperture of f2.8, if possible. As for the shutter speed, I think the ideal is at around 1000, but it all depends on the lighting conditions. Another little thing that I do when my dogs are pointing, I set my focus and throw a pebble or a twig, making sure that I throw it high so that I have time to get ready to aim my camera at the place where I’m guessing the woodcock is.
To finish, we had a few questions for Alexandra Kafanke, who took one of the grounded woodcock photos that illustrates this article.
Alexandra, how did you end up in woodcock wildlife photography?
Almost 10 years ago, I met a guy who was crazy for woodcock, and he introduced me to his passion. I quickly came to love following the dogs and photographing them. I kitted myself out following advice from Laurent Bernède in particular, and I started to take a few shots that often illustrate my partner’s articles.
This photo was taken one morning when I went out on my own with the dogs. I’d like to add that I got my hunting license a few years ago. One of my setters pointer in a pretty tricky spot that I wasn't familiar with. I tried to reach him, but couldn’t manage it. So, I got down on my knees to crawl under the vegetation. As I arrived behind the dog, I immediately spotted the woodcock, that was just 30 centimetres in front of him. I aimed my lens, adjusted my settings, and pressed the trigger. It’s a wonderful memory. I don’t think the woodcock expected me to approach in a crawl, so that meant I was able to get the shot. I've managed to capture woodcock on the ground one or two other times, and it’s always a little victory that brings great joy. We often go out just with our cameras, and on an evening it's a race to see who can look at what’s on their SD card first. It’s such a pleasure to see stunning shots of your dogs or, if you’re lucky, of a woodcock in flight.
Woodcock wildlife photography seems to be a real joy for the growing number of people enjoying the activity, as they take the time during a hunting outing to photograph the environment, dogs or Scolopax Rusticola: It’s a great way to collect wonderful memories of your hunting companions, as well as of the fantastic game bird that is woodcock.