After the intense brightness of the fields of rape in full bloom that blanketed the Rib valley in the golden hour of this mid-May evening, the cool shade of the woods were a deep contrast of both light and colour.
Muted greens, dusky browns and deeper shadows forced irises wider as I entered the woods, minuscule flies dancing like photons in the sunbeams that streaked between the leaves and branches. I sat against a tree, ears drinking on the birdsong that drifted through the trees as my eyes adjusted to the scene.
My slow and careful approach from downwind was rewarded within a few minutes when a doe muntjac appeared to my left through a patch of nettles. It silently passed through the clearing, delicately picking a path and occasionally pausing to nibble on vegetation that took it’s fancy, then melted away as quietly as it had arrived.
As is often the way, my focus on the deer had missed the arrival of other wildlife. My body relaxed after the excitement of the muntjac then jolted back to attention as I realised two fox cubs were exploring the open spaces between the trees in front of me. Barely daring to breath I gently lifted camera to eye and the inquisitive youngsters came into frame. I waited a moment, aware that the sound of the shutter release might curtail this close up encounter.
I took the plunge, a short burst from the motor drive with breath held.
No reaction from my subjects. A flood of relief, then photographic refinements as fingers searched for buttons to find a balance of film and shutter speed to form an image of the moment.
And so, for perhaps 15 or 20 minutes I watched this pair as they nosed, sniffed, jumped and scampered under my gaze on a secluded wooded escarpment above the the River Rib.
Finally, the cubs took their leave of the scene, slipping away into the undergrowth, perhaps drawn by the imperceptible – to my ears at least – arrival of their mother and the prospect of a meal.
I took my cue and withdrew as quietly as I had arrived, back into the real world of a glorious sun-soaked evening. Another moment of magic to file away in my memory bank of wildlife encounters, a broad smile stretched across my face.