A few days ago I was going through an old box of photographs, mostly in black and white, when I came across a series of pictures which I had taken many years ago. Probably when I was still at school so, I am guessing, I was around twelve or thirteen years old. It really was a long time ago! However, the pictures in question were of tawny old chicks. My boyhood friend, Lewis Batty, and I had been over to Alice Holt Forest just east of the old Kingsley station down near the Straits. As mentioned in an earlier article there was once a quite large pond in the fields beside the woods at a point where the woods began. At the eastern end of the pond was a raised walk way, probably around six feet high. Along this raised area were a row of trees and it was in one of these that the owls were found. There were three owlets and they were quite large and beginning to get their feathers. Lewis and I carefully took them out of the nest and took turns to photograph them. These were the photos I discovered in the old box. Apart from all of the memories associated with the photos, the thing that amazed me was the fact that, despite their age, they were all still in good condition with no fading.
The clarity of the photos is particularly pleasing since they were taken with a very crude and inexpensive camera. Lewis and I did not have top of the range cameras but if we had owned the best cameras of that period they would have been far removed from anything the modern photographer is familiar with. But in spite of all this Lewis and I spent many happy hours pursuing our hobby in and around Kingsley. We were only really interested in photographing living creatures, birds, animals and butterflies being our chief targets. Because, of course, our cameras did not have telephoto lenses of any kind we had to get close to our subjects in order to get a decent picture. This meant that we had to employ all sorts of bush craft techniques. Things like crawling for long periods in long grass or scrub. Dressing up in camo gear and remaining still for prolonged periods of time. All of these things helped us to get some, surprisingly good, wildlife photos.
On one occasion as we were wandering through a fairly recently planted area of the forest we came across a fawn. It remained motionless whilst we took many pictures of it. As we snapped away the fawns mother appeared and circled us at quite close quarters all the while making very threatening barking noises. We departed and she re-engaged with her offspring and no harm was done.
Another one of our techniques was to squeak foxes. If and when we saw a fox we would conceal ourselves in a hedge or long grass and by means of wetting the back of our hands or wrists we would create a squeaking noise which was supposed to represent a rabbit or hare in distress. This worked very well and it proved efficient in attracting foxes to the noise and getting them well within good photographing distance.
Butterflies were much less challenging as all we had to do was locate whatever species we wanted a picture of. It was also the case that in those days there were considerably more butterflies to be seen. No doubt due to the fact that farmers had not yet begun to spray chemicals all over their fields. In addition, and for the same reasons, there were considerably more wild flowers throughout the countryside which also contributed to the greater numbers of butterflies and insects in general.
Unlike today’s children who seem to spend ever increasing amounts of time staring at mobile phones, tablets or computers various, we spent our time in the great outdoors. I often feel that today’s children lose so much by their incessant pursuit of technology. In the good old days we had to make our own enjoyments they were not handed to us on a plate or via a magic plastic box of tricks.I hear they call it progress !!!!