The Belgium Ardennes and one crazy fox

So this weekend I went to Belgium with a group of friends. We do a yearly “man” weekend where we all leave the girls at home and have some fun weekend drinking, BBQ, and have quality time like we used to have when we where young. We went to a small town called Libin. The house we rented was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was positioned in an remote valley valley and surrounded by a gigantic forrest. This gave me a great opportunity to photograph the night sky including the Milky way belt. Seeing it with the naked eye is kind of special for me since I live in one of the most light polluted areas in Europe. It turned out to be amazingly easy. First I used an high ISO to make sure I have my composition right. Turned out it ended up really well!

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I shot this image at ISO51200 on a nikon D750 with a Tokina 16-28mm 2.8. The noise results are stil surprisingly good!
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I shot this image at ISO1600. the orange in the corner is the fire from the bbq/campfire.

Hybrid animal spotting

In the evening, when the sun set and night fell we went out with some friends.  The idea was to drive the car around the dark woods and see if we can spot some animals. The car was a hybrid. This gave us the possibility to move in silence when using the electric engine. We saw some dear and foxes far away, and a whole family of boar with piglets but I was unable to capture that.

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The unexpected visitor

We returned back at the house after an hour of driving. We sit by the pool looking at the stars for a bit. At some point I walked back to the house to get a drink and I suddenly saw a fox on the grass about 3 meters in front of me! He quickly ran away, but soon kept returning! This animal was clearly not scared of humans and was trying to get near the house to steal trash from us tourist. Moving forward to the next day, the fox was already exploring the backyard before the sun set, this resulted in our BBQ trash to be spread out all over our lawn. Far after sunset we where sitting by the fireplace and there he was.. just running around and checking us out. We just made some midnight spareribs and he was clearly trying to get hold of the bones. We decided to stay really quiet and see what happens. It came so close that I stopped the timelapse my camera was making and decided to photograph the fox,I felt this was kind of special. Boy am I happy I did!

I brought only basic gear to the weekend since I didn’t want my urge to photograph everything spoil me being there as a person. I did had had a Nikon SB900 flash with me, but I didn’t brought the triggers. Normally My pop up flash Is taped down my camera but I quickly took the tape off, and set up the wireless infra red menu. I hate IR, It’s the worst thing Nikon ever did to there camera’s. Just buy radio triggers who actually work and remove the pop up flash from the pro-line camera’s. It makes them feel vulnerable. Anyways This time the IR actually worked! (most of the times).

Here are some of the resulting images.

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At first I kept my distance. I used a Nikon 70-200mm F4  1/125s and ISO800. But soon I noticed the fox wasn’t paying attention, and after a while didn’t even got scared of the flash anymore. So I decided to switch to a faster lens with slower AF. The Nikon 85mm F1.8G. I tried to manual focus it and use small depth of fields to only get his face sharp. This worked perfectly when laying down on the grass. The fox kept coming closer to get the food and I was just laying there next to the table and it was all fine with him, He acted almost like a shy little dog. At some point he brought a friend. I think it’s was a female, judging she was smaller. who followed him and tried the same thing!

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they started to get so close they came within my minimal focus distance! thats like within 50cm!

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One of them did returned successfully, there goes one of our rib bones!

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Look at those teeth and expression!

The Forrest Hike

The day after was a rainy day with no real exciting stuff happening, we went for a run and swim in the morning and in the evening after a massive rains/thunderstorm we went for a straw trough the forrest. Everything was wet and slippery, Also know that Dutch guys aren’t that used to hills or mountains but it was an amazing little hike. We walked uphill for about 20 minutes, stayed quiet and tried to walk with the wind in our face so animals wouldn’t smell us coming.

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On top of the first hill we saw some deer running away.

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The forrest area we where at is a hunting area and cannot be accessed for 2 months in fall cose of the hunting season. Interesting to say, Every 20 meter’s you would find a hunting tower here, just a little bit above the ground. We also saw some bags filled with stones and pineapples in the cabin. Maybe to scare away boar or distract animals before they shoot em. Anyways since fall is coming the forrest must be filled with animals.

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It might be us but me and my mate saw an lion’s head in this.

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I am pretty sure the sticks where at this point not only to help staying upright but also a little bit of protection.

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Pretty soon we saw our second animal species that day, Two wild boar! shameful I didn’t got the change to photograph his friend cose they spotted us and ran away. boy those fatty’s are quick! When I was in the Army We once encountered them in a forrest with piglets. Imagine a group of though soldiers all pinned down against trees in the hope they wouldn’t go angry. In this forrest we kept a good distance for a while tho.

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We kept walking through the forrest about 200 meters down when we heard noises in the low bushes next to us. Suddenly we heard the typical pig noise. I turned around screamed out loud “ZWIJN!#” the dutch word for Boar to my friends that he was close.. (4/5 meters) but it quickly ran away. My friends laughed, but I ain’t taking no risk with wild animals. next up we had to walk about another 100 meters with the low bushes and it was getting dark already. I noticed we all where a bit on our edge, I think they also where a bit shocked about how close the pig was. Soon we found better roads to walk, and also a field filed with, what we think a christmas tree farm.

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weekend_ardenne_natuur-29Belgium sure has some amazing landscape!

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Soon the sun was going down and we had to walk about 1 km downhill to the house, halfway we got in a giant rain storm, witch prevented me from taking any more photo’s. We returned to the house soaked but very pleased with our great hike. I love the Ardennes, they are so close yo home but I always skip them! It sure is a fantastic place for photography!

Jasper

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