Photographing anything you have not experienced before, that is potentially dangerous, where no one speaks your mother tongue, may not be successful the first time…
You control nothing and don’t know what will happen next. A steep learning curve and, on a damp winter day when leaves cover loose stones and the moss is wet, its a slippery one. I spent the morning following as close as I could to one of the trackers whose job it was to drive boar or deer towards the waiting guns. Alternately struggling through undergrowth while trying to keep your feet and standing stock still while the tracker looks and listens for movement, you lose any idea of time, distance and direction. The sound of dogs barking, the bells on their collars tinkling to identify them, horns signaling a sighting of trail or beast and the staccato gutteral calls between trackers, even an occasional shot, all muffled by the trees give the situation a dreamlike, other worldly, quality.
I am not on the hill of Corton but in the Hautes Côtes with a group including a vigneron from Ladoix. Here we are above the fog and I even seen the sun for a few seconds. Its a long morning first waiting for the late arrivals delayed by motorway accidents and icy roads and then trekking unknowingly behind a guy with a rifle, a brass horn and bright orange jacket that in theory stops him becoming a target. I’m very glad of my high viz waistcoat that French law demands I carry in my car for roadside emergencies.
Not before time we are back at the hunters cabin where a four course meal has been prepared; quiche (who said real men don’t eat quiche ? French hunters take seconds!) followed by beef casserole, cheese and creme caramel, all accompanied by a glass or two.
In the afternoon I am left on the side of a coomb at an observation post and told the game will be coming from my right. An hour later a fully grown chevreuil crashes through the bushes on my left and passes not 20 metres across in front of me into the open. Naturally I am holding the wrong lens! But I have a wonderful view of speed and grace for a couple of seconds. A privilege.
Later, more activity to my left and another chevreuil dashes through the trees. I was sure I had a shot with part of him in the frame. Later inspection showed nothing, other than how hard it must be to shoot one those creatures.