Badger Hide Arrangements

Meeting Time & Location

Thank you for booking The Downland Badger Hide. We will be meeting at X. Either Richard or myself will be waiting for you in a blue and silver Toyota Landcruiser. We’ll then take you across the farm to the hide. Usually we can drive the entire way, but we may have to walk across one field, depending on the farm use at the time.

MEETING TIME: 5:30pm

Please do not be late. In order to minimise disturbance near the badgers, we can only make one drop off and one collection per day. In essence, once you are in, you are in. If you’re staying overnight, please remember your sleeping bag. You will be collected at 6:00am.

Badger Essential Tips

The badgers are very comfortable with the sound of camera shutters. The best methodology is to play it safe and just take one or two frames when the badgers raise their heads off the ground to sniff the air. The surrounding pastures are full of livestock, making all the natural noises that you and I make, so coughing and sneezing are not an issue. The main thing to avoid is Velcro, any rustling of GorTex style fabrics and sudden/loud bangs from inside the hide – above all, you must SILENCE YOUR PHONE.

Although a badger’s eyesight is fairly poor, their sense of hearing is brilliant, but this pales into insignificance compared to their sense of smell. Their olfactory sense is, quite frankly, epic! We strongly recommend avoiding the consumption of strong smelling food in the hide and before arriving. This is also the main reason why we ask our clients to arrive so early for the evening session. We need time for any scent that we leave on the trail into the hide to dissipate and disperse – ideally two hours before the badgers emerge.

When the badgers do emerge, we advise leaving the badgers to settle and get stuck into the the peanuts – growing their confidence, before taking your shots. If you rush this moment, then you may have nervy badgers that scuttle off each time you rattle-off some frames. Be patient, let them feed and you can enjoy a much more relaxed session.

Exposure

Potential metering issues can occur when either: having a close up on the badger’s face; or if your metering system is linked to focus points on the badgers face. The thick black and white stripes can play havoc, so use Matrix Metering. Then your camera can take an exposure reading from the entire scene in the viewfinder. On sunny evenings, try underexposing with the [+/-] manual exposure compensation and dial in -1/3rd to -2/3rds stop.

As the light drops away in the evening, keep an eye on your shutter speed and make adjustments to your ISO when you see it dropping below 1/100th second. Most current DSLRs can produce great images at higher ISOs, so don’t be afraid of pushing on to ISO1600 and higher. For web use and printing, most noise is lost anyway. I push my Nikon D800 to ISO3200 quite happily and process in Lightroom with excellent results.

Focussing

The main feeding area is approximately 8-10m away from the hide. The badgers can come within 6m of the hide and are still photographable at 20m. Even though they can appear to be rather stationary, I’ve found you do need to keep up the shutter speed and use Continuous (AI Servo) focussing to keep the focus acquired. Mostly, I usually use a single focus point to keep the eyes and face pin-sharp.

If you are shooting with a telephoto, the depth of field will be fairly shallow (see below) and even a moderate movement from the badger can leave the eyes out of critical focus – hence why I shoot Continuous (AI Servo). Remember to rotate your camera and shoot both vertical (for portraits) and horizontal. I know it sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many photographers are so rigid in their approach that they hardly ever rotate the camera.

Depth of Field (DOF)

You can happily shoot wide open and have sufficient depth of field for a crisp shot. For example, a 400mm lens at f/4, focussing at 10m gives you about 14cm depth of field. Plenty for a badgers face. If you’re shooting with a 600mm prime, with a full-frame DSLR, shooting on f/4 at a subject of 10m gives just 6cm, so you have to be a little more careful and exacting on focus point placement. If you close down the aperture to f/8, you’ll gain about 5cm DOF, but at significant loss in shutter speed. So, my advice is to be accurate with your focus point and shoot wide-open for a faster shutter speed and diffused background.

Typical DOF values on full-frame cameras like the Nikon D800 or Canon 5D mkIII at a focus distance of 10m
Focal Length Vs Aperturef/4f/5.6f/8f/16
300mm26cm37cm52cm104cm
500mm9cm13cm18cm36cm
600mm6cm9cm13cm25cm

Essential Kit:

  • Camera body (there is room for two side-by-side)
  • Minimum 300mm EQV focal length lens with lens hood
  • Tripod head
  • Fully-charged batteries
  • Empty memory cards
  • Small torch
  • Food & Drink (something to pee in)
  • Dark clothing (think about something warmer if you’re staying through the night)
  • Fully-charged phone (charging point is available, but you need your lead)

Recommended Kit:

  • Back up body or second for video
  • Teleconverter if using less than 300mm lens
  • Sleeping bag if staying through overnight