2020VISION Assignment: Mountain hares in the Scottish uplands (summer)

Fergus Gill learns to track down and photograph mountain hares in the Cairngorms National Park during the summer.

© Fergus Gill

This summer, Fergus Gill learned to track down and photograph mountain hares in Cairngorms National Park.

iWitness Assignment: Scottish uplands in search of mountain hares

Location: Cairngorms National Park

Photographer: Fergus Gill

Last summer I was delighted to get back into the mountains, tasked with the 2020VISION assignment of photographing mountain hares, one of my favourite wildlife subjects.

I could not wait to be surrounded by beautiful scenery, inhale clean mountain air and feel the tug of the near constant wind blowing across the rugged terrain.

In order to avoid disturbing the hares, I tried to use the undulating landscape to my advantage to creep up on them and establish a viewpoint. 

Sitting patiently I noticed how the hares’ expressions would change as movement and new sounds caught their attention. They often raised their ears, eyed me with suspicion and made a swift exit. 

© Fergus Gill

For a couple of days I enjoyed repeated encounters with these upland residents, some lasting a few seconds and others closer to an hour.

It appeared to be a good breeding year for the hares as there were plenty of leverets around, but it didn’t take long for them to learn to avoid humans.

The adults kept a diligent look out and usually bounded away the moment I laid eyes on them. But I discovered that if I could spot them first, it made a huge difference to how much time I could spend photographing them. It even allowed me to plan my approach. 

There was one particular hare that was more friendly than the others. I spent a long time manouvering myself into position and by remaining hidden from view I was able to capture some unusual images of it.

My subject was so relaxed, it yawned right in front of me, something I’d never seen before. 

© Fergus Gill

Photography Tip

If you’re trying to photograph a mountain hare, focus on getting yourself into a position where you can get a good view of an individual or group.

Once there all you need to do it sit and wait patiently.

Allowing your subject time to become relaxed creates the best photography opportunities, because it will act more naturally, hopefully showing you great behaviour and even better shots.


2020VISION is a multimedia project that highlights the link between people's wellbeing and the restoration of natural systems.

Uniquely, it pairs the talents of 20 of the UK's most skilled outdoor photographers with writers, editors, videographers, sound artists and scientists to make a compelling case for rewilding landscapes – for wildlife and for people.

To see some of the best images taken on 2020VISION assignments so far, click here.

To find out more about 2020VISION, click here.

Read Mark Hamblin's winter 2020VISION assignment: Mountain hares in the Scottish uplands. 

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