By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans
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Clouds of steam and smoke ripple out of the red deer’s mouths and off of their bodies as the soft light of the sunrise gives them an eerie glow, offering the perfect photo opportunity for Ingo Gerlach.
The photographer tracked down the deer in Sauerland, Germany and waited in the woods in the early hours of one Autumn morning to capture the Rotwildbrunft - deers in rut - and was able to snap these stunning portraits.
Ingo said: “The sun was slowly rising, the cold became much more noticeable. The sun rays were still unable to produce any heat.
“Suddenly a young Rothirsch (red deer) came to the clearing. He started to free his head from insects using the tree trunk.
“Then the sun broke through the branches and illuminated the scenery. The young Rothirsch was, so to speak, lit from behind.
“The steam generated by the body’s heat was excellently visible. The whole body was wrapped in smoke, like some kind of steam cloud.”
Red deer are one of the largest deer species and inhabit large regions of Europe and parts of Asia.
In the past their population has dipped but with the help of conservation efforts, especially in the UK, red deer populations have increased to healthier levels.
Gerlach continued: “Several other deer were also on the spot. A strong Rothirsch let out a roar at his adversary and, like a cigar, his breath made special squiggles and figures out of the smoke.
“After about three quarters of an hour, the steam action was already over, as the sun had risen higher and the backlight was gone, but I had my special recordings already filed away.