I met wildlife photographer and author Polly Pullar at the Wigtown Book Festival last autumn, and we got chatting about the Authors as Characters series of images I've been doing.
In subsequent emails she decided Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox would be one she would love to try. As well as having a love of foxes she also has a bit of land with sheep, a deer and some laid back hens. Gradually the idea formed of doing a shoot with Polly dressed up with tweed jacket, plus-fours and face paint, with a chicken under her arm coming out of the hen house.
She lives near Aberfeldy - up into highland Perthshire - with her partner, Iomhair, and invited me up to stay for a couple of nights last weekend to do the shoot. I arrived late afternoon and as Iomhair was preparing dinner Polly gave me a tour of the grounds and buildings so we could start thinking about the best place to do the shoot.
We looked at the hen house and the barn, but then we climbed the hill to where this lovely old, gnarled tree, surrounded by lichen and moss covered rocks, jutted out of the hillside. And in the early evening sunlight it was just stunning. There wasn't time to do the shoot there and then before the sun disappeared but we both knew the combination of tree and light would be perfect. We just had to hope the following evening would offer up the same conditions.
Fortunately luck was on our side. It was overcast until mid afternoon, but then the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds and by early evening the skies were clear. Polly changed into her outfit and her friend, actress and playwright Anna Hepburn, set to with face paints.
Quite quickly it became clear the hen house option wasn't going to work. The size, layout and difficulty with lighting meant I couldn't create out a way to make the cool photo I had envisioned.
We shifted into the barn and used hay bales to create a backdrop for some shots of Polly as the fox with a couple of chickens under her arms. While they were fun, I still didn't feel I was getting the awesome shots I really wanted. So then we climbed the hill to the tree.
The moment I took my first test shot my heart leapt with joy - the light could not have been more perfect. Polly clambered into place on a rock with her back against the tree and in a act of serendipity I could never have planned, a couple of her sheep came wandering up to see what was going on.
Here are a selection of the final photos. Click on them for larger versions, or follow the link through to my Facebook page for the full set -
I couldn't have arranged those sheep if I'd tried
"This is my chicken, not yours. Go find your own..."
Even Ruby the deer made an appearance
In the barn...
Photographer, fox and the remains of a bottle of wine