A snap decision at midnight to go to Bradgate Park early the next morning seemed like a good idea. With a 7.45 sunrise, I needed to leave by 6.45, shame I turned the alarm off and woke again at 7.15; this was my first mistake. No problem, although late the light was still good when I arrived.

Not so long ago, I would carry just about every piece of camera gear I owned; on the off chance I’d need it. With a larger library of decent images I no longer bother unless the conditions are exceptional and there’s a chance I’ll achieve something better than I’ve already taken. With an average weather forecast I left the DSLR and 400mm at home and decided to just take the drone and compact 24-70mm camera, just in case there was a landscape worth snapping. This was my second mistake.

I’m losing my memory … cards

With plenty of autumnal colours around me I took to the air, ready to capture it all in 4K goodness. I lined up my first shot, hit record, and the error message pops up, ‘no memory card’ aaaaaargh! No card means no footage, or photos.

It gets worse. As I was landing the drone I noticed a stag behind me that was stood on a outcrop, surveying the park before him. It would have made the perfect shot, if I’d had my 400mm that is. Cursing my poor choice in kit, and quickly remembered the compact camera. It may only stretch to 70mm but there was a good wider shot too, one that took in the landscape the stag was so avidly surveying. I slowly edged towards it, popped up the digital view finder and started snapping. Moving into various positions for a number of compositions. It wasn’t until I checked the back of the camera that I noticed the words, ‘no memory card’ aaaaargh! – seems the error message doesn’t show up in the view finder.

My third and last option was to use my camera phone (see main image above). Ok, not great, but better than nothing, although after a couple of panoramic shots that crashed, and turned itself off, aaaargh!. “Oh bother” I said, time to give up and just spend the morning watching and forget about photography.

The final blow

I followed the bellows of a stag. By his size I’m pretty sure he’s the park’s biggest. It was shortly after getting close that another large male approached his rutting stand. Then a true fight ensued. I should explain at this point that in the past eight years of visiting the park during the rut, I have never seen stags fight – properly that is. Not sure if I’ve just been unlucky, or it’s not as common as you d think. Either way, it was happening in front of me and all I had to record the moment with was my phone. I took some quick footage then, went back to the binoculars and just enjoyed the moment.

There’s nothing wrong with just enjoying the moment, often the urge to capture the perfect image gets in the way of the experience. But come on, eight years, testosterone fuelled rutting stags before me and no way to properly capture it!

Since this unfortunate morning I’m back to carrying everything but the kitchen sink, plus plenty of extra memory cards!