By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans

A GOLDEN sunrise and crisp cold air transform these regal deer into chain smokers in the early morning light

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Red deer are one of the largest deer species

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 species inhabit large regions of Europe and some parts of Asia

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.

The photographer waited in the forest in the early morning to capture the steam rising from the deer's backs

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.

A combination of the sunrise and frosty weather created the illusion of smoking deer
Gerlach was visiting the forest to capture the deer during rutting season

“Then the sun broke through the branches and illuminated the scenery. The young Rothirsch was, so to speak, lit from behind.

Unfortunately the photographer only had limited time to get the perfect shot, but he succeeded

“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.

Ingo tracked down the deer in Sauerland, Germany

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.

During rutting season deer's antlers slowly begin to moult, requiring a good scratch on the surrounding trees

“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.