Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Elk Portrait

One of my favorite shots from the Pennsylvania elk rut is this portrait of a mature bull bedded among the evergreens and ferns.

After the elk had left the meadows in early morning Willard and I followed the bugling into the woodland. This bedded bull was bugling occasionally while at other times closing his eyes catching a moment of rest. After spending some time photographing him we were rewarded by the sun breaking through the clouds and spotlighting him perfectly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Challenges Photographing Pennsylvania Elk

Photographing Pennsylvania Elk is seldom an easy task. Light, backgrounds, obstructions and subject poses can all prove challenging in the task of obtaining quality photographs.

Elk are most active in early morning and late evening and during periods of low light. Mornings are usually foggy in the elk range which adds another dimension to the degree of difficulty.

Fast lenses help to overcome the low light issues with the 70-200mm F2.8 being a very popular lens with the dedicated elk photographers. With the degree of acclimation and the size of the animal the 70- 200mm offers enough magnification for much of the work. For other lenses of more magnification and/or smaller apertures a tripod is a necessity.

Some of the food plots which were developed on reclaimed strip mines offer less than ideal backgrounds although this obstacle can often be overcome by carefully choosing the camera position.

The image captured here was shot from the tripod with the 100-400mm F5.6 ISO 800 1/100 sec. in the early morning. The fog was of considerable benefit here as it completely obscures a group of elk watchers looking on from a viewing area parking lot directly behind this magnificent bull.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three Seasons

I first met this bull during the first morning of my 2007 elk rut shoot.

In 2008 I encountered him the second day of my trip. During one encounter we watched as he bred a cow. This image was captured shortly after the sun had set as he followed a cow over the rise with the hazy blue mountains providing an excellent background.

During the second evening of this year’s trip I was thrilled when this same bull hove into view. Now a fully mature bull, larger in both body and antlers, he was ready to take on all contenders. During the evening at least three other mature bulls approached his small harem and each time they slunk away as he approached them with head held high.

I can see the similarity in the bull’s antlers over the three seasons shown here but I bow to the greater knowledge of Willard and Buckwheat who provided positive identification.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Photographing the Photographer

My attention is usually riveted upon the wildlife we are pursuing. Sometimes I must remind myself to take advantage of other opportunities.

Such was the case Friday morning as Willard set up the video to capture the sunrise as the first rays of light began to wash over the landscape. I was totally unaware of the two cow elk bedded in this photograph until I loaded this image in Photoshop

A few minutes later as the colors in the eastern sky developed I captured this image of Willard facing away from the sunrise and towards the sounds of an approaching bull who was bugling as he came.

Both of these images were made with the 24-105mm lens at ISO1600.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Majestic and Intimidating

Arriving in Benezette Pa and meeting up with Willard at 5:30 am Wednesday morning I was excited about the possibilities that this years elk rut held. Driving up Winslow Hill in the predawn darkness we passed a group of elk watchers gathered along the road looking at some elk faintly visible through the foggy darkness. A quick look with binoculars revealed only cows so we continued to where Willard had encountered action the evening before.

Nearby bugling could be heard as we readied our photo gear and walked to a food plot where a large herd bull was watching over a band of cows and calves with a couple of raghorns nearby.

The elk left the food plots while it was still too dark for good photography. As the morning wore on we followed the bugling and located the elk activity deep in the woods.

At least two large herd bulls were present as well as a number of lesser bulls. The morning activity consisted of the herd bulls running off all challengers and on occasion attempting to intimidate each other while at other times laying down to catch a moments rest.

The incident pictured here occurred when Willard & I decided to leave by way of an old railroad bed and met this mature herd bull coming our way. After seeing us he continued to walk towards us until he was only a few yards away before veering off the path. Passing closely to our right he headed towards the bugles of a satellite bull crashing through the brush as he attempted to steal a cow or two out of the big guy’s harem.

For more Critters of all Kinds
Visit our friend Misty’s
Camera Critters Blog

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pennsylvania Elk Rut 2009

I spent the last three days intensively photographing the Pennsylvania Elk Rut. With memory cards full and my butt dragging I will keep tonight’s post short and will expound upon the experience in greater detail later.

The trip was fantastic and only after I have time to closely review my images will I be able to ascertain the number of different bulls photographed. The elk rut is in full swing with bulls moving constantly across the food plots throughout the mornings and evenings and continuing the activity in the woods during the day.

More to come but for now I’m headed to bed for a good nights sleep

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dreaming of Bugling Bulls

It’s that time of year again, the time when the north woods of Pennsylvania Wilds ring with the mating calls of the bull Elk.

Images from previous ruts and a little Photoshop magic depict my current state of mind.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It’s been Awhile………

It’s been awhile since I have observed Canada Geese on our local lake but yesterday afternoon I spotted a flock bobbing in the waves along the western shore.

Motoring across the lake I turned toward the geese knowing full well that the lighting was all wrong but still hoping for a useable shot during take-off.

The geese were more skittish than they were back in the spring. I expect that the early Canada Goose season that has been in since the first of the month has much to do with their wariness nevertheless I was able to get off a couple of frames as they exploded into flight.

Later towards evening I located a little pied-billed grebe that disappeared into the high reeds along the shoreline. This was the first pied-billed grebe I have observed since May.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Late Summer Bumble Bee

A pretty patch of late summer wildflowers attracted my attention as well as the attention of a multitude to bumble bees.

Image captured with a 100-400mm lens F5.6 1=1600 sec. I used the fast shutter speed as this image was captured from the boat as it rocked gently in the waves.

For more Critters of all kinds
Visit our friend Misty’s

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Too Big to Bite

Autumn brings with it a bountiful wildlife buffet. An apple tree situated in an old fence row is now a popular hangout for the local whitetails as they periodically check for the latest drops. The buck pictured here has found one that is giving him a bit of difficulty.

Freezing the action in still photos captured his comical facial expressions. Soon he changed tactics and anchored the apple on the ground where he broke it into two manageably pieces with his front teeth.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Elk Trip: The Conclusion

The Elk featured in the previous series were the only elk we managed to locate on this trip.

Within perhaps fifteen minutes of first locating the elk they moved into the surrounding timber. We continued to drive about the area with no success and would occasionally check back on this spot.

After a couple of hours the sun broke through the clouds illuminating the goldenrod pictured here. After stopping at the Benezette Store restaurant we made an uneventful journey home.

This short trip was a teaser, soon I will be returning to Pennsylvania’s north woods to seriously photograph the Elk Rut.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Elk Trip Continued

With the poor lighting conditions present Thursday morning it was necessary to use high ISO settings and low shutter speeds. Digital noise and off-colors were a problem in some of the shots.

In this shot of the herd bull rounding up his harem and forcing the cows into the woodland I used sepia toning to offset the afore mentioned problems.

My wife accompanied me on this trip and stayed busy clicking her little Lumix point & shoot. The Lumix couldn’t handle the distance involved with photographing the elk but her old wildlife photographer was well within range. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Early Stirings of the Rut

A pair of Raghorn bulls sparring

The sparring between young bulls is not the violent confrontations that occasionally occur between large breeding bulls. During these frequent matches the bulls learn the fighting techniques they will use in earnest later in life.

The herd bull and a lesser 6X6 look on as the young bulls tussle

Elk are impressive animals to view at any time of the year but if one must choose only one time to visit the elk range the autumn rut is the best by far. Mornings and evenings when light levels are low is the best times to encounter the elk. Mid-day will find them lying up in timbered areas.

When you combine the majestic beauty of a mature bull with the colorful foliage of autumn while the screaming bugles fill the air you have an outdoor experience that is difficult to surpass.

If you choose to visit Pennsylvania’s elk during the rut keep in mind that these animals can be dangerous. Do not take unnecessary chances and maintain a safe respectable distance.

For more Critters of all Kinds
Visit Misty’s Camera Critter Blog

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Morning Challenge

Arriving on Winslow Hill this morning I heard this bull’s roaring challenge as I stepped from the car.

Nearly a year had passed since I last visited the Pennsylvania elk so it was with considerable anticipation that I made the 150 mile predawn drive this morning. Passing through the tiny town of Benezette the gray overcast skies held no promise of beautiful morning light.

A food plot directly down the hill from the Gilbert Viewing Area held a herd of elk with this bull watching over his harem as a few lesser bulls fed and sparred intermittently.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Changing Foliage

The calendar declares a precise date for the beginning of Autumn but in the natural world the change begins slowly with a spot of colored foliage here and another there. At first if one does not look closely the small hints can be missed altogether.

A single backlit red leaf shows off glows crimson red in the bright morning sun.

Yellows are also beginning to show as this brace of compound leaves shot during a light drizzle illustrates.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Heron Triple Take

I spent quite a bit of time on the water this Labor Day weekend with only a few images to show for it. I encountered a few wood ducks but they were much to wild to get into camera range. I did see an osprey a couple of times but like the ducks it kept its distance.

This Great Blue Heron did allow me to approach quite closely with the boat a number of times giving me a few opportunities for flight shots.

I usually prefer to display my wildlife images in color but for a change I gave this one the B&W treatment in Photoshop by applying a gradient map adjustment layer, a trick my son Chad learned at a Scott Kelby seminar recently.

Selective color version retaining the color of the heron’s eye

Spot of Red: Virginia Creeper

As the woodland slowly begins its transition to autumn Virginia Creeper displays its beautiful crimson colors while most other foliage is still green.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Muskrat Morning

An early visit to a local wetland this morning proved fruitful. Shortly after arriving a muskrat swam from its underwater den entrance to a spot where the water was very shallow and began eating.

The click of the shutter concerned the muskrat who fled after only a very few photographs.

These images were shot on ISO 1600 in the dim pre-dawn light.

For more Critters of all Kinds
Visit our friend Misty at her
Camera Critters Blog

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Corn Skies

Leaving our family farm to return home Sunday evening I could see from the secluded valley that a beautiful red glow was sweeping upward across the sky as the last remnants of daylight faded about one half hour past sunset.

Driving to the top of the hill I shot these images through the corn using the 400mm lens to isolate a small bit of the sky. Exposing for the sky allowed the corn stalks in the foreground to become stark silhouettes.

Evening skies such as these typically forecast fair weather and we have been blessed with beautiful clear days and low humidity ever since.

For Beautiful Skies from around the World
Visit Sky Watch and join in!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Damsel Connection

While fishing a few days ago a pair of mating damselflies spent some time perched about the boat providing me with a photographic opportunity.

The attachment between the mating couple is quite secure allowing them to fly in unison. Here you can observe that the attachment is so strong that the lower fly is suspended in mid air with only one leg toughing the boat seat frame.