Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pennsylvaina Elk Rut 2011

I have just returned home from shooting the Pennsylvania Elk rut.  With cards downloaded and back-ups ran I have just begun to relax and review the results of this week's efforts.

The first bull encounter was with a young bull on high ground.  From high points like this the Allegheny Mountains can make for some exceptional backgrounds and I lost no time positioning myself to take advantage of the hazy blue ridges in the early morning light. 

The time on the elk range this year was time well spent.  Meeting up with old friends, making new ones and shooting with some of Pennsylvania's most dedicated elk photographers made the excursion particularly enjoyable. 

The rut wasn't as frantic as I have seen during some other visits but elk numbers were quite good and some very good bulls were located.  The weather was frustrating to say the least for when the sun shone temperatures soared and the elk headed for deep shade; the rest of the time it rained.......and rained.......and rained.  

Interspersed between the showers and downpours were those magical moments; those moments that make getting soaked to the bone, those moments that make trudging up and down hillsides loaded down with photographic gear all worthwhile, those moments when the elk, the background, the light comes together........Click.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bobwhite & More

Back when I was a youngun running around the reverting farmland in our area, encountering Bobwhites was very common.  A covey of bobwhites flushing at my feet while I pushed through briers trying to jump a rabbit would startle me to where seldom could I get off a well aimed shot.  Fifteen to twenty minutes later the bobwhites would begin calling as they regrouped.

That was then.  It has been many years since I seen my last bobwhite in our area.  It has also been many years since the Pennsylvania Game Commission closed bobwhite hunting here as well but the population has never recovered.  So you can imagine my surprise when while watching field hoping for a nice buck to appear when I noticed something moving in the grass nearby and identified it as a bobwhite.

I have no way of knowing where it came from but I would expect that escaped from a captive flock or was released.   However it came to be there doesn't matter.  Its appearance gave me a lifer photo. 

No bucks showed up during the outing but the bobwhite and this pair of fawns more than made up for any disappointment I may have felt otherwise.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bugling in the Twilight


My 2010 photo excursion during the Pennsylvania elk rut was plagued by drab gray skies and frequent showers.  While the elk action and encounters were meeting my expectations the weather was making exceptional photographs few and far between.  It was during the last moments of my last day, during the evening twilight that the sky took on a spectacular glow.  It was during this brief time that I was able to capture the best images of the entire trip including the image of this same bull that graces the header of Country Captures taken a few minutes later.

If there was one thing this encounter taught me it was "It ain't over 'till its over"!  Don't leave a good subject until it is absolutely too dark to shoot.  You never know what will happen in the next five minutes.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Bugling Time in Pennsylvania

Reports filtering in from Pennsylvania's elk range tell that the elk rut is in full swing

For those accustomed to the ways of the whitetail deer the experience of the elk rut is nothing short of incredible.  Whereas the whitetail bucks dash about, sometimes sparring, on rare occasion fighting and all the while keeping vocalization to a bare minimum the elk on the other hand are extremely vocal, frequently observed sparring and serious fights are not uncommon.  Wrap up all of these traits of the elk rut together with an easily accessible and human acclimated herd in the vicinity of Benezette Pennsylvania and you have a winning combination for an outdoor experience like no other.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bits of Color

Late summer's Bits of Color foretell the feast of hues about to unfold


Monday, September 19, 2011

Drawing to a Close

Chilly nights and cool days signal the ending of yet another summer.  The grape vines are heavily laden with fruit as the leaves begin to turn brown.

 Wild flowers still bloom but not with the profusion of a few weeks ago

Hummingbird visits to the feeders have dropped dramatically indicating that their autumn migration has begun.

Autumn holds much promise; promise of natural beauty far exceeding anything the other seasons can offer, but her beauty is fleeting as the cold gray days of winter rush in upon her heels.  It is with some regret that I bid summer good-by but at the same time anticipate the coming autumn splendor with eagerness.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Getting Ready to Rumble

Highlighted in the early morning sun a magnificent whitetail buck pauses to survey his surroundings

And moments later wages a mock battle with a bush

As the days become cooler and the hours of daylight shorten the bucks feel the irresistible urges of the coming rut

Appearing satisfied in winning the battle with the bush he poses before continuing on his way in search of more herbaceous foes to conquer; preparing for the real battles to yet to come.

I'm certain that this is the same buck posted by my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Brad Myers nearly a month ago.  To see the difference the month made in the buck's appearance click HERE to pop over and take a look.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


 Shooting a car show Sunday was a considerable change of pace for one who has spent years honing their photographic skills on wildlife.  Exposure and post processing presented challenges considerable different from what I am familiar with.  A huge flag was used as the backdrop for the outdoor studio; made even more appropriate with the event being held on the tenth anniversary of 9-11.

The flag was hung from a crane with the bottom corners held in place with weights.  One problem we encountered was when the gentle afternoon breeze blew the 500lb corner weights around as if they weighed nothing.  To eliminate the problem we attached a truck to the flag's center and tied off the weights to stationary objects.

Over fifty cars and bikes were entered into the event

Flags and Harley's go together like mom and apple pie; Photoshop's tools were just what I needed to make this biker's image complete. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SNP: Revisiting an old Friend

Once again early morning found Willard and I en route to Shenandoah National Park in search of Whitetail Bucks.  Visiting last in mid August we were eager to get back to see what the bucks looked like without their velvet.

Locating a group of four bucks in the woods before photographic light we thought the morning was off to a good start as we waited for the day to brighten.  Any thoughts of success were dashed when the bucks became nervous and suddenly burst into flight.  The cause of their alarm became apparent a moment later when movement in a large oak tree caught my attention.  A medium sized black bear hopped from branch to branch and suddenly dropped to the ground fleeing along the same path the bucks had traveled.

Shortly after sunrise we located a beautiful buck with a wide spreading rack and was busy photographing him when I spotted an even larger buck in the distance.  After assuring myself that I had gotten some nice images of the nearby buck I hurried to catch up to the big boy as he busied himself thrashing low hanging branches.

The buck worked along the woods line sparring with shrubs and saplings seeming to enjoy tearing up the vegetation with his new antlers.

Throughout the encounter I continued to feel as if I should know this buck but wasn't able to place him until I was reviewing the images on the computer.

My first encounter was during the 2007 rut when I spent a good part of the morning with him as he stood guard over a doe.  This photo of him was my very first published whitetail photo and have since always referred to him as Calendar Boy.

Meeting Calendar Boy again after the rut of 2008 I was disappointed to see his shattered rack. Disappointed that I was unable to capture a good image of his '08 rack, but at the same time glad that it was only his antler that was damaged.

Willard caught up with him for a fantastic photo session during the 2009 rut but I never caught sight of him that year and during the autumn of 2010 we both came up dry.  So it was a great pleasure to meet up with him again this morning.

How you might ask do I know for sure that this is the same buck?  Aside from coloration, body build and antler conformation this buck has a very unique mark that upon close observation makes him unmistakable.  Check out the dark mark below the rear corner of his right eye and then review the above images.

Being able to follow an animal throughout the years is special part of big game photography.  In hunting country seldom can this be accomplished but with the total protection that the National Parks afford their creatures the close observer can be rewarded with the thrill of watching particular animals mature and grow old.  For the wildlife photographer documenting the aging process is perhaps the ultimate big game thrill.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Photo - Flight 93 Temporary Memorial
A decade has passed since that fateful morning when life in America changed.

Let us never forget the people who gave their all.

"Let's Roll" 


Saturday, September 10, 2011


A beautiful pair of Whitetail Bucks hurry away upon the approach of a coyote
Shenandoah National Park, Va

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Thursday, September 08, 2011


Killdeer while commonly found on lawns, golf courses, and pasture fields also spend time along the water's edge.  One morning a few days ago I was fortunate to be able to maneuver the boat close to a family group of killdeer taking an early morning bath. 

A dispute erupted among the birds as can be seen here with one bird chasing another through the shallow water.

Turning the tables the chased bird suddenly stopped and displayed an aggressive posture.

And maintained the aggressive stance as the pursuing bird circled seeming to look for a weakness in its defence. 

In a few moments the dispute was quickly forgotten as the flock went back to running about the mud flats in search of food leaving me with a few memorable images from a beautiful morning on the water.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Tropical Storm Lee

Hurricane Irene passed to our east with only outer rain bands giving us some much needed rain and the earthquake was pretty much a non-event but Tropical Storm Lee has delivered drenching showers causing some flooding.

Some localized flooding was occurring this morning 

A creek bottom cornfield is inundated as Licking Creek overflows her banks

 The intersection of Leese, Bull Hill, and Creek Road is impassable

 No mail will be delivered to this address today

 A few inches of clearance remain under this bridge however the water is bypassing the bridge flooding out the road on the other side.

Insisting to live in a streams floodplain is not without consequences

Flooded roadway

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words............

What is a gesture worth when you don't communicate in words?

Photographing wildlife is not without its humorous moments.  I'm certain that the right-hand buck meant no disrespect as he was feeding at the moment that the other buck alerted upon seeing a coyote approaching.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Changing of the Coats

With Autumn just around the corner the whitetails are changing into their winter coats. 

The change comes on slowly.  For the adults the reddish summer hair begins to thin revealing the new soft velvety undercoat.  The adult doe pictured here has shed nearly all of her summer coat with the exception of that on her head and legs.  In the coming weeks the now short soft hair covering her body will grow into the long insulating coat she will need to survive winter's cold.

The alert fawn is also showing the signs of change as its brilliant spots are fading away.  

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Thursday, September 01, 2011


As autumn approaches the opportunity for foggy morning shots increases.  Calm mornings where the air temperature is below that of the ground creates the perfect conditions for ground fog in low lying areas and even more so over bodies of warm water.

Tuesday morning was a calm 50 degrees and with the surface water temperature a warm 65 heavy fog blanketed the lake.  As the sun rose in the eastern sky it reflected off of the calm surface of the waters in a surreal way. 

The warming ray of the sun created updrafts that soon began wafting the fog upward, slowly exposing the encircling mountain. 

But the best image of the morning came when all that remained was a low cloud obscuring the breastwall.  The beauty was incredible, sky, fog and land meets water, reflecting perfectly in mirror image. 

These are the moments I live for, those fleeting moments of incredible natural beauty.