Thursday, August 30, 2012

Butting Heads in Velvet

With our whitetail rut still over two months away, the bucks have begun sparring.  After a peaceful spring and summer resting, feeding, and traveling together tension is beginning to build in the bachelor groups.


Their velvet covered antlers in the very last stage of development apparently are not as sensitive as they were a short time ago.  These bucks were exerting considerable pressure as they jabbed, parried and shoved.

Soon the bachelor groups will dissolve as the bucks become more aggressive preparing for the fantastic season of love and war.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Poor Choice of Perch

The damselfly could have chosen a safer perch; however the bullfrog did not show the slighest interest in the damselfly.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bucks & Bears: A Morning in SNP

Once again Willard and I found ourselves in Shenandoah National Park at daylight Friday morning.  While whitetails are our primary focus other wildlife photo opportunities do occur.  After the deer had moved into the deep woods for the day we encountered this bear ambling along the road. 
 Alighting from the vehicle with the Canon 30D with a 100-400mm attached my only option was to shoot handheld.  The light level was quite low so I cranked the ISO to 1000 (as high as this camera can go before digital noise becomes objectionable).  Holding as steady as possible with image stabilization on I rapid fired hoping to obtain a sharp image as the shutter speed was only 1/100 sec.  The encounter was brief but it gave me my very best bear photo to date.
As summer winds down the bucks are beginning to exhibit the early signs of the coming rut.  This young buck gave me my first lip-curl shot of the season.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Change is in the Air

Change is slowly creeping across the northeastern landscape.  The lush green leaves of early summer are now insect damaged, worn and torn, and some are beginning to show a spot of color foretelling the coming change of the season.

For those pursuing whitetails with the camera, the time for photographing bucks in velvet is drawing to a close.  The antlers are nearly fully developed and withing the next three weeks most bucks will have shed.

And the Pa elk rut is just around the corner.  Typically the last two weeks of September will see the most intense rutting activity.  If you are planning a trip to Pennsylvania's elk country to see and hear the thrilling action it's time to make your overnight reservations if you haven't already done so.  And if you love viewing wildlife and have never experienced the elk rut make plans now to visit Pennsylvania's elk country and observe the most impressive wildlife show the Keystone State has to offer!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


While my photography centers around wildlife occasionally I will give others subjects some attention.  With fireworks slated for 9:30 Friday evening at the Fulton County Fair I decided to give fireworks shooting another whirl. 

These shots were all captured with the Canon 60D and the 24-105mm lens.

Fireworks is on place where I find it necessary to shoot the camera in manual exposure mode.  The trick here is to have a slow shutter speed to record the path of the flying sparks while still retaining the color in the fire. 

The first three images were shot at ISO 100, f7.1, 1/4sec

I cannot explain what happened with this image captured at ISO100, f8, .3sec but I do like the results.

Trying to capture more than just the exploding fireworks (something Tom Dorsey over at Pa Wingers did earlier this year) I shot this image at ISO 125, f4, 2sec.  In the raw image the fireworks were over greatly overexposed with the foreground remaining dark.  Using Photoshop camera raw local adjustments I dropped the exposure 1.5 stops on the fireworks and increased the exposure by 2 stop on the cars and building in the foreground. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

SNP Whitetails in the Fog

The first nice buck Willard and I was able to photograph during our recent SNP visit was busy browsing.  His concentration on feeding was soon to be broken, but not by us.

Soon a doe moved in demanding his attention.  This doe's summer coat is shedding revealing the growing winter hair. 

From the other side a small buck joined in, nuzzling the buck to draw his attention away from the doe.

I'm sure he didn't mean anything by his expression but with his eye squinted and tongue extended, his pose made a cute shot!

During this encounter banks of fog periodically rolled across the meadow.  The fog banks are responsible for the softness of the last three images.  All images were made with a Canon 60D, 600mm f4 & tripod. 

I'm looking forward to photograph the SNP whitetail rut again this autumn but before then I hope to be able to make a few more trips to capture more late summer whitetail activity. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time out for the Fulton County Fair

24mm, 1.3 sec. exposure, hand-held rested on car roof 

August is Fair time so as our tradition my wife and I set aside an evening to visit the Fulton County Fair in McConnellsburg Pa.

The feature event was an appliance race.  In case you are not familiar with an appliance race it is part race and part demo derby.  Each car's pit crew loads appliances, one at a time with the car having to complete three laps around the track before loading another.  The pit crew is provided with five appliances and 100ft of rope.

The idea is to attach the appliance securely to the car; sometimes its not as secure as it should be.

Appliances dropped on the track can give a driver a nasty jolt.

And a well placed hit from an opponent can put a contestent out of the game.

Deciding to travel light I carried only the Canon 60D with the 24-105mm, f4 IS L lens attached using various ISO's up to 12,800 shooting all photos hand-held.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Roughhousing: Whitetail Style

Whitetails are gregarious animals preferring to spend their time in the company of others.  Socializing takes many forms and included some good natured roughhousing.  I watched and photographed this pair of bucks for a considerable time while the smaller buck harassed the larger in an obvious attempt to gain his attention.

Finally the big guy had had enough! 

And rose up on his hind legs with flailing front feet to land a blow

The smaller buck, reacting quickly, received only a glancing blow to his flank.

The moment of hostility passed quickly.  In less than five minutes the bucks were making up, their friendship still obviously intact, the brief spat quickly becoming a distant memory.

This last image is a type of deer image that you will probably never see in any hunting publication.  Images of deer feeding, fighting, or just about anything else may be found but images depicting tender moments between animals will never make the grade.  Is it because that images of this type may make some less inclined to kill an animal that exhibits feeling?  I really don't know the answer to that question but I do know better than to waste my time submitting images of this type to any publication associated with the hunting industry.

These images were captured Saturday during a morning visit to Shenandoah National Park.  The stormy weather was forecast to move out during the night however upon our arrival before dawn the sky was cloudy with intermittent sprinkles.  Fog banks and light rain moved through our area as the sky began clearing shortly after dawn.  The mixture of sun, clouds, and fog kept the light from becoming harsh to quickly and made for and excellent morning of whitetail photography.

SNP supports a large protected whitetail herd that is acclimated to humans.  Since the deer are not concerned about human presence one is able to observe and photograph natural whitetail behaviour; something that is extremely difficult at best when working with a hunted herd.   

Friday, August 10, 2012

Six Years and Still Going

Immature Wood Duck Male

A little over six years ago I began this blog with no clear direction as to where it was going.  At the time I was shooting with a Canon S2 IS Power Shot camera.  This was my third digital camera and the first with a decent zoom lens. 

Back in the 1970's I had owned a couple of Minolta SLR's along with a 50mm, 135mm, and inexpensive 400mm lens.  I did a lot of shooting in B&W in those days along with developing and printing with a portable darkroom setup.  I dabbled with wildlife photography but never became serious about it.  Then life got in the way and with the demands on my time and finances photography fell by the wayside. 

Immature Wood Duck Male

Fast forwarding to 2006 I was rediscovering photography; finding that my latent interest was still there and that digital appeared to hold solid advantages over film.  Gone was the processing cost, gone was the wait time between shooting a frame and finally seeing the outcome, and gone was all of the trash prints when overexposure, blur, underexposure etc. rendered the image unusable.  I went a long happily clicking away with the little Canon until one day my brother Willard handed me his Canon 10D with a 300mm F4 attached.  As I checked it out, pointing it at various subjects, touching the shutter button and watching it snap into sharp focus; I knew then and there that I needed to upgrade.  There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to pursue photography to a degree that I had never attempted before.  As it was I had no inkling where that this path was to lead, a path that those of you who have faithfully visited Country Captures over the years have walked with me. 

Wildlife photography has instilled a deeper appreciation in me for our wildlife, our public lands, and our environment as a whole.  During this photographic journey my eyes have been opened not just to wildlife and their habits but also to the politics surrounding our wildlife and our environment.   

For those of you who have followed Country Captures throughout the years, thank you and for those who just recently found me, thanks for visiting and I hope you found it to be a site worth revisiting.  

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

A Morning Afield

As this morning slowly brightened layered fog hung thick in the low lying valleys.  Missing work today to accompany my wife for a medical procedure, I had the early morning free so an outing afield was in order.

On the way to a favored wildlife viewing spot I rounded a bend in the road to see a black bear heading towards me.  Stopping the car, shutting off the engine, and opening the door a cacophony of bells began.  Jerking the keys from the ignition quieted one ringer and finally turning off the headlights silenced the noisy beast.  By the time I was able to crouch beside the vehicle resting the lens in the V between door and car body the bear which had retreated up the road, stopped to momentarily look back.     

After only a few frames the bear turned and retreated into the fog.

While our area supports a number of bears, sighting are infrequent.  This encounter marks my third for this year and my first local encounter where I was able to get the camera into action.  The bear appears to be small, possibly last years cub. 

Later I photographed this tender moment between a doe and her fawn.

While I enjoy all types of wildlife photography my favorite photographs are those capturing interaction between animals.

Whereas many species are solitary and are seldom seen interacting with others of their kind; whitetails spend a considerable amount of time interacting,  Whether its grooming, nursing, sparring, fighting, or a fawn nuzzling its mother, capturing these moments of interaction adds a special charm to ones collection of digital outdoor memories.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Alert and Curious

Considerably larger than when they first arrived nearly two months ago, whitetail fawns still retain their spotted coats and their insatiable curiosity.

Pausing to check out a single stem of grass

And going on full alert at the slightest noise

The fawns are growing up fast.  In another month their spotted coats will begin to fade as summer
 fades into autumn.