Animal behavior shows a lot about their comfort level. If they are feeding, for example, this shows they are relaxed and not too worried about any impending danger. But most animals reveal specific behavioral signs that indicate when they are not happy. This bull is showing the whites of his eyes–a sign that he is not overly satisfied with me at the moment. I might be in his way to greener pastures, I might be too close to him, or I might be viewed as just in his way for whatever reason. The whites in his eyes show that is not relaxed.
Similarly, this cow is busy eating some grass, but her eyes show that is worried about something. At the very least, she is keeping a keen eye out for any sign of trouble.
We can photograph our subjects better when we learn more about them. It doesn’t matter what subject we are photographing either. When we learn more about our subject we will be able to get better photographs. So the next time you are out with your camera pay close attention to your subject. What do you see? Are there any signs that is putting your subject at ease? Or are there signs that indicate something is wrong.
Be patient, work slow, and pay attention to the animal’s behavior. It can tell us a lot!
I always try to process photographs as soon after an outing as possible. This way I can keep details fresh in my memory, add appropriate keywords right from the start, and pick the keepers that I want to use on my blog, Google+, my website, or to print. Sooner rather than later is the motto I strive to uphold. Usually it works well. occasionally, I have to process photos at a later time.
Sometimes, however, I go back to a previous photo shoot and find an image that I either missed the first time through or figured I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to use. Such was the case last night. I went through some old Pennsylvania elk photographs from last fall and came across this nursing calf. The pose struck me, but the background also caught my attention. I had to crop out a twig that got in the way of my shooting lane, but the image above I thought was usable at least on some level.
What do you think?
On a recent photo excursion to Elk County, Pennsylvania to photograph the elk, I captured an interesting photo of a cow. The setting sun was behind this cow so a silhouette was in my thinking. However, the warm sun rays provided enough light to illuminate the visible breath coming out of this elk’s mouth. It was a chilly evening and the condensation of this cow’s breath was visible in the light.
When I returned home, I knew I wanted to use this photograph if at all possible. But the problems were many-fold. There was some nasty sun glare from the sunlight hitting the lens. I thought maybe I could do a little touch-up in Photoshop and was hoping to be able to salvage this photograph in some usable form. I am not sure I succeeded quite yet. However, I thought I would share both a before photo and an after photo to let you see what I’ve accomplished so far. I still have a ways to go.
Do you think this photograph is usable or am I wasting my time?
Some people are funny. We’ve all seen them and been around them, but do you know that animals are funny, too?
Yes, there is a humorous side of animals that the casual observer is not privy to because enough time is just not spent in the company of the animal. But give the animal, any animal, a chance, and there’s a good chance it will reveal a funny side to you!
Take this cow elk, for example. Maybe it wasn’t trying to be funny, but some of these facial expressions certainly put a smile on my face! It was honestly like that TV commercial where the baby is talking as his little mouth moves in rhythm! And you know, sometimes, I do think these elk have a feeling they’re being watched and observed, so they choose to put on a little show! You know, to impress the viewers or photographers who are watching. Who needs television when you can witness scenes like this?
Maybe she was just licking her chops in anticipation of an upcoming meal. Or maybe she was showing off for this silly photographer who was spending so much time standing behind this three little sticks. Ha, he calls them sticks? I’ll show him what we call sticks in these here woods!
I’m getting tired of being funny. So I think I’ll (yawn) go take a nap. What? You’ve never seen a big yawn before? Give me a break!
What do the Pennsylvania elk feed on in the winter? This year the snowfall was minimal, so grasses are plentiful and easy to get for the elk. Here a cow has a long stem of grass in her mouth. It reminds me of those really long fries we sometimes get at McDonald’s or a long piece of spaghetti!
The cow was looking intently at the camera but she never stopped eating this long stem of grass.
Here in this photograph you can see she is definitely working that stem of grass into her mouth. I didn’t hear any slurping sounds but it was funny to watch!
Most feeding elk photos show an elk with its head down eating grass. This is certainly not the best pose for a photograph. By spending time with our subject we can capture truly amazing photographs of the behavior of these incredible and beautiful creatures. On this particular cold morning, my son, James, and I spent well over an hour photographing this small herd of elk. We were frozen by the end of this shoot–so much so that our hands were tingling and numb when we got back into the truck. Do you know that painful sensation when your extremities finally start warming up again? Ouch! That hurts! But you know, it is all worthwhile when you capture photographs like these! I cannot wait to do it again!
Umm, umm, good!
Elk are definitely social animals. Bulls make their presence known in the fall rut by bugling. Cows call their young with a verbal call. Elk congregate and move around in herds and if you spend any time with them you will hear firsthand just how vocal and social they really are in the wild. Yes, they are indeed a social breed!
I was fortunate to capture this photograph on Monday when we were photographing a small herd of cows and one bull. I find this particular pose to be humorous because it appears like the cow on the left doesn’t really want to hear what the cow on the right has to say!
These two cows were photographed later in the day. Once again, this photo depicts the social side of the elk. They really do enjoy hanging out together. There is comfort in numbers and for any animal or person who enjoys company, it’s just better to be together than it is to be alone.
Remember this when you are out looking for elk. When you spot one there is almost certainly more to be found nearby. Even the bulls hang together in what are called “bachelor groups” throughout the winter months. This happens after the breeding season is over. Although, the bull we saw and photographed with this herd of cows was actually still chasing the cows and even bugled on Monday night. It is quite late in the season for this to happen, but perhaps the warmer than normal temperatures have kept the bulls more active. Here is a parting shot of this bull chasing a cow just before he bugled.
This photo shows the incredible flexibility of a cow elk. Her head is turned all the way around as she is licking her back. I guess to fight off pests and to keep clean, an elk just has to be flexible!
This photograph also provides a study in depth of field, a feature in wildlife photography that can be used to bring attention to the subject at hand. The method requires a large f-stop, which decreases the depth of field and only allows a small distance of the photo to be in focus.
In all honesty, I should have used a slightly smaller f-stop to include a bit more of the subject in focus. Look closely at the contents in this photo and you can see what is in focus and what is not. The forehead of the cow is in focus, but so are the leaves to the left of the elk’s head. Everything else, both the foreground and the background, are out of focus.
The technique is successfully used to highlight an animal and bring it out of its natural habitat in a photograph. Most animals blend right into their environment and this makes it hard to photograph them. Utilizing a shallow depth of field helps to do this.
I’m not sure I like this photo all that much, but it does provide some fodder for some photo instruction and it does show the incredible flexibility of a cow elk.
Young uns often imitate their mothers. It is part of nature’s way to teach young animals how to survive. Lessons in feeding, grooming, and protection from predators are all vital to survival. If the young animals do not learn these lessons they will be in trouble.
In addition to the critical importance of these lessons, they are often fun to watch! Do you remember that one television commercial which shows a son imitating every move his father makes? It is comical to watch and so it is nature as well.
Here is a photograph I captured this year during the rut, the elk mating season. It shows how the calf is imitating and actually mirroring its mother. They are feeding in the food plot and little one is in the same pose as its mother.
Watch animals long enough and you will some amazing sights!
Wildlife photographers often strive to photograph only the big bulls. Don’t get me wrong, these majestic creatures are certainly worth photographing. However, if we only focus on the bulls we miss other excellent photographic opportunities. This cow was in the midst of a herd of elk, which included several bulls. Everyone was aiming at the big bulls, but I thought this cow was worth a shot, too. What do you think?
This is what the fall elk rut is all about. Bulls get themselves into a frenzy hoping to mate a cow. They scratch their antlers on the ground, bugle and make all kinds of sounds, attack trees with their large antlers, and much more! They have one thing on their mind: breeding a cow.
This bull is chasing behind a cow hoping she will be ready to breed. She obviously is not ready as she is running away, which is only more frustrating for the bull. Typically, when a bull follows behind a cow unsuccessfully, he will stop and bugle. This is absolutely the right time to have the camera ready to fire!
In this photograph the bull is behind the cow and appears to be disappointed that she is leaving. This same scenario repeats itself over and over and over. The fall rut is full of repeated actions, some predictable and some unpredictable. But it is always a show worth watching and observing!