PA Elk Rut

Thank you to all my photo friends who I had the privilege of sharing this week with during the PA elk rut on Winslow Hill. I had an incredible time with you! Thanks Dick, Brad, Willard, Coy, John, Buckwheat, and Odie! I also had the privilege of meeting Dave Anderson and he showed me his painting of Fred, which is absolutely awesome!

I will be posting stories and photos of my week’s experience in elk country but I wanted to say a big “thank you” to my photo friends who I appreciate so much! Our camaraderie and common passion for photography and the PA elk are truly appreciated by me.

Thank you!

Photo Walk in Stroudsburg

There are only two more days until the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk takes place in Stroudsburg but there is still time to sign up. There are several spots still available.

We will gather at 5:15pm in Ann Street Park in Stroudsburg, walk through town, making photographs along the way, and share our photography fun together. At the conclusion of our Photo Walk, at 7:30pm, we will gather at Sarah Street Grille for a bite to eat and some drinks as we talk about our experience and share our photos from the back of our LCD screens.

Join us for this fun photo experience! You do not have to be an expert photographer and you don’t even need an expensive camera. All photo enthusiasts are welcome and encouraged to join us.

To find out more about the Photo Walk and to sign up, go to this link.

Pennsylvania Elk Photo Experience – Fall Rut 2011

There is absolutely no place I would rather be in the fall than in Benezette, Pennsylvania photographing the beautiful and majestic elk of Pennsylvania. The fall colors, the active bugling bull elk, and the excitement of the fall rut bring sounds and sights that are just out of this world! Photographing these amazing sights is high on my list of must-do experiences every year.

My good friend and photography colleague, Dick McCreight, and I enjoy leading photo trips on the elk range each fall. We particularly enjoy sharing how we photograph the elk with those interested in learning helpful photo skills to do the same. We take viewing etiquette very seriously, so our numbers are small so we can both teach outdoor photo skills to you while keeping our impact on the elk range to a minimum.

This fall photo trip will be our 6th trip and we cannot wait to be out with our cameras photographing the elk!

If you enjoy wildlife photography and want to learn how to take better photographs, then this is the perfect trip for you. Our photo trip features three in-depth workshops where we discuss camera set-up & use, wildlife photography, history of the PA elk, and editing photographs in Adobe Lightroom. You will definitely learn new photo skills in these workshops! Then we take what we learn from each other and put it all into use as we take a minimum of six excursions on the elk range to capture the excitement with our cameras. Each evening we share our photographs of the day and enjoy constructive critiques on our five best photos of the day.

Digital photography has come a long way in recent years. The problem is learning how to use this new technology to capture the photos of your dreams. This trip will not only help you learn how to do this, but will put you in a position to capture the magnificent elk of Pennsylvania with your camera!

Click here to find out more info about these photo trips. Click here to see some photos of previous photo trips and click here to view a slideshow of what our trips offer. Feel free to email any questions you may have about these trips. We are confident that you will not only find our photo trip to be educational but also entertaining and filled with loads of photo fun! Try it out this year by attending our PA Photo Elk Experience–it will be an experience of a lifetime!

Bob Shank & Dick McCreight

Is It the Camera or the Photographer?

We all hear comments about our photography. Positive feedback is always welcome and has a way of encouraging us to keep at our task in a very positive way. But sometimes the comments we receive are unintentionally backhanded. For example, have you have been told: “Wow, that’s a great photograph. You must have a really good camera!”

You see, the intention is probably well-meaning, but how do you feel when you hear this? Doesn’t it sound like anyone could have taken that photo if they just had an equally expensive or quality camera? So what makes a great photograph–the camera of the photographer?

Some may be quick to answer, “Both.” But let’s look a little deeper into this answer. Surely a better camera is going to produce results, but don’t you think a pro can take even an inexpensive camera and make it look good?

You see, I am of the mind that it is more the photographer who makes good photographs than the camera. I know some photographers who are excellent in their craft and make unbelievable photographs from film even today. It doesn’t really matter which camera they use, they put their knowledge of the craft into use and the results speak for themselves.

Yes, a good camera can make a good photographer better, but I don’t think a great camera can make a non-photographer good. What do you think? Is it the camera or the photographer that makes a difference?

The Circle is Getting Bigger

My photography experiences  over the years have led me to some amazing places and introduced me to some amazing people! Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy my quiet time behind the viewfinder out on a mountain as I am photographing the elk of Pennsylvania, but the places and people I’ve come to know is nothing short of exhilarating!

It is almost hard for me to believe how wide my circle of photo friends and places is now. The circle is widening and getting bigger all the time. It reminds me of when I was a kid and would throw a stone in the pond. The stone would create a circle once it hit the water and the circle would create a ripple of larger and larger circles until they eventually hit the bank where I was standing. Amazing!

My photography circle is amazingly similar. I’ve met fellow photographers who have incredible vision and are a blast to be with on a photo shoot. I’ve met incredible people who have touching stories to share. I’ve met people I would never have met were it not for my interest (or maybe passion) in photography.

We will be holding our Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience later this month when the rut will be in full swing. This small workshop has allowed me to meet photographers and share some photo tips with them. Dick McCreight, a good friend and professional photographer helps me lead these trips and we always have incredible memories to take back home with us. We also learn a lot from the photographers we are teaching, too. This year marks the third year of these unique photographic experience and we are excited to continue meeting new photographers, teach them about the elk and how to respect them and the land they inhabit, and hopefully instill a deep respect for these beautiful creatures that God has created for us to enjoy.

I also have the opportunity to photograph awesome sporting events, too. I love baseball and am naturally drawn to this sport. The same goes for football. But the events I photograph always seem to lead me somewhere new and different all the time. To say it is fun sounds almost patronizing and is definitely an understatement. I am having the time of my life with my camera!

I do not know how wide my photography circle might get, but I know it is still getting wider all the time. I’ve photographed wildlife, seniors, athletes, coaches, landscapes, historic sites, small towns, big cities, and so much more. I am learning to enjoy both the places and the people I meet on this exciting journey. And I am counting on this being the case for the rest of my time here on earth until my circle will finally reach another shore.

Only a Little More than a Month Away

Can you guess what is about a month away, will be in nearly every part of the world, and allow photographers an opportunity to spend some quality time together?

That’s right, Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk. Wow, you’re good! This year’s walk is being held on July 24th and I will be leading the Photo Walk in our area again this year. We will meet at Dansbury Park in East Stroudsburg just before 6pm. You can find out more information and sign up here.

I hope you will be able to join us on this year’s Photo Walk, but if you live too far away check out the available Photo Walks in your area. It will be an enjoyable evening for us to spend with fellow photographers. What could be better than a nice summer evening taking photos with your camera and walking alongside others who share you photographic passions?

It’s going to be loads of fun!

Cowboys vs. Eagles

Last night my friend John invited me at attend the Sunday night football game in Philadelphia. I’ve been going to Eagles games with John since 1993. The atmosphere is always electric and prime time games are absolutely full of energy. Last night was a perfect example. The Cowboys and Eagles both came into the game with 5-2 records so this game was to determine who the sole leader of the NFC East would be now. Can you feel the energy?

Now a professional football game is chock full of dazzling sights and sounds. Fireworks, energetic cheerleaders, crazy fans, and superhuman football players just to name a few. But as I took my seat in the stands and looked down onto the field my attention was drawn to something different right away–the photographers on the sideline.

Yeah, I know, not your usual sight of interest for most guys my age, but I can’t help it. I just couldn’t resist studying the sideline photographers to see how they captured the game with their cameras. The first thing I noticed is that they all were wearing red vests. Not photographer’s vests either. These vests must have served either as a red badge of courage that these men and women totally deserved to be where they were or to help make them more obvious so they couldn’t hide from their environment. No camouflage here!

I also noticed that the photographers stayed pretty much in the same location. If they were on the visitor’s side of the field at the beginning of the game, that is where they stayed. If they were to the right of the player’s bench, that seemed to be their assigned location.

I did notice that they all some big glass and I mean big. This was no place to carry a point and shoot camera. Many of them also carried one or two additional cameras on their shoulders in addition to the camera mounted on their monopod. I am sure this was so they could capture the sports action in a moment’s notice.

Some photographers stood behind their camera while others kneeled behind theirs. But each and every one of them had a much better location from which to photograph the action on the field! I was jealous, too. I know I am now too old to dream of making it into the NFL. Besides, my time in the 40-yard dash is not up to what it used to be just a few short years ago. However, I do dream of making it to the big leagues with my camera.

Does anyone know where to get one of those nifty red vests and press passes so I can have the opportunity to join my heroes on the sidelines?

Just Back from the Elk Range!

I just returned from three awesome days spent on the elk range in Benezette. It was productive and we heard a lot of bulls bugling. The weather was unseasonably warm, but we saw one bull breeding a cow and many bulls are busy keeping their cows together while fighting off satellite bulls who want some of the action.

The weather was tough at times for photography with the fog and haze, but being with other wildlife photographers made up for the lulls in action. My photo colleague and I saw Buckwheat, Odie, Willard Hill, Steve Miller, and Tom Murphy.

I will post more information about this trip in upcoming blog entries. Here is one photo I captured this week:

Spike Laying Down

Photography Connections

Wildlife photography is a passion of mine for many reasons. The challenge of photographing an animal in the wild in its very own habitat is something that most people just don’t have the patience for these days. Spending time in the outdoors in nature and observing the animals in their natural surroundings is awesome. Time just spent on the top of a mountain even on slow days is better than the rat race most of us are involved with these days. I like to say, “There is no place like the mountains!”

These and many more reasons keep me excited and motivated to be out photographing wildlife. But two weeks ago was a poignant example of another good reason to be involved with wildlife photography: the connections we make with other photographers.

Our first night up on the elk range we were photographing a small herd of elk at dusk. We had just seen 4 bear, some turkey, a few deer, and a hawk. The action was fast and furious at times. Elk sightings were slow, however, until we saw this small herd of cows and calves. We photographed until we ran out of light and then we got to meet Brad Myers and his son Shane. We talked about our passion for photography and I enjoyed comparing notes with two other serious wildlife photographers. Little did I know how connected we would be later in the week.

Thursday morning, August 20th was the day the bull elk got caught up in the swing set. Brad and Shane were the first ones on the scene and reported the incident to the Game Commission. We joined them, set up our tripods and captured many photographs of the elk rescue. When the excitement was over we continued to talk and it was obvious to me that these two fellow wildlife photographers knew their stuff. I count it a pure honor and privilige to have met these two guys.

That morning Willard Hill was also there videotaping the rescue. I had emailed Willard earlier in the year, thanking him for producing the 2-part DVD entitled, “The Truth About Pennsylvania’s Elk Herd.” I had the opportunity now to meet Willard in person. The next day my son and I ran into Willard again as we were photographing some elk and we talked for a long time. It was my pleasure to meet Willard in person and hear some of his perspectives on the elk herd and talk about wildlife photography with him.

Friends in our lives sometimes come and go. Recently I re-connected with my best friend from back in my school days. I hadn’t talked with him in about 23 years. It has been so much fun to re-connect with him, catch up, and chat about old times. These friendships need to be valued and nurtured.

Our photography connections are the same. We can learn a lot from each other and can have a lot of fun sharing this passion we love so much. Far too many people believe that photographers are more like competitors than colleagues. Not me. I am always eager to meet new photographers, learn from them, and share what knowledge or insights I have about something. These photography connections are special and I am humbled when I think of all the incredible photographers I have met over the years.

There is one example of this that stands out in my mind. Several years ago I was waiting at the edge of my favorite spot by a field when I heard some people coming. My first thought was, “Oh  no, I’m not alone anymore.” I heard a voice politely asking me if it was okay for them to join me. I said, “Sure.” Then I realized that one of the gentleman was a man I knew and he introduced me to Leonard Rue III, and his son Len, Jr. There I was, quietly waiting alone for the elk to appear in the field but now found myself in the presence of two of the most published wildlife photographers in the world! I sat there for the next three hours hearing one incredible story after another. Leonard and his son were two of the nicest and most down-to-earth people I had ever met. They shared their passion for photography with me and answered every question I asked.

Some nights when I am waiting for the elk or deer to appear, my mind drifts back to that night. I then I secretly hope that I won’t be all alone there on the mountain much longer. The connections we make in wildlife photography are surely to be treasured!

A Sad Day

This morning I received news that a dear friend of mine lost his battle with cancer. Jim was a very good friend to me. He supported me in a variety of ways and took me on many memorable fishing trips. I have many precious and fond memories of times spent with Jim.

The sad part isn’t only that he lost his battle with cancer and left us, but I do not have any photos of those great times spent with Jim. I was extremely saddened when I heard this news this morning. I know it is selfish on my part, but I sure wish I had some photographs to keep the memories fresh. Like the time we first went fishing together and caught over 60 whiting. Or the time we went on a 2-day trip from Gloucester, Massachusetts and caught so many cod that we had to buy two more coolers. I know these might just sound like fish stories to you, but they are true. I can close my eyes and see Jim fishing beside me and then laughing as he out-fished me.

So the next time you debate leaving your camera at home, don’t do it. Take it along and use it. Some day later you’ll be glad you did. Today is a sad day for me.

Jim, thank you for the many memories that you shared with me. I will never ever forget you!