Wet Elk – Don’t be Afraid of the Rain!

I traveled to the beautiful mountains of Elk County after making sure that Hurricane Sandy didn’t do any damage around our home. My departure was only delayed a day and a half due to the hurricane. The forecast didn’t look promising, but I ventured out anyway. I was blessed with one of the best elk photography trips and I didn’t mind getting a little wet. Elk were everywhere, I’m assuming since the worst of the storm already passed. The conditions were excellent for wet elk photography!

You can see some of the rain drops in most of these photographs when you click on and enlarge the photographs. I think it makes a cool effect. I also like the detail of the wet fur that comes out in these photographs. Many photographers prefer fair or sunny weather. Snow and rain can potentially damage our electronic camera gear, too, so many wildlife photographers simply don’t venture out into the wild on rainy or snowy days. I think this is a big mistake. The Nikon gear that I own is weather sealed. The manufacturer says so, but I’ve also tested this out in some severe conditions on my own. Recently, I had to walk about a mile in a heavy rain with my tripod, camera, and lens riding over my shoulder. Everything was soaked when I got back to camp! I dabbed the excess water off my gear with a towel and then allowed it to all dry out slowly. The result was some interesting and different photographs and gear that was ready and workable without any damage.

This photo (above) is a case in point of what I’m talking about with the wet weather wildlife. Just look at the detail in the forehead of this cow? You can also see the raindrops come down alongside her. And the fact that she has a mouthful of nature-food adds some action to this photograph. Rainy weather does require wide open apertures and oftentimes higher ISOs. Some photos will be unusable, but the effort is definitely worth it to me!

Don’t let a little rain hinder your spirit. Grab your camera gear and get out there anyway! Wear good, warm rain gear and you’ll be able to stay out longer. After all, the wildlife do not seem to mind the wet weather and they present perfect subjects if you take the time and energy to be out there with them!

Be Weather Resilient

Tonight it is raining here where I live and I was hoping to get out with my camera tomorrow. After all, the mild temperatures earlier today certainly enticed me to think about engaging in wildlife photography. But what about the rain?

Well, these three photographs in this blog entry were all taken in foul weather, or should that be fowl weather? You know what I mean, weather suited more for a duck than a human! Fog, rain, and cold drive many photographers back inside where they can avoid the elements. Warning: Don’t do this! Inclement weather can produce some amazing and beautiful photographs!

Yes, the weather can be a pain sometimes, but if you stick it out, chances are quite good that you can capture a unique photograph. The next time the weather threatens your photo outing, stick it out. Brave the elements and let the creative juices flow. You can protect your camera and lens in a number of ways. The least expensive way, and one that I’ve used on numerous occasions, is to simply use a plastic grocery bag over your gear.

Don’t let the weather dictate your photography. By being willing to brave the elements you will capture more photographs and quite possibly create an incredible and even outstanding photo while others are relaxing in the warmth of their home or cabin. Be brave. Be courageous. Be weather resilient!


Stay Out in the Rain

The last week of September in elk country was rainy. In fact, it rained every day I was there!

A photographer has to decide what to do when it rains. Should we wait it out, keeping our equipment dry, and wait for the weather to break? Or, should we tough it out and go out in the rain anyway? Will our equipment get ruined in the rain? Can we withstand the discomfort of the rain long enough to capture any usable photographs? What do you do when it rains?

I love the outdoors and have a lot of experience weathering the storms. I spent a lot of time hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing over the years. I’ve even dabbled in mountaineering on two 17,000+ feet mountains. Changing weather is part of the experience in nature and I’ve learned that we can endure even some extreme weather if we are well-prepared, have the right equipment, and allow our minds to catch up with our spirits! I had a football coach tell us that our bodies will do far more than our minds will allow. I believe this is true. Some of the problems in society today are due to us listening too much to our minds and all the negative thoughts instead of just following our more daring spirits and toughing it out!

So two weeks ago I was faced with a dilemma: photograph in the rain or stay inside to hope and  wait for better conditions. I actually did a little of both over the week, but I am so glad I also ventured out into the rainstorms. I even got caught in a downpour on a hike when I was two miles from my cabin. I didn’t mind though because I had packed my rain jacket and a plastic bag to protect my camera. A little rain wasn’t going to melt me, so why sit inside all day? Besides, I would never have captured some of the photographs had I stayed inside hoping for better conditions!

This photograph of a 6×6 bull was taken in less than ideal weather conditions. The sun was not shining, the fog was moving in an out, and the rain was lightly falling. But I like this photograph. Somehow the big bull appears to stand out from the background and the viewer can see the wet fur, which seems to add to the aura of this photo.

Lesson learned! The next time it rains, instead of complaining, I will take my camera out anyway. Besides, my camera and my body are much tougher than my mind sometimes thinks!

Wet Groundhog

Staying with my theme that you never know what  you might see out in the wild, here is a photograph of a very wet groundhog I saw last month in Elk County. I was photographing the turkey when I happened to see this little dude looking for some food. It was comical to me. He was running around and looked almost like a drenched rat. He found plenty to eat though!

Groundhogs were a nuisance back where I grew up in Lancaster County. They like to burrow and they make large holes in the fields. Farmers do not readily see these large holes and can damage a hay wagon or other machinery when  a wheel drops down in one. A broken wheel or axle and an angry farmer is not a pretty sight for a groundhog!

This little guy was not creating much damage, at least on this day. He was just out in the rain looking for food. Again, I wish I had a larger zoom lens to fill the frame more, but at least this shot reminds me of that day and the wet groundhog!

What a Week!

There is no place like the mountains, especially when the rut is in! I love Elk County, Pennsylvania and just spent the last week there. It was nothing short of awesome!

Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of rain which tried to put a damper on things, but it didn’t work. Being with friends and fellow photographers and photographing the elk even in the rain made the week an exciting experience. I  had a blast and cannot wait to be back on the elk range again.

My friend and photographer, Dick McCreight, and I led our fifth Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience and we sure saw a lot of elk throughout the week. Even when it did rain we still saw elk. In fact, they seemed much less bothered by the precipitation than we did. I find it amazing how well these beautiful creatures weather the storms literally! God made them special to be sure!

Here is one photograph of a bull elk standing the rain. It is a close-up shot of his face and antlers. You can see how wet he is from the rain but he was not bothered by it in the least. It all reminds me that many of us complain and complain to no avail. Life is what we make it. These elk live each day in both sunshine and rain, and so should we! Let it rain because it sure doesn’t seem to bother the elk!