Amazing Encounter in Elk Country Pennsylvania – Part 2

So the elk were on full alert and now I was, too!

A black bear was coming my way–directly toward me!

Call me stupid, but I thought it was pretty neat that this bear was walking straight toward me. I remember another day when I had Lydia  and James with me in my favorite field near our camp. We were enjoying my most favorite spot when a black bear came out of the woods below us and was headed straight in our direction. Little Lydia looked at me and asked, “Daddy, shouldn’t we be afraid?” “No,” I replied, “black bears are more scared of us than we are of them.” About that time a four-wheeler came up the dirt road, illegally I might add, and scared off the bear and that was that.
This time, I was alone in the middle of a field, with a black bear coming straight toward me but much, much closer! Still, I thought it was cool. After all, isn’t this a wildlife photographer’s dream come true to see and photograph a black bear in the wild up close like this? I even talked to the bear, as I do with most of the wildlife I photograph. I wasn’t sure it heard me though because it kept coming in my direction.
Just look at those claws! This was most certainly a dream come true for me. I’ve seen several black bears in my day and even photographed one fairly close before. But that one had an ear tag and was on a dumpster, literally. That will be a story for another blog post on another day. This bear was just coming through the field and it appeared to have already ravaged a tree or something with the telltale signs of white tree splinters all over its fur and even on its head. This bear simply seemed to be out for an evening stroll. However, he was coming closer and closer and straight at me!
Then it turned broadside to me and I thought okay, this is good. I’ll keep clicking off photographs of this special encounter. Just look at this bear, I thought to myself. It’s beautiful!
On another evening in this same field, my son, James, and I saw a sow and three little cubs. That was quite a sight and an awesome father/son moment, too!
Then all of a sudden I noticed my flash card was full. So I had to make the switch to put in a new, fresh card. I’ve done this countless times before and it’s really no big deal. Even with a black bear standing in the field with me, I was reloading pretty calmly when the bear started coming toward me again–closer and closer! Now, I will readily admit, my heart began to beat a little faster and my mind went into full gear. I suddenly realized that at this distance and my with my location in the middle of that field, I was a sitting duck with no escape plan! Dumb! Would this now be a fatal mistake?
This was now turning into a serious dilemma so I did what any seasoned wildlife photography would do–I yelled! Yep, I yelled, not quite at the top of my lungs but loud enough that this time the bear heard me. I think I scared the bear at least as half as much as I was scared, and it turned around on a dime and began to run back in the direction it came.
 The bear trotted off directly away from me and I kept clicking photos. It was a beautiful and amazing sight. It then turned to follow the edge of the field and was headed in a direction where I figured it was going to cross the road ahead of me. So I quickly moved down the road to get into a better position to click a few more photos. By now my fear had subsided and I knew I was safe. The bear was just about to cross the road when it looked back at me as if to say, “Goodbye.”
 Then the bear trotted across the road.
 Just look at those rear paw pads. Aren’t they beautiful?
The show wasn’t over yet. Not at all. The bear then went to a tree, seemed to study it carefully and then looked in my direction again.
Then it stood up on its hind legs and rubbed its back against the tree. I think it was indicating in no uncertain terms that this was his territory and not mine! I just wish I was on the other side of that tree to see his face when he did this!
Then he trotted off into the woods to cross the stream below. The elk were looking on, a bit more relaxed now, but still attentively.
And with that, the amazing encounter was over. Wow! What an incredible experience!
In hindsight, I believe I did the right thing when I yelled at the bear in the moment I was exchanging the flash card in my camera. I didn’t want the bear to stumble right up on me and be completely surprised or things could have gotten much more serious. Also, please note that I had a 200-400mm lens on my camera and I was maxed out most of the time at 400mm during this encounter. I in no way want to encourage any of you readers to try to get so close to a wild animal. Having and using the right equipment is a must for wildlife photography. As a matter of fact, I saved up for 3 1/2 years for this big lens and it is paying off in tremendous ways already. I would never have stayed in my position with a shorter lens. My experience with the wild animals of Pennsylvania and the information I learned from studying them, matched with paying close attention to the experiences of others, helped me make mostly good decisions in this encounter. In fact, I might have panicked a little too soon when I yelled because in reality it wasn’t really all that close to me. The zoom lens just makes it look that way. Nevertheless, respect for these wild animals is prudent and must be followed at all times.
I took a few more photos of the elk who remained in the field, but as the light was beginning to wane, I placed the tripod over my shoulder and walked back out of the field with a huge smile on my face. This is what the Pennsylvania Wilds have to offer for those who are patient and lucky enough to experience an amazing encounter like this. I was blessed to see and photograph a Pennsylvania Black Bear! What an amazing encounter in Elk Country Pennsylvania!

First Impressions

What do you think about first impressions?

Are you the kind of person who believes strongly in first impressions? Can you truly judge a book by its cover much of the time?

Well, my first impressions of the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is full of praises. It is a beefy lens, which I like. Some say it is to big or too heavy and I’m think, “What? Are you crazy?” Far too many modern products are too flimsy and will not stand up to much that is thrown at it. Not the case with this lens!

The auto focus is quick and responsive and the AF-S adjustment allows the photographer to dial in a quick fix adjustment on the focus by hand. The range is nice, too–24mm to 70mm, which is the perfect range under my 70-200mm f/2.8. I can see this lens being great for portraits, landscapes, and indoor photography. 24mm is not all that wide on the digital cropped body, but it is better than what I had before so I am happy.

I still haven’t taken all that many photos with this lens, so I am not posting any samples yet. But I can tell you that my first impressions of this lens are, well, impressive! This may sound redundant and perhaps predictable, but I extremely happy with this purchase and I believe I will get a lot of use from this lens. The photos I have taken are crisp, sharp, and full of amazing color. My first impressions give this lens an A+ so far. Of course, seeing is believing so I hope to share a few photos from this amazing lens soon.

New Lens on the Way

Late last night I ordered a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. This lens has been on back-order for quite a while and no one seemed to have any on hand. This allowed me to continue saving my pennies to have enough to purchase this lens. I also used the B&H Photo website feature to have them notify me when this lens was available.

Well, last night I received just such a message and I promptly placed my order. I am looking forward to receiving this much acclaimed lens. It is in the standard zoom range and has received many praises from amateur to pro photographers.

I will use it primarily for portraits, team photos, and some landscape shots. Since I shot sports and wildlife the zoom lens will still be attached to my camera body much of the time, but this new lens should give me some very good quality photographs for the closer subjects.

It is always exciting to receive a new piece of equipment. I am trying to wait patiently and will share a few photos and a personal review once I receive shipment of this lens and am able to take it through a few paces.

What piece of photo equipment is on your next to obtain list?

Get Closer

My college photography professor was rarely satisfied with the photographs we brought in for our assignments. There was always something he suggested we could have done better. A different angle, a deeper depth of focus, a less busy background, or being too far away were all lessons we learned throughout the semester.

Get closer. This is probably the one I remember the most. I have since heard someone put this advice this way: Get closer, and then get closer again. When you think you are close enough, get even closer.

Far too many photographs are too busy. Instead of drawing the viewer’s eye into a pleasing scene, they force the viewer’s eye to dart this way and that while the observer is left wondering, “What is the subject of this photo?”

Moving in closer helps to avoid distracting backgrounds by keeping them out of the frame. Getting closer also provides more detail in the main subject. This is where zoom lenses can be helpful, but don’t forget, you can walk closer to a subject, too.

Here is a challenge for you the next time you are out with your camera. Take a photo as your normally would. Then move closer and taking another shot. Move even closer and snap another photo. Now, finally, move closer yet and release the shutter again. Now, back at your computer, compare all four photos and see what  you think. Did you get close enough? How are the photos different? Which one is more pleasing to your eye?