Lone Winter Bull Closeup


Sunday night we arrived in Elk County just before sunset hoping to see a nice Pennsylvania bull elk. We saw several cows and a few calves, but no bull. We persisted in our search and I was beginning to think we were going to get skunked, when I spotted this lone bull elk walking alongside the road. He was headed back into a run, so I turned the truck around, and traveled up the road in an attempt to catch him coming towards us. It worked! Before long we were set up with our tripods and clicking the shutters of our cameras. The backdrop consisted of some pine trees and the side of the mountain. Perfect!

Backgrounds are critical for quality photographs. I have captured many elk with my camera that have backgrounds that are just too busy. This is one of the main difficulties in wildlife photography–separating the subject from its background. If you are not successful in this method the resulting photograph will be unacceptable. After all, we are not after snapshots here; we are after photographs. We photographed this bull for well over 30 minutes and would have continued if the light wasn’t getting lost.

I like closeups of the elk, even the bulls. It is tempting to include their whole body and, of course, their large antlers; but I like to get up close and personal once in a while. These photographs reveal some detail we would never see otherwise. Look at the contrasting fur and pedicles of this bull’s antlers, as just so simple examples. I am quite sure that these two simple details would be lost if I had composed this photograph to capture the entire bull’s body and his antlers. Facial expressions on animals can be interesting as well. This photo shows some of the whites in this elk’s eyes. He is wondering what we are and what we are doing in his world. He is not totally alarmed but he is cautious, as his ears are up and on alert.

This last photograph shows even a bit more detail. Look closely again at the pedicles. Do you see the ring-like base protruding from the head of this bull? Do you see the tufts of fur below them? Do you notice the contrasting colors and size of the fur on this bull? What about the expression and the stare from the eyes of this bull? Each one of these details contributes to telling the full story of this bull as we encountered him in his environment.

My contention is the photographer who pays attention to detail and considers getting close-up will have quite a story to tell. Do you think these three photographs succeed in this attempt?

Remember that old saying: “a picture is worth a thousand words?” This can be true if the photographer pays attention to details. What stories do your photographs tell?

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