Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience #7 – Fall Rut

The last week of September greeted us with spectacular fall-like weather. The temperature was cool and the elk were clearly in the heat of the annual rut. The breeding season for the Pennsylvania can run from mid-September through mid-October. The last week of September is generally near the peak of the action and we were there, ready with our cameras and lenses to capture the action!

The first day was the only clear day. The clouds and rain took over but this did not hinder the elk action at all. It was a very active week and we saw plenty of elk to photograph. Several fights broke out as the bulls were vying for dominance among the cows. I absolutely love this time of year and the fall rut is always filled with action and many photographic opportunities! There is no better time to be in elk country in my humble opinion, and I prefer to be no where else at this time of year!

This was our seventh Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience. John arrived on Monday evening and we started with a basic wildlife photo workshop. This is always a good start so we can dial in our camera settings to more adequately and more easily capture the beauty of these elk. The next morning started with a real early breakfast and out to find the elk just as light was beginning to make its headway into the day. Elk, like most mammals, are most active at dawn and dusk, so we always are out in the mountains at these times. The light tends to be best at these times of day as well. Many times the activity slows down sometime between 9am and 11am. So we break for lunch and a short rest before heading back out of the early evening opportunities. I just cannot get enough time with these amazing animals! They are fascinating!

The Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience has several goals we have in mind for all participants:

  • Provide an exciting experience with the Pennsylvania elk
  • Teach basic and advanced photography techniques to capture the action of the wildlife
  • Create breath-taking wildlife photographs that capture the essence of this experience
  • Learn from each other
  • Have fun

This fall trip was exceptional in terms of the rutting and elk action. I think it is fair to say that we accomplished all five goals on this trip.

I can’t wait to be back in elk country again!

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!