It is an uphill climb for the elk.
Now that the breeding season of the fall is nearly over, the elk have to regain their strength and gain much-needed energy and reserves for the winter. The winter season can be harsh on the elk range and survival depends greatly on preparation. If an elk does not prepare well, it will die in the brutal weather brought on during the cold winter months.
This photograph was captured on the last week of September and while it shows a nice bull elk starting to walk up the hill, I think it foreshadows the uphill climb required by all elk over the upcoming winter months. I do always find it amazing how one photograph can provoke us to think so much, and this photo is no exception. Is this merely a photo of one bull elk making his way up a hill in the fall, or does this photo have much more to communicate?
There is just something special about a silhouette that is fascinating to me. I am not exactly sure what it is, but I do like silhouettes.
Creating a silhouette is easy to do and with today’s digital cameras you get instant feedback to see if you got it right or not. One evening this fall we were watching elk and this bull appeared on the horizon line. The sky was a tint of blue and conditions were just right for a silhouette. The method for creating as silhouette is to expose for the sky, which is the brightest part of the image. Here’s how I do it most of the time: I tilt the camera so that the viewfinder is filled with the brighter sky, then I press halfway down on the shutter release. This calculates the exposure setting in the camera’s computer. Then, while keeping the shutter release halfway down, I recompose the photograph in the viewfinder to my liking. Then I focus using the back button and press the shutter release all the way down to capture the image. Easy!
I came across this spike during my trip to Elk County at the end of September. He was feeding with a cow who both found some delicious red berries to feast on. It had just rained all morning and I was heading back to my cabin after yet another wet morning. I found these elk serendipitously within a very short drive of my cabin. My photo morning wasn’t over yet and I was thrilled!
I first took a few shots from out of my truck window and then slowly went outside to get some better photographs. The two elk accepted me or were so interested in those delicious berries that they didn’t mind me and my camera. After a quick, intense look at me, this spike went right back to eating. And I kept clicking the shutter release.
Fortunately, I captured this spike right when he was looking straight at me. Now here is the question: Is the photograph with his mouth open better than the one with his mouth closed? Which one do you like the best?
You cannot see it in this photograph, but there is an entire field of cows very close to this bull. The problem for this bull is that none of the cows are ready to mate. So, this bull is frustrated.
I’ve watched bulls in the rut for many years now and there is a pattern which repeats itself over and over. A bull will follow a cow, sniffing to see if she is in heat. Typically the cow will trot or run away. This leaves the bull frustrated and almost every single time he will bugle at this exact moment. This is the time to be ready with your camera, which is exactly what I did here in this photograph.
Watching and observing animals is not only enjoyable, it can teach you to be prepared for the best photographic moment!
Young uns often imitate their mothers. It is part of nature’s way to teach young animals how to survive. Lessons in feeding, grooming, and protection from predators are all vital to survival. If the young animals do not learn these lessons they will be in trouble.
In addition to the critical importance of these lessons, they are often fun to watch! Do you remember that one television commercial which shows a son imitating every move his father makes? It is comical to watch and so it is nature as well.
Here is a photograph I captured this year during the rut, the elk mating season. It shows how the calf is imitating and actually mirroring its mother. They are feeding in the food plot and little one is in the same pose as its mother.
Watch animals long enough and you will some amazing sights!
This young calf was in the midst of a nice herd of elk. Several bulls were bugling and keeping a very close eye on their harems. The evening was full of suspense in the midst of the fall rut. Even the cows were showing signs of the rambunctious activity. But in the midst of it all, this young calf was lying down and looking back.
What was the calf looking back at? It’s mother? A bugling bull? Honestly, I don’t know. I framed the calf in my viewfinder and pressed the shutter release.
I like this photograph for a number of reasons. First, even though the calf is lying down, its ears are up and alert. And, secondly, look closely at those ears? Do you see how the late light of the setting sun is reflecting off them? This helps to highlight them because the viewer’s eye is drawn to the brightest part of the photograph.
Do you like this photograph? Why?
There is nothing quite like an ear-pereicing bugle to roll across a brisk fall day!
If you haven’t heard this unique sound in nature, you owe it to yourself to find a way to be in a place where you can hear it. There is nothing in all of nature like it. It is impossible to describe with words and even this photograph cannot even come close to hearing the sound in person. You just have to hear it for yourself!
I came across this bull because I first heard him bugling. I was just on my way for a walk, barely out the door, when I heard a bugle. Knowing the area well, I followed the sound and located this bull feeding in a meadow with two cows. It was mid-afternoon on a rainy day but the clouds opened up a little bit and some rays of warm sunlight washed over the scene. It looked magical.
Eventually, this bull had enough food in his stomach and he wandered into the woods and laid down to chew his cud. I know enough about wildlife photography to know that spending time with subject is imperative. Time, lots of time, is required to completely document and photograph these majestic mammals. In this case, for example, I could have left after the bull wandered out of the warm sunlight washing over the meadow and moved into the much darker woods where many small trees obstructed most clear views of this bull. Move on or stick with him? I chose to stick with him. And this is the photograph I eventually captured. I am very glad I stayed with him!