Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Mornings May Bring Diverse Photo Opportunities

Wildlife is most active in early morning and late evening during the summer months.  While both morning and evening are good for seeing wildlife, I prefer to be afield at the crack of dawn and usually have the best opportunities of the day from dawn until shortly after sunrise.  I am usually primarily looking for big game animals such as elk and the whitetail deer, and it is always  a special thrill to come upon an exceptional buck or bull elk.

Mature 10 Point Buck
As much as I enjoy big game photography and filming, I find that one misses a substantial part of the outdoor experience if they concentrate solely on a few species.  Good deer and elk habitat also supports  diverse wildflower, bird, and insect communities, and dramatic scenery. One's outdoor experience is much richer if they take time to savor the entire outdoor experience.

Early morning is especially good for flower photography as morning dew may make the flowers look fresh and vibrant.  The flower photos below were taken a bit later in the morning after the dew was gone, but still show the beauty that may be found in a summer meadow.

Purple Cone Flower
Gaillardia or Blanket Flower
Most meadows are also home to a wide variety of birds, and I enjoy filming them as well as enjoying the chorus of birds song that provides a vibrant sound track against which the drama of the natural world unfolds. I believe the bird above is a immature Eastern Meadow Lark, but I could be wrong.  I welcome correction if I am in error.

Immature Eastern Meadow Lark
If deer and elk have not left the meadows before sunrise, they usually do so before the rays of the sun become uncomfortably hot. They often return to feed sometime in the evening.  This may happen before sundown on cooler days or it may be nearly dark on the hottest one, but their is no hard and fast rule.

Whitetails Leave Meadows At Sunrise
From the tenor of this post it would be easy to infer that all is well in the great outdoors, but sadly this is often not the case.  In particular I am referring to the superb 10 Point featured in the first photo today.  Within the next few days, I plan to write about the problems this buck and others in the area he was photographed  deals with each day and the uncertain future they face.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Bulls In PA Elk Country

Bulls ordinarily travel in bachelor groups during the summer months and I spent a lot of time in early morning and late evenings trying to locate them during the past weeks trip. A lot of the bulls I saw have great potential, but they needed to grow several more years to be impressive bulls.  The animal in front in the photo below is a great example.  He certainly has a lot of points, but the rack is lacking in overall mass and the bull behind him is smaller.  They were part of a bachelor group of 7-8 bulls.  One had a bit wider spread, but the points were not as well developed.

Young Bulls
Most of the other bulls that I saw were traveling in bachelor groups also.  The composition of these groups is not static and it is possible to see a bull with several others on one day and then see him on the next day with another group of bulls.  I would expect that at times the entire group combines in one large bachelor group.

The photos below are portraits of single bulls, but they were traveling with a bachelor group in both cases with no cows or calves in the meadow with them. These were the largest bulls in the herd that day and most of the bulls with them were larger than those posted in the first picture. The first has a beautiful typical rack.

Typical 6x7
The most impressive bull photographed was one that I believe to be the famous "U Bull"  He was named this a few years ago, by some of the dedicated elk photographers.  I have not had a reasonably close encounter with him until this instance and am not an authority on his characteristics. Whatever the case he appears to be of the same genetic line as the "Crazy Legs" bulls.

"The U Bull"- An Impressive Non-typical Bull
There seems to be quite a few bulls that have this genetic trait.  One was featured in the last post and I saw at least two more small bulls that show the same type of antler configuration.

All in all things seem promising for great photo opportunities during the coming rut.  Most of the bulls will be of small to medium class, but at least a few should have impressive racks. As of yet I have seen no 400 class bulls and will not be surprised if none are seen on the hill this fall.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mid-July Wildlife In PA Elk Country

Today's post features wildlife from this week's trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country.  As usual I am doing most of my shooting with video and have gotten some good footage of a variety of subjects.  I will hopefully post some of the video clips in the near future

Waiting In The Wilderness For Wildlife To Appear-Panasonic GH4 In Standby Mode

While video usually comes first with me I have gotten a few still photos.  The first is of a bachelor group of young bulls that frequents the meadows along the upper end of Winslow Hill.

Bachelor Group Along Winslow Hill Road
I photographed two respectable whitetail bucks while checking out a remote, wilderness area.   This was a bit far for good stills from the GH4 and the 100-300mm and I had to crop tightly for good composition.

Wilderness Whitetails
Unfortunately I did not see any large bulls in the wilderness areas, but I did photograph a few decent bulls in the area immediately surrounding Benezette.  Bulls are usually seen either very early or very late and the one immediately below was taken at 5:56 a.m.  It was a heavy overcast morning with scattered areas of fog, which made the 300mm f 2.8 the lens of choice.  The shot was taken from a tripod at ISO 1600-1/100 sec. f2.8.

Early Morning Bull
A bit later I found the largest bull of the trip so far.  This bull appears to share the genetic characteristics of the famous bull "Crazy Legs" and "Crazy Legs, Jr".

Bull May Be Descendant Of "Crazy Legs" Line
So far I have taken no good stills of calves, but have I gotten a lot of video of them. It seems it is too easy for me to get sidetracked concentrating on bulls.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.





Saturday, July 5, 2014

Elk In The Tall Grass

Bull In Short Grass Along Winslow Hill Road: Panasonic GH4-Lumix 100-300 F4.0-5.6@300mm-ISO 400-1/250 Sec. f6.3
It seems that one often finds elk grazing in the short grass by the roadside when traveling Winslow Hill Road.  I will seldom pass up an opportunity to photograph them in this situation, but I much prefer to photograph them in taller, more natural looking grass, or perhaps I should say grass that is not so obviously manipulated by man.

Cows In Natural Setting: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS + 1.4 extender-ISO 400-1/400 sec. F 4.5
The grass in the photo above was planted during the reclamation of an old strip mine and looks more wild or natural than short lawn type grass..  It was in this same setting that I photographed one of the largest bull of my June trip.  I was watching the same herd of cows in the evening (the photo above was taken in morning) and as the sun was sinking low in the west a respectable bull appeared, but at first he stayed in the shade at the edge of the meadow.

5x5: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS-ISO 400-1/400 sec. F 4.5
 In time, the cows moved across the meadow and he joined them for awhile in the last rays of the evening  sun.

Cow and Bull Interacting: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS-ISO 400-1/640 sec. F5.0
After spending some time grazing and interacting with the cows, the bull broke into a run and left the area.

Leaving The Meadow: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS-ISO 400-1/640 sec. F5.0
I prefer  to photograph elk in a field that has tall grass with a lot of wildflowers such as goldenrod , asters,and butterfly weed, etc., but those flowers are not blooming yet in June and a meadow such as the one in the photos above comes in a close second.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.