Saturday, October 25, 2008

Camer Critters-Two Fawns and A Story

If I am not traveling to more exotic locales in search of photographs, I spend most mornings and evenings with the local herd of whitetail deer. As I do, my mind often wanders back over my years as a Deputy Conservation Officer and Game Lands Maintenance Worker and Supervisor for The Pennsylvania Game Commission. Salty and I have lived through enough experiences that we could each write a book about them and yesterday as the early black powder , and Junior/Senior citizen season antlerless season wound down,(today was the last day) I couldn't help but think of an incident from several years ago. This memory was brought on by hearing nearby rifle shots which could have been on the property that I protect, or it could be on a neighboring hunting club. I drove to the area and hunters were searching for a blood trail on their property.

Years ago, Pennsylvania had a two week bucks only season, which was followed by a three day doe season on the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. In those days, most local factories gave the workers the first day of buck season and the first day of antlerless season off, and schools were closed. To be quite frank the day was usually a blood bath. We ordinarily made more arrests on that day than at any other time and sometimes more than we had during the entire autumn before that point.

In this case Salty was to meet me in a spot where he had a clear view of the hunting club. He arrived there about dawn. I was only a short distance away and heard a terrific barrage of rifle fire from the area so I hurried in that direction and asked him what was going on. He said," this is unreal and I don't know what to make of it, but someone came out of the club house and started blowing on a whistle and firing a rifle at deer in the field. He killed at least one, and we need to go and check it out." At that time a club member came driving past us, paused and said that they had a member who was not too bright. A doe and two fawns had been seen in the field in front of the club on numerous occasions during buck season and they were not afraid of people at the club house. The person in question wore a whistle around his neck on a string in case he got lost. Some of the other members decided to play a practical joke and told him that if he saw a deer, he should blow a whistle to get their attention, and then begin firing.

This is what he did. All in all he fired eight shots. As Salty and I stood watching, he grabbed the deer and began dragging it to the club house and we ran toward him. It was illegal to move a deer without first filling out a harvest tag and attaching it to the head. When we got close to him, he asked if we knew how to gut a deer as he didn't know how, and he kept saying loudly,and repeatedly, "I killed my first deer"! The deer was literally shot to pieces as the rifle was a 30/06 and he had hit the deer several times, but most were not in immediately fatal areas. Several legs were broken, a shot or so in the intestines, etc.

It became obvious that there was no attempt to circumvent the system. When most fail to tag, they intending to keep hunting and do not use their tag so that if an officer checks them they appear to be legal--their moment of exposure to arrest is when they are in possession of the dead deer that is not tagged. If they can get that deer in without being caught they are basically home free. In this case it was obvious that he was so excited that he had not even thought about tagging the animal, so we gave him a written warning.

I have thought a lot about the incident over the years, and it is one of many reasons that I no longer hunt.

Canon 30-D: 500mmF4 1/125 f8.0 ISO 500

The fawn above is not the animal in the story. It was photographed on Wednesday morning of this past week, and was still alive as of Saturday morning, but it is exactly the type of animal that this "practical joke" was inflicted on. I look at this picture and then I think of the other fawn shot to rags by a "sportsman" who was incited to do it by other "sportsmen".

This is not an attack on conscientious, ethical hunters, who are out to harvest meat for the table, but this type of attitude and behavior is all too common!

For more animal photos click here!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sky Watch Friday-A Cold Front Brings Dramatic Skies

The passing of a cold front brought dramatic skies to our area one afternoon during the past week. There were brief sunny spells, interspersed with periods of dark clouds, strong winds and rain showers.

At one point there was a stunning rainbow appeared. During it all, the deer grazed peacefully, oblivious to the beautiful surroundings. Their only concerns are feeding, mating, and escaping any danger which may present itself.

For more sky photos click here.

Our Favorite Equipment

My good friend Abe Lincoln asked in a comment on the previous post what lenses the photographers were using. I should have included this in the post, so I am making a small post without pictures to cover this lack of information.

In the first photo, Buckwheat is using a 70-200mm F2.8 IS L lens. His favorite lens is an old 300mm F2.8 L lens that is tack sharp and has a butter-smooth tripod ring, which makes it easy to rotate the camera from horizontal to vertical and back. He is using the 70-200mm more and more for elk as he finds that the animals are often too close to frame correctly with the 300mm.
He recently acquired a 24-105mm IS L lens, which he uses for scenics, etc.

Randy Quinn uses a recent 300mmF2.8, and a 70-200mm of the same variety as Buckwheat. In the photo of he and Odie the 300f2.8 is partially visible in the left corner of the photo. He is holding a point and shoot camera. I forget the brand, but I think it is a 3.0 Megapixel and that camera is proof that it is not just the camera and lens that counts, but it is more about lighting, composition and focus. I have seen photos from that camera that print out extremely well and that would make anyone proud.

Odie uses a 300mm F4 L that is of pre-image stabilization vintage.

Salty shoots a 24-105 IS L, and a 100-400 IS 3.5-5.6L. He is strongly considering a 70-200mm F2.8 IS also. A common theme seems to be that one often needs the 2.8 aperture in big game photography and that in many cases 300mm or greater is just too much magnification for much of Pennsylvania's elk photography.

I carry the Canon XL-1H Camcorder with normal lens, 70-200mm IS F 2.8 L, 300mmF4 IS L, and the 17-40L. All of the SLR lenses work on the camcorder with an ef adapter, which extends the effective focal length of these lenses by a factor of 7.2. I usually carry a DSLR body, which gives me the option of taking stills with any of the above lenses except the camcorder's normal lens. Sometimes I also have the 100-400mm along, usually when I am not walking too far from the vehicle, or I substitute it for the 300mm if I think there is a good chance of encountering long range shooting. If I do not carry the camcorder, I often use the 500mm F4 IS L, in which case I also carry the 70-200mm and 17-40mm to be able to cover varying types of situations.

We carry Canon 20D, 30D, and 40D cameras. All of the lenses are Canon. The tripods are various models of Gitzos except for Salty's and he intends to upgrade to a Manfrotto of some type in the near future. I use a Manfrotto Video tripod, and a Gitzo 1348 with Wimberley head or Arca-Swiss ZR-1 ball head for still photography.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Canon Brigade In Action: More Pennsylvania Elk Photos

Photographers who shoot similar equipment and share a passion for elk photography often strike up an acquaintance while discussing the craft of nature photography, which in turn often leads to long-term friendships.

Each year several of us spend large amounts of time discussing the merits of different cameras and lenses, and the mysteries of Photoshop. This in turn has led to us going on shooting expeditions together.

Ron Saffer, better known as "Buckwheat" is the unofficial leader of our group and is highly respected because of his meticulous craftsmanship with his cameras, and his extensive knowledge of the natural history of elk. He, along with Billie Cromwell provided much appreciated input when I was writing portions of the script for "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd".

He consistently has photographs published in "Bugle "-the official magazine of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and several of his photos are featured in their calendar.

"Buckwheat"-A true craftsman

Randy Quinn and Odie Swartz

Randy Quinn is an outstanding photographer who has spent a lot of time in Cades Cove in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He has amassed an amazing collection of superb photographs of bears and whitetails while working there. He is a super bird photographer and has been published in Birds and Blooms magazine. He also has a fine collection of Pennsylvania Elk Photographs.

Odie Swartz, loves photography and is an all around great guy and excellent photographer. He has built several computers and as best as I can determine was the first of us to work with Photoshop and print photos with a computer and printer.

I am the oddball in that outfit, in that while I own and frequently use an excellent battery of still photography equipment, when it comes down to the crucial moment, I usually opt to carry the video camera on the tripod for the serious work and carry a DSLR with a lens that is image stabilized and rest this rig over top of the video camera in hopes of getting sharp shots.

This violates Buckwheat's statement that the three most important things in photography are: tripod, tripod, tripod, but he understands my addiction to video and excuses my malfeasance in this instance. (After all I always use a tripod with the video camera)

Coy Hill "Salty" of Country Captures

My brother Salty has been published in The Game Commission Calendar and writes the popular rural interest blog "Country Captures". This is his second year of photographing elk.

Salty and Odie photograph while Gary Willow looks on

The bull they were photographing

He has amazing potential if he reaches maturity

This is an up and coming young bull which many call Crazy Legs, Jr. because he has the same rack configuration as that famous bull had in his early years.