Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shenandoah National Park: A Morning To Remember

On Thursday morning my brother Coy and I traveled to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, in search of whitetail bucks in velvet and any other photogenic wildlife that we might find.  Visit Coy at Country Captures for a detailed description of the events of the morning and to see some of his photographs. Shortly after dawn we found a bachelor group of bucks coming into the meadow from the Tanners Ridge area.  I started by shooting video from the roadside with a Canon T3i and 70-200mm lens, but soon went into the meadow to get a better angle and alternated between this rig and the Canon 7D with the 300mm F2.8.  If I needed a wider shot I put the T3i in manual still mode and used it with the 70-200mm.  In the photo below I shot handheld with this rig and image stabilization engaged to get a photo with several bucks together (the 7D and 300mm F2.8 was on the tripod at the time).

Portion Of Bachelor Group Big Meadows
 Three of the bucks fed quite near to me and I photographed one extensively with the 7D and 300mm F2.8. This buck should have been a ten-point but the brow tine was broken and one of the points on the left beam did not develop beyond a small bump, so he had five points on one side and only three on the other.

Unusual Antler Configuration

At one point a beautiful nine-point  came into range and I pressed the T3i and 70-200mm into service again to get a photograph that included the entire deer. This photo was taken at 200mm and is a vertical crop taken from the center of a horizontal shot as is the photo above.  This is not increasing the size of the deer in the composition, but rather removing the unneeded sides of the photo, although both photos do make decent horizontal ones also.

Shenandoah Nine-Point At Big Meadows
As exciting as photographing the bucks was, it was eclipsed by the arrival of a Coyote which came from the west side of the drive and ran up Skyline Drive toward the camp store and then into the meadow.  We found it near a large herd of deer, which were very skittish and fearful of it.  At first we thought it had killed a fawn, but it turned out that it was feeding on blueberries.  After taking video with the T3i and 500mm F4 lens, I attached the 7D and took several stills.

Coyote Pauses From Eating Blueberries

Coyote Looks Hostile, But He Wasn't Hunting Fawns Today

Coyotes and black bears do make significant inroads in fawn populations, but I think this is more likely to occur in late May and June when the fawns are small.

For more Camera Critters photographs, Click Here!

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Bucks-It's Not All About The Megapixels

Whitetail Antlers Are Fully Developed By Early August

The antlers on the mature whitetail bucks are  completely grown by early August and  many of the larger ones will lose the velvet by the end of the month.  Pennsylvania Bull elk lose the velvet even earlier with most of them shedding by mid-month.  Because of this, early August is a favorite time to travel to Shenandoah National Park to photograph bucks in velvet at Big Meadows, since it is good to be in Pennsylvania Elk Country a bit later on to document the shedding of the velvet.

I was recently going through my files from 2006 and reworking some of the better photographs.  Doing so brought to mind a statement that Jim Borden made in a recent post about the quality of a photograph not being all about megapixels.  He was talking about noise in that particular instance, but it still made me think about just how good images from the old Canon 10-D could be when the light was right and everything else came together.  It was only 6.3 megapixels and had severe noise problems in low light, but I held on to it for more years than I should have because of the expense of buying video equipment.  Both the 20-D and 30-D were much better at handling nose, but I passed them by and didn't upgrade until the 40-D came out in the fall of 2007.  The following summer the 40-D malfunctioned at the peak of the fawn photography season, and I bought a refurbished 30-D  to fill the gap and I used it and the 40-D about  equally until the 7-D came out.  The bottom line: however, was that I forgot just how good the 10-D actually was until I started through the 2006 photographs and redone some of them in CS5.  I am not quite sure whether it is because earlier versions of Photoshop did not produce as good results as CS5 does or if the main difference is that I understand Photoshop better--it likely is a combination of the two.  One cannot crop the images as severely as the higher megapixel cameras without the image falling apart, and perhaps printing large enlargements would show a significant difference, but it was a good camera for it's day and it did not have the focusing issues that the 7-D can have under certain situations.

Here is another Shenandoah buck from the same day.  This is not the largest buck I have seen in the park, but he was very impressive.  I don't think the photograph is as good as the first one, because of the right side of the face being shadowed. 

An Outstanding Shenandoah Buck
Be sure to visit Jim and Joan Borden's blog JJ Wildlife Photography for excellent photographs and writing.  Jim is a seasoned, experienced outdoorsman and photographer with an excellent understanding of the technical aspects of photography as well as a deep knowledge of wildlife behavior.  A visit to his blog is time well spent.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.