Saturday, July 21, 2012

Winslow Bulls And The 5D MK III

To be honest, Winslow Hill is not the best place to see mature bulls during the summer months--especially with the loss of three of the largest bulls that used this area as summer home range, in the past few years.  With that being said, I did encounter two rack bulls and two raghorns on the hill during last weeks trip.

The first that I successfully photographed was a  6x6 or 6x7 if one counts a small sticker point near the right ear. This was most likely a raghorn last year and is now in his first year as a rack bull.  While very nice indeed, this is still a small bull for Pennsylvania.    I encountered him in a meadow by the side of Winslow Hill Road on Thursday evening at 8:33 p.m. and stayed with him until nearly dark, taking a lot of still photos and video footage of him--all with the 5D MK III and 70-200mm f 2.8 IS L lens.

6x6 Winslow Hill: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 70-200mm f2.8 ISO 1250 1/200 sec. f4
I was back at the same area at the crack of dawn on Friday morning, and again I had the 70-200mm attached.  At first I saw two rag horns quite close to the road, but I never did get good stills of them because as I was trying to set up a good shot, I noticed a large 6x6 coming out of the tree line some distance away.  I took two frames of him, but it was obvious that I needed more power, so I quickly mounted the 500mm F4 and soon was in action with it.  This bull was a bit shy and stayed close the tree line for most of the encounter.  This was very early and the light was somewhat murky.  I used ISO 3200 so as to have a bit of a safety margin against motion blur.

Large 6x6 Winslow Hill: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mm F4-  ISO 3200 1/160ec. f4

Both of these encounters are prime examples of how improved noise handling at high ISO settings and larger aperture lenses are a great aid in wildlife photography.  Again I stress that the statements I make are based on limited experience with this camera and are not based on tightly controlled tests, but rather on impressions gained under actual shooting conditions in the field.  The first photo today was of course taken at ISO 1250 and the full resolution file on a desktop monitor seems as sharp and noise free as one taken at ISO 400 or less with the 7D.  It is acceptable for the most critical usage.

ISO 3200 on the other hand is starting to push the limit for something that you would want to enlarge to great sizes, enter in a photo contest, submit for publication etc.  Digital noise is visible, although I feel there is no more than is present in the 7D at ISO 800.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mid-Summer In Elk Country

I was in Elk Country most of last week, photographing and filming the elk and working on "Pennsylvania Elk Country", the new film slated for release in late summer. An added bonus was getting to work more with the Canon 5D MK III on Pennsylvania's largest wild animal and getting my feet wet with the Panasonic DMC-GH2 EVIL (acronym for electronic viewfinder Interchangeable lens)camera, for long range video work. I concentrated on looking for calves and bulls in velvet, and did see quite a few.

Shy Cow: Canon 5D MK III-500mm F4 ISO 100 1/500 sec. f4.5
The cows and calves are still somewhat shy in most cases, and it was difficult to get close-up portraits of them-especially the calves. This is amazing because the same cows that flee now, will continue to graze peacefully when other herd members are shot close-by  in hunting season, or at least they did last autumn and I would expect no differently this year.

As one would expect, most wildlife activity was very early and very late.  If you miss being out there at the crack of dawn, you have missed the best part of the day.  The cow above was photographed at 7:41 a.m. and most of the elk had already gone into the woodlands.  They spend very little time in direct sunlight at this time of year.  If they have not already left before, they tend to leave a meadow soon after the first rays of sun touches it.  Fortunately, I did luck out to a certain extent concerning the weather on this trip, as I am told it was extremely hot in elk country the week before, and returned to sweltering temperatures by the weekend, but most of my trip was quite pleasant summer weather, which is to say hot, but not unbearably so.  In fact a light sweater felt good on most mornings.

Early in the trip I found that cows and calves were using a secluded meadow quite frequently, and I spent two evenings watching it. On Wednesday evening a group of cows and calves came into range, but some of the adult cows picked me out and barked at me   The calf in the photo below raised its' head from grazing and looked at the cow that had just barked.

Alert Calf In Late Evening: 5D MK III-500mm F4 ISO 400- 1/250 sec.,  F4.5
This encounter occurred at 7:54 p.m.  In time they worked into a strip of woods and began working toward Winslow Hill Road and soon you could hear the traffic on the road stopping as people paused to observe the herd.

On that note, I must mention that I saw very few other elk watchers or photographers in the mornings, but there was quite a bit of traffic in the evenings.  It seems that interest is higher this month than what it was in June.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.