Friday, October 11, 2013

Pennsylvania Bull Elk Fight-2013 Rut

Where The Fight Took Place: Canon 70D-Canon 70-200mm@ 200mm  f2.8 IS II-ISO 200 1/250 sec. f 5.0
Today's post features a 4min. 18, "Pennsylvania Elk Rut 2013", which is some of the better shots from my recent two week trip to elk country.  The clips were taken entirely with the Canon 70D and the Panasonic GH3.  The video is based around a dominance fight that I filmed during my first week there.  Here is the story of the fight.

It was warm in the afternoon of Wednesday September 18th when I arrived at the Porcupine Run-Winslow Hill viewing area with the thought in mind that even though it was too early and too warm to have much chance of seeing elk that one couldn't see elk if they were indoors.  Another factor to consider was that it was good to get an early start and take it easy walking into the back country to a good vantage point and wait for activity to start.

Just before 3:30 pm. I found fellow photographer Charlie Cropp at the upper Gilbert Farm food plot and stopped to talk to him.  In short order wildlife artist and photographer David Anderson also stopped by.  I told both of them that there was little chance of seeing anything right now as elk are best seen in early morning and late afternoon and filled them in on my strategy for the evening.  Shortly thereafter one of them pointed out a few cow elk at the edge of the food plot.I still didn't expect anything noteworthy to happen, but then more and more cows spilled into the field and a bull bugled down over the hill out of sight of the field.  At this point we frantically set up cameras and tripods and I began filming as beautiful 6x6 followed the cows into the meadow.   At 3:33 a 6x7 wearing a brown radio collar came out of the woods, charged down the hill and locked antlers with the 6x6.  In all I filmed 7 minutes and 25 seconds of footage counting from when I started the camera running on the 6x7 running down the hill to fight the 6x6.  I paused the camera a few times during the encounter to change some settings, but these pauses were very brief so it is doubtful that the entire encounter lasted 8 minutes. I filmed 5 minutes 18 sec. of actual antler contact, which of course would be a bit longer also, but it is likely there was no more than 6 minutes of  contact.  At the end the 6x6 broke contact with the collared 6x7  and fled from him.

After The Fight: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mm f4 IS-ISO 100 1/500 sec. f 5.0

What is amazing is that the  bull that "lost" the fight went back to chasing the cows as though nothing happened. One concentrates on filming what is before them so I am not sure, but it is my impression that the "victor" continued to chase cows in the area, but not in a position that I could photograph and film him.  It could be that although he made the 6x6 give way, it was such a traumatic experience for him that he wanted no more of fighting for the day.  Also it is likely I would not have recorded the victor because of the brown collar, when a more photogenic bull was right in front of me.

At this point I will not comment on what camera took specific scenes in the video. Hopefully that will be a post for another day.  It is generally accepted that the GH3 is better for video than the Canon DSLRs excepting for the 5D MK III.  The truth is their is a lot more to this than just which camera can record the better image. To have a meaningful comparison the shots must be under tightly controlled conditions and often the clips that are posted to prove one cameras' superiority do not meet that standard.  These clips were of course not taken under controlled conditions, but rather in situations where you were trying to make the best of a less than ideal situation.  For example, there was plenty of light to film the fight, but it was very harsh and glaring.  At one point I was zoomed in very close on the bulls and mirage (heat waves) are very visible on a large screen HDTV, but does one avoid this type of dramatic shot, just to avoid the heat waves.  Fortunately  most of the shots did not have a problem with this, but it would have been much better in early morning or late evening light. 

In another case you will note two bulls that never quite come to combat, but rather touch antlers a few times.  This was taken at 7:44 in the evening at ISO 3200 and 1/30 sec. f2.8, which is nearly dark at that time of year..  Ideally one would use both cameras with the same or similar lens in this situation and compare the quality. These two clips do look a bit heavy and dark, but that is on purpose because that is what it looked like to be there.  It looks perfectly acceptable to me on an HDTV, but it may not to you.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.