Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Looking Back-Elk Photos From 2000

Friday September 29th was the last day of my 2000 trip to photograph the elk rut.  I like to get an early start for home so I decided to drive up Winslow Hill to check the viewing areas and the roadside meadows for a few hours before leaving.  Billie Cromwell, who shot a lot of the rut footage for the Game Commission's elk video, "Pennsylvania Elk: Reclaiming The Alleghenies"  rode along that morning.  I can't recall everything we saw, but the highlight  was when we found two bulls chasing cows in an overgrown meadow  near the Devil's Elbow area.

This was before the days of digital and meta-data files that records camera settings so one had to rely on memory or notes to recall what equipment was used. I was a poor record keeper, but if my memory serves me right the above photo was taken with a Canon Rebel X with Kodak ISO 800 print film.  The lens would have been either a 75-300 EF IS, or a Canon 35-350 L lens.

I began photographing in 1974 with a Minolta SRT 101 and 50mm 1.7 lens and eventually bought several low to mid-range telephoto lenses.  I used these lenses with a variety of Minolta bodies until late 1990 when I switched almost exclusively to video.  I got the Canon L2 camcorder in 1997, which accepted Canon mount 35mm lenses by use of an adapter and bought a Canon 75-300mm EF IS lens for long range work.  This move eventually led me back into still photography.  The Minolta equipment was old, battered, and outdated.  Shooting stills with it meant that one had to carry lenses and cameras for two different mounts, so it was a no brainer to get a Canon body for use on the 75-300mm.  Since my primary focus was video I bought an entry level Rebel X with kit lens for $180.00 at Walmart.  This was $70.00 less than I paid for the SRT 101 and kit lens back in 1974. The Rebel felt chintzy compared to the Minolta SRT cameras, but it was much more reliable as a lot of the moving parts had been replaced with electronics as technology advanced.  As is so often the case with me, I soon decided that I needed another camera body so that I could shoot both slow and fast color film, so in August of 200 I bought a Canon Elan II body, which I carried loaded with Kodak ISO 200 print film, while the Rebel was loaded with Kodak ISO 800 print film.

Light levels were low when this encounter began so I photographed the larger bull with ISO 800 film and then switched to the Elan II and ISO 200 to photograph the smaller bull.

 Both bulls were 7x8s if I am counting the points correctly.  The photos were scanned to digital files with a Canoscan 2710 several years ago and were reworked in Adobe camera raw with final tweaking in Photoshop CC before posting. I was searching through my files for photos of bull 36, better known as "Fred" or "Dogrope", when I came upon these photos and felt moved to share them.  One must realize that film ruled at the time. I was dreaming of better lenses and camera bodies, but the though never crossed my mind that film  would be  replaced with digital in a few short years.

Those that are relatively new to Pennsylvania elk photography may be amazed to find that high end professional lenses were rarely seen on Winslow Hill until after digital replaced film.  Ronald "Buckwheat" Saffer had his Canon 300mm f2.8 L lens, a gentleman was there each year with a Nikon 500mm and I saw well known outdoor writer Bob Steiner on a few occasions with his 500mm Nikon, but mostly one saw point and shoot cameras and entry level 35mm SLR cameras with low to mid-range lenses.  Back in those days you could draw attention shooting a 100-400mm L lens with people walking up and saying, "that's some lens you have there".  Now all of the big primes such as 300mm, 500mm, and 600mm are commonly seen and I think it is because of digital.

In the days of film a serious shooter spent a lot of their funds available for photography on film and processing. The ability to shoot massive numbers of shots and delete unwanted ones in the digital age made it possible for many more people to become better photographers and to afford to buy better equipment.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.



Paul Staniszewski said...

Great story and photographs...

Steve Ferendo said...

Willard, I too, started in the early 1970s and watched as the digital formats were rolled out by various manufacturers. Most of my co-workers said that "digital will never replace film". I have to say that it has been a change for the better. Thanks for an interesting post about the "good old days".

Unknown said...

My first camera, back in the early 70's, was a Kodak 110 instamatic. The tiny negatives that camera produced is a far cry from the mega, mega pixels we have today in digital. I wonder, and most likely won't find out, what it will be like in another 40 years.

Lindsjö taxar said...

Interesting Reading.
I also had a camera like that. What will I do with all the paper photos today? Its so easy can throw away the ones you dont like.....
I am happy for the cameras we have today

Willard said...

Thanks for the comments. It is interesting to read everyone's experience and thoughts on this subject. It boggles the mind to think what level photography may eventually rise to.

Linda G. said...

Great photos. I began taking photographs in the early 1970s with an inexpensive Instamatic Camera that used a 110 film cartridge. My first 35mm camera was a Minolta. I can’t recall when I acquired that camera, although I believe it was sometime in the mid- to late-1980s. I took my first digital photograph in late spring 2002 with an Olympus point and shoot camera. Since then I have purchased five more Olympus digital cameras. I currently own two digital SLRs: the Olympus E-5 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

Willard said...

You beat me to digital by one year, Linda. I got my first one, a Canon 10-D in October of 2003. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Bill said...

As one of those 'new' elk photographers I have to say that I love seeing the older photos from folks that have been shooting up there for a long time. These are wonderful shots Willard. Photographers like yourself have captured so much of the history up in elk country and have done an outstanding job in doing so.

Unknown said...

Hi Willard, I really enjoy all your photos and reading the information on cameras and North Central PA. You have done both still photography and video. I hope you understand the depth of my question. How does a person choose whether they want to do still photography or videography?
Any advice? Anyone? Thanks Ron

Willard said...

Thanks for the comment, Ron. That is a hard question to answer and to answer it properly I plan to write a post in the near future and perhaps a series of posts, but for now I will mention a few points.

Since 1974 I have been interested both in still images and motion pictures. Back then of course the choice for some one of my level was either 8mmm or super 8 film, which didn't work all that well.

I began shooting VHS in late 1990 and shot video almost exclusively from then until 1998-99.

If I have to choose one over the other, which is often the case, I usually go with video. The main reason is that I love to capture the action and the sound and later construct a program from this, but that is also the downside to video as it takes so much work until one has an edited program completed. Also if one shoots a lot storing the footage can be mind boggling. I am glad the technology shifted away from tape except in this respect because now everything has to reside either on a hard drive or a blu-ray disc if one keeps the original files. Hard drives will eventually fail so everything must be backed up to either blu-ray or another drive and ideally it is kept in a separate site than your originals in case of a disaster.

I think these factors are the major reasons that many if not most shoot stills rather than video or just shoot a few video clips subsidiary to taking still photos and concentrate mostly on their still shots.

Some other pluses to video are:
1: One can film earlier and later as 1/60 sec. is the normal shutter speed and one can get by with 1/30. Even with a good tripod one can have trouble getting sharp still photos in action type situations.

2:It is easier to capture peak action as one is firing long clips.

A factor to consider is that for best results in following action you need a fluid head designed for video and good ones are expensive. They are stiffer than a gimbal or ball type head so as to dampen jiggle when panning and this is a minus if one tries to take stills of animals running or birds in flight while using a video head as it does not respond nearly as quickly. This is why if one sees me away from the vehicle in the elk range that I am shooting stills from a video tripod. I have been asked whey I don't have a Wimberley head and the answer is that I do and I use it for stills when I am near the vehicle and can set up both rigs, or if for some reason I decide to shoot stills exclusively.

The bottom line is when you concentrate on video you will miss a lot of superb still opportunities and the reverse is true. The answer varies with the individual, but in my case video wins out a large part of the time, but I seldom post videos on the blog for reasons that I will get into in the post.

I hope this helps until I can write more.

Unknown said...

Thanks Willard, I left that question open to see what info I might get. Great info for thought!
My ideas on the differences are, a still photo you have time to make adjustments before and through photo shop you can tweak it after to fix a problem. When lighting, exposure, saturation, depth of field is done right, your eyes travel all around the photo picking out all of the detail. It is a beautiful thing. With animal subjects, I feel like it has to be video. Because they have character, a personality in their actions that you must show. However, video is immediate and what you shoot is what it is. I don't think there is any way to correct anything that is wrong. It must be frustrating at times. Trying to put pieces together must be difficult. Let me know if my ideas are correct. I'm exploring which way to go in purchasing some better photo equipment. Thanks Ron

Willard said...


You can do a lot with video in post production, but not as much or as easily as stills in photoshop. For example you have much the same type of tools to adjust exposure. I use Vegas 12 Pro and it has are brightness and contrast controls, levels, color, balance, etc., and these work quite well to adjust overall brightness, but it is hard to work with just certain areas of the frame. There are cases where it can be done, but it is time consuming and the results are seldom if ever as good as doing the comparable thing in Photoshop. It is also possible to do cloning with certain programs, but I never could get it to work on moving objects.

You are correct about the trying to put pieces together. It is so time consuming. It seems worth it all, however, when everything comes together and it works like you want it to.