Archive for the Winslow Hill Category

Be Patient… Let Them Come to You

Posted in 200-400mm, Getting Closer, Patience, Pennsylvania Elk, Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, Wildlife Photography, Winslow Hill with tags , , , , , , on October 2, 2013 by bobshank

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Much of the time spent in wildlife photography is pursuing the animals we want to photograph. I often tease that, “Yeah, I was out on the mountain chasing the elk around with my camera.” I do not mean this literally, of course. Chasing an animal is just not a very good idea if you intend to photograph it!

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So how can you actually get closer to the wild animals? Be patient and let them come to you. That’s right, be patient. In our fast-paced society today, this is not an easy thing for many people to do. Being patient means taking the time to stay in one place for an extended period of time.

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Last week, while shooting the Pennsylvania Elk, we were on a hill with a small harem of cows and a couple of bulls within about 100 yards of us. We had our cameras on our tripods and were capturing some photographs at that distance. We patiently remained in that one location for well over an hour. Amazingly, the elk ever so slowly began to feed in our direction. They didn’t close the distance by leaps and bounds; rather, they slowly mossyed in our direction. This took time and we remained patient.

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Eventually, the bull moved to within a few yards of our location. You can see in these photos that I now had too much lens with my 200-400mm. It was an amazing experience!

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The key was staying still and patient, while letting the animals slowly feed in our direction instead of chasing them by trying to get closer. I firmly believe that most photographers will get better photographs if they practiced more patience with their subjects. The next time you are shooting wildlife, practice more patience. Remain in one location and let them work toward you. It is an amazing experience when this happens and you will get some incredible photos, too!

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Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience #7 – What an Experience!!!

Posted in Bennezette, Pennsylvania Elk, Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, Wildlife Photography, Winslow Hill with tags , , , , on September 27, 2013 by bobshank

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It’s in the books. The 7th Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience just wrapped up yesterday. Wow! We saw more bulls on this trip than any I can remember in the recent past. We watched bull after bull, heard their blustering bugles, and were astounded by how many were within camera range. This was one outstanding experience!

One of the many highlights was on Wednesday night when we were literally in the middle of six bulls and a harem of cows. This alone could be thrilling, but add to it the location was on a river full of water and you can begin to see why this experience was so thrilling! We watched patiently for the first bull to cross over the water with splashes of water at its feet, but eventually we saw six crossings. This all provided an astounding opportunity to capture some amazing wildlife photographs.

If you want to photograph the Pennsylvania Elk, you really should consider signing up for next year’s PA Elk Photo Experience. You can find more info here. We are also seriously considering another winter trip. This is a quieter experience without the hoards of elk viewers we are accustomed to seeing in the fall rut. The elk can be a little more difficult to find in the winter, but once we do they make for stunning subjects in front of the wonderland of snow!

Here is a gallery of my best captures this week.

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Don’t Fence Me In

Posted in Fence, Gilbert Viewing Area, Pennsylvania Elk, Porcupine Run Viewing Area, Wildlife Photography, Winslow Hill with tags , , , , on November 12, 2012 by bobshank

“Oh give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above,
Don’t fence me in;
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don’t fence me in.”

These photos were taken at the Gilbert Viewing Area, also known as the Porcupine Run Viewing Area. I prefer to call it the Gilbert Viewing Area, after the family who last owned the farm before it was purchased by the Conservancy and then became an addition to State Game Lands 311. Today there is little evidence that this was a farm because the Game Commission burned down the old farm-house and the barn, which is their standard policy when they acquire land.

The fence in the foreground was put in to keep the elk viewers from venturing too far into the elk country. There is a bit of a controversy with this idea because typically State Game Lands are open to the public. The idea here in the viewing areas, however, is to keep human contact to a minimum to allow more people to view the elk. This same policy is in affect to the surrounding area of the Elk Country Visitor Center. Visitors can see the obvious red signs depicting the area off limits along Winslow Hill Road just above the Elk Country Visitor Center entrance.

This cow put on quite a show for me last month on a day that was quite on the hill. The rut was just about over and elk viewers were few and far between during the week days. I enjoyed photographing this cow with only one other elk viewer in the area. I thought it was comical to see the elk behind this fence, as I wondered if the elk was thinking, “Don’t fence me in.” My mother-in-law, Edna Rosenberry, used to sing this song to our children, Lydia and James, when they were just babies! Few of us like to be fenced in, including the wild elk of Pennsylvania!

Obviously, these elk are not fenced in. The fence in the foreground of these photos only covers a small area at the top of the viewing area. Still, I thought it made an interesting perspective. What do you think?

 

Bull Getting into a Frenzy!

Posted in Bugle, Bugling Bull, Bull, Patience, Pennsylvania Elk, Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Rut, State Game Lands, Wildlife Photography, Winslow Hill with tags , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2012 by bobshank

The fall rut in Pennsylvania is filled with amazing action and mysterious sounds. Bull elk work extremely hard to make their presence known and remind other competing bulls that it will not be easy to dislodge the king of the hill! Just spend one evening out on the mountain during the fall rut and you will receive far more entertainment than Hollywood could ever offer. There is no place like the mountains, especially during the fall months.

This particular bull was the current king of a section many refer to The Saddle on Winslow Hill. This recently reclaimed tract of State Game Lands 311 is a favorite of elk viewers who are accustomed to seeing bulls like this one. I came across him while he was lying down and resting. Bulls expend a tremendous amount of energy during the rut, so even brief rests are essential. I need to practice a great deal of patience as this bull was taking a rather long rest. Patience is always key in wildlife photography.

Eventually, after what seemed like forever, he stood up. Now this might seem like a rather uneventful maneuver to the uninformed, but to a knowledgeable elk viewer, the act of a bull standing up is anything but uneventful. Warning: this might get a little PG-rated since we are talking about the rut, aka the breeding season, aka elk sex! Geez, I didn’t just say that; did I?

This first standing up image shows clearly what all careful elk viewers see when a bull elk begins getting into a frenzy to show dominance and attract cows. The bull will begin to scratch the ground with his antlers and he will also urinate on himself to display his dominance and attractiveness to any cow who is interested. I find this an interesting dating procedure to say the least!

Because this bull was getting into a frenzy in a recently reclaimed field, the grass was green and tall, as you can clearly see in this image.

A frenzied bull almost always bugles, too. This is a mysterious and interesting sound that elk viewers long to hear. The bugle sounds a warning to any bulls who might be considering a challenge. It also alerts cows to the bull’s presence and location, which is important as a bull constant tries to keep his herd of cows in check. Again, this is a very tiring and demanding process that goes on day and night for many days!

The bull will also stretch his hind legs to get the kinks out from lying down so long. It’s sort of like when we get up out of our recliner and need to stretch to get moving again. I always find it entertaining to watch and observe the many different facets of elk behavior. It never gets old for me and I keep learning more and more about these incredible mammals!

As the frenzy is dying down and coming to a close, at least temporarily, the bull will deliver another mighty bugle before moving on to the next task in the rutting behavior.

It will happen again, so be ready! Watching the bulls at this time of year is something I enjoy tremendously. I cannot imagine not spending some time in the mountains to observe and photograph this fascinating behavior. It truly is worth more than a thousand words! If you never observed the rutting behavior in the fall, you owe it to yourself to travel to Elk County, Pennsylvania from mid-September to mid-October. It can yield the sights and sounds of a lifetime!

Decent Bull, Bigger Sky

Posted in Aperture, Backgrounds, Bull, Pennsylvania Elk, Pennsylvania Elk Hunt, Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, Sky, Wildlife Photography, Winslow Hill with tags , , , , , , on October 8, 2012 by bobshank

I photographed this decent bull in the last week of September on our Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience. He is a decent bull, about average for the current elk herd in Pennsylvania. There is a lot of talk in the area that we just don’t see the bigger bulls like we used to see. I tend to agree with this sentiment, but now that we have a hunting season for the elk this makes perfect sense. Both hunters and photographers like to target the bigger bulls!

On this particular evening the sky was dropping down some precipitation, which was the norm for the last week of September this year. The produced the grey sky. I typically like these sky shots, with the bull on the horizon in front of the big sky. A nice blue sky or even an orange setting sun sky is preferred, but you can see how this shot separates the bull from the background and really helps to emphasize the detail of his rack.

The goal of separating an animal from its native background is always the goal of the wildlife photographer. Animals often blend into their backgrounds, which is part of what keeps them safe from predators. Large apertures are helpful in creating a shallow depth of field for the photographer, but there is nothing quite as effective as an animal placed right on the horizon to separate it from its environment. The next time you are out in the wild, try to position yourself below the subject and aim for the sky in the background. I think it works well and makes for some stunning wildlife photographs! What do you think?

Big Bulls Close-Up

Posted in Bull, Close-ups, Pennsylvania Elk, Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, Perspective, Wildlife Photography, Winslow Hill with tags , , , , , , on October 4, 2012 by bobshank

When I was a teenager the television commercial for Close-Up Toothpaste had me convinced that if I bought their specific brand I would have girls close-up. I will not reveal any more of my teenage thoughts, but there is one thing I know: You don’t have to use fresh-smelling toothpaste to get close-up to the Pennsylvania elk!

What is the perfect perspective in wildlife photography? Do you work hard to include every antler point in your image? There is nothing wrong with this full-view perspective, but challenge yourself some time to zoom in and get up close–real close! Most people know what the whole animal looks like, so our mind will usually fill in the missing parts. The close-up shots can be intriguing and provide an interesting perspective!

I have a saying I developed for elk photography. You will find a short chapter with this title in my book, “How I Photograph the Pennsylvania Elk.” The saying goes like this: “Don’t just shoot the bull!” I mean it. Many, if not most, photographers get so geared up at the prospect of capturing a big bull with their camera that they sometimes forget the beauty of the cows right in front of them. Take this next image for example, if I had only focused on shooting the bulls, I would have missed this great shot. Don’t just shoot the bull! Be creative and photograph the cows and calves, too.

The next time you are out shooting an animal. Think about zooming in and taking some close-up shots. It might even change your perspective on wildlife photography!

Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience #7 – Fall Rut

Posted in Bull, Pennsylvania Elk, Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, Photo Tips, Rut, Wildlife Photography, Winslow Hill with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2012 by bobshank

The last week of September greeted us with spectacular fall-like weather. The temperature was cool and the elk were clearly in the heat of the annual rut. The breeding season for the Pennsylvania can run from mid-September through mid-October. The last week of September is generally near the peak of the action and we were there, ready with our cameras and lenses to capture the action!

The first day was the only clear day. The clouds and rain took over but this did not hinder the elk action at all. It was a very active week and we saw plenty of elk to photograph. Several fights broke out as the bulls were vying for dominance among the cows. I absolutely love this time of year and the fall rut is always filled with action and many photographic opportunities! There is no better time to be in elk country in my humble opinion, and I prefer to be no where else at this time of year!

This was our seventh Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience. John arrived on Monday evening and we started with a basic wildlife photo workshop. This is always a good start so we can dial in our camera settings to more adequately and more easily capture the beauty of these elk. The next morning started with a real early breakfast and out to find the elk just as light was beginning to make its headway into the day. Elk, like most mammals, are most active at dawn and dusk, so we always are out in the mountains at these times. The light tends to be best at these times of day as well. Many times the activity slows down sometime between 9am and 11am. So we break for lunch and a short rest before heading back out of the early evening opportunities. I just cannot get enough time with these amazing animals! They are fascinating!

The Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience has several goals we have in mind for all participants:

  • Provide an exciting experience with the Pennsylvania elk
  • Teach basic and advanced photography techniques to capture the action of the wildlife
  • Create breath-taking wildlife photographs that capture the essence of this experience
  • Learn from each other
  • Have fun

This fall trip was exceptional in terms of the rutting and elk action. I think it is fair to say that we accomplished all five goals on this trip.

I can’t wait to be back in elk country again!