Archive for Bull

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!

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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!

Time Behind the Camera

Posted in Bull, Camera, Pennsylvania Elk, Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , on April 19, 2012 by bobshank

I like to say and I do believe, “There’s no better place to be than behind the viewfinder!”

If you enjoy photography, I think you will agree at least to on some level. Just to be able to spend time with my camera trying to capture the beauty of God’s wonderful and amazing creation is a pure joy for me. It is also one that I try real hard never to take for granted. I enjoy each and every moment I spend with my camera and the wildlife around me.

This week, try to find more time to spend behind your camera. Besides the thrill of being in the best place in all the world, you will also learn how to better use your camera and get better at the craft of photography. There is no doubt that spending more and more time behind the camera is helpful.

I will be behind my camera tomorrow. Will you?

Muddy Elk Antlers

Posted in Antler, Bull, Muddy, Pennsylvania Elk, Wildlife Photography, Winslow Hill with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by bobshank

The fall rut is always an exciting time filled with lots of action. This bull is lying down, but you can clearly see the signs of this exciting season just by looking at his antlers — they are coated with mud!

Bulls get themselves into a frenzy time after time during the mating season. Hormones are running rampant and the action can be almost non-stop at times. Even when things slow down you will hear the call of the bugle or see signs of the rut in a variety of ways.

I know the fall rut is a long way away, but I was going back through some archived photos for a project I’m working on and found this one. It was slightly cropped but nothing much else was done to this photograph. I do believe in getting things right in the camera to cut down on post-production time, which saves a lot of time and energy!

This is a great week for me as some neat photo opportunities are opening up for me. Spending time behind the viewfinder is not only the best place in the world to be, but it also helps to keep the photo passion going! Are you spending time behind your camera?

The Whites of Their Eyes

Posted in Animal Behavior, Bull, Cow, Patience, Pennsylvania Elk, Wildlife, Winslow Hill with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by bobshank

Animal behavior shows a lot about their comfort level. If they are feeding, for example, this shows they are relaxed and not too worried about any impending danger. But most animals reveal specific behavioral signs that indicate when they are not happy. This bull is showing the whites of his eyes–a sign that he is not overly satisfied with me at the moment. I might be in his way to greener pastures, I might be too close to him, or I might be viewed as just in his way for whatever reason. The whites in his eyes show that is not relaxed.

Similarly, this cow is busy eating some grass, but her eyes show that is worried about something. At the very least, she is keeping a keen eye out for any sign of trouble.

We can photograph our subjects better when we learn more about them. It doesn’t matter what subject we are photographing either. When we learn more about our subject we will be able to get better photographs. So the next time you are out with your camera pay close attention to your subject. What do you see? Are there any signs that is putting your subject at ease? Or are there signs that indicate something is wrong.

Be patient, work slow, and pay attention to the animal’s behavior. It can tell us a lot!

Photo Tip Tuesday – Getting Closer

Posted in Blind, Bull, Close-ups, Elk County, Getting Closer, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Elk, Photo Tips, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by bobshank

Getting closer to the subject is the name of the game in wildlife photography. Yes, sometimes we do want to include the surrounding environment and habitat that wildlife call their home, but getting closer will help a lot in separating an animal from a busy background. Also, there’s nothing worse than taking a photo and then sharing it with someone who asks, “what’s that spot over there?” Your reply, “Oh, that’s the bull elk I wanted you to see.” That little spot just doesn’t do any justice to your photography.

So, how do you get closer to your subject?

First, buying telephoto lenses is an important priority for any budding wildlife photographer. Long glass helps us get closer while maintaining a safe distance from the animals we are photographing. In fact, some National Parks even have a minimum viewing distance that requires longer lenses if we are going to fill the frame with our subject at this safe distance. 300mm is probably the shortest option for a good wildlife photography lens, but I have used the 70-200mm with a 1.4x teleconverter with larger mammals like the elk here in Pennsylvania. Yes, long glass is important and very helpful, but it is not the end all solution every time, especially with smaller subjects.

This brings us to the main topic of this photo tip-how to physically get closer to our subjects. You might assume that stalking or sneaking up on a subject will work. Sometimes yes and sometimes no; but typically no. Animals live longer lives because they are wary of danger, especially human danger. Big racks don’t get big by animals being careless.

Rather than sneaking up on them, I try to be as calm and unassuming as possible. I take my first photos from a distance if I haven’t photographed this species before just to get an image of this new subject. Then I see if the animal “accepts” me. What I mean by this is noting whether the animal goes back to its routine behavior of grazing or whatever. If not, I don’t move. I look in the opposite direction, remaining as calm as possible and pretending that I don’t care that the animal is even there. Usually, the animal realizes there is no imminent danger and does accept me as a non-threatening photographer rather than a hunter. Of course, this is much easier where hunting is not allowed, which makes Wildlife Refuges and National Parks prime locations for wildlife photography.

I did grow up in the farmlands of Lancaster County and was groomed to be a hunter at the age of twelve. I still hunt white-tailed deer and black bear, but I spend much more time out in the woods with my Nikon camera gear. The skills I learned from hunting are sometimes helpful, such as locating sign of animals and observing their behavior and patterns. With camera in hand, I don’t want my subject to think I am hunting it. I want the animal to realize I won’t hurt it and just want to photograph it. Sometimes talking calmly to an animal can help, too.

Another highly successful method I employ is to situate myself in a place to where the animal is headed and will eventually walk through as it meanders on its way. This is exactly the method we used with this Bull you see in these four photographs. I happened to see him not far off the road and I could see he was heading in a specific direction. I reasoned that he was going to eventually come by a specific location, so we moved to that location and waited for him to arrive. This was relatively easy because we could see him in the open some of the time, but this method works well even when you cannot see the subject if  you know the well-traveled trails and habits of the animal you are photographing.

Still another method I have used this past year is to use a portable blind. My son and I got closer to wild white-tailed deer in Elk County using this method. We both got into the blind well before sunset and just waited. Again, we knew this particular field was often frequented by deer in the evening. We picked our favorite location on this field, set up the blind, and waited. Sure enough, eight deer came out into the field and we had the chance to observe them up close and personal.

This is the goal-getting closer to our subjects. It is not always easy but it is well worth the effort! Oh yeah, one more tip on this subject-patience is key. By nature, I am not the most patient person in the world, but I can sit or stand at a spot for a very, very long period of time waiting to capture wildlife photographs. Most people take a few photos and move on. Don’t. Take your time and “work” the subject. Observe and photograph what the animal is doing. Try to capture facial expressions and body movements. Think about what close-up photographs might work with this subject. Focus your attention on separate parts of the animal’s body and create some art. Is there a tail wagging to chase away a flea? Are there long eyelashes on the eye of this animal? What are the position of the legs and feet? Will they be in a more photographic position if you wait for the animal to move five more feet? What about the background; could you wait for the animal to move in front of a better and more attractive background? Wait, watch, observe, and photograph!

With these tips you should be able to get closer.

The Social Side of the Pennsylvania Elk

Posted in Bull, Cow, Pennsylvania Elk, Social Animals, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , on February 22, 2012 by bobshank

Elk are definitely social animals. Bulls make their presence known in the fall rut by bugling. Cows call their young with a verbal call. Elk congregate and move around in herds and if you spend any time with them you will hear firsthand just how vocal and social they really are in the wild. Yes, they are indeed a social breed!

I was fortunate to capture this photograph on Monday when we were photographing a small herd of cows and one bull. I find this particular pose to be humorous because it appears like the cow on the left doesn’t really want to hear what the cow on the right has to say!

These two cows were photographed later in the day. Once again, this photo depicts the social side of the elk. They really do enjoy hanging out together. There is comfort in numbers and for any animal or person who enjoys company, it’s just better to be together than it is to be alone.

Remember this when you are out looking for elk. When you spot one there is almost certainly more to be found nearby. Even the bulls hang together in what are called “bachelor groups” throughout the winter months. This happens after the breeding season is over. Although, the bull we saw and photographed with this herd of cows was actually still chasing the cows and even bugled on Monday night. It is quite late in the season for this to happen, but perhaps the warmer than normal temperatures have kept the bulls more active. Here is a parting shot of this bull chasing a cow just before he bugled.