Be There – National Elk Refuge!

“Light is the key element in photography.”

That’s the first line in Chapter 4 of Joel Sartore’s wonderful book, Photo Basics The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Great Photography. In my last blog, I referenced a different chapter. Light is an appropriate introduction to this blog, as great light was key to getting the images you will see.

Sartore quotes Jim Stanfield who said, “It’s not the light, but where you are in it.” As a wildlife and landscape photographer, I am very cognizant of where I am in relation to the available light. For landscape and scenery, I can somewhat control the light and where I am in it by showing up at dawn or dusk (to take advantage of the Golden Hour and Blue Hour), or when the light is optimal for the subject. Sartore also says, “The good news is that there are few completely unacceptable light conditions. Some light is more challenging to work with than others. Regardless, light can make or break a photograph, and how we face the challenge of mastering it is what shapes us as photographers.”

Wildlife is not always so forgiving. Critters don’t have a schedule or follow directions, and they don’t really care that they’re not in the best light for my camera. (Just try getting a model release!)

I’ve discussed the challenges of light in past blogs, and will likely do so in the future. But you may be asking, why is this critical to today’s blog? It’s simple. One afternoon, our workshop facilitators drove us to the National Elk Refuge, just north of the City of Jackson WY. Vehicles and pedestrians are not allowed on the Refuge, but one can buy tickets to ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. As we boarded the sleigh, our facilitator’s wife gave the driver’s direction – ‘These are photographers! They want the sun behind them and the Tetons in the background! Make it happen!’ Well, words to that effect anyway.

It worked, the drivers gave us great scenes and positioned us nicely for great shots. The sky also cooperated and gave us some of the best light on the Tetons for the week we were there. And the Elk – the Elk were very accommodating and magnificent!

These three Bulls were just chilling beside a creek. Just look at those antlers! The one on the right is the only one that paid us any attention.
This is a youngster compared to many of the Bulls we saw.
He definitely has the ‘I’m magnificent’ pose down!
This is one of many images from this position. We had a line of Elk almost a mile long walking by. The Bull in the middle is a bit of a ham.
Another ‘I’m magnificent’ pose. Deservedly so!

Well, I have more images from the last position than I could possible show here. The light worked for us on this afternoon, as we were able to position ourselves for best advantage. Having the Elk cooperate was a huge bonus. When you visit Grand Teton National Park during the winter months, the National Elk Refuge is a must see!

We saw this handsome fella’ on a different day. He was on a hillside outside the Elk Refuge. It was late afternoon and he was in shadow. The snow was flying which didn’t help. I was able to bring out the best in this picture in the digital darkroom.

I hope you enjoyed our afternoon on the National Elk Refuge. We were only in the sleigh for 2 hours, but it was a fantastic couple hours.


Be There – Part 5!

A few days ago, I was asked to provide some biography information for an undisclosed (for now anyway) project. This caused me to reflect inward a bit – talking about myself in a serious way doesn’t come easy to me. As a starting point, I pulled up my ‘About’ page here and reviewed the information I included there. One of the things I quickly realized is that I hadn’t updated the page in a very, very long time (like, I was still shooting my Canon EOS 60D). As a result, I have now updated my ‘About’ page and think I have a nice biography to share when I need it.

In my new biography, I talk about how I learned photography. I am mostly self-taught, meaning that I read a lot of books on photography. I also have a network of wonderful mentors who aren’t shy about critiquing my work and helping me to improve my photography skills. Back to the books! When selecting a book to read, I’m sometimes interested in something new (HDR, Macro, Night Photography, etc.) but sometimes I buy a general photography book because it looks interesting. My latest book is called Photo Basics The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Great Photography by Joel Sartore, published by National Geographic. Like so many books on photography, there is excellent discussion about cameras, lenses and gear, composition, exposure light, etc. Even though the information is pretty consistent with other books, I enjoy the repetition as a learning/reinforcing tool.

In this book, Chapter 6 is titled ‘Thinking Like A Photographer.’ (Stay tuned, as I’ll be referring to this chapter in future blogs!) The author’s introduction to the chapter is titled ‘Get Into The Mind-Set.’

“…Making good photographs means more than knowing how to work the controls on your camera. Thinking like a photographer means having a good eye for moments that could yield iconic images, but also developing patience and persistence, doing your research, and always showing up prepared…”

I often talk about developing my photographer’s eye, or seeing a photo in a given scene. This adds a new dimension to my approach to photography, even though I seriously doubt that I make images that could be considered iconic. Most important there is patience (I have little) and research (I don’t do enough). Maybe I’ll change.

The focus (pun intended) for today’s blog required little patience or research! While in Wyoming last December, we took a couple drives up the road paralleling the North Fork of the Shoshone River. This is the road between Cody WY and Yellowstone’s East Entrance. Many animals exit Yellowstone to winter in this area. The Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep are plentiful, often they are on the road itself to lick the salt off the road! No patience was needed as there were plenty of animals to shoot (pictures, always pictures) and they are where they want to be at any given moment, just knowing they are in the area is all the research one needs to do. And so, enjoy the Big Horns!

Lots of youngsters, just starting to get their curl!
Lots of older Sheep as well. I had too much lens for a full body shot – one of the few problems I had in this area.
Look at these cute faces! Wondering if they should worry about that clown with a camera.
Those horns are tough, so one has to wonder what caused damage to that tip!
I didn’t ask this handsome fella’ to pose this way, he’s a natural!
This curious youngster walked towards me through the sagebrush. He was actually far away from me (I love my big lenses).
They look healthy and well fed.

I have many more images from this magical time. I hope you enjoyed these few. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR