Monday, April 6, 2015
Call Of The Wild
Seeing wildlife truly wild is one of the many joys of photography. So many of us live in cities or suburban areas and rarely see anything wilder than a squirrel or raccoon. So visiting our national parks or other areas where wildlife roams freely is a wonderful experience.
This male elk was in superb condition and was certainly feeling his oats. He bellowed several times, as is evidenced by his open mouth and head and neck position. The sound of an elk call is eerie and truly wild. It reverberates and echoes. It is unlike any other sound you will hear.
I was fortunate to be fairly close to this elk and his small harem of females. In fact I and a hoard of over 60 photographers were at the same place. One of the laws of the photographer's jungle is that when you see someone with a camera in hand, chances are there is something to shoot, so you stop the car and take a look.
In most national parks, photographers come to wildlife like moths to a flame. Often a traffic jam or a full parking area is a good indication that something is going on. In those situations it is all to easy to forget common sense and put yourself in danger, or frighten or antagonize the animals. It is important to reign yourself in quickly and be responsible, careful, and respectful.
1. Don't stop the car in the middle of the road. Pull off the road safely.
2. Don't talk loudly since that could cause the animals to flee.
3. Don't move quickly. Moving slowly and quietly is always important around wildlife.
4. Don't make noise when assembling your gear. Banging or clanking sounds will spook the animals. Close your car door quietly, and do not use a remote lock that beeps or honks.
5. Don't block the view of others, whether photographers or not. It is rude to thoughtlessly step in front of other people who are there to enjoy the scenery / wildlife.
6. Don't walk too far into the scene so that you become an unwelcome part of everyone else's shot.
7. Most importantly, don't get too close to the animals. They need space, and if you get too close they will either leave the area or become aggressive. If they begin to back away, OR huff or stand up, OR make vocalizations, OR stop eating you can be sure that you have disturbed them. Immediately back off slowly - do not run or move quickly since that could trigger an attack response. Try to avoid eye contact since that could be perceived as a sign of aggression, even when you are backing away.
This shot was made with the lens set at 560mm, and I was about 30 to 40 yards away from the elk. A general rule is that the larger or more dangerous the animal, the farther you should be from it at all times. Maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from bears or wolves, and at least 25 yards from other animals. It is crucial to remember that animals can move much more quickly than we think. An elk can run at 45 miles per hour, bison 30 miles per hour, pronghorn antelope 60 miles an hour, bear 30 miles per hour, and fox and coyote 40 miles per hour. By comparison we lowly humans can run a short burst of only about 25 miles per hour, and that is for someone in good shape. So no matter what, it would be very difficult to outrun a charging animal.
Remember that when viewing wildlife in the wild, you are NOT in a protected area. It is not a theme park, and the animals are NOT tame, nor are they approachable. As much as you might want to get closer, it is unsafe to do so. In addition, in most areas it is illegal to approach animals too closely.
None of this is intended to frighten you. It is intended to keep you safe while you pursue your photographic endeavors. So get out there, be safe, and have fun.
Shutter Speed 1/500 sec. Aperture f/11. ISO 200. Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L with Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm. Camera: Canon 40D. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher." --William Wordsworth