Saturday, August 27, 2011

In-Depth Elk Rut Coverage Begins Next Week

It's finally time. Time for the annual Arkansas elk rut, the 2011 edition.

Arkansas Wildlife Magazine Back Cover,
Many Would Ignore This Chance
The real action for the elk rut begins just 3 weeks from now. At that time, the arrival of the big bulls signals the annual spectacle of bugling and periodic bull fights. Until then, bull elk and cow elk have been in separate herds since the last rut. The annual mating ritual will begin.

Photographers will want to prepare for the elk season. There are a few fundamental that matter most.

First, careful thought must be given to exposure. Elk are a very dark subject -- it is pretty easy to get the exposure too dark and lose detail as a result. For example, dew-laden grass can be pretty bright. Elk shot against this backdrop need to be over-exposed. Elk shot in dark conditions can be overexposed and washed out, so under-exposure might be needed. It might be worthwhile to visit Boxley Valley and photograph cow elk to get a feel for this often challenging subject.

Second, it is time to think about poses. It is nice to get your first picture of a big bull, but it is much better to get one posed in an interesting way. You can practice this away from the camera through visualization. I like to visualize poses, and the movements that lead to them in my easy chair. This is not only body position, it is about the direction of the light as well.

Third, think also about poses that others do not take. I have one bull picture that got the back cover of Arkansas Wildlife Magazine.  It is head down with light cutting across his body. My companion at the time did not take a single frame of this. He was not thinking of elk as an artistic subject, but only an animal. Step outside of convention by pre-visualization. If you have pre-visualized a shot or pose, you will anticipate it and recognize it when it occurs.

Third, look at the work of other wildlife photographers and attempt to understand what they were doing. This is closely related to the second point. See how they stretch, consider how you might do the same. Those who imagine artists are not deliberate in straining against their limits don't understand the creative process.

Photographers need to practice basic skills and pre-visualization much as athletes do practice drills. Practice conditions your instincts and ability to react to an opportunity when it arises. As someone once said, "chance favors a prepared mind". Do your homework and you will achieve results at a new level.