7.23.2011

Capturing The Special Moments

6x8 In Reverting Meadow
In the last Post, I briefly mentioned that Paul Staniszewski, a frequent contributor to this blog,  has a website, "The At of Elk Photography". The site contains information on his Floral Macro Photog and Elk Photography, a map of the Benezette Area, a guide to photographing elk geared toward the new visitor to elk country, and a link to the PA Wilds website.  Paul reminds us that the site is under construction and the finished product is a long way off, but  he is off to a good start so be sure to visit his site.To do so click Here!

During my recent trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country I only saw one fairly impressive rack bull on Winslow Hill, but I saw him every morning at dawn.  He seldom missed stopping by this apple tree before heading into the nearby woodlands to escape the heat of day. There was a good reason why that he stopped by this tree and it is one of those things that the dedicated nature photographer is always looking for.  If you just drive up and snap a photo out the window and then drive away, you usually miss the special moments, but one must often work a situation as long as conditions are good, to capture the special moments. In this instance it was fascinating to watch him use the top of his antlers to knock small apples off of the tree so that he could feed on them.

Bull Uses Antlers To Dislodge Apples
Bull Strains To Reach Apples

This 6x8 is not an exceptional, nor yet a mature bull, but he is a good step above a raghorn.  Like all bulls on Winslow Hill, this one is trusting of humans. Two large but completely acclimated bulls have been killed near this spot in elk season during recent years.  Now the PGC has launched a public relations offensive in Game News with the last two issues, each carrying a story about Pennsylvania Elk hunting, in an attempt to portray this as a challenging, fair chase hunt, which it may be in some cases but especially not in the areas of Zone 2 on or in close proximity to Winslow Hill .  With the license allocation increasing in both Zone 2 and Zone 8 by two bulls each, the chances for this animal reaching an exceptional size are slim.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


7.20.2011

Sinnemahoning Visitor's Facility To Open: by Paul Staniszewski

Sinnemahoning State Park Visitor Facility: Photo by Paul Staniszewski-all rights reserved

A new jewel has been added to the crown of the Pennsylvania Wilds Elk Scenic Drive.The official name is the Sinnemahoning State Park - Visitor Facility and it is located 5 miles from the boat launch located at the George B. Stevenson Dam on a scenic road that parallels the First Fork Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek.

According to Lisa Bainey, Park Manager, the Visitor Facility is completed and they are waiting for furniture to
be delivered by the end of the month and that the official dedication and opening will be sometime in mid-August.

The cost of the facility is $3,782,000.00 and will include a large exhibit/interpretive area, classrooms, visitor services and park administration.The building was placed to take full advantage of views of nearby elk herd feeding plots and other wildlife. Also, the 142 acre Stevenson Dam is known to be the home to a pair of year-round nesting eagles and various waterfowl that can be observed from the boat launch area.. The new Visitors Center is approximately 30 miles from Benezette and represents some of Pennsylvania's most pristine wilderness and is well worth the trip.

Story and photo by Paul Staniszewski. For more information about Paul's photography, elk photography tips, and more, visit Paul's website: The Art Of Elk Photography.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill

7.18.2011

Mid-Summer Elk Calf Photography in Pennsylvania Elk Country


PGC Food Plots Cloaked In Heat And Haze of Mid-Summer Evening
I spent most of last week photographing and filming wildlife in Pennsylvania Elk Country with a primary focus on calf elk and bulls in velvet.  The PGC had completed most if not all of their summer mowing program on SGL 311 on Winslow Hill by the end of the week.  With sufficient moisture the grass soon grows enough that it provides excellent forage for wildlife and is more pleasing in appearance, but with the region  suffering from a severe drought, many of the food plots that had been mowed had a burned desolate appearance and little wildlife was to be seen in them. Even without rain this should improve to a certain extent in the weeks to come, but a soaking rain  would make the meadows explode with life.

There were a lot of cows and calves to be seen, but photographic conditions were extremely difficult as most of the encounters occurred when it was too early or too late for the cameras to work well, or the range was too long or the cover too tall.  Most of the elk were attracted to the grain that is planted in the reclaimed areas of The Saddle and in many areas it was too tall to see the calves.  I finally found several calves in a good situation early Friday morning. 

I had seen them near the ponds on Dewey Road on one other morning and again on Thursday evening, so this seemed like the best chance for success on Friday morning, but first I checked a nearby meadow where I had seen a bull throughout the week and he was there. Paul Staniszewski arrived shortly after I did and we photographed the bull for a short time, but I left for the ponds as soon as possible so as to get there before sunrise.  There was a large herd of cows and calves in the meadow around one of the ponds.   Initially I filmed the elk with a Canon Rebel T3i and the 500mmF4, but then decided to try for still photographs and mounted the 7D and 500mmF4 on the Gitzo tripod with Wimberley Head and the XL-H1 video camera on the video tripod.  It is hard enough to get either good stills or video segments, but just try alternating between the two sometime or even shooting both simultaneously.   It is difficult, but regardless of this,  I did get some acceptable photographs and video clips.

Calf Nursing On Pond Bank: Note light fog on reeds and grasses to left of elk.

Paul soon arrived and got some photographs, but soon the rays of the sun  touched the tree tops, and before long the elk went into the hollow between Dewey Road and the food plot to the south.  We were discussing the results of the morning shoot when Paul said, "look there", and two calves came running onto the  pond bank directly across from us. I quickly framed one of them and took several photographs.

Calf Standing On Pond Bank
Calf  Reverses Direction
At this point I realized the other calf was not in sight and looked to my left, searching for him.  Paul was frantically firing away at another spot and I suddenly realized I was missing the best action of all as the other calf was drinking from the pond!  I tried to compose the shot, but there was too much grass between me and the calf.  Taking a few steps to the side helped somewhat and then the calf lifted its' head and I was able to capture it with a water droplet dripping from its' chin.

Calf  After Drinking
The calf did not return to drinking but rather in a few moments rejoined its' companion on the pond bank and together they went into the woods to escape the searing rays of the sun as the rest of the herd had already done.

Originally Posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

7.08.2011

Excellent Mid-Summer Photo Opportunites In Benezette Area

With summer well underway, there are plenty of excellent photo opportunities in the Benezette area, with the young calves and the bulls with their velvet covered racks being the main attraction. Antlers growth is rapid and they  already were quite large by mid-June, when Paul Staniszewski photographed a fine bull shortly after dawn on Winslow Hill.

Bulls Have Substantial Antler Growth By Mid-June: Photo by Paul Staniszewski-all rights reserved
By early July they are almost completely developed with most if not all of the points the animal will grow being present and  most of the antler mass is developed.  From now on growth will  mostly be a further increase in mass, and the tines will become sharper.  On Tuesday, Paul was on his way to the Elk Country Visitor Center to replenish his stock of elk and flower cards and framed larger format photographs, which are for sale in the gift shop, when he encountered an impressive bull by the roadside on Gray Hill.

Mature Bull On Gray Hill: Photo by Paul Staniszewski-all rights reserved

This is one of the few "character" bulls remaining and is known as Mr. Attitude, by several elk watchers and photographers.  This bull has spent a lot of time in downtown Benezette and is totally acclimated to humans.  It seems certain that he spends a substantial part of the year , if not all of it in the No Hunt Zone, Hunt Zones 2, and 8, and possibly Hunt Zone 10. With four bull tags issued for hunt zone 2 , 4 for zone 8, and two for Zone 10, this means that most likely TEN bulls will be shot in the areas immediately surrounding the center of elk tourism on Winslow Hill, since the success rate on bulls seems to range from 90%--100% and one can be certain that it will be the largest bulls that will be shot if they are seen.

Bearing this in mind, tourists and photographers should enjoy seeing this animal while they can, as it is not likely he will live to see another year unless he is lucky enough to stay in the No Hunt Zone or be on property where elk hunting is not allowed, during the elk season.

I thank Paul for sharing these photographs.  When visiting the area, be sure to check out his merchandise, along with that of many other artisans at the Elk Country Visitor Center.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.