Mid-Summer In Elk Country

I was in Elk Country most of last week, photographing and filming the elk and working on "Pennsylvania Elk Country", the new film slated for release in late summer. An added bonus was getting to work more with the Canon 5D MK III on Pennsylvania's largest wild animal and getting my feet wet with the Panasonic DMC-GH2 EVIL (acronym for electronic viewfinder Interchangeable lens)camera, for long range video work. I concentrated on looking for calves and bulls in velvet, and did see quite a few.

Shy Cow: Canon 5D MK III-500mm F4 ISO 100 1/500 sec. f4.5
The cows and calves are still somewhat shy in most cases, and it was difficult to get close-up portraits of them-especially the calves. This is amazing because the same cows that flee now, will continue to graze peacefully when other herd members are shot close-by  in hunting season, or at least they did last autumn and I would expect no differently this year.

As one would expect, most wildlife activity was very early and very late.  If you miss being out there at the crack of dawn, you have missed the best part of the day.  The cow above was photographed at 7:41 a.m. and most of the elk had already gone into the woodlands.  They spend very little time in direct sunlight at this time of year.  If they have not already left before, they tend to leave a meadow soon after the first rays of sun touches it.  Fortunately, I did luck out to a certain extent concerning the weather on this trip, as I am told it was extremely hot in elk country the week before, and returned to sweltering temperatures by the weekend, but most of my trip was quite pleasant summer weather, which is to say hot, but not unbearably so.  In fact a light sweater felt good on most mornings.

Early in the trip I found that cows and calves were using a secluded meadow quite frequently, and I spent two evenings watching it. On Wednesday evening a group of cows and calves came into range, but some of the adult cows picked me out and barked at me   The calf in the photo below raised its' head from grazing and looked at the cow that had just barked.

Alert Calf In Late Evening: 5D MK III-500mm F4 ISO 400- 1/250 sec.,  F4.5
This encounter occurred at 7:54 p.m.  In time they worked into a strip of woods and began working toward Winslow Hill Road and soon you could hear the traffic on the road stopping as people paused to observe the herd.

On that note, I must mention that I saw very few other elk watchers or photographers in the mornings, but there was quite a bit of traffic in the evenings.  It seems that interest is higher this month than what it was in June.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

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