Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Moment to Remember

When we arrived at the Gilbert Viewing Area our last day, we initially saw no elk. Upon further inspection, we spotted a large herd in the distance. Immediately we zipped up our jackets and headed out on an hour-long hike to get a closer look. Being that there is very little guidance as to where the public is allowed to go and where not, we were somewhat worried about getting in trouble so we just followed the path our guide took us on when we went on our day-long trek to celebrate our anniversary. If any of you have more knowledge as to where and where not we can go, please share! There are signs in some areas stating no admittance without some sort of mine training but this is where our guide took us so we really weren't sure. I e-mailed him when we got home and he just said to stay off of the rusty-colored areas.

Anyway, as we came to the crest of the hill, we looked up to find a stunning sight that just could not be captured on film (although I did try!) The perfect silence and having all of the herd members looking right at us was indescribable. We took care not to disturb them (especially since the spike was very aware of our presence) snapped just a few pictures and turned back. It was a moment will will never forget and I am making this memory my last post for 2009.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year... I thank you for your support, direction, advice and most of all friendship through our blogs and our common love of the Pennsylvania Elk Herd and all wildlife in general. Looking forward to reading all your blogs in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Walk in the Park

OK, back to whitetail deer from Shenandoah although my heart is still in Elk Country after our wonderful trip this past weekend! We spotted this whitetail "couple" strolling along Skyline Drive and enjoyed watching them interact. Who doesn't enjoy a romantic walk in the park!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

As Promised... Fred & Friend!

After spending 2 days with Fred (Bull #36) and his new buddy, I am curious as to how long the two have been "hanging out" together. Has anybody else seen them in town like this? They were nearly inseparable except when Fred was napping, which he did much more of than the other bull. That's when the younger of the two would roam the town himself feeding, relaxing, and posing for us but he never strayed too far from his sleeping elder. I know Fred spent the summer with a spike nearby but I did not see tat one around this trip.

As I previously stated, Fred does seem to be experiencing some difficulty with mobility due to the cold temperatures. When he would first get up, walking looked painful, but once he got moving he seemed to loosen up a bit. He did travel all across town on both days and did not stay secluded to one small area which is what many animals will do when they are not faring well, so this is a good sign.

If anybody recognizes the other bull, please let me know! I am terrible with recognizing and remembering names since they often get other nicknames as well. Thank you!

Swing Set Rescue Bull Thriving

This series of photos begins at the stop sign on Medix Run by the Elk Country Store on Sunday. December 26th. After a very successful elk viewing day, we were leaving a herd that we had been watching in a yard near the store when Anthony noticed an elk on the hillside above us. We turned around and watched as he descended down the steep terrain and across the road. As soon as I laid eyes on him I knew I recognized him from Brad Myers' and Willard Hill's blogs from earlier this year. They documented this bulls rescue from an entanglement in a swing set where his damaged antler had to be removed. There was fear that he might suffer from trauma-related complications and until seeing him for myself I had not heard of any updates on his status. Well here he is... not only alive but thriving! He appeared strong and agile while maneuvering down the hill and across the river to meet up with the herd we had been observing. I had watched the video of his dramatic rescue and am happy to give an update on his status.

I did not take much time to edit these photos as I just wanted to get them posted for those involved with his rescue to see. I know there is a way I can tweak the color of the water in Photoshop to be more appealing but I have never done it before and am still trying to figure it out so maybe my next water crossing shots will be prettier.

I also wanted to give an update on Fred... it appears he has a buddy in town this winter. He and another younger bull with a stunningly beautiful (yet not huge) set of antlers were practically inseparable for the two days we were there. Marci has informed me that last year he was accompanied by another bull named "Snowy" so I am not sure if this is the same one or not. I will be posting pictures of him tomorrow so if you recognize him, please let me know. This bull was wonderful to photograph, and his antler coloration was absolutely beautiful. Fred seemed to be having some trouble walking, it definitely appeared his arthritis was making getting around difficult in the cold weather but he was all over town on both days and seems to be faring relatively well given his age and speculated arthritis.

I will try to mix the Benezette photographs and the Shenandoah ones to keep a variety but Fred and friend tomorrow then back to the deer.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Well Merry Christmas everyone! I just got home from a long Christmas Eve as my husband doesn't get home from work until 1130 so that's when the party really started! Tons of gifts, lots of great food, and all my family together which was pretty special.

As promised, here are a couple photos of the first buck we saw at SNP. up to this point, I had never been that close to an antlered deer before so I was excited to get such a close view. This trip, Josephine learned the difference between a buck and a doe so she would "put her antlers on" each time we saw a male.

Looking back at these photographs makes me really think about how special the time we spend together as a family is while I'm shooting and Anthony is trying to position the car for me to get a good view. The girls are amazed by all wildlife (although particularly partial to elk!) which feels great as a parent raising young ones in the age of computers and cell phones.

Thank you to all that have been visiting my blog, making comments, and offering suggestions. Special thanks to those always working with me to learn more about both photography and wildlife namingly Brad, Willard, Coy, Jim, & Marci... Merry Christmas and I look forward to another year with you all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

An Early Christmas Present

These are two of my favorite shots from our 12/17 Shenandoah trip and they just so happened to be the next two in line to be posted... kind of like a little early Christmas gift to all of you! I like the backlighting of the first image and the vastness of the backdrop in the second.

Tomorrow it looks like a few pictures of the first buck we saw are in store so stop back!

Have a very merry Christmas Eve and happy picture taking of friends and family!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hill Huggers

We came upon these two does grazing on a steep hillside (it was much steeper than what it seems here) but these girls never lost their footing. We spent a good bit of time here because where they were on the hill made it very easy for Josephine to see from her carseat.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Turkey Time!

So yesterday morning, I was in the kitchen getting Josephine a cup of milk when I glanced out the back window to find these three (what seemed to be dinosaurs at the time!) pecking at seed in the stump! We always put seed out for the birds and squirrels and these 2 toms and 1 hen showed up for a taste too. I snapped 2 shots through the glass but as soon as I tried to slide it open they got spooked and took off. I was impressed by how well they flew... the two toms were long gone right away but the hen stopped on a nearby branch for a moment before flying off.

I had never photographed through glass before (although I do remember Brad telling me this is how he does it in his yard.) Had I known how well the images would turn out even through the glass I never would have attempted to open it in the first place! Another lesson learned but really neat to see them so close. More whitetail deer tomorrow, unless something else unusual comes a knockin'!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Girls Day Out

While driving along Skyline, there was an abundance of does out enjoying the bright shining sun and clear blue skies. I don't have much to say about these 2 photos (they were just next in line to be posted) but I noticed that a couple of my favorite photos from the trip will be up in the next few days (if I continue just going in order) and I can't wait to share them with you!

I hope everybody is enjoying shooting in the beautiful snow!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sifting through Shenandoah

Well I decided that rather than try to pick my favorite shots from the trip to SNP, I am just going to post 2 a day in the order I shot them, unless of course I am able to get some new photographs to mix in in which case I will do just that!

The first one here was also the first click of the day and I had forgotten to take the camera off manual from when I let Josephine attempt to take a picture of Madeline which set the flash off. I actually love how the flash illuminated the doe but don't typically shoot with a flash as I never want to scare the animals. As soon as I looked down at my screen, I was in excitement mode since our last trip to SNP yielded not a single sighting let alone a photo.

In the second shot, I liked the way the grasses in the foreground "decorated" this doe. I am excited to share more whitetail photos as the days go on and just want to thank all of you that either comment on my work or share your own on your personal blogs. I have learned so much since joining Blogger and with people like Willard and Coy always teaching me new things about the animals I am capturing and Brad giving me such great photography advice I feel very lucky to have "met" such willing mentors. Thank you all, I hope your scheduled outings in the snow bring great images that you will continue to share!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shenandoah Piebald

We just returned from an absolutely perfect trip to Shenandoah National Park in VA. We were up at 3 am on Thursday and arrived just as the park opened to bright blue skies and relatively decent temperatures. Our last trip to SNP was as uneventful as you can imagine as we did not see a single deer but our luck improved this time! Right from the gate there were doe everywhere and they were more than happy to let me photograph them from the car window. Since we had our little girls with us, hiking is not an option so we have to leave it up to the deer to find us.

We had some time constraints as we were on our way to visit my in-laws in DC for an early Christmas celebration but we made it from the Front Royal entrance to Swift Run Gap so we did get to cover a good portion of the drive. Just after Big Meadows we spotted this rare piebald buck and as soon as I laid eyes on him I knew I had seen him before. Brad Myers had a fantastic post with photographs on December 8, 2009 which you can view HERE I remembered reading this post and thinking to myself "Wow, these guys are so lucky! They are always seeing something new and unusual!" so you can imagine how excited I was to recognize him and tell my husband everything I "knew" thanks to Brad. Although the shots aren't great (he was definately not in a photogenic mood that day!) just seeing him was rewarding enough for me.

These are by no means my best photographs from the trip but definately the ones I am most excited about so prepare for a ton of whitetail posts to come!

Thanks for visiting and for all of your constructive comments!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shenandoah or Bust!

Well I spent the day cleaning and packing to go see my husband's family in Virginia tomorrow. This is their first holiday in their new home since moving from South Jersey where they spent their entires lives up to this point. The plan is to get up very early and head to Shenandoah on our way there, unfortunately since sunrise is so early in the winter we probably won't make it there until a little while after. The last time we tried this we did not see a single deer so I am really hoping our luck is better this time! Skyline drive was open today so our fingers are crossed that all goes as planned in the early am. You are still able to hike the park even when Skyline is closed but with the freezing temps and the kids, we'll just hope it's open.

This photo is from the other day, I didn't use it originally because I don't like when artificial things (like the exercise trail sign) are in my wildlife shots but I needed something to post to see if my account is back up and running again.

I am still a little bummed that somebody messed around with my blog but the problem has been solved and no real damage was done. Again, if there is something missing that you'd like me to re-post, I'd be happy to try but cannot guarantee I will be able to restore anything else.

Have a great couple of days and I will be back Saturday hopefully with some great whitetail pictures!

Blogger Support

Well after a long night of recovering what I could so far, I learned that my Blogger account was "hacked" by the support team. I am shocked that my little photo blog would be targeted but several of my posts were altered and deleted. I spent a good while recovering what I could but some of the longer ones would take far too long to re-type. A friend of mine was able to find many of them stored in cookies or something that I have no knowledge of but Blogger will not alloy copy and paste in certain areas so I will not be taking the time to re-type all of those.

If you notice a particular post is missing, please bring it to my attention and I will attempt to address it. I am on Winter Break from school but have no plans to spend it re-posting old stuff because somebody decided to get creative with my blog. Just another example of how crazy people get around the holidays!

5 days ago my sister was shopping in JC Pennys for Christmas presents for my girls. She had her arms full of clothes for them and when she went to pay her purse was missing. A review of the security tapes by the police determined the women next to her at the rack actually cut the strap of her purse but since she had so many items she never even felt it. I would also like to point out that it was exactly 2 years ago that my brand new car was broken into in the Giant Eagle parking lot. I literally ran in to purchase a single item (diapers!) and came back to find my door pryed, window broken, and diaper bag and book bags stolen. I was on my way home from my last final exam of the semester.

Luckily nobody was hurt in any of these stories but I am very disappointed that somebody would taint such a positive blog for no good reason. Don't they say this is the most wonderful time of the year? :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blogger Problems

Hello everyone... I am having some issues with Blogger today. I seem to have lost many posts so please be patient, my friend is trying to recover everything but it is a slow process! Thanks!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A little action, and a lot of studying

I took this photo yesterday morning when I went looking for my little fuzzy deer friend but didn't originally post it due to lack of sharpness. Last night after a long day of studying and reading blogs and e-mails, I was flipping through a "how to" nature photography book. There was an entire section dedicated to action shots and the author went into great detail on how much he loves the blurred look of action taken at slow speeds. I got to thinking and realized that although I didn't use this photo because it was imperfect to me, others may enjoy the style... so here it is!

A small herd of deer came running across the road as I was walking up and I caught this doe in mid-air. It was a cold, mostly uneventful morning but was just what I needed before settling in for study session after study session. Well I'm back at it again today!

Tomorrow is my nursing final... if I pass then I will only have 1 more semester before my journey through nursing school comes to an end. Expected graduation date in May 5th so please say a prayer for me... my family has all sacrificed so much to support me in both my military career and my quest to become an RN. As much as I do miss dental hygiene at times, I am excited about my new endeavor in taking care of the whole person and not just their teeth anymore. Thank you all for your words of encouragement, they have been so motivational throughout this extremely difficult semester!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tons of turkeys... and a deer too

An early wake-up and 12 degree temperatures set the tone for a somewhat uneventful morning at Boyce. I set out in search of the young deer I have been so lovingly calling "Fuzzy" lately due to his extra soft appearance. Unfortunately Fuzzy did not come to meet me as he has in my past few visits. I did get to see about 6 doe and 1 youngster (pictured above) but for whatever reason, none of my photographs turned out very well.

I have to admit that my frustration is mounting... distorted images are beginning to haunt me! I will continue working with what I have and trying to dissect my technique to figure out what the heck I am doing wrong, but at the end of the day my inexperience coupled with low-quality equipment seems to be a recipe for disappointment. In the meantime, I will keep saving up my change while admiring the work of some of my favorite nature photographers/videographers and learn as much as I can from them!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another Deer Day!

I started off another morning with a sunrise run to see my good friends, the whitetail deer of Boyce Park. After parking my car and starting down the hill, I was immediately greeted by my little buddy from yesterday morning! He was, what seemed to be, chasing his shadow around on an old abandoned basketball court! This little one was just as friendly, playful, and curious as yesterday so I ended up sepnding just about all the time I had watching him. There was quite a steep hill between us which is why the images are not at sharp as I'd like, but these experiences with wildlife are by far more valuable to me than capturing them perfectly on camera. A herd of 8 doe came running by him in the neighboring field so he hopped over to join them for a bit then wandered behind as they moved on.

With my time just about up and my fingers getting numb, I caught a glimpse of another doe relaxing by the pond. Deer/elk/moose near water are tied with horizon/silouhette shots as my favorite positioning for photography! I clicked a few times then had to be on my way.

I am hoping to continue my morning visits when I can over the holiday break so there should be more whitetail deer to come!

Monday, December 7, 2009

After an incredible close encounter with the 2 biggest bucks I have ever seen in person last night, I set out early this morning in an attempt to track them down again. Unfortunately, our unplanned drive after drill yesterday left me without my camera and without what could have been some great shots!

Although I didn't find them again this morning, I was greeted by a friendly doe that was not bothered by my presence. She wasn't exactly cooperative with her surroundings leaving me little opportunity to photograph her, but it was nice just to stand and watch. I also had some fun with a youngster who was very curious. The little guy spent about 20 minutes circling around me while eating, playing, and grooming. The brush again made it difficult to photograph but with the sun directly above I eventually did get one to remember him by.

This was only my second time shooting in RAW and I am definately glad I am learning this way because those extra little touches done in Bridge make a huge difference!

Thank you all for your advice and support, I am working hard toward getting my D90 and new lenses in the future, but in the meantime am committed to enhancing my composiiton and learning Photoshop techniques.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Response to anonymous

In response to the anonymous user that attempted to post on this blog...

By stating that I should "stop feeding and watching the elk so I won't miss them when they are killed," you obviously have never taken young children to visit Benezette. First of all, I have NEVER, and I mean NEVER fed any of the elk or any other wild game animals.

If you could see the wonder and amazement in my young daughters eyes and the excitement in her voice when we spot that first elk on our visits, you would understand why we frequent the area. We are raising our children to appreciate nature and wildlife. I will not criticize your right to hunt wild, non-acclimated animals so please do not come to my family's blog and comment on our decision to expose our little girls to one of the few wholesome pastimes left for families to enjoy together.

Both the DCNR and RMEF believed in the concept of education and viewing of the elk... so much so they approved a major 12.4 millon dollar visitor center project specifically in Benezette aimed and doing just that. The center is designed to be the largest elk watching and conservation education facility in the Eastern United States. Please visit the DCNR website for more information on what a spectacular facility this is going to be come 2010. These animals were hunted to extinction in the 1840's then re-introduced to the area in 1913 but obviously not for the purpose of hunting if they are working so diligently to provide viewing and educational facilities for them.

I appreciate your opinion and you may visit a more appropriate forum to learn more on the matter, but I ask that you no longer make such comments on this blog dedicated to the beauty of nature that we are sharing with our children and other friends and family. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shooting RAW (finally!)

OK, so the closest person I have to a "mentor" in my new quest to learn the art of wildlife photography suggested a while back to begin shooting RAW. I was intimidated by the file sizes and the need to use Bridge before even getting into CS3, and since I have absolutely no experience in either I have been trying to teach myself. I am off school this week for Thanksgiving and thought I'd have much more time to play with this, but it just isn't working out the way I had planned! Anyway, I took my first stab at it today while some of my squirrel buddies were out back but my session was cut short when my indoor cat leaped out of the window I was shooting through to chase my furry friends away! I guess I will have to be more vigilant of where the cats are when I open that screen next time!

I recently attended a beginners photography class where the instructor said that it doesn't matter what camera you have, it's all about techniques. I have also been chatting with members of the amateur photography community that have or have had the D50 that I'm using and the general agreement is that no matter how well you get your composition techniques down... it stinks! I have been pondering saving up my money slowly to purchase a new camera as I am getting quite frustrated, but I have no idea where to begin in researching a new one. I have a couple Tamron lenses which were quite expensive and I would not be able to afford to replace them anytime soon so I am hoping there is something out there that they would be compatible with, Oh well, lots of research to do... maybe over Christmas break! If any of you have any ideas or advice, please chime in! I was misled in my purchase of the D50 by the shop in California I purchased it from so I hope to be more informed this time around. Thanks!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not the weekend for elk

Well, we just returned from our weekend trip to Benezette for the most unsuccessful elk watching to date. We were able to track down a few cows with a spike in town last night then found a bachelor group of 6 bulls behind some houses just outside of town this morning. Due to heavy fog, there are no photographs to document this trip nor the bull fight we witnessed at sunrise, but it was exciting nonetheless! To even further my disappointment, Fred was nowhere to be found either. We made several laps through town over the two days with no luck. Maybe all the hunters and gun shots, post-rut feeding needs, post elk hunt stress, and it being November all came into play this trip.

Not seeing the numbers of elk we are used to, we spent our time travelling new roads and took the drive up Grey Hill for some beautiful scenery. My in-laws seemed to enjoy their time there and hope to go back again when snow is covering. Although different, it was another amazing trip to Benezette and special thanks to Marci for recommending the Elk Country Store... they definitely added to our home decor and wardrobes this weekend! Ken was incredibly nice and that little store was so charming.

No elk photos to post, but this is "The Cross" on Grey Hill, once the fog lifted I did get a quick shot of it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Early morning

So I decided to leave an hour early for school this morning to make a pit stop to photograph the deer at our special spot. When I arrived, they were not all out in the field like usual so I began walking back into the wooded area and whitetail deer were everywhere! They were jumping and running, moving far too fast to get any decent shots but a lot of fun to watch. A nice sized buck gave me a great opportunity to capture him but my inexperience coupled with my new "no auto" rule caused me to miss it. I was able to get a few, though not great of other whitetails and even caught a doe hanging out with a turkey!

I know my husband would have loved being there with me this morning but he was home with the babies. I hope he can get out there himself this week to enjoy some "nature therapy" because the rut is such an exciting time of year!

Camera Critters

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Intimate encounter

A last-minute trip to Benezette gave us exactly 1 hour of daylight to see as many elk as we could, and once again we were not disappointed! We made it to a couple of our favorite viewing areas and found a few herds in the distance.

While there, we met a couple that seemed very nice as we watched a cow and her small calf roaming in the valley. We lent them our binoculars and told them where they could see a couple herds around the area. Josephine was amazed by the "baby elk" and kept asking for the "nocolars" to see it. As our conversation with the couple went on, the man informs us he was selected for the hunt and that they were there scouting areas for next week because since he only got a cow tag he wasn't willing to pay for a guide... he'd only pay for a bull!

I couldn't believe he was telling us as we are snapping pictures that he was there scouting the very same elk we were admiring! Oh the irony! Then to top it off, when he said "I just don't know where to go." and I replied "Well there are different zones and you will be assigned to one." he tells me that Benezette IS his zone. UGH!!! I completely understand the concept of population control, but I'm kind of attached to those elk and this guy was a complete buzz kill!

Luckily on our way out a nice bull decided to cheer me up by relaxing just a few yards off of the road. It was a very intimate moment with the sun going down and him trying to get comfortable to sleep. Anthony positioned the car just right so I could try to get a couple pictures and that was it. After looking, I now notice that he seems to have a cut above his right eye, possibly a battle-wound from the rut? All in all an amazing hour but very few photo-ops and a little bit of frustration but totally worth the 5-hour round-trip!