If there are two animals that really sum up “the plains” it’s the Bison and the Pronghorn. These are true plains mammals. Both were hunted for their hides and meat and at one point were on the edge from being over hunted. Today both can be witnessed throughout the west.
Photographically these two mammals couldn’t be further apart. One is massive and dark brown the other is tiny and a bright tan/white. Both together they represent a history. This morning was perfect for the two of them as the cloud cover created a nice scrim to diffuse the light so neither stuck out or blended in. Using the D5 and 600 f/4, I watched as the two herds moved by each other.
I often don’t go towards the more artistic side of wildlife photography but every now and then an opportunity presents itself and you just have to go with it. After my run in with the wolf I truly done for the day. I didn’t think it could get any better and the light was fading away. After going around a turn I came upon this lone male Pronghorn and in that one instant I saw the image.
If you’ve looked at wildlife magazines then you’ve probably seen an image like this but this one is mine! A silhouette on a hillside. Clean and simple. Shooting wise nothing much except to underexpose a lot and shoot in cloudy white balance to bring out more of that sunset. A great way to end things.
Well I can’t really believe it but Photoshop World is just two weeks away! Every year it seems to get here faster then the last year, even with only one event this year it still seemed to come up fast. Last year I had the privilege of speaking for Adobe at the Adobe Booth talking about Adobe Camera Raw how it can be used from the basics all the way to light painting. Well it was one heck of a learning experience and I had a great crowd throughout the event. This year I will be teaching for KelbyOne at the Kelby Theater on the Expo floor Tuesday at 5:00pm. The topic this time will be a little bit of everything so that anyone can go from the crowd to the stage. Well this week and next I’ll be talking about a few different things to help out every photographer.
When I first moved to Montana I was interested in many things but Wildlife Photography was never one of them. It didn’t take long for that bug to bite me. I was out exploring every weekend looking for new subjects and documenting their worlds. Like anything else there was a learning curve and each species had it’s own twist. These Mountain Goats were photographed up by Glacier National Park a number of years ago while they were on a salt lick. When it comes to working with big game there are only two ways to compose, either tight cropping off part of the subject when composing or wide so that you take in more of the environment that the subject lives in. Often times it’s easier to get environmental shots because it you simply can’t get close enough physically to the subject. That’s partly why the stigma of the portrait shot in wildlife photography is so sought after. If the goal however is tell the story of how that animal lives then it’s best to try and achieve both. Now that particular critter may not give you that option but that’s where patience comes into play and man is it important with wildlife.
Of course when you get that portrait shot it does tend to stick out amongst your digital library. Profile views certainly tell a different story then a straight on portrait but there is a reason that those kind of portraits don’t come up as often. It comes down to the biology of where the eyes are physically with each species. Humans have eyes in front of their face so the best angle is straight ahead. Not all species share that characteristic. A lot of the time the best view is to the side. Birds are a great example of this because they are always turning their heads to get a better angle. Instead most mammals rely on sound. Ungulates especially rely on their hearing. Knowing this kind of biology is critical when it comes to photography.
It always amazes me that i have the brain power to continue this blog considering the fact that i normally write them late at night when I’m really not at all awake and should not be at the computer at all. But hey it gets down. I was out and about this past weekend like i normally am and it was kinda an odd one. The park had an odd quiet to it. Which for me i liked. I personally don’t prefer the busy bustle that happens far to often, makes it harder to shoot and it makes it harder too just stop and enjoy the beauty. Saturday was a rather beautiful day with blue skies and warm weather, and i think I’m not the only ones that noticed because the critters just were not around to par take in the enjoyment. I mean when it’s 40 degree’s out in February it’s too hot.
If it were not for these Pronghorn i probably would not have shot much that day. I couldn’t even find the sheep that day except for one very nice elder Ram with some long curls but in a very bad position to be photographed. He had to just be watched and moved on. Sheep of course have a low tolerance to heat and actually prefer the colder temperatures of the upper cliffs. These Pronghorn were right at the entrance to the park and although i was looking for the sheep to put with the blue sky and beautiful light for the ridge shots, the Pronghorn seemed to suffice just fine. Now this particular male looked right at me, looked at the patch of sun behind him and walked away from it just to spit me but hey that’s an ungulate for ya.
Images captured with D3, 600f4, Tc-14e, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Today was the last day of shooting here in the Black Hills. The week ended kinda like it started, with a drive around the wildlife loop. The great thing about this loop is the fence line that plays host to a number of bird species that we have been fortunate to play with this week. The Meadowlark and Mountain Blue Birds were definitely one of the more enjoyable subjects to play with. The Meadowlarks have such a color that cannot be missed nor should it be ignored.
Later down the road we found the Pronghorn and Bison that the park is just known for having. This trip showed just how much fun it was to get big game in the eye of the long glass. Especailly the Pronghorn, before this trip i had no great archive of shots, now i do. It amazes me how one week of shooting this species can be so moving. There’s more to shoot and far more to see but not this trip.
Images captures with D2Hs, 600f4, TC-14E, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Today was day two here at Base Camp South Dakota and it was another great one. The day began with one of the creatures that really makes this place what it is, the Bison. Spring calf’s and their mom’s and big heard of them moving through. Early morning light combined with dark coats made for some great shots. These little guys are so much fn to play with because of their expressions. They are cute and playful everything one might expect from a newly born.
After the couple hours with the Bison we headed back down the wildlife loop towards the fence. Dad and myself got out our big lenses expecting to find the birds that perch on the posts and the wire. There is one sound that is truly captivating out here and that is the sound of the meadowlark. Their call can be heard every morning and it never seems to get old. It can’t be seen here but the chest is a vibrant yellow that stands way out. The combination of there posing and the colors make for some great opportunities.
After a great morning we went back to our rooms for some downloading, cleaning of gear and of course sleep before our nest classroom sesion. This one was on flash technique a very important issue that is a must for every photographer; for me personnally a lot i don’t know and need to learn about. After the session we headed back out to the park to the afternoon shoot. One of the best critters in custer is the Pronghorn. There are so many different ways to shoot them, which makes them so versatile. This time the male came right up to us and thus we were able to capture some great portrait shots. This is one of my weaker ones just to give u an idea of how close they got. The day ended with a beautiful show by an Eastern Kingbird that excited the both of us, but will have to wait till tomorrow to see.
Images captures with D2Hs, 600f4, TC-14E, 70-300AF-S VR(Bison)on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
Today was the first day of Base Camp South Dakota. It was an excellent day. Dad, myself and the three participants are out in Custer State Park discovering the wonders of what makes this place so magnificent. This morning we were enjoying the delights of the Mountain Bluebirds on the fence posts that run along side the road. It’s mating time and the males are displaying for the females, how many of us have said those words. They proved to be a particular challenge for me, having to hand hold the 6oo out the vehicle window is not something im very good at, yet.
The morning winded down with the light getting to harsh for any good opportunities, which meant getting into the classroom for some learning. After a few hours in the classroom we went out looking for the Bighorn Sheep that inhabit these hills. We got so incredibly lucky and found a ram group of six rams! Now if you have been to my blog before then you know that i shoot a lot of sheep, it’s true i do enjoy photographing them, and I’m not alone in that feeling. Dad loves shooting them too, safe to say more so than myself. These bug guys were right next to the highway which poses two problems; one, the cars going by us with tripods and big lens out and two, people tend to stop. The group had to maneuver around the trees while staying off the road. not always easy but definitely worth it. This was one of my worst shots that i captured in those two hours.
After the amazing couple of hours with the sheep we wiggled down the road to the wildlife loop looking for critters in the dying sunlight. We found the usual pronghorn doing exactly what they do, grazing. The sun was getting low and this nice male tee’d up perfectly on the hillside for us to shoot. Along with him were six females grazing a little lower down but still in good range. The day ended perfectly with great shooting in the evening just like the morning, and this was day one! Stay tuned for more.
Images captures with D2Hs, 600f4, TC-14E, 70-300AF-S VR(Pronghorn) on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
This site was first created by my dad for me to use when i was ready. With the idea of me being in Montana by myself, i could think of no better way to illustrate my work then the idea of a blog. With the help by Josh Bradley, i now have an up and working blog…still some changes though lol. As time goes on i am hopeful to expand my site with more of my photography and writing.