My wife and I were driving the north loop of Yellowstone National Park this day looking for wildlife like everyone else was. Good thing the crowds wouldn’t be in park for another few weeks. As we drove along, enjoying the scenery, we approached a turnout and spotted a photographer with a big lens. Well, whenever you see someone with a big lens, you stop…if you are a fellow photographer. I didn’t see anything special to photograph but headed over to see what he was preparing to photograph. He set up a nice, heavy tripod with a Canon 500mm lens and a Canon 2x teleconverter on it. Camera of choice was a 1D Mark IV. I asked him if there was anything special to photograph and he told me to take a look. Not hesitating, I looked through his viewfinder and saw a bull elk with a younger one following. Both elk were so far away they were hard to see with the naked eye if you weren’t looking through a viewfinder. It was quite breezy, which didn’t help viewing through the lens with a 2x teleconverter attached…a lot of wind vibration.
The elks were on a tree studded point jetting out into a small lake and heading back to safer ground. We continued driving up the road to head them off…maybe, looking for another turnout where they might turn up and pulled into one. I was the only one there when the photographer from the other turnout pulled up beside me. Seems we had the same idea about where the elk might show up. I carried my 5D Mark II with the 70-300mm L lens mounted on the back seat and my 1D Mark III mounted on my Mamyia 500mm lens in the back luggage area. The other photographer already had his 500mm outfit out and was walking into the brush, I grabbed my 500mm outfit less tripod and started to follow.
We were about 100 feet from the cars when the photographer turned to the right and headed off. He saw a young couple hiking down below and they were signaling him with their hands that the elk were over to the right in the brush. At that point, I saw a huge set of antlers coming straight at me and told the other photographer one was coming right in front of me. He spotted the big bull and we both got ready with our cameras. I started shooting, but discovered the big bull elk was filling to much of my 500mm frame and stopped photographing to see where he really was…well, he was almost on top of me, so I started to back up at a pretty good pace. Meanwhile in the turnout, a lot more people stopped to see what was going on and were yelling at me to get out of there. They didn’t have to tell me twice, but I still wanted to back up keeping an eye on the elk.
When I got back to the car I grabbed my 5D with the 70-300mm lens and started shooting getting this image above. It seems that all that elk wanted to do is get across the road to better feeding grounds. The younger elk did show up, but was quite skittish about going amongst all the cars to get across the road, so he went further down the field to cross before joining the bigger bull elk.
All in all, quite an exciting adventure…Both elk were molting and their antlers were still covered in velvet. They will be rubbing the velvet off on trees and scrub brush getting ready for the fall rutting season.
Where was my wife during all this you ask? She ducked back into the car and “froze”…her own words. The other photographer’s companion ducked into their vehicle also and she is a photographer. After all this we had a great conversation with the two of them. His name is Jerry Hunsanger and you can find him on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/people/jercyber/ and his friend is Kathy Piper at http://www.flickr.com/photos/katpiper/ .
Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright Ben Gundy and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from Ben Gundy.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon EF 70-300mm f4.5-5.6L at 106mm
ISO 200, 1/500 sec at f/8