Arkansas Wildlife Blog and Gallery
Buffalo National River and NW Arkansas
2011 Elk Rut Gallery #1
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.
Silence is, after all, the context for the deepest appreciation of art: the only important evaluations are finally, personal, interior ones.
Bull Elk in Velvet Grazing at Dawn, Boxley Valley July 31, 2011
This is an ordinary picture (left), but it does illustrate the power of dramatic light, sometimes called "cinematic light". One of the reasons I take photos at the ends of the day is that I am seeking just this sort of light. In this light, the ordinary becomes emotional. The challenge is getting the exposure right. This is under-exposed because the dark background fools the exposure meter.
After the elk rut, bulls form bull herds. In the spring and summer they get into velvet. This picture is a wildlife "landscape". There is more interest in placing the animals in context. In this case the context is Boxley Valley, in front of a very old shed that is slowly deteriorating.
With experience you actually see three types of elk herds when the elk are not rutting. There are cow herds, bull herds, and yearling herds (left). They are last year's calves. Often they hang out together like teenagers.
The bull elk to the right is just past being in velvet. He has positioned himself in a cow herd and will be an early participant in the rut. Each year I have observed these early bulls. Often they are just a bit smaller than the eventual dominant herd bulls that will arrive after the start of the rut. Because these early bulls are big, one forgets how big the dominant bulls are. When the big boys show up, these "second tier" bulls are no match for them. They become "satellite bulls".
Often these smaller satellite bulls take over a herd after the second estrous in November and December to mate in the third or even fourth estrous cycle. The really huge bulls generally retreat, exhausted after the second estrous from mating and territorial defense.
This set of three pictures shows the first rutting bull of the 2011 season. He migrated to a herd of cow elk from over a mile away. The thing that clued me to this was the fact that he was walking, and not walking and grazing. He was on a mission.
Within minutes of joining these cow elk he started thrashing bushes along the Buffalo laying down scent. I got in position where I thought they might cross the river and I got my first herd crossing of 2011 on September 6. Very early for rutting, and also quite early to get a river crossing. Shots along the river motivate me the most because they place the animals in the context of Buffalo National River. The bull is the one I call "Hacksaw".
Pictures, regardless of how they are created and recreated, are intended to be looked at. This brings to the forefront not the technology of imaging, which of course is important, but rather what we might call the eyenology (seeing).