Archive for Elk

My Best of 2012

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2012 by chamimage
Lake Louise Boat House

Lake Louise Boat House

2012 was a rather odd year, but a good one, altogether. I think I am making more images that I consider to be good and I am growing, photography-wise. Here-in are some of the highlights of 2012 for me.

My Favorite Image of 2012 – The Lake Louise image above wins by a nose for me. It will go into the gallery in 2013.

Maasai Herding Cattle

Maasai Herding Cattle

Most Views on Flickr – I don’t even try to figure out what gets viewed on Flickr any more. The best images have few views and odd stuff gets tons of views. It is sort of whether you tap into a special interest of some kind. The second most views are of an old mediocre image of a wild horse. Horse images get a lot of views. I have no idea who looks at Maasai tribesmen herding cattle, but somebody out there looks at them a lot.

Samburu Chief's Hut

Samburu Chief’s Hut

Most Views on PhotoDeck – My own stock photography site is equally enigmatic. This image above gets the most views for a single image, but as for the most viewed subject, it would be two photos of blue lights in trees approaching the London Eye in London.



Best Selling Image of 2012 – The sundial wins in terms of stock photography sales. A tree frog wins for amount of profit from gallery sales.

Best New Software – Photoshop CS6 upgrade. I really don’t know how anyone can live without it. I upgraded Lightroom as well, but to be honest, if Bridge was faster and sharper I’d leave Lightroom in a second. It’s inefficiencies astound me, mostly because everything it does poorly is done better in Bridge, which is free with Photoshop. It’s hard to believe the same company makes both. They obviously don’t talk to each other.

Most Used Lens/Favorite Lens – This year it is the same lens for both, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR I. Usually the 600 mm is the most used lens, but this year I couldn’t afford to go to Africa or Yellowstone so shot more landscapes. Still haven’t upgraded to the VR II version because I like the one I have. Back in 2000 my trusty Nikon 80-200 lens was stolen and I replaced it with the latest version and hated the new lens. I learned my lesson about replacing a great lens just because there is a newer version out there.

Biggest Surprise – I had my first two gallery openings in 2012. And actually sold a few prints. Equally surprising was that the Oregon State football team, which was 3-9 last season, beat Wisconsin in our opener and went on to finish 9-3 this year.

Best Trip of 2012 – I have to say the Redwoods trip in May because I got two great gallery prints from that trip despite the sunny weather (you need fog and clouds for good forest photographs). I had more fun on the trip to Banff last fall. If it’s snowing, I must be on vacation.

Best Popular Book – The Hunger Games. It was a long year of starting books and setting them down out of boredom. And even though the first Hunger Games book was a page turner, the second book was unimpressive and the third book is sitting around half finished and haven’t picked it up in a week now so it obviously hasn’t gripped me. I only started it because the second book ended rather abruptly and I wanted to at least finish what should have been finished in the second book. Seems like there are no editors out there encouraging authors to cut the boring bits out these days (as in the entire first 300 pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Best Photography Book – I read quite a few photography books and wasn’t wow’ed by any of them. Art & Fear was the best of the lot, though it is about art in general, not photography. The Will of the Land wasn’t a photography book, but was written by a photographer and had the best photographs of any of them.

Biggest Blunder of 2012 – Again, so much to choose from this year. In Banff I spent the first couple of days realizing why you shouldn’t not pick up a camera for a long spell. I made every beginner mistake there was to be made. But, the biggest blunder was getting giardia somewhere in Olympic National Park in Washington in July. I didn’t drink out of any rivers or creeks so I think the filter system in a back country lodge must have been inadequate. It made for an interesting couple of months afterward before I finally relented and saw my doctor who nailed the diagnosis right away. Of course, it is self-limiting – about two months for it to run its course. Go figure.

Stuff I Really, Really NEED in 2013 – My needs are small. A pittance, really. 1.) A second tripod so I don’t have to constantly switch from ball head to Wimberley head. I have a little Giotto ball head on a bracket that I can put on the Wimberley head, but it is not ideal. 2.) Wacom Intuos 5 tablet. I have an Intuos 3 tablet and use it all of the time, but it doesn’t have the pen pressure sensitivity of the newer tablet. 3.) Nikon D600. I still need to sell my D300 and I have a D3 for a backup camera body to my D4, but for a lighter travel camera body I might need a D600 if I can swing a trip to Europe this year.

Frolicking Bull Elk

Frolicking Bull Elk

Warmest Memory of 2012 – When this bull elk  suddenly quit grazing and ran across the road I thought something had scared it. I carried my tripod through a ribbon of trees and on the other side was a meadow and this loony bull frolicking about like a calf. What a goofball! He was throwing his head around and changing directions just like a calf playing. I had no idea bulls did that, too. That’s my story, but an alternative less optimistic,  explanation is that maybe he got a bot fly up his nose, because I’ve seen a caribou do this when he got a bot fly up his nose.




Posted in Natural History, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by chamimage

Emerald Lake_Yoho

Things I learned in Banff last week:

1. The Canadian Rockies are still beautiful. It had been 14 years since I had visited.

2. You really do need to keep shooting photographs to keep in practice. I made a whole bunch of stupid mistakes the first couple of days.

3. The new Nikon D4 has, for some reason, turned the exposure meter in the viewfinder upside down as opposed to the previous six Nikon cameras I have owned. I have been shooting long enough that I usually dial in exposure compensation without looking in the viewfinder so this caused some problems. After an embarrassingly long time I finally found the sub menu that turned the exposure meter readout back right-side up. THEN the main command dial dialed the exposure the wrong direction so I had to go back in and find a sub menu that let me reverse that as well.

4. I use the function button on the front of the camera for the virtual horizon so I don’t have to purchase ($35) and use one of those hot shoe bubbles that I always manage to break off. The virtual horizon in my brand new, extremely expensive Nikon D4 does not work. Neither does the multi-selector on the back of the camera you use to go back through images (chimp). Okay, it sort of works. Press it three times it might finally back up one image, or two images at one time. Or not. Not stuff that is worth sending the camera in to Nikon repair and never see it again for a month, but irksome in a brand new camera. The important stuff all works.

Aspen Grove

5. One of the reasons I went to Banff was to try to shoot a calendar photo of an elk. I failed. One reason is because elk are getting to be scarce in Banff. They have had to bring elk up from Yellowstone to maintain the breeding capacity. Not sure why. Wolf haters blame wolves, but they have always had wolves in Banff. The wolves did come into town and kill the tame local elk, which they weren’t really supposed to do. Of course they shot them for fear of the big bad wolf. These elk are as far north as elk can survive so it could be that heavier snow fall has simply made it impossible for them to survive winter. They don’t have a National Elk Reserve to migrate to in winter like the Yellowstone elk do.

6. Another reason I didn’t get a calendar photo of an elk is because the backgrounds are awful in Banff. Banff is woodsy, compared to Yellowstone, and there are either bushes and branches right behind the elk or there is a sloping road cut bank right behind the elk. The elk don’t spend much time in meadows in Banff.

Rocky Mountain Elk Bull

7. Bull elk frolic in meadows. I photographed a relatively small bull elk for about an hour one evening as he grazed along. At the end of the hour he inexplicably ran off. “Was it something I said?” I asked. I walked around some trees, expecting he would come out the other side into a large meadow. He did. He walked for a while and then he broke into a run again…and he frolicked. I have seen caribou in Alaska run around all of a sudden in response to a Bot fly up their nose so I can’t discount that as a possible explanation. Looked like play to me, dancing sideways and throwing his antlers around. The bull elk in Banff all seemed relatively good-natured in comparison with the Yellowstone bulls that savage cars and fight endlessly. Even when the largest herd of cows got spread out and was split in half by a competing bull one morning there was no battle. The two bulls just walked uphill side by side as though they were defining an imaginary boundary line and then one went one direction and the other the other direction and that was it. Near Lake Louise, where there are seemingly no cow elk, I saw six bulls feeding together as they do, but not during the autumn rut.

Frolicking Bull Elk

8. It is always a thrill to see a wild wolf. I didn’t get great shots, but I got to photograph them. The wolves are doing a bit better in Banff than they were twenty years ago. They are run over by cars all too frequently. A major highway bisects Banff. It has fences along it and wildlife overpasses and underpasses to minimize the carnage, but one female wolf got hit despite the fence and others got hit when a tree fell on the fence and it took forever to get it fixed. There is no fence along the Bow Valley Parkway and if you do the speed limit (60 km/hr or 45 mph) you will be constantly tailgated by speeders. Constantly. Even in town there is a Welcome to Banff sign followed by a sign warning that there have been way too many bear, wolf, cougar, and deer deaths along this road. They continue to use salt on icy roads instead of magnesium so the bighorn sheep are crucified when they go on the road to lick the salt. They can afford to build fences and wildlife overpasses, but not to use magnesium on icy roads?

Wild Timber Wolf

9. Water from the Bow River, which originates in the Bow Glacier above, you guessed it, Bow Lake in Banff, flows all the way to Lake Huron. Water from the Athabasca River, originating in the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper flows all of the way to the Arctic Ocean and down the Frazier River to the Pacific Ocean. Impressive.

Bow River

10. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on October 8th. I got a two-fer this year.

Happy Halloween from the Bow Valley Parkway

Tall Trees

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2012 by chamimage

Del Norte Redwoods

I have spent the past week driving down the Oregon coast to the Redwoods in northern California. I was hoping the rhododendrons would be in bloom, but, even though they were blooming all down the coast, they were resolutely unwilling to bloom in California.

I had one good morning in the redwoods with overcast marine air. The remainder of the days were cloudless and decidedly not foggy. When it is sunny and bright in the forest you can either do macro shots, or look for God beams like the image above. I was driving along looking in the forest for some good cathedral light and came around a corner to see the whole road bathed in this gorgeous light.

Face Rock_Bandon, Oregon

I just loved the face in Face Rock. Legend has it that this is a Native American princess that ignored warnings not to go near the sea. She was grabbed by the sea monster, Komax, while swimming. Still in his grasp after all these years, she refuses to look at him, turning her face toward the sky, instead.


It is not low tide season for great tide pooling yet, but there is always something to photograph in them.

Cape Creek Bridge

The classic shot of Heceta Head lighthouse was not available due to a lens repair under construction. Who do they find to replace a lighthouse lens these days? They probably had to bring some old guy out of retirement and it is taking so long because he is up there on the scaffolding with his walker puttering around. The Cape Creek Bridge was a reasonable substitute for the lighthouse.

Roosevelt Elk

I made a mistake one morning. I got too goal-oriented and did not turn around to shoot a fog bank laying in a valley on my way to Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Later that day I was leafing through Larry Ulrich’s photo book on northern California and he had a similar shot and it looked amazing. I tried to make up for my mistake by heading back down to the spot the next morning, but there was no fog bank. I decided I would drive as far as Orick and turn around and there, right at the city limits, was an elk herd grazing beside Redwood Creek. I spent about an hour and took 180 images. It made me feel a little bit better about missing the fog, but still…

Recent Work

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2011 by chamimage


I just wanted to post a couple of images that I’ve worked on recently that really rock my boat. The above image has gesture. I can’t define that, but I know it when I see it. It has color (though it actually looks pretty good as a black & white). I got some reflected light on her face, which really draws the eye right there, as if you needed me to point a face like that out.

Winter Elk

This photograph speaks to the minimalist in me. It is from a scanned film slide from 2005 and is just a great scan. The slide has sat unappreciated in my file cabinet for six and a half years. Diving into the old file cabinet is a bit like treasure hunting, you never know what jewels might be in there. I pulled it and scanned it to include in a submission to a magazine wanting photos of elk in snow.

It’s getting to be time to decide which images are going to end up as prints that will be entered in the state fair in September. These two are contenders.

We are getting into the dog days of summer where I don’t usually shoot as many new photographs…which is okay because there are still 2,175 images in my edit file I need to get around to.

Does Digital Enhance Creativity?

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by chamimage


Bachelor Herd

“Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.”

Arthur Schoenhauer

Winter is always a time for a bit of philosophical noodling. The question of whether digital imaging has increased creativity over what a photographer could do with film came up a couple of times recently. There are many young photographers out there now who have never shot on film. I don’t think there are too many people who don’t believe digital has provided a tool with the potential to enhance creativity, but not without a price.


Resplendent Quetzal

In the ‘good old days’ of film a photographer had to submit the unenhanced actual piece of film on which he or she captured the image to the client. Scary stuff, now. The exposure had to be spot on and the composition had to be right. No cropping. No Lightroom or Photoshop. There were a couple of years there during the transition that it became obvious that film shooters were at a considerable disadvantage in photo contests.

With digital we have gotten sloppy in those areas of exposure and tight composition, no doubt about it. I see it every time I edit my photographs. I have heard the very instructors that taught me about mid tones and exposure theory in the film days now say “Just take a photo and look a the histogram and tweak it as needed.” No more spot metering on a mid tone. No need to re-compose, that branch in the corner of the frame can be Photohopped out in post production.

Jay Maisel said “Light, gesture, and color are the key components of any photograph. Light and color are obvious, but it is gesture that is most important.” You need to present in the moment to capture nuance, and it is nuance that will propel the image to greatness. If you are glued to your LCD preview you are not in the moment with your subject and you are missing the ‘decisive moment’.

It is still important to have a clue about how to quickly assess the situation and set your exposure compensation accordingly. Many times the action isn’t going to wait for you, you’ve got to wing it and get a quick shot. Arthur Morris claims he can set the exposure compensation without ever looking at the camera, by counting clicks of the dial, while bringing the camera up to take the photograph.

Of course, one way to do dial in the exposure is to be prepared in advance. Have the camera turned on and set to f/5.6 and check out the exposure in advance. Of course, the wolf will then, inevitably, be in the shade or  silhouetted against the skyline, but at least you had a chance. With film I used to work in Manual mode exclusively and it had its advantages. The meter was not fooled into making a bad exposure. It also forced me to think about exposure compensation routinely. Now I use Aperture priority and it works well to get an exposure quickly, but will fail me when I have to shoot against the bright sky or with panning shots. I have gotten in the habit of trusting the camera to give me a good exposure.


Bull Elk

But, we have the option of not being so sloppy, however great the temptation. And we have gained more than we have lost with digital. To begin with, we can experiment more because we have all of these pixels we don’t have to pay for (well, the extra cost of the digital camera would buy a lot of film). We can chimp on the LCD and see if we nailed the exposure and composition, and if we did we are free to move on to trying something different. To experiment. We don’t need to bracket exposures like we did in the film days.

Just don’t chimp excessively. I have been hearing photo workshop instructors moaning about how their participants have fallen into the habit of checking the LCD after every click of the shutter, missing a ton of good shots in the process. Once you’ve nailed the exposure it isn’t going to change unless the situation changes. It is time to burn some pixels. Wait for a break in the action to briefly verify that you are still okay on the histogram.

With digital, we can also see the results of our attempts at blurs, artistic back-lighting, etc, and keep going until we have something creative, even if it takes one hundred shots to get a keeper.

I think one of the happiest days of my life was when I got my first inkjet printer and no longer had to put up with the print lab’s miserable, half-hearted efforts at printing my preci0us photographs. Digital allowed us to take control, and responsibility, for the output of our images.


Acoustic Guitar

We certainly have the option for creativity in post-production that never existed before Photoshop. How far you want to take that is a personal preference. Where the image is being sent will determine that in some areas like journalism and science publications. There have been some notable problems in that area with photo contests in the past year.

Digital has brought with it more tools with which to fulfill our creative vision. But we still need to bring our creativity. We still have to be there in the decisive moment. We can’t rely on the technology to do it all for us when that moment arrives.

So resist the sloppiness that digital invites. Think about exposure compensation for the situation. Compose carefully and don’t throw away half of your pixels with cropping (the photographers biggest asset is his feet. Move around). Be creative in-camera with white balance,  picture mode choices, multiple exposures (I can’t wait to try overlaying multiple exposures instead of one long exposure for waterfalls and river rapids).

The photographers whose work I admire the most, whose blogs I read regularly, are very weak at Photoshop. They don’t need to be good at Photoshop because they create their art at the time of capture, not by Photoshop tricks in post-production. That stuff gets old fast and won’t stand the test of time.

Half of the images in this post are from film and half are digital. I have to stop and think about which are which. I think that is a good thing.

Shoot, Share, Repeat

Posted in Photo Stories, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2010 by chamimage

Winter Bull Elk

I saw an interesting video of a talk a photographer gave about creativity. He was a commercial photographer, but even commercial and portrait photographers usually have a creative side project going at any given time. His schema was to create, share, and sustain. Creating images and sharing them is the fun part.

Sharing is mostly done by social networking or digital submissions these days. No more duplicating slides and mailing them across the country or showing physical portfolio prints.

By sustain he meant to make a living so you can keep creating and sharing. Sometimes that means waiting tables and sometimes that means taking commercial photography jobs you aren’t excited about.

This past week I have been in sustain mode, preparing a submission to a magazine that required scanning and Photoshopping multiple images that might not be the most creative images I’ve ever taken, but specialty magazines tend to like straightforward, journalistic content, not the artsy fartsy stuff. Not that there isn’t room to try to stand out by taking an image nobody else is likely to submit. I guess the creativity there comes in being different enough to stand out without going over the top about it.

I think the image above ought to be on the cover (hint, hint Ms Photo Editor). It shows behavior – feeding in the snow. It shows the cold environment by way of the frost on his fur and antlers. When blown way up the catch light in his eye is even a star-burst. No idea about the science behind that or how to ever do it again.

Most of the images I prepared this week were landscapes of certain areas that conveyed the essence of place, and were nice images, but there really isn’t a place for abstraction in this submission.

It is fun to get a want list and then go through your files and find images that fit the needs of the photo editor. Some day maybe my digital catalog will get built up to where I don’t need my old slides any longer. Hard to replicate some of that stuff. Nature doesn’t like to give you the same conditions twice in a row.

Winter Bull Elk II

This image was about as creative as I could get within the framework of an image of an elk in a grand landscape. The rest were photos of a landscape that happened to have an elk or two in them.

Today was spent buttoning up loose ends for my upcoming Africa trip. I somehow managed to neglect to get my visa for Kenya yet so that will cost extra to expedite. It took all day, but I’m at a point where I feel pretty confident that I’m on top of it and I’m not panicking every thirty minutes that I forgot something any longer.

This time I am going to concentrate on more blurs, landscapes, Maasai people portraits, and extraneous critters that are less common and that I didn’t photograph before. As well as Secretary birds and others that I didn’t photograph well last time. And Maasai herding cows. You would not believe how popular those are. Who are these people that are looking so frequently at photographs of Maasai people herding cows? Those, wild horses, and rusty cars are by far my most frequently viewed images. I have no idea why.

Female Leopard

Curious how I know for a fact that this is a female leopard? Wait for it. She had cubs.

Those lowered ears are her way of telling us to piss off.