Monday, August 24, 2009

Elk Rescue In Benezette, Pa...


Thursday August 20TH started out like all the other mornings for us that week, we get up early, grab my coffee and some breakfast for in the truck load up our gear and head down the mountain from Saint Mary's to Benezette in search of Elk to photograph and watch. The weeks viewing was poor with the warm humid days and a fair amount of rain. Our hopes were high for the last morning with the storm front gone and doe and fawn whitetail we seen on the 30 minute trip to Benezette.

As we were entering the small community I always look to the left at the school building because Elk are often seen feeding in the grass. This morning I did a double take and as I headed for an area to turn around I told Shane that he would never believe what I just seen. As he said what did you see, my reply was it looked like a bull playing on the swings. It was still fairly dark and the fog was pretty heavy as we pulled back into the street leading to the school. I did not want to approach the Elk standing under the swings but I could not tell if he was tangled or just standing there. I tried a shot with the camera and zoomed in the photo to get a better view but the shutter speeds were just so slow I could not tell. As I turned to get back into the truck Shane quickly said Dad look, the Elk did have his antlers stuck in the chains of the swing.

We quickly headed for the store in town because cell phone service is non existent in the community. I went to the counter and asked the lady if she could call the game commission. Her reply was I only have a number if the Elk are injured or killed and I don't think they open until 7 a.m., it was about 6:30 then. I was a little perturbed as I was thinking the Elk may not be hurt now but he will break his neck or hang himself he he does not get help.

I got back in the truck and headed across the bridge just behind the store to see if there was any activity. What we found was a great photo opportunity in the water as a cow and calf were crossing the stream. I quickly parked off the bridge and Shane and I ran up in a hurry with the cameras. In a matter of less than a minute they were gone, but then that is my life story always a minute late. The Elk in the swings scenario was bothering me so I headed to the house Willard Hill was staying in. Willard is retired from the Pa. Game Commission and an expert on the Pa. Elk herd. As luck had it Willard had not left for the morning and I met him at the front door. After explaining the situation we headed for the school. Not being able to help the large animal ourselves we set up the cameras and awaited the arrival of someone who could.

This story and photo will take numerous post to tell, the intent of the photos are not to alarm anyone but to document what occurred that day. It is a part of nature and what can happen when wildlife and humans come together. Please check Willard's site the http://pawildlifephotographer.blogspot.com/ as I am sure he will be posting on the subject also. As I mentioned last week I will be posting my setting with some photos to show the difficulty in photography wildlife and the ever changing lighting conditions.

The first photo was the 11 shot I took that morning, it was recorded at 6:52 a.m., if you look at the grass and dirt under the bull it looks as if he had not been tangled very long. It was shot at 420 mm, ISO 1600, f4 at 1/50. The second photo was taken at 7:16 a.m. at times the bull would attempt to get out of his predicament and other times the traffic passing by or the addition of more people showing up would cause him to try violently to get free. Of course with all wildlife you also have the stupid people that try to approach closer than they should causing this reaction. It was shot at 300 mm, ISO 1000, f4 at 1/125. It became difficult to get sharp images when the bull tried to escape and his movements were to fast for the shutter speeds. The last photograph was taken at 7:20 a.m. at 330 mm, ISO 1000, f4 at 1/160. These photos were all taken with the Nikon D300 with the 70-200 2.8 VR lens with the Nikon 1.4 tele from a tripod. Unfortunately I do not know how to use batch processing and I use no noise reduction programs, maybe someday I will buy one and Shane can teach me how to use it.

As the week continues I will attempt to tell the story as it unfolded all three and a half hours of it. Shane recorded the events with my Nikon D90 taking stills and video footage, I hope to try and upload some video to the site later in the week.

1 comment:

Michelle Johnson said...

Hello Bradley~ I hope this has a happy ending as these pictures make my heart ache. It is upsetting that so many people gathered round only serving to agitate this poor helpless elk and adding more stress to his situation. But, I'm sure I would have had to stay nearby too as I would want to know if he was rescued or not. I will be tuning in for the rest of the story. Have a great night.