Picture it – a weekend morning on my way to Elk Island to capture the sunrise with hopes to find the damn elusive moose in water, when I came across not one, but two bull moose near some crop fields. After a quick detour, I had the rare chance to photograph bull moose, golden crops and the monster rising sun, all in the same bloody frame. I then enter the park and come across a couple hundred bison, slowly working their way off the loop for the day. I even photographed an injured bison, who could barely walk. Chances are she won’t survive the winter if her broken leg doesn’t heal in time (so sad). Later I see my mates and tell them I’m heading over to the ponds to photograph beavers. The sun had already risen higher than I’d like to photograph over water, but when looking for wildlife, you cannot always control the elements, and sure enough, the elusive beaver my mates couldn’t find, I came across. It was looking to be a good wildlife morning for me!
As I’m shooting the beaver, I did something I never do. I switched memory cards and to save time, I put the full card in my hoodie pocket and was about to grab the camera to shoot some more, when another photographer came up to me, as he had some questions. After our brief chat, he walked away to his vehicle, I grabbed my tripod and turned around, lost my footing and well, that was it. The rest sort of escaped my memory as I tumbled, extended tripod and large Wimberley head in hand, down into the ol’ wetlands. Stop laughing.
I thought I had broken my ankle, so I just sat there, unsure what to do next. The photographer came back, but not because he saw me fall, as he had no clue, but to shoot the beaver he missed earlier. Humiliated, not wanting to move, I remained sitting down in the swamp and pretended I was down there on purpose by adjusting my tripod for the perfect vantage point, checking ‘things out’, etc. In fact, I continued to sit on my ass in the stinky, shallow waters and vegetation until he left, which was about 10 mins. When I figured I was in the clear, I attempted to move and finally crawled out of the waters back to my vehicle, only a couple feet away. So. Klutzy.
After I got myself together, I retrieved my gear from the car, banged off some frames, then got inside my vehicle and sat there, watching the beaver work, popping off the odd image. It was then I noticed something was terribly wrong! Let’s see ….
No broken bones – check! Excellent spot found to shoot beavers from next time when wearing waders – check! Deflated ego – check! Thankful my camera and lens were still sitting on my passenger seat at the time – check! My FULL, 16GB Lexar 1000x Digital Film card – MISSING IN ACTION. I looked and looked and looked some more. I tweeted in a state of laughter, humiliation, and panic. I cried in physical pain and photographer pain, then I called my favourite partner-in-crime and cried to him. Chances are the card fell out of my hoodie when I auditioned for the wetlands diving qualifiers by tumbling in the swamp. There are no words to describe how sick I felt. I lost about 500 images I had taken of late that unfortunately were not uploaded to the computer yet, since I was holding off until I had everything transferred between the old and new laptop. Oops.
These are the wetlands where I fell in. Thankfully there was lots of vegetation stopping me from getting right to the waters by the beaver lodge, and I landed somewhere in between. Awesome. I snagged these images post-tumble. Oy.
We are well into the swing of the annual elk and moose rut, where bull elk and moose are truly something to see (and hear). So far, I haven’t been able to photograph the rut, but I’m sure hoping to spend some time doing so. It’s never enough, but I’ll take whatever time I can get this year, even if it’s only a few days. Oh yeah!
Of all the images I have of bull elk, I have to say this one makes me chuckle; here we have a very young, eager and rather inexperienced little bull, ready to find his mates for the season. He is yet to be crowned the king of the Rockies, for there are many years ahead of him before he reaches the status as the majestic one.
I had just purchased the Canon 300mm ƒ2.8 when I shot him (October 2009), and while I know it’s not the most desirable lens for wildlife in terms of focal length (I am reminded of this regularly, thanks, folks!), I was rather happy to be able to capture some of the habitat surrounding this young bull, turning what could be seen as gear limitations into an environmental portrait for this young North American Elk (wapiti). Close up wildlife portraits are always coveted by many, and they are so very important to capture, but so are behavioural captures and environmental portraits. Between these different kinds of images, we are able to have a better glimpse of our wild world.
Though for very different reasons as this young prince (haha), I too am eager for what’s to come.
See you in the field!
I was going to write up large post on this accident when I discovered more details, but instead with just a handful of words and images, I’ll mark the death of two beautiful Plains bison at the hands of humans in a motor vehicle accident on what is usually a safe road in the heart of Elk Island National Park, a place committed to the safety and conservation of wildlife, including both the Plains and Wood Bison.
“I feel like I’m nothing without wildlife. They are the stars. I feel awkward without them.” ~ Bindi Irwin
These aren’t the 2 bison killed yesterday morning by the driver, but these images of Plains Bison (bison bison bison) were taken at Elk Island by me in previous years.
Stay safe when in wildlife country, folks. For your sake as well as our wildlife.
See you in the field.