Injured Moose

Photograph of an injured cow in a stream
Injured Cow Moose

 

Moose live a difficult life. There are no emergency rooms, though some lucky critters may find their way to a veterinarian if injured and found close enough to civilization and there appears to be some calculated chance that human assistance can be provided. For most moose though, being injured is a serious business. Anything from a simple broken hoof to being hit by an automobile is usually a death sentence for one of these wild beasts. Add to the equation their coexistence with predators, parasites and contact with domestic ungulates, for a moose to survive for more than 10 years in the wild is probably highly unlikely.

Moose have also been known to attack their own. I’ve read that a cow moose will attack her own offspring if it tries to reunite with her while she has a new calf. The mothers chase their calves off when a new one is born. I’ve witnessed this, but the encounter wasn’t so much an attack as it was a series of threatening gestures.

I come across an injured or dead moose about once a year. I found this one this past Monday afternoon. She was hanging out with another cow in a field of willows along a stream near a lake. From viewing this photo at full magnification, it appears that she is blind in her left eye and has obvious signs of trauma to her body. There appears to be a mostly healed scar on her upper left forehead and you can see that her left ear is drooping so the damage to her head must have been quite severe. I can also see some pattern scaring on the left side of her body. There are several patches of fur that show a distinct pattern and these patterns seem more random than one might expect to see if it was struck by a vehicle. Her legs looked to be in good shape, so that tells me it wasn’t an injury that involved a vehicle. The scars are large and long and don’t all run the in same direction. A couple of spots also look to have a triangular appearance at one end of the scar. Her injuries appear to be mostly healed, but it’s obvious they were severe enough to impact her annual development. Her fur is more like you’d find on a cow in mid-May. By this time of year in Colorado, most moose have developed a chocolate two-tone coat. This moose still has a lot of winter fur on her body. This makes me think that she may have been injured earlier this year and laid up in some wooded area recovering.

I don’t know the source of her injury but my best guess is that she was severely stomped by a larger moose or attacked by a black bear.

I don’t know if a one eyed moose will survive long in the wilderness. She looks fairly young and able to move about, but moose have terrible eye sight to begin with. With one drooping ear, I’m sure her hearing as also been affected.

I hope she finds her way in life and can make it. My experience tells me that she probably won’t. For now, she is on her feet and and moving around among the others.

I wish her luck.

 

The Bear Truth

Photograph of a black bear Black bear on the move in Yellowstone National Park

With hundreds of thousands of photographs scattered across 6 or 7 hard drives, I often pull up image catalogs to mine them for stock photos.

Today, I opened up my “Bear” catalog to find a measly 100 or so photographs of bears I’ve taken over the past 15 years. None of which are all that good, so it looks like I won’t have a bear presence in the stock portfolios for a while.

I see bears a few times every year. Heck, I’ve had them walk through my yard in Red Feathers. The problem for me is that I don’t really go out looking for them. I just snap shots when I see them and have a camera with me.

Relying on targets of opportunity can generate an occasional stunning shot but as a strategy for accumulating a nice portfolio, it’s not going to achieve much in the way of tangible results. Perhaps one day, I’ll make a concerted effort to find the bears. For now, I’ll just pretend.

Today’s photo is a black bear that I spotted while sitting in a line of traffic in Yellowstone National Park. It was mid-day, the tourists were out in force and so were the park rangers. The bear seemed un-phased by the line of camera toting tourists gawking at him and continued his march across the hillside unabated. I tried to stay with him, at least until a park ranger broke up the party.

Darn Park Rangers

Unrepentant

Photo of a snot covered bison
American Bison Getting a Taste of Winter

 

Happy Saturday.

Kicking back, doing a little yard work this weekend. Going to be heading back up to the moose early next week so nothing really new to show you at the moment. I’m staying cool, drinking lots of liquids and spending more time in front of the computer as a result.

You’re stuck with this shot today. I’m true to my spirit of continuing to regularly post an image. Some are better than others but that applies to about everything.

The drawback is I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about articles in this mode. Those thoughts come more frequently when I’m hobnobbing with other humans.

I’m working in the Bison catalog at the moment. Most of the images are fairly repetitive so I picked out a more interesting photo. I may have posted this before, but if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that I don’t leave photographs hanging out on the Internet for any extended period of time. Since I rely on memory to decide if I’ve shown an image in the past, well, my memory says this one was shown a long time ago and well, it’s worth showing again.

As for being at the computer more, it leads my mind astray on occasion. I start reading news and other websites, posting more on Facebook and engaging my thoughts on current events. Not that my opinion is significant, not that most of the news is significant. I normally prefer to get my consumer news at the super-market checkout. Editing photographs is significant, for me. I look at it as getting stuff done while I goof off.

I’m unrepentant.

 

Feeding The Beast

Head Shot of a Mule Deer Doe
Mule Deer in Winter

 

Working on updating the stock portfolios today.  I call it “feeding the beast.”

I’ve found that uploading stock images on a regular basis, even in small quantities, seems to correlate with increased sales over time. With over 2,000 images online, the simple truth is that not all of my images have sold. Quite a few just sit there and though most will probably generate a few sales over time, I think the trick is to saturate the buyer with a variety of selections. The theory is that when someone looks for a particular type of image, it’s best to hog the screen with your photos. I’d rather they choose from one of my many shots than have to select one of mine from many other photographers offerings.

Feeding the beast, a term I’ve heard used by other stock photographers, helps to keep my images visible. It works. Sales from same month last year have been up over 300% on some agencies and have increased on all agencies, year over.

Until I get out to do more work, I’m in the office and feeding the beast.

A Loner’s Life

Photograph of a bull moose in the forest
Bull Moose – North Park, Colorado

For the most part, wildlife photography is a loner’s journey.

The physical connection between the wildlife photographer and photographic subject is symbiotic in many ways. One must learn to adapt to that relationship too.

Moose are social animals but seem to prefer their own company to that of others. Moose are unique subjects. They will hang out together at times. Good feeding conditions, breeding and some type of kinship with others of their type are gathering factors but they are more likely to be found on the move and alone. For the wildlife photographer, the same holds true. I enjoy the company of others but for the most part, I prefer to work alone.

My wife is quite supportive of my photography efforts but she’s not really into the “nature photography” thing with the same enthusiasm as I. If you’re a photographer, you’ve probably experienced this yourself. The travel companion is more often than not quickly bored with the adventure. Sitting alone in a vehicle without an internet connection or phone signal could be a factor. Perhaps it’s not enjoyable to watch some old guy trudging across the field in the rain. It’s a rare person who is willing to sacrifice their sleep and worldly conveniences to trek out into the wilderness with a photographer who is focused primarily on finding critters in the early morning mist.

Most times it’s just better to share the fruits of our labor. I imagine that a typical construction worker has to deal with the same thing. I’ve never heard of a carpenter taking their wife or girlfriend to work to watch them measuring and cutting lumber. It’s boring.

Moose on the other hand seem to like boring, so the photographer must learn to be bored in the same fashion as the loner animal. Other things factor in to this equation though.

The wildlife photographer’s work doesn’t hinge on the hard to alter habits of other humans when heading out into the field. Most of the adaptation comes from the photographer, not from the travel companion. While we still have to account for the presence of other people from time to time, to a large degree the other humans that are present are typically loners too. Our paths are simply crossing at a certain time and place.

Being of retirement age, I have the time to roam around alone in the back woods and mountain tops. My travel and photography plans are for the most part kept to weekdays and not weekends. For those still working a real job, their commitments in life relegate them to getting out on weekends. Though I will get out on a weekend, it’s not an option I give priority. As a matter of fact, I avoid weekends specifically to avoid the folks getting out on weekends. Too many people disrupt the shooting environment and the experience of being alone with the subject.

More than a few of my friends who are my age and older find their photographic comradery within the confines of camera and nature clubs. I’m not a group outing kind of guy though, I’m like a loner moose. My best photos come from working alone or with one other equally enthusiastic photographer. It’s never a personal thing when hatching a plan doesn’t work. We all have different needs and desires. Finding folks who are on the same wavelength isn’t an easy task.

So, I’m incubating another egg that will hatch into a lone adventure in the near future and there will be more after that. Like that lone moose, you may see me pass by from time to time, on my mission to get to some remote spot that I find delightful. But only if you get up early. I’ll typically be done working by 10:00 am and taking a nap by noon. I’ll share the photos with those who prefer to sleep in at a later time.

Being a loner isn’t lonely at all.

More Moose

Moose in the woods of Northern Colorado
Decisions Decisions

 

One of the odd-ball shots from last Friday morning.

It’s hard to take your finger off the shutter button while there is still room in the camera buffer.

It’s Enough to Make a Grown Man Cry

Photograph of a young bull moose on a forest road.
Young bull moose truck’n along a Northern Colorado forest road

 

As I sat and watched moose gathering the other morning, I was thinking about the paths of life that led me to this spot in the mountains and I came to the realization that in many ways I was like my father.

My father was an avid hunter. He spent most of his life living in Kentucky and while I was growing up, one of his favorite pass-times was squirrel hunting. It’s a hillbilly way of life, but for him, getting out into the woods for those morning walks searching for squirrels was a constant thought and motivation.

As his health deteriorated following his cancer diagnosis, one of his wishes was to get back out to the woods just one more time before he died. In a small way, that thought kept him going. He managed to recover from surgery long enough to achieve that wish.

I came to the realization that I had inherited a similar passion. Hunting moose photographs in the mountains. I wish he could have lived longer and that I could have shared my world with him. He would have loved it. Fleeting thoughts, brought on by the joy of being out in the wilderness. Experiencing a connection with nature that many never get to experience while I rationalized my past life experiences and the parallels to my place in the world these days.

My thoughts were interrupted by a moose walking along the road directly towards me. A young bull, on his own path and mission to get to some unknown destination somewhere along the road into the woods behind me, he showed no concern for my presence in his path. As he approached, I followed him with my camera and was able to catch a satisfying sequence of photographs. Once he walked past me, I started the engine and moved on up the trail from which he came.

A bit up that road, about a quarter of a mile, I noticed a pickup truck parked along side the road near a lake where the moose were gathering. A few feet from that truck stood a man, my age, maybe older, and with him was a small dog on a leash. He was simply staring off into the woods at the moose and enjoying the scenery, 10 miles from the nearest paved road.

I pulled to the side of the dirt road near the man and stepped out to exchange a few thoughts about the scene we were both witnessing together alone in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to alert him to the presence of many moose and about being cautious with where he walked his dog, as moose consider dogs to be wolves, their mortal enemy.

As we spoke, he said to me. “This is my favorite place on earth. My father and I used to come to this place all the time.” His memories of past times were strong and had never left him. Within a few moments of us striking a conversation, he began tearing up and became emotional. “I wish he could be here with me to see this today.” he said. I told him that I understood the feeling and shared the same reverence for this spot in the mountains. He tried to continue the conversation, but I could tell that I caught him at a moment of silent contemplation and that his emotions had taken hold of him. I was intruding.

He was slightly embarrassed and apologized for crying about his memories. I shook his hand and gave him a big smile. “Brother, I fully understand. I love this place too and it’s those fond memories of the past that help keep things in perspective.” I said.

I wished him well and apologized for intruding into his private thoughts along that isolated mountain road.

I smiled with understanding when he said “It’s okay, I just get emotional when I come out here. I miss sharing this with my dad. Pay no mind to me.”

It was time to wrap up the morning adventure so I kept driving along the road towards the the highway. Within a short distance, my thoughts drifted back to my father and the kinship the stranger and I shared in that moment. Profound thoughts concerning the encounter overwhelmed me. My eyes moistened up and I had to pull off the road long enough to clear the slow forming tears from my eyes. Sharing that moment with the man in the wilderness had overwhelmed him and me both.

The beauty and serenity of being alone in the wilderness in what has to be one of the most magnificent places in the world has a way to taking hold of your thoughts. For a few brief moments that morning my long deceased father sat with me in that truck. The awesomeness of the experience can’t be measured, it’s too profound.

It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

In The Field

Photograph of a Bull Moose in Colorado by Gary Gray Bull Moose On The March

I’ve been enjoying the Holiday with family in Red Feathers and have finally found a few moments for a blog entry.

My first good photography outing in several weeks has been about, what else? Moose. This past Friday morning was my kickoff to actually hitting the dusty trails in search of moose, fult-tilt boogie wise that is.

I laugh at my own habits some times, particularly, the little mind games I play on myself when moving around. I always think I’m going to find very little, and then, BOOM! I land on a great scene with nice, photographable moose.

Early this past Friday, I stumbled upon 7 bull moose and a cow with a calf. All within a 1 mile radius. Many were too far away for any really exceptional photos, but I knew that all I needed to do was position myself and be patient. Moose would eventually come to me and I’m pre-configured to get the shots I want to get.

Well, blaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrp. The moose do what they want to do and not what I want them to do. I’m watching a scattered group from 100 meters away waiting for them to move closer and two huge mature bulls come walking towards me directly to my right. They were on the move and not at all concerned with me, though they had me in their eyes the whole time. Using my SUV for cover, they actually walked past me from about 10 feet away. I just kept moving around the Explorer to keep it between me and them.

Thus the subject of today’s image. The Bull Moose Woods Profile thing. I have a preconceived image in my head that I constantly look for in the field. This was one of those situations. The moose walking parallel to me with a profile through the woods.

The idea is to track the moose with the camera as it moves across my visual horizon and catch revealing profiles as he’s on the march. When it looks interesting through the view finder, I fire off a burst of shots.

For this composition I made a decision to not get the entire moose in the shot. I wanted the antlers but I sacrificed its hooves, except for the one off the ground. Same with his flanks. I wanted part of him obscured.  I call this cramping the frame. Photography critics will tell you to never amputate a limb, particularly at a joint. That’s good advice if you want your photos to look the same all the time, which I don’t.

The argument is basically “you cut his feet off, it’s too distracting, disturbing, doesn’t follow the rules” or something in that vein. That’s camera club advice.

Many professional portrait photographers use this technique all the time. They’ll chop off a portion of the persons face for the effect. Why? Because it gets the attention of the viewer and creates photographic tension, which is a highly ambiguous but accurate phrase.

The idea is to tell a story and one way to push that along is to create tension in the image.

As for the moose, you know he has hooves, you can see one in the air. It’s doesn’t require a lot of thinking, but I does make you think for a second. “Well, he is moving right along isn’t he?”, which in turn spurs other questions. You end up with a story, all thought out in just a few seconds.

Throwing in a little more self-critique.

The photo is a little busy from a camera club critique point of view, but most people blow past that because the busy background is consistent and in context. The moose stands out even though it fits right in to the environment.

I’m fairly happy with this one.

Back Roads of Life

Kebler pass in Autumn
Autumn Road Trip

 

The plans are made for my Autumn 2018 road trip.  I’ll be heading out to the San Juan Mountains this year during the last week of September with my good friend Jonathan Steele.

In a perfect world the weather will throw everything at us. I don’t really look for perfect blue skies and sunny days. I like drama in my scenes. A little mud doesn’t hurt either.

This photo was taken on Kebler Pass a few years ago on a road trip with my good friend Merlin Peck. It’s having those things to look forward to that make life worth living.

Munching Moose Monday

Photograph of a moose feeding in a lake.
Shiras Bull Moose in a Colorado Mountain Lake

 

For a few years I was lucky enough to find a boat-load of moose hanging out in a particular lake in Northern Colorado. This was one of the first images I made after that discovery.

When moose find a good grassy bottom water hole, they munch like mad. The grass in his mouth and the water dripping from his head make for a perfect combination.

Moose activity is heating up. After the July 4th holiday, I begin working full swing. With any luck, I’ll find more moose in this lake this July and August.