Some people say it is hard to find bull elk in Yellowstone. I don’t understand these people.
Seeing – and photographing – bull elk is easier than photographing Old Faithful in the world’s oldest national park. Seriously, it is.
What’s challenging, however, is photographing bull elk in a unique setting.
On route to Jackson, Wyoming, we drove by an elk hotspot on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. And we were treated to this encounter:
Not bad. Maybe even my favourite elk shot I have captured anywhere over the years.
But on our return we were treated to something even more remarkable: Two massive bull elk spending a lazy Sunday in the lake.
Like actually in the lake.
Now this is an everyday occurrence for our species, but for elk? This was unique.
After snapping a few dozen shots just to document the scene in case it ended more quickly than we would have liked, we calmed down and started trying to understand what was unfolding in front of us.
In fact, very clearly these two elk weren’t going anywhere. They were out for a Sunday stroll, it just happened to be in the lake.
And why not? It was a hot day. I was sweating!
So we shot away as the elk walked…
Having our fill of elk in water shots, we started trying to predict their movements and set-up in case they did something truly spectacular. Like this.
Head deep in water? Are you kidding me? And I assure you, this wasn’t a route to land or food. This bull just walked further and further into deep water and stopped to enjoy the setting. Like a person.
Then as he wandered back to shore he started singing.
Well, bugling to be exact.
Talk about singing in the shower.
And talk about a once-in-a-lifetime sequence.
The two bulls eventually started walking toward where the land evens out by the mouth of a creek. Going to the far side of the stream, Jill and I set-up in the hopes we could capture them at eye level in the water.
It was stunning.
Unfortunately the fun had to end some time. As the elk turned up the creek, they moved to cross the road. Perfect, as I didn’t want to get close to them.
Then a ranger came by, decided there was too much traffic and not looking to see why the cars were stopped in front of her, pulled out, with sirens blazing, and raced toward the elk, nearly hitting them. You could tell she realized she made a mistake when the elk, spooked naturally, started running. Down the road. Toward where we were standing.
We ducked behind a pick-up truck as the big boys went racing by, followed by a somewhat apologetic and sheepish ranger – no longer blazing her siren.
Still, we walked back to our properly parked car with several hundred of the best bull elk shots we’ve ever captured and huge smiles on our faces. Until the rain came. That made the walk, with camera gear, a little less than fun.