Photography by Jim Doty

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Elk, Fall River Road

Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to photograph elk, especially in the fall when the elk come down into the valleys. Prime time is usually mid to late September when the rut is in full swing. I had tried several times in several locations to get a nice, tight headshot of a bull elk, but with no success. They were all too far from the road (even with a long lens) and park rules wisely forbid approaching the elk. It was October and I was a little late for the rut.

I decided to drive up Fall River Road. Fortunately, the road had not yet been closed down by snow. As I was driving up the one lane, one-way road, an elk, oblivious to the traffic rules, was walking down the road. I stopped the car, quickly switched to a 24-105mm zoom lens in order to fit him in the frame, rolled down the car window and waited. He walked right by my car, not more than a few feet away. He was obviously aware that I was taking pictures but he was unconcerned.

The passenger in the car behind me, jumped up at the last minute, sticking her head through the sunroof of the car, and snapped a flash photo. The elk spooked and bolted. Fast, unexpected movement is not a good way to treat a bull elk, or most other wildlife for that matter.

January 21, 2010

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