The Rutt - Up close and Personal

One great aspect of shooting outdoors is witnessing the unexpected. When it involves elk, just plan on the unexpected.

I’ve had the privilege of watching elk spar, and herds merge and split. It’s always fascinating to watch the pageantry, usually from a safe distance, or at least a safe place. Watching from a road usually provides that distance and safety.

This year, the experience was much closer than any of the past. One early morning a friend and I found two bull elk sparing within a few yards of the road. By a few yards, I mean from about ten yards to 50 yards. We set up next to the car to photograph the spectacle, keeping the car between us and the dueling bulls, mostly. The bulls engaged each other in fits and starts for several minutes. Some of the engagement was much more energetic. Describing it as 'fierce' would not be an understatement. One of these instances brought the elk quite close, a little too close for comfort when you can see the raw speed, strength and power of both of these large animals.

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We're Going Mirrorless, Eventually

It's time to get my feet wet in the world of mirrorless cameras. Technically, this is not my first mirrorless camera, but it is my first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, or MILC (sometimes called Compact System Cameras, CSCs). I've used a Sony RX-100 for several years. While it's a great pocket camera, it's not weather resistant, and the lens can't be changed.

So, I starting looking for something that is between the RX-100 and my DSLR. I wanted it to be relatively small, light, capture RAW files, offer interchangeable lenses, and be weather resistant. Mirrorless cameras generally fill most of those requirements, but weather resistance is not so common. This was one of the attractions of the Olympus OM-D cameras when they first appeared. The OM-D E-M5 Mark II introduction improved on the first version enough to make me bite. I ordered the E-M5 Mark II with the Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 Pro lens. Lightroom tells me that almost 90% of my images have been made with a 24-105 mm lens, so I think the 12-40 mm will be a good fit as a working lens. (The Micro Four Thirds crop factor is 2 times 35 mm full-frame.)

I've learned a lot, and I'm optimistic and excited about a mirrorless future.

Smoky Sunset
Sunset in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Near Clingman's Dome.
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Enjoying Winter Extremes

It's before dawn. The air is crisp, indeed very cold, the sky is clear, and it seems I can reach out and touch the stars. As the night turns to day — the turning of the blues — subtle snowdrifts begin to take shape, with wisps of powdered snow dancing across the tops of the drifts. Wind-blown ice is visible on a nearby stream, as I knew it would be. Soon the alpenglow will shine on the peaks and reflect on that ice. Everything is set to capture a dramatic winter landscape.

Winter Dawn

My first ventures into winter photography were frightening. I was very concerned about the potential dangers of the cold. I also knew I would be traveling alone most of the time. Solitude amplified the threat — there would be no one there to help if I got into trouble. But I somehow knew that winter shooting can be very rewarding, and wanted it to be relatively safe. Read More…