Elk in Picnic Ground, Banff National Park


Here is a favourite photograph. We were not planning to show this picture publicly because it breaks too many compositional rules. The subject is too central, and too small (especially when you see the whole picture). There's a distracting picnic table on the right. Most of the picture is out of focus. You can't see the elk's legs and a tip his antlers is almost obscured by a tree. Yet, probably because of the animal's pose or maybe the catch-light in his eye, we like the picture.

We were at this picnic site in Banff National Park. The site is just 8 or 9 kilometres from the town of Banff on the parkway (highway 1A). A group came in with a nature tour and started snapping away at some Magpies while we were busily debating the origin of some animal's dropping along a deer trail nearby. And while all of us intrepid nature photographers were busily working away, the elk was just loitering in the picnic area largely ignored. We actually spied some of the tour group aiming off in a different direction before we saw the elk.

This photograph was made handheld with a (heavy!) 300mm F2.8 lens wide open at 1/500 second. It was one of the first frames made after spotting the animal. We lingered in the area long after the tour group had left and made numerous other, closer photographs.