As we make our snowbird trips down south in the fall and back north again in the spring, there is a special place that we always pass on the Oregon coast that has quickly become one of my favourite camping and photography spots of all time. Elk Country.
Near Redwoods National and State Parks, on Highway 101, the campground and surrounding area is home to 7 herds of Roosevelt Elk, totalling hundreds of animals.
Being in the forest in the fall and spring, the area can be quite wet and dreary, and the first few times we drove by, there was not much there. But the Elk were often in fields across the street or around the corner.
And then one time we drove by and there they were, hundreds of Elk right in the campground! I turned to Ray and said “we have to stop here next time”. And we’ve been stopping there ever since.
Sometimes the Elk are not there. But sometimes you’ll wake up in the morning and they are all right there walking amongst the camp sites or in the huge field where the old red school house is.
Given the close proximity, it is surprisingly difficult to make good photos. There are so many of them, and they stick so close together, that it is hard to isolate an animal or even a few animals without stray legs and antlers sticking out where you don’t want them.
And of course, you have to maintain a safe distance since they are wild animals after all. I often see people stop their cars really close to the Elk, get out, and turn their backs on them to make a selfie! I like to take pictures of people doing such stupid things so that I can prove it was their own damn fault should they get injured. I wouldn’t want the Elk to pay the price.
What I usually do is try to hide myself behind the RV or the truck, or someone else’s truck, to make myself less noticeable. They don’t seem to be bothered by my presence at all, but I still don’t want to get too close.
Some of these photos I made with my 400mm lens, but I usually find that the Elk are too close for that lens. Now I usually put on my 70-300 with my Canon 7D, since I am used to using that camera for wildlife, but sometimes I even go out there with my Sony A6000 and the 55-210 lens. You don’t really need a lot of range.
Our last visit was a real treat. Late in the day, when the sun was low in the sky giving off its golden glow, the younger Elk had big romp and play right behind our RV! It was absolutely hysterical to watch and I even got a couple of decent shots.
When we went to pull out the next morning, we were all packed up and ready drive off, and just as Ray was about to turn the key to start the engine, I said “STOP!” In the side mirror, I noticed the Elk walking right up behind the RV. I felt they were too close to drive off, so we waited and within a couple of minutes we were surrounded! But we were safe inside the truck, so we just waited and watched (and photographed of course).
Wild animals should remain wild.