During my recent travels to Rocky Mountain National Park I was aware that there were some hazards that I should avoid. Things such as being exposed during storms, over exertion on hikes and the wildlife. It was that last part that I should of payed more attention too.
While on my second day of hiking I decided to make a go at Dream Lake which I was scheduled to photograph the very next morning. First things first, the hike to dream lake is anything but a dream. For us flat landers it is a hell of a climb just to get to Nymph lake. However a little motivation goes along way and as I was heading up I started hearing from those descending that some Elk were up at Nymph Lake. At that point I stepped it up hoping to get a nice image of the elk grazing etc near the water.
Upon reaching Nymph Lake I saw others milling about and talking of Elk that were nearby but unseen by myself. I started heading down the trail admiring the lake and scenery when I heard some rustling in the trees and two female Elk (also called cows) ran out of the trees and around myself by mere feet. I just about crapped my drawers as they both stopped on either side of me apparently wondering what fool was standing on their path. I then thought to myself, where is the bull Elk since they usually travel together.
It took a quick glance to my right to see the unamused bull Elk standing over me in the trees staring down with scornful eyes. Now there was only one thought crossing my mind at this point. This is either gonna make one hell of an image or one hell of a story. Lucky for me the females got tried and trotted down to the lake. Unfortunately that left me and the bull some time to bond. Or rather play hide and seek around a boulder. I'd go to one side and he would trot a few feet and peer around the boulder at me so I would go the other way and he would do the same.
After a couple rounds of this the Elk took notice of something else in the distance and seemed to forget about me for a minute. I then realized that this was the best time as ever to get some images just in case he decided to own me momentarily. I grabbed my camera and quickly brought it up for a profile shot when I heard a snort and thru the viewfinder I saw the Elk staring me down looking more agitated then ever. I snapped the image and carefully started to back away hoping my new "friend" didn't charge me not oblivion. Just then a noise caught the bulls attention and he turned once more towards the lake and that's when I captured the image you see here.
Moments later the bull charged head long thru the trees and down to the lake to graze with his harem. I was safe and images I hadn't anticipated capturing were sitting in my camera. However this is also a story of caution for others. This entire situation could of ended with a few lines about my stay in the ICU or my flight out of the park. My lack of situational awareness was nothing to be proud of. And letting yourself get surprised by three Elk won't get you any awards for intelligence.
However it is moments like this that I believe have created some of the most iconic images of our times. The lesson for everyone is to keep up your situational awareness whenever you are out of your natural environment. While those of us creatives must always be prepared to capture the surprises that life throw our way.