As we hiked on various paths and trails on our visit to the Rocky Mountains, one thing quickly became abundantly clear to me: I had to balance my desire to take camera gear with my desire to have food and water. Usually the latter won out, which meant that I limited myself to my Fuji X100F and my iPhone, and my big heavy cameras and lenses usually stayed back at the cabin. Maybe in the future I can find a way around that compromise, but since this was our first real visit to the Rockies we were still trying to figure all this out and see how things would work.
I shot this picture when we went for a drive on Trail Ridge Road, a winding route that takes visitors above the treeline and offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains and even some hidden surprises like a small patch of snow. (Side note: It was super fun to watch all our kids have a snowball fight in July.) We parked at the visitor’s center that sits at over 12,000 feet in elevation and some of us hiked up to the top of the nearby peak to take in the scenery while others stayed back at the van with the youngest kids. On our way back down we spotted this female elk grazing on the mountainside, and I don’t think I have ever wished I had a zoom lens more in my entire life. But the best I could do was my humble little Fuji.
No matter. When life gives you lemons, you make photographic lemonade, right? At least, that’s what I tried to do here. Since there was no way to zoom in on the elk I tried to take a different approach: how could I capture a complete scene using the elk as an anchor? I took a few shots with the animal in the middle as well as on the left side, but those just didn’t feel right at all. It was this shot here where everything came together: the elk, the sky, the diagonal horizon, and the green grass in the foreground peppered with yellow flowers. I really wanted to get a shot just like what you see here, where the elk was doing something more interesting than just hanging its head down to munch on grass, and after a bit of waiting it actually happened: she raised her head, looked out to the horizon, and I snapped this picture.
In the end I’m actually glad that I didn’t have a zoom lens. No seriously, I mean it. I really like this shot, and it’s a bit more interesting than just another zoomed-in shot of an elk which you can probably find all over the internet. This shot isn’t what I wanted, but it’s what I got, and I think I’m better off because of it.