2018—Moose in the Willows
Weather kept us from starting our search for moose in Alaska until Wednesday. Tuesday, it poured all day and our weather apps reported “dangerously high winds.” We felt those winds as our van was buffeted by them while we drove around Anchorage and Chugach State Park in search of shooting locations when the weather improved. Wednesday dawned cloudy and cool but the rains were only light, intermittent drizzle. We set off for Chugach State Park in seach of bull moose to photograph but again we were thwarted by the weather. The winds had returned and were intermittently strong enough to keep the moose hunkered down in the shelter of the lee side of the trees. Not to be deterred again, we donned our backpacks, slung our tripods over our shoulders, and headed off from the Glen Alps Trail Head along the Poweline Trail toward the German Bridge over Campbell Creek. We spotted several bull moose, all hunkered down, avoiding the wind. After about two miles, we stopped to watch one of the resting moose and decided to take our chances there. After an hour or so, the moose finally stood up to forage in the willows. As he did, two other bull moose that had been hunkered down nearby also arose to forage. We had a few minutes of exciting shooting as the three of them came together at one point, clashing a bit with those giant racks of antlers. We were close enough to hear the strikes. In between butts, they’d return to foraging, apparently the more important task at the moment. Watch for this action in a future post here.
With this trip, I had a chance to try out my new Nikkor 500mm f/5.6 PF lens on wild critters, the reason I got this lens in the first place. I tried it alone, with the 1.4x teleconverter and the 2.0x teleconverter. The lens is very light and very sharp. I’m having some trouble adjusting to focusing with the 2.0x teleconverter but I’m sure that will come with practice and proper technique. And, when I do get that perfected, I will have a 1000mm reach with the Nikon D5 and 1500mm if I engage high speed crop. This shot, taken of one of the bull moose as he fed on the willows, is at 500mm on the D5. They were pretty close, just off the road. We had to contend with willows on the sides of the road which encroached and impeded our view at times. There are a few “soft” places in this photograph that are the ghosts of willows in the foreground. At least when the lens is wide open, some encroachments closer to the lens almost disappear when focused on a subject in the distance.