Virtuoso Life - September/October 2017 - 172
HOW TO GET
T HE SHOT
Clockwise from top: Elk,
eagles, and bison are all
in a day's adventure.
V I RT U O S O L I F E
lion lurks in a corner. A gargantuan mounted bison head
watches over it all.
With his Ted's Montana Grill chain, Turner has built
an empire based on bison and their repopulation of
Western lands. His desire to help increase their numbers
accounts, in part, for all his Western properties, including Vermejo, so it makes sense that the Great Plains
creature is the lord of the room. At least those are the
thoughts that cross your mind over a whiskey by the fire.
Hunting may be a contentious subject, but it's what
makes this photo tour so good. Vermejo's impressive
stocks of animals and its guides' experience pursuing
them are what get you up close with the elk. Photo
safaris are a new venture that lets visitors experience
wildlife up close, but they're only one sustainable revenue stream for the ranch, which carefully manages its
wildlife through guided hunts. "I really like these photo
tours: You get to drive around, call them in, see the
animals," Long tells me that first evening after a day in
the field. "That's the catch-22 for us old guys. I hate the
killing, but I still love the hunting."
It's true that the workshop feels more like a hunting
expedition than a vacation. Wake-up is hours before
sunrise, breakfast is a formality, and coffee comes black
and strong in Styrofoam cups on the dark trip to our
assigned spot on the ranch. Long's a Montana cowboy,
and when we don't find any elk on morning two, he's
stoic. "Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear
eats you," he says. "You gotta git through the whole day
to see which it's going to be." He takes us to a spot in the
woods with granite outcroppings like castles, where he
recites Western poetry. One poem, "End of an Age," is
about a wild stallion that can't be captured, and every
The biggest challenge
of wildlife photography
is finding the animals.
With elk, you need to
understand their behavior, terrain preferences,
what they eat, and their
mating patterns. And a
little luck never hurts.
When it all aligns, here's
how to make the most of
* Have patience:
happens on the animals'
schedule, so prepare to
sit for long stretches,
sometimes in uncomfortable positions.
* Frame up simple
backgrounds to set your
subjects apart, then wait.
* The best shot can happen quickly, so be ready:
Set the appropriate focal
length, shutter speed,
ISO, and aperture long
before you need to press
* I've seen wildlife
because they only had
a 400mm lens and the
animal came too close.
Be ready with a shorter
lens on a spare body.
* A UV filter and lens
hood will protect your
glass from damage
in the field, but more
that might give away
* Leave the tripod at
home and use a higher
ISO. Animals move, and
trying to shoot from
a tripod often means
missing a photo.
- Jen Judge