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on Jul 31, 2013 in Landscape Photography

Bison Roll Over

Next to Moose & Griz, Bison fill my files more than any other mammal. Them “Shaggy dogs” just suck me in every time! The challenge is always to get something new, though what “new” might be until you’re in front of them is often a question mark in the process. This was my first opportunity to photograph Bison with the D4, that was what I was going to start with as my “new” this time out. May in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a great time. Especially at Custer State Park where the Bison are dropping their calves.


The herd is always on the move, even during calving season. It’s pretty simple biology, a whole bunch of mouths to feed and only so much grass. The system is pretty cool though because the Bison never mow down one spot to nothing. In a very generalized looking at a week of grazing, the Bison tend to be back at the same spot within 8 days. You could easily think of them as walking lawn mowers and the prairie responding to them like your lawn. It’s pretty simplistic compared to the color of them calves. I mean really, orange? They can walk almost seconds after birth and run within an hour, all to avoid predators. So you’d think with that evolution, they would have come up with a better color than orange. Photographically of course, the color is very cool. And watching calves, you can’t help but get hooked on Bison! On this morning, we were fortunate to be in the right spot as the herd, on the move came up a valley and rolled over the ridge and down in our direction at sunrise. It’s just one of natures’ great spectacles!

Shooting with a D4 , 200-400VR2 with TC-20E III mounted on a Wimberley / Gitzo, I wanted to see if I could do some fancy zooming while shooting. Getting more serious about my video, this is the first time I used the DP-6 which makes a HUGE difference in following action and smoothly. Shooting my first time with this rig, I was happy with the results but know a year later, they can get way better! This is an edited down from the 2hrs of video shot to just 4min. I did the editing on the iMac with all the vid residing on the ioSafe N2 and doing the editing right in Premiere Pro CS7. I wanted to convey the sweep of the herd coming over the ridge and down in front of us, kind of a “How the West was Won” kind of feel. I didn’t get it. I needed to be shooting with more than one camera. When I do it again, one thing I’ll seek is permission from the Rangers to drop some GoPros out on the ground. Mother Nature is just amazing!