Blacks Crossing Photography and Writing | velvet conundrum

velvet conundrum

July 29, 2018  •  4 Comments

A continuing conundrum as a photographer is equipment.  One buys a camera and lens - whether film or digital - expecting the equipment to last a good, long time.  The original and subsequent purchases are based on potential use and type of photography one does.  Do I need to update my camera or buy new lenses, so that I can increase potential shooting or photograph different subject matter?  I suspect this is something that is in the back of many photographers' minds as they progress through and tackle new projects.  Then there is cost and justification of expenditures.   As the price of many digital single lens reflex or DSLR cameras has gone down, one can still spend a mind-boggling amount of money on both cameras and lenses, and in most cases, you do get what you pay for. These shiny objects with more bells and whistles are perpetually popping up in professional publications.  

In 1996, I started a photography project that eventually led to my book "A Place Like No Other:  people of an enchanted land."  A photography instructor happened to have a nice Mamiya 645 with a Schneider lens and he offered it to me for a good price, which was still a lot of money.  My constant thought is - just work on your technique and take better photographs.  You don't need more or bigger or better equipment.  In that particular case, I bought the camera and never regretted it.  It served me well, and the 1 3/4 x 2 1/4 format was perfect for those environmental portraits.

However, during the late afternoon/early evening hours this week, two bull elk drifted by the south side of our house, and I grabbed my Nikon D800 with 70-200mm lens to try to capture these rather large animals, with antlers in full velvet.  According to Wikipedia, the so-called velvet "is a soft layer of highly vascularised skin" that protects the growing bone until it is fully developed. This presented me with a "velvet conundrum" - should I buy a 500 mm lens so I could shoot more effective images of these animals during occasions such as this?  My logical brain's answer was a fairly straightforward "No".  I am not a wildlife photographer.  The shots I am lucky enough to get represent part of my general interest in nature and, although a definite interest, not one of my major subjects in the photographic field.  So included here are photographs documenting the elk.  Regardless of the philosophical ramblings here, it was great to see these bulls sporting their velvet.


The gash in this one's coat, probably from a barbed wire fence, is clearly evident in the image below.

Photographic conundrums are out there continually and I still try to balance true necessity, desire, and expense along with getting out there and producing really good images.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image@



Clyde & Barbara Dawson(non-registered)
We will take your word for it that you are "not a wildlife photographer." You sure could have fooled us... You captured the majesty of these elk; what gorgeous photos.
Dianne James(non-registered)
Daryl, I can just see you out there in stealth mode, hoping they won't bolt and run before you get the perfect shots, which you did. Aren't they magnificent animals and so photogenic? A zoom lens comes in very handy in these instances. My old Minolta XD11 had several lenses I lugged around hoping to be the next Ansel Adams (never will be him, lol) and I gave it to my daughter who stored it away and ran off with a digital. I'm still learning about my Nikon D5300. In all the years I worked as a news photographer (newspaper) I just used a Nikon CoolPix. I haven't purchased a good zoom lens, yet, and use the 50mm to 85?mm zoom as it's the only lens I have. I like to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon due to hot spots, which avoiding them in bright sunlight, even with the D5300 eludes me. I really must make time to read the camera's manual. It's supposed to do video, too, but I haven't used that feature, yet. I kind of like simplicity and not having to carry around a lot of gear. In my years as a videographer doing work in southern NM for three TV stations, has made me want to keep it simple- I love video, but it can get cumbersome, though the new camcorders are smaller. I think it's awesome that you got all those shots and they let you!! :) What hams. Like Steve indicated, it's the photographer and his or her decisions at the moment, and judging from your photos, you make very good decisions. I love how you captured the light rimming their antlers, and the cut on one them. To be a photograper who doesn't just take pretty pictures, but who tells a story through that lens, is a special gift that you have. Love your photographs.
Steve Immel(non-registered)
Wonderful images all but you could have used a lens that costs more than a car. We all go through the push-pull of buying the perfect tool for the circumstance and usually demur. For me it's a 300mm to get a little more reach than my 200mm but then it becomes f4 at $1,400 or f2.8 for $6,000. I think we know the answer to that.

Most of the time it's the photographer not the equipment. This time the long lens would have been sweet. Consider a 1.4x teleconverter for $400 at Best Buy. Maybe $250 on ebay. 280mm is pretty close to 300mm.

Elk are beautiful animals. You could simply get closer.
Wayne Gesterfield(non-registered)
Awesome shots. Beautiful animals.

As a fellow photographer, I sit here with three old (circa 1980's) SLR film cameras and many lenses, including bellows. They just sit in the closet. I don't regret having owned them and I have 30,000 Kodachrome slides to prove it.

But, that's life. We progress? Same thing with all those old TVs and computers.
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