Moose Photography Workshops and Moose Tours – What’s the difference?

Moose Photography Workshop Moose Tour picture

“participate in a guided Moose Photography Workshop that focuses not only on Moose but also the landscapes and other wildlife”

Guided Moose photography workshops as well as guided moose tours are becoming more popular each year. This post attempts to help potential guided moose photography workshop and guided moose tour participants determine the type of experience that best meets their needs and individual goals.

First, it is important to differentiate between the two. A guided Moose Tour can be a three hour tour by van or an all day adventure that focuses on as many Moose sightings as possible and does not include any photography instruction. A guided Moose Photography Workshop on the other hand, generally lasts several days, focuses on photographing Moose and other wildlife at close distances, includes instruction, and may, or may not include local transportation, meals, and lodging in the package price. Some guided Moose Photography Workshops also take advantage of accessing Moose habitats via kayak or pontoon boat. Prices vary considerably between the two.

The time of year to participate in a guided Moose Photography Workshop or Moose Tour should be your first consideration. Moose are most visible in June and early July when they frequent ponds and waterways to feed heavily on aquatic vegetation. Bull Moose are in velvet with their antlers growing as much as an inch a day. Cow Moose give birth in May and June and there is nothing cuter than a cinnamon colored new-born calf.

Fall Moose Photography Workshops and Moose Tours coincide with the annual Moose Rut and while Moose are much more difficult to locate that time of year, it is the only time of the year to observe and photograph Moose displaying courtship behavior. Moose are often elusive in the fall and generally no guarantees are made about sightings for either guided Moose Photography Workshops or Moose Tours at this time of year. However, when you do observe Moose during the moose rut, the Moose interaction can be both fascinating and thrilling.

If you have a few days, we suggest that you participate in a guided Moose Photography Workshop that focuses not only on Moose but also the landscapes and other wildlife that are indigenous to the region. That way, given a few days, you will have a greater chance of success photographing Moose and also have time to photograph other subjects of interest in between Moose sightings.

A well conducted Moose Photography Workshop should offer plenty of instruction and focus on each participant’s individual skill level and their respective goals. A Moose Photography Workshop’s group size should be small to ensure individual instruction and a “front row seat” so to speak, when photographing. An experienced professional Moose Photography Workshop leader, who preferably lives in the area, should be your first choice when differentiating between offerings. They will help you save time and frustration by taking you to the most productive Moose habitats which can change from year to year depending on the availability and quality of the food Moose eat. A local Moose Photography Workshop leader and guide will also be aware of the rules associated with visiting a particular location, have the required permits to conduct business in a particular park, and have permission to access private lands that you may visit.

An experienced Moose Photography Workshop leader will also know their subjects well which will help immensely with the participants success rate. Moose sightings are often time-of-day and weather dependant. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to view Moose as well as most other wildlife. Moose, regardless of the time of year, heat stress at temperatures you and I typically might find a little chilly. If the region experiences a heat wave Moose sightings go way down. Prolonged rains can force Moose out of the ponds and streams due to high water levels. Windy conditions will also have an adverse effect on Moose sightings as high winds impair a Moose’s most important senses needed for survival – hearing and smelling approaching predators. In the fall, Moose are in the woods, generally not in the ponds, and coaxing them out (much like a hunter would do) requires skill.

With 40 plus years of combined experience photographing and observing Moose it has become abundantly clear that like people, Moose each have their own personalities. Some Moose have been habituated to people, are pretty laid-back, and happy to hang about allowing ample time for even the beginner photographer to capture amazing Moose images. Some Moose are even a little gregarious, coming closer to the photographer out of curiosity – almost appearing to pose for the photographer. Other Moose will have no part of a photographer’s presence, or anyone else’s for that matter, and quickly exits the scene.

For those less cooperative Moose, it is important for each Moose photography workshop participant to be able to quickly, confidently, and quietly adjust camera settings and composition. That’s where good instruction comes in. Spending adequate time with each Moose workshop participant ensures they get the most out of the workshop and are prepared to capture a fast moving wildlife subject with ease. For this reason workshop leaders who are not photographing for themselves during a workshop are better able to help participants take their current skills to the next level regardless of the participant’s current expertise.

Unlike a petting zoo, Wildlife Park or even a wildlife safari, a Moose Photography Workshop is different. The biggest difference is that some of the Moose you encounter during a Moose Photography Workshop may have never seen a human. Expect to travel to some remote wildlife habitats. A good tour leader will scout extensively for Moose and animal sign prior to the Moose Photography Workshop start date and will be happy to share the not so well known “secret spots” the area has to offer.

Finally, check out the testimonials associated with the Moose Photography Workshop or Moose Tour you are interested in. Often times they can be helpful in determining if past participants were happy with the experience. If the workshop includes meals or lodging in the pricing, dig a little deeper and read the respective establishments reviews on Trip Advisor. Often times it will quickly become evident that differences in quality exist.

We hope this information was helpful and that you consider joining one of our professionally guided Moose Photography Workshops, now in their 11th year!  Our 4-day, all-inclusive Moose Photography Workshops are like mini vacations and include expert photography instruction, transportation (once you arrive at our location), kayak rental, pontoon boat reservation, Registered Maine Guide, as well as upscale lodging and meals. Be prepared to be pampered! With spectacular views of Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, our host resort boast luxury North Woods style shared cabins and wonderful food in quantities that mirror the appetites of log driver’s from a bye gone era.

We hope to see you in the woods, Mark and Anita

Celebrating All Things Moose from North Country Magazine

North Country Article Tear sheet

Celebrating All Things Moose from North Country Magazine – A reprint from the Spring 2013 Issue of North Country: The Journal of Maine. Shelia Talbot is a talented freelance writer and regularly contributes to North Country Magazine. She resides in the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine. North Country: The Journal of Maine is published bi-monthly and features all that is Maine.

Many people come to Maine with the hope of seeing one of the most amazing creatures, the mighty moose, or as it is technically known Alces alces, the largest member of the deer family. This amazing creature, which can seem as large as a house when encountered on foot, saunters gracefully through the woods in spite of its size, and in the case of the male, its ungainly rack of antlers. They are like no other animal; to some they look like they’ve been constructed out of spare parts by Mother Nature – an almost droopy cow-like nose, narrow hips, long, long legs and a tiny snip of tail. In spring they move out of the deep woods and into boggy places on lakes and ponds to enjoy the fresh plant life growing nearby or underwater. That’s the best place to catch sight of them. And, if you’re very fortunate, you might be treated to a Mama moose with one or two fuzzy little ones. It’s a lifetime experience for sure – one you’ll never forget. Hopefully you have your camera ready!

If not, you still can find your moose, magnificently photographed by the folks at MOOSE PRINTS GALLERY AND GIFTS in Millinocket. This July, owners Mark Picard and Anita Mueller will celebrate the third anniversary of their business. They are both talented photographers and, as our good fortune would have it, also have a passion for the North Woods of Maine and the creatures that live there. Mark’s work has graced the cover of North Country Magazine many times. His photographs are like paintings, the brilliant shot of a fox on the last edition of North Country and the antlered moose in snowfall published prior to that, are two examples.

It takes infinite patience and time, not to mention a deep understanding of the animal’s behavior to capture images like these. Mark’s quiet way has been such an asset and he is now known worldwide for his extraordinary digital presentation of moose. His portfolio of more than 150,000 quality nature images has been featured in numerous national and international publications, books, and calendars including Audubon, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Vermont Magazine, Yankee, Defenders of Wildlife and Birder’s World, and Ranger Rick, (just to name a few) as well as North Country.

While photographing at a wildlife sanctuary he met Anita, a talented free lance interior designer, who as a hobbyist, photographed birds. She shares Mark’s passion for the natural world and, with her eye for design as well as photography, designed Moose Prints Gallery as a perfect foil for their work.

“This space reflects my long-time love affair with the Katahdin region and its wildlife,” Mark observed. “Much like a walk in nature, you need to expect the unexpected. Anita has created this gallery in such a way that the walls are filled with creatures, landscapes and gift items both great and small.”

Anita smiled. “Mark has been photographing in Maine for over 30 years now,” she said. “Then, a little over 10 years ago, LL Bean hired him to lead one of their Photography Outdoor Discovery Schools. It seemed like such a good idea we continued to promote the workshops in the Katahdin Region, which have attracted visitors from around the world. However, the few short months we spent in Maine for the workshops was never enough so we re-located permanently to Millinocket three years ago and opened MOOSEPRINTS GALLERY & GIFTS.”

Not long ago Mark was honored to have his Moose images used in rendering the Maine State Postal Stamp and last year he was selected as the Maine Sportsman Artist of the Year. “Most recently, the Turnpike Authority has used his images on one of the large-scale banners that hang in the visitor centers,” Anita said. “We have several large canvases on loan to the Maine Tourism Association to greet visitors at the Kittery Visitors Center. The center attracts thousands of visitors each year. And, who does not want to see a Moose when they visit Maine?” For most, it’s at the top of their list and the banner and canvases are dramatic invitations to spot your own.

Picard’s canvases, with the photograph stretched around the frame are impressive, especially the ones featuring the adult bull moose, a creature who can weigh in at around 1200 pounds and stand over seven feet tall! No less spectacular are the panoramic landscape images of Mt Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain which are photographed in such a way as to make the viewer feel as though they are standing right there. The image transferred to canvas gives it a more “painterly” look and can be a centerpiece that commands a whole wall.

“We have enjoyed living and doing business in Maine” Anita said. “We have accomplished a great deal in a few short years.” Looking forward and new for 2013, in addition to Mark’s group photography workshops they have added Maine Woods Photography Workshops for Women led by Anita which are scheduled during prime viewing times of June and September. It is quite a trick to photograph a sometimes fast-moving subject, and with her special eye for birds, Anita has the knowledge and technique to assist photographers of all levels of experience. She knows her subjects well, and can anticipate movement and patterns of animal behavior. As is true for all their workshops a heavy emphasis is placed on learning how to operate a digital camera for consistent results.

On your way to Katahdin or Baxter State Park, be sure to include enough time for a stop in Millinocket and a leisurely visit to MOOSEPRINTS GALLERY & GIFTS where you can bag your own moose souvenir. You will find a rich assortment of Mark and Anita’s work, including Mark’s popular moose wall calendar, greeting cards and photographs of all sizes. You can also find works by other gifted artisans, including nature-themed jewelry, candles, cd sound tracks, moose antler sheds, and locally authored books.

MOOSEPRINTS GALLERY & GIFTS is located on 58 Central Street (Routes 11 and 157) at the intersection of Congress Street and just down the road from a picturesque stretch of Millinocket Stream, adjacent to Key Bank. Call Mark or Anita for information regarding workshops and presentations at 207/447-6906 or visit their excellent website at www.markpicard.com or e-mail them at mark@markpicard.com

Reprinted by permission North Country Magazine

Alces alces Latin for Moose

Watch Alces, alces a You tube video featuring Maine Wildlife Photographer Mark Picard who specializes in Alces, alces which is Latin for Moose, other wildlife and landscape photography workshops and instruction in the Katahdin Region of Maine. This video was sponsored by New England Outdoor Center, the Maine outdoor adventure company that host’s our Maine photography workshops. They had a summer intern who was a photographer and videographer who produced a number of “shorts” about businesses in the Katahdin Region of Maine who specialize in providing outdoor recreation opportunities. Watch the short video to learn what Mark Picard did before he became a professional photographer, what got him hooked on photography, and what he has learned about wildlife photography and Moose over the years. Take a guided tour through Moose Prints Gallery and Gifts and learn about Moose and wildlife photography as Mark discusses images that tell a story about Moose behavior and their natural history.

A Few Wildlife Photography Tips

Twin Moose CalvesA few wildlife photography tips or “pointers” you might consider when photographing Moose and other wildlife.

The most important wildlife photography tip I can suggest is to always focus the camera on the eye (or the head) of any wildlife photography subject. If the eye area is not in sharp focus, the general impact of the photograph will be lost.

The second most important wildlife photography tip (unless you want extra work in Photoshop), is try to maintain a level horizon line in the background of your photographs. Refer to actual horizon lines such as a shoreline, a tree line, or another point of reference to help you achieve this.

Third wildlife photography tip –  don’t be afraid to rotate your camera and shoot photographs vertically! In many instances the photo’s composition would benefit greatly from shooting it vertical, especially when photographing wildlife such as a moose from head on.

Fourth important wildlife photography tip –  try to avoid cropping out or “cutting” off the Moose’s limbs when possible. If you must crop, try to crop above the joints (such as the ankle and knee joints). Sometimes, as in photographing close-up portraits, some cropping will be necessary. If you are including all of the Moose’s body and legs, always include the “virtual” area hidden below (as in grasses or water, for instance) where the feet would normally show as well.

Fifth wildlife photography tip –  leave room in the photo on the sides and try to lead the moose or any wildlife subject into the space around it in the direction it’s headed, while leaving some “space” for the Moose or subject to go. This tip usually lends itself to a more pleasing composition in general.

A final wildlife photography tip –  don’t be afraid to take several images at different focal lengths (such as with a zoom lens). Include images that show the Moose or subject’s environment as well. Some of the best photographs that have the most impact are taken with the Moose or main subject occupying only a small portion of the overall photo. This method supplies the viewer with a ton of information! Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t get that frame-filling portrait of a massive bull moose adorned with a huge rack! Try to be diverse and capture both images when time and conditions makes it possible!

We hope you found these wildlife photography tips helpful. Good luck, and we hope to see you at an upcoming Maine wildlife photography workshop!

Baxter State Park: MYWLP

An honor to participate!  Mark has been invited to lead the outdoor photography segment of this year’s week long Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program sponsored by The Friends of Baxter State Park. Prior to attending the program in Baxter State Park the nine high school students were asked to complete an assignment which included reading the North American Nature Photography Association’s Principals of Ethical Field  Practices and then answer the following question: “What is the most important sentence and why?”  Here are a few of the responses:

“The most important sentence in this position statement is this sentence: “One must always exercise good individual judgment”. This is true because in all  actions towards nature, including photography, personal judgment allows you to follow your own instincts and create a safe and stable environment for the wildlife and others around you. By doing this, you are further helping the safety and success of the surroundings, wildlife, and photographer. This also allows for greater ease and self-confidence in both the photographer and subject!”

“Many people unknowingly endanger themselves and animals: This statement, although in the Individual section of the principles, can also be applied to the Environmental and Social sections. A lot of people are ignorant about what lives in the wilderness and, therefore, don’t know what actions are acceptable in a human-nature relationship. Having knowledge of subject and place (i.e. animals and their habitats) and being aware of the rules and laws in specific areas will allow someone to be more responsible and safe overall. As animals and plants don’t have the ability to research the patterns of human beings, it is our ethical responsibility to obtain this knowledge about the wildlife (because we have the resources to do so). By learning all about wildlife before we explore it and being conscious and aware when among nature, it allows us to act as “good role model[s], both as…photographer[s] and…citizen[s].”

“Most Important sentence: Treat the wildlife, plants and places as if you were their guests. Why: Although there were a number of sentences in this statement from the North American Nature Photography Association that proved to be very insightful, I thought that this particular one instilled a very important ideal for anyone who wishes to enjoy the abundant wildlife. When enjoying the wildlife it is of utmost importance to remain respectful to living and nonliving things. Too many times do people enter the wilderness without any knowledge of subject and place. It is then that disturbances are made that have the potential to alter the life of far too many organisms. I felt that the sentence that I chose was a reminder of how all people should feel when entering the wilderness. It is important to be aware that humans, for the most part, are visitors in life away from urban areas. Because people are simply guests they must do research and become informed when entering a place in which they are less familiar with.”

“I believe that the first statement, knowledge of subject and place, is the most important in nature photography. This section deals directly with the health and safety of the subjects you are photographing, wild animals. Practicing this principle is the most effective in preserving the natural environment for photography and prevents any damage to the ecosystem. While the other principles also help achieve this goal, I believe having proper knowledge of how to conduct oneself in the wilderness is most effective and therefore most important.”

“I found the most important sentence in the article to be: “In the absence of management authority, use good judgment.” I believe ‘use good judgement’ is one of the most important phrases to think upon when you interact with the wild. Written/posted rules and laws are great, and important to follow, but they don’t exist everywhere in nature. Before you do something/go somewhere, you need to assess the situation by yourself, and figure out if it really is a good idea. Always err on the side of caution, and respect the animals, plants, and ecosystems.”

We think the answers provided by the program participants were very insightful and thoughtful. In fact, we think it will be our pleasure to run into these young leaders while photographing in Baxter State Park.  If we had to choose just one sentence as the most important Mark and I would choose “Treat the wildlife, plants and places as if you were their guests.” There are an increasing number of us photographing wildlife every day and far too often we forget that we are in someone else’s home. Limiting the cumulative effects of our presence should always be our goal.

 

Photography Workshop Gear – Tripods

Peekaboo Bull Moose in Winter

Peekaboo Bull Moose in Winter

As Spring still seems elusive here in the North Woods of Maine I am making the most of these last cool days to photograph Winter landscapes via snowmobile. With about 4 feet of snow in the woods, the sled makes it possible to get to some otherwise inaccessible remote locations. The idea of being able to photograph a particular spot throughout the seasons is appealing to me and ever present in the back of my mind is the possibility of photographing Moose! Much harder to locate when the snow gets deep, Moose tend to “yard up” where the food and cover are good so they do not have to expend precious energy. “Peekaboo” is an image I am particularly pleased to have captured this Winter as I believe it conveys a real sense of the elements.

While Winter photography is not for everyone, I have received several emails from people planning to attend this year’s Spring and Fall workshops asking about gear and lens recommendations. Let me first say, all skill levels of photographers have taken my workshops from the most advanced to the novice. One of my goals during the workshops is to have each participant learn ways to achieve better images with the equipment they have.  One participant a few years back stands out in my mind as a person who probably had the best time of anybody. Every time we stopped at a location to photograph he took a miniature sized Elf digital camera out of an Altoid’s tin (that he had strung around his neck), took a few shots, then carefully placed the camera back in the tin and smiled. He did not have the most exspensive equipment, he just had a great time!

The other end of the spectrum is a photographer last Spring who had an 800mm lens with tele-converter attached when a cow Moose and her calf unexpectedly appeared just behind us on the board walk. Needless to say he was scrambling for his other camera body and wide angle lens! Most of us fall somewhere in between when it comes to the extent of our camera gear – often times the amount dependent on just how much we are willing to spend and how much we are willing to carry. We tend to invest enough in our equipment to get good results and always have a wish list of upgrades that are sure to help us get even better pictures.

Wildlife subjects don’t always necessarily require the longest telephoto lenses to capture extraordinary images. However, when it comes to photography workshop gear I consider using a sturdy tripod and properly rated ball head a must. Often a “grudge” purchase, a carbon fiber tripod can cost between $200 and $900 USD. And that is just the tripod. You still need a tripod head which come in several styles and shapes. Ball heads usually are used in conjunction with the shorter, non-collared lenses. Don’t forget the camera plate, which attaches to your camera body and then to the ball head. They are in the $40 range. Even more efficient than a flat plate is an “L” bracket which allows you to adjust your camera from horizontal to vertical without changing the center of gravity or having to adjust your tripod. With an “L” bracket, the level and axis remain the same for each position. The” L” bracket secures to the camera body and allows the user to quickly shoot either horizontal or vertical with lenses that do not have a rotating collar. These “L” plates are manufactured by several companies, and typically will set you back about $150.

A good ball head works well for up to about a 300mm lens. Beyond a 300mm lens I recommend a full gimbal style head. Described by a friend of mine that recently purchased one as “a mechanical work of art”, I have to agree with him. A gimbal head cost between $300 and $600 and allows for quick and fluid movement. These heads are also manufactured by several different companies. The gimbal head is able to adjust to any angle while the camera and lens are suspended directly below the center of gravity of your tripod. In my opinion, there is no better way to work a wildlife subject with these longer telephoto lenses than with the gimbal style head.

"Mt Katahdin from the Cribworks Winter"One of my latest purchases was a tripod leveling base. It basically levels the tripod without having to adjust the individual legs on your tripod. I have found this really helpful when shooting several images panning in a sequence later to be stitched together creating a seamless panorama like the landscape image above. That final image is a composite of 12 images (6 across x 2 high) stitched together in Photoshop CS6.

About now you are probably agreeing with my use of the term “grudge” purchase when it comes to camera support. You are right, it won’t get you any closer to a wildlife subject or provide more pixels and the potential for higher ISO’s like a longer lens or upgraded camera body will. However, I can tell you that there is no other single investment that you can make that will have as much of an impact on the quality of your images. A good set up will allow you to capture crisp images with slow shutter speeds as well as track moving subjects with ease.

Photographing Wildlife in the Spring

Yawning Owl Redphase Eastern Screech Owl in Sycamore February 2010We are beginning to see signs of Spring in the hill towns of Western MA but Winter is holding on in Northern Maine where we will be moving to in a few short weeks. Certainly the recent high temperatures are keeping us from photographing the usual snowy landscapes and suspended icicles. In the valleys and lower elevations it is a good time to photograph wildlife. Keep an eye out for Screech Owls sunning themselves at the entrances to tree cavities facing southwest. Finding them is a challenge. This is where your state bird listserv comes in handy. Often times local birders will post locations or word gets out that one of these fascinating creatures has become fond of a particular daytime roost.
If you are lucky enough to find such a spot, patience is the name of the game. What you are waiting for is an opportunity to capture the behavior of anything but a sleeping owl! It can take hours if not days to get an image that I am happy with while waiting for a wing stretch, eyes opened, or a yawn, in just a momentary blink of the eye. If you are really lucky a Blue Jay or an ornery Chickadee, not appreciating the Owls presence, will display its feelings by “mobbing” (as it is called) the Owl. If the Owl sticks around long enough to hold its ground you may get an interesting image. Most times they just drop down into the cavity until the offensive bird gets bored and flies off to its next unsuspecting victim.

Moose Prints Gallery RenovationsAbout now Anita and I are feeling a bit like this “Yawning Owl” – tired! We just returned from Millinocket where we started the first round of renovations on our new home and Gallery space. With the help of trusted friends and talented contractors we raised ceilings, removed plaster and lathe, widened doorways, replaced plumbing, modified wiring and hung sheetrock. As you can see from this image it got pretty messy. Actually we are further along with renovations than expected and plan to have the gallery open for the June Workshops which brings me to the next subject.
It is not too early to register for my Maine Photography Workshops as spaces seem to be filling faster than in previous years. Our workshops offer an unparalleled opportunity to photograph the Katahdin Region of Maine including its spectacular landscapes and magnificent Moose. These all inclusive workshops (lodging, meals, and transportation to and from shooting locations during the workshop) make the most of our time together. There is no formal classroom instruction. Other than an afternoon break, we are in the field from sunrise to sunset. The most difficult decision you will have is whether you should attend in the Spring or Fall.
June (Spring in the North Woods of Maine) and now July provide opportunities to photograph a world coming to life after a long Winter. Moose feed heavily in the ponds this time of year, often times along side their cinnamon colored calves. Bull Moose antlers are covered in velvet and can grow as much as an inch a day. Picturesque indigenous wildflowers, rushing waterways, boreal birds and other fauna also provide inspiration and opportunities to learn new skills.
September and October workshops coincide with the Moose Rut and spectacular Fall color that the region is noted for. Now those 35 pound calves from Spring have grown a bit weighing about 400 pounds. The massive Bull’s antlers are finished growing, the velvet having been shed for the mating season. This is the time to capture these magnificent creatures in courtship and mating behavior with a backdrop of Fall color.
Several hundred participants of all skill levels have already taken my workshops. Whether it is a well planned all-inclusive Getaway Weekend or customized private one on one instruction you are guaranteed to learn new skills while exploring all that is unique to the region. Plan to attend one of my workshops in the North Woods of Maine this year and who knows, you may decide you like the area as much as we do.