Captivating viewers, one image at a time.
When I was eight years old, my dad came home with a raghorn bull from the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I stared at that set of antlers my entire youth while reading his subscription of Bugle magazine, trying to wrap my naive mind around what a bull elk looks like in the wild. A long story later, my life flashes by waiting for September to come back around with any excuse to see as many elk up close as I can get. Lots of us understand that attraction; some of us can see the finer details like this image I shot last fall.
I was stalking bugling bulls in a cottonwood river bottom with the same approach I would take if I were bow hunting. Wind in my face, boots off, slow and attentive. I brought the fastest DSLR I own with a 600mm lens. I got close to several bulls as they wandered through looking for a receptive cow; the shots were all similar to one another except this one. I photographed this bull wandering in, half grazing, half in search of a cow; none of those shots intrigued me until the wind swirled on my neck and rose the hairs on the back of his. He put his nose up high, easily seven and a half feet in the air with flaring nostrils. I was busted! I knew I only had seconds to capture what was left of his presence before he would blow out for good and that’s the shot I wanted, the next layer of detail that I find intriguing in a photo.
As a passionate bow hunter, I cringe when I spook elk out of their habitat—we all do. As a photographer shooting moments of my season, these highlights are the most intriguing to capture because not everyone that looks at this image understands what that gut-twisting feeling is like: to watch a mature bull elk wind you on what already seems like an impossible endeavor. I can show this image to my sister who lives in the Midwest and she sees it completely differently than some of my best buddies who are as fervent as I am about our time chasing elk during archery season.
I don’t take photographs to captivate every viewer, but I do try my best to captivate those who can understand the finer details. That’s my aim as a photographer: to inspire those who can appreciate and empathize with that moment in time; to envision the before and after with the pinnacle moment laid out so intriguingly that they can’t help but put themselves there.
For more from Brett Seng, follow him on Instagram: @brettsengphoto.