My younger brother and I met up for a west coast road trip and along the way I planned a few hikes to get out, camp, and take photographs. One evening my brother and I were collecting wood for a bonfire in the forests of Northern California. Just before sparking a match to some kindling, I happened to look up to the view of 30 elk, mostly female. They were visibly nervous, and the only way for them to move up stream was past us. My brother and I tucked ourselves into the forest and allowed them to pass.

Elk are one of the largest deer species in the world. They are rivaled by moose and brown bear when considering the largest land mammal in North America. Males will test dominance with the violent act of antler wrestling. Dominant bulls usually follow groups of cows during the rut, but at the time of this encounter, we didn’t know that.

We exited the woods after the group had passed just in time to see the bull approach. With a snort and stomp from the alpha elk, we found ourselves back in the forest, camera in one brother’s hand, gun in the others.

I ended up taking many photos of the herd of elk, but only three shots of the alpha for fear of annoying it. The alpha appeared much more agitated by our company then the rest, so we were cautious to stay on its good side. Luckily, it was magic hour lighting and the sun was slightly diffused by a low cloud line. My post production was kept simple with a bit of added contrast and desaturation.

Contributor Bio:  Brandon Hauser was born in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where he received his first camera. This became his favorite hiking companion and eventually brought him to California to pursue an education in photography. After graduating from Brooks Institute of Photography, Brandon was offered a job in Alaska where he now resides. His work has become a part of the Juneau, AK city museum and the Alaska State Council on the Arts. Southeast Alaska has pushed him and his photography to new heights and his love for the land becomes stronger every year as does the itch to never stop making photographs.