I had the pleasure of photographing a majestic bull elk on a frigid December morning at the J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve in Oklahoma. As I was driving slowly along the road that winds through the preserve, I spotted a large bull elk close to the shoulder. I quickly grabbed my camera and set up my bean bag on the ledge of my truck’s open window to steady my lens.

Bull Elk On A Chilly December Morning

Bull Elk On A Chilly December Morning

As I zoomed in on the regal elk, I noticed the animal expel a large frosty breath into the cold morning air. The sunlight catching the foggy exhale created a magical scene. I rapidly snapped several frames, attempting to capture the transient misty breaths as they left the elk’s nostrils.

The J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve provides an ideal protected habitat for elk and other native species to thrive. Herds of elk can often be spotted grazing in the grasslands and wooded areas of the preserve throughout the year. During the winter months, observers can sometimes catch a glimpse of the elk’s visible breath when temperatures dip below freezing.

As challenging as it was to photograph this bull elk in the cold while precariously perched with my camera gear sprawled across my truck’s window, I was thrilled with the ethereal images I captured. The elk’s foggy exhalations combined with the crisp winter setting made for a truly memorable wildlife photo shoot. I feel fortunate to have witnessed this beautiful scene.

I hope my images inspire others to appreciate and conserve majestic creatures like this Oklahoma elk. Getting to observe wildlife in their natural habitats is a photographer’s dream come true.

Gear Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: Canon EF 500 mm f/4L IS USM


  • Location: J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve (Oklahoma)
  • Date & Time Taken: December 17, 2011 (10:48 A.M.)
  • Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f7.1
  • Shutter speed: 1/100 sec. (as determined by the camera)
  • ISO: 320
  • Exposure Compensation: 0
  • Focal Length: 500 mm