As I was driving from Mammoth to Tower shortly after sunrise one morning I spotted this lone cow elk looking at me. She seemed very nervous. She looks like she may be pregnant and I assume she was close to giving birth. When cow elk are close to giving birth they go off by themselves for the birthing. The calf is kept hidden for about a week. The cow moves her calf (or calves) several times a day during that seven days and they stay motionless until their mom comes back to feed and move them. Even so, predators find a lot of them.
The lighting was very bad for this photo. You can see from the rim lighting around the elk’s body that the sun was coming from behind it. The number one rule in outdoor photography is keep the sun at your back. Well, you can’t always follow the rules in wildlife photography. Elk aren’t models you can move around. I did what I could at the time which was to compensate some by overexposing a bit and then compensated some more in Photoshop. In the film days one could do, or attempt to do, the same thing in printing by dodging and burning, but the methods then were somewhat crude compared to what Photoshop allows one to do to mitigate exposure problems. In this case I used the adjustment brush in Adobe Camera Raw to lighten the face and neck and then further refined the lighting/exposure using Shadows/Highlights and Curves.
Here is what the image would have looked like, but for the adjustments described above in camera and Photoshop. (The other difference from the top image is that I didn’t bother to crop this image.)