A North Carolina photographer dove headfirst, literally, into his assignment when he came face-to-face with an elk.
James York was photographing elk at sunrise in the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tenn., when one of the elk on which he had his lens focused approached him.
“He came up peacefully enough,” York said. “I was hoping he might just take a little sniff and move away but he didn’t.”
Instead, the elk began nuzzling York, sniffing at his leg and forcefully nudging his antlers into York’s head, which York did his best to keep down.
“I’m thinking, ‘Don’t show him fear,’” York said. “He was prancing and digging his hoofs in the ground and then bouncing back and forth and lowering his horns down and coming at me fairly aggressive.”
A fellow photographer, Vince Camiolo, captured York’s nearly seven-minute encounter with the elk on his own video camera and posted it to YouTube.
“He has his head cocked to the side and his horns are down and his eye is locked right on me,” York said of the encounter.
After about five minutes, York stands up and the elk backs away, only to continue staring down York in a sort of standoff. As the elk continues to approach and then back away from York, a white SUV slowly approaches and York eventually hops in, leaving his camera bag behind.
As the elk starts to bite into the camera bag, the SUV drives forward close enough to scare the elk away and York comes out of the car to retrieve his bag.
“Everyone says I have a hard head,” York said. “Well, I am glad I do because it came in handy that day.”