Sometimes the elements and critters don’t cooperate and you can’t get the traditional picture you want. In this instance, the elk were too far away and the skyline is the background did not create the elements to get a great shot. In the west, when you are shooting on a cold day, two environmental aspects can affect getting a sharp photo. The first of heat shimmer which is when the sun light hits the cold ground and heat waves radiate in between the subject and the lens. This will make it difficult for autofocus or manual focus to get a sharp photo. The second is blue gas when the sage will emit vapors in the morning which will discolor and also affect the sharpness of your photo
In this instance of a no-win scenario, I went for what we call artsy-fartsy. Play around with your subject and do something non-traditional or out of the ordinary. This photo was taken with the Nikon Z 7, FTZ adapter, Nikon 180-400 F/4 at 400mm with built-in 1.4 teleconverter engaged, 2X teleconverter and Nikon high speed crop (HSC). You can do the math on the focal length 🙂 .