Rocky Mtn Bighorn Sheep captured by Z 6II / 180-400VR
Rocky Mtn Bighorn Sheep rams captured by Z 6II / 180-400VR
“You go ask her, no, you walk over there and ask. Heck no, you go first!” You know that awkward time at the beginning of a high school dance, that’s what was going through my head as I watched these eleven Rocky Mountain Bighorns gather and munch. We had a total of fifteen curls but the ranch manager told us he’d seen eighteen the earlier in the week. The Ram Band had come down to meet up with the ewe band for that “birds & the bees” thing they do this time of year. We had spent a few hours with the sheep at this point (47 in all) and the light had gotten pretty hard but I sooo love being with sheep, I wasn’t going anywhere. Then the rams spread out in a line as you see. I wanted that picture, but how to tell the story?
Shooting with the 180-400VR, I could get this grouping or that grouping of rams, but that wouldn’t show them all! That’s when the idea of a pano came to mind. ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) makes it so darn simple as long as you give it plenty of info. I did what I recommend you don’t do, made awkward crops. The pano is a three image pano so you can see how I cropped right through somebodies but ACR had no issue putting them back together again. I worked really fast as they were moving so I had some doubts but it turned out pretty cool. Sharon really likes it so it might even end up on The Ranch wall. It sums up beautifully though a great week with these amazing critters!
female Pileated Woodpecker captured by Z 6II / 180-400VR
I got back and saw it and other than enjoying its presence and watching it, never really paid close attention to details. Last week I had the time so I grabbed the Z 6II / 180-400VR and spend some time with it. That’s when I realized he, was a she! Her pattern doesn’t vary much, eats at both feeders, heads down to Vs.4 water features, and then calls. It would seem the calling has to do with her letting other Pileateds know it’s her territory. She’s great company every day, Maggie or our chores don’t phase her so she’s a great addition. Now I’m on the hunt for the perfect nesting tree I can plant to encourage a more permanent occupation. So, say Hello Mrs. P!
Alaskan Bull Moose captured by Z 6II / 180-400VR
The air started to bite with the drop in temps as the snow started to fall later yesterday afternoon. It’s a gorgeous, quiet time of year in Alaska with the changing of the guard from fall to winter. We’d spent the week in the Chugach Mountains, some days putting in seven miles going up and down the valley in search of our quarry that in previous years was chuck full. Something I’ve been doing for decades, this slam dunk subject has never been a challenge for me to find and photograph. With literally 50k plus images in my files from this one locale, its productivity keeps me coming back over and over again. This year, it’s all different and in the back of my mind, I’m very concerned.
There are some critters I know pretty well, Grizzly Bears, Sandhill Cranes, San Joaquin Kit Fox, and Moose. I’ve put decades of field time with these critters and those who have made it their life mission to understand them. This knowledge has numerous photographic benefits, one of them being in the right place at the right time. This year, it didn’t help out that much. After days of looking in locales where there should be herds of Moose only to find one, literally just one, and hearing from folks how they never gathered this year like in the past, I went to what Sharon calls Plan B. After a little time wandering, I finally found what we call in my family affectionately, my Northern Cousins.
The small band of a dozen Moose was held up in a small corner of Kincaid Park with this bull being the first and rightfully, the last one we spent time with. This is a dozen miles and at sea level from their mountain haunts. I’m saying bull but you’re seeing no giant rack so might be thinking it’s a cow. That’s because this big bull, and I mean big, has already shed its antlers which this time of year, is really abnormal! A sample of one, alone this doesn’t mean much. But we found other bulls missing one or both of their antlers. This along with their total absence in the valley high in the mountains where they should normally be doing that birds and the bees thing just feels really wrong as in, there is something wrong in their world. And when this is combined with the rest of the anecdotal evidence from the past two years going to old haunts to find critters missing or totally gone that for decades have been a treasure trove of photographs truly has me concerned for the natural world I so love. What have we done to our wild heritage? It keeps me awake at night, no bull!
6 Month Old Rocky Mtn Bighorn captured by Z 6II / 180-400VR
They are simply the cutest thing, Rocky Mtn Bighorn lamps. Though about six months old, this youngster was high up on a ridge above us along with the ewe band it probably grew up with. After a school bus pushed them back up the slope, they came back down to us as we had played “the game” perfectly. They accepted us as just being stupid photographers and came back down to feed. Some crashed right down the slope to the road, others meandered down at their pleasure. What a great afternoon with a piece of our wild heritage!
Alaskan Bull Moose captured by D5 / 180-400VR
The deer and elk around the ranch have all shed their velvet and the bucks and bulls are busy cruising for females. With the chill in the air and plants tucked in for winter, big game feels the pressure to procreate and get back to putting on fat while they can. This offers up great photographic opportunities for those getting out where the big game roam.
There are some considerations you must contemplate before you even make a photograph. Most importantly is the welfare of our subjects, they come before the photograph. Calories are precious and we cannot do anything that might cause big game to expel more calories because of our actions. This can is easily accomplished by using a long lens and not pushing the critters with our approach. Ideally, you never approach the critter but rather, let them approach on their own terms. You’ll not only protect their well being doing this, but you’ll also come back with better images.
When it comes to the rut, doing a little research on your target mammal is important. Moose gather up harems and spend time protecting them. Pronghorn do the same thing where Mule & White-tailed Deer don’t. You don’t want to get in the way of these activities yet take advantage of them. Watch the behavior before you make a move, understand the rhythm to protect the process while getting better photographs. You can do it, have a great time and come back with memorable photographs when the chill is in the air.