Bighorn Pose

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Bighorn posing on granitic boulder in Joshua Tree National Park.

Bighorn posing on granitic boulder in Joshua Tree National Park.

On a quiet evening in Joshua Tree National Park in southern California, USA,  I was intending to photograph the low-angle light on the granitic rock formations. I walked to a desolate ravine between massive jumbles of boulders. I had taken some wide angle photos of the immense landscape views and had just changed to a telephoto lens. I heard a noise and looked up from my camera to see this bighorn sheep about 100 feet away.

During the next few minutes he slowly moved over the boulders to the top of the ravine. Each time he came to a bolder he stopped on top and posed. He looked directly at me, then looked away, and looked at me again before moving on. He was used to this path and was not hurried. I, however, after being startled by him walking up, was nervous and frantically shooting. Because I had just changed the lens I didn’t take the time to change the camera settings which were set for wide angle shots of the distant horizon. Each time an unexpected action event like this occurs I learn a lot and I hope I will eventually be able to react calmly and think through the technical aspects of photographing the scene. There are many different things to consider when changing suddenly from a distant static landscape to close action. (I started learning about this on Mont Blanc in France when I was shooting a beautiful, sunlit glacier view and all of a sudden there was a bright blue mountaineering helicopter screaming along over jagged rocky ridges far below me. Practice. Practice. Practice.)

This bighorn was deliberate and I thought that maybe this was his regular evening route to water or shelter or something. So the next evening I took some water and a sandwich and got myself set up in a little pocket in the rocks and waited for him. I had thought about the camera settings and felt that I was ready to do a better job this time. But, he did not return. I got to eat my sandwich and watch the light change on the granite. Sometimes you get only one unexpected chance. Photo: 1/100 s at f/22  (2009)

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