I like to wander. In fact, I think wandering is one of my favourite things to do! Sometimes I am keeping my eye out for something specific – and other times I try to keep an open mind and see what nature has in store for me.
Recently I was wandering in the desert near Quartzsite, Arizona, generally looking for a nice landscape composition to practice with my new 10-18mm wide angle lens that I got for my Sony NEX6. I couldn’t quite find the right thing. There were lots of different cacti and some hills and valleys and I was trying to find a good perspective on the scene. I hiked up a hill, and down a hill, and up over another hill, and back again, but nothing was really grabbing my attention.
Then I heard some rocks tumbling in front of me. That got my attention! I looked up and there was something looking back – a Bighorn Ram!! Like — right there!!
As soon as I saw it I quickly replaced my wide angle lens with my telephoto and made the series of changes I have practiced for these kinds of situations when wildlife walks into my landscape scene when I was all set up for a long exposure:
- take the camera off the tripod
- turn on image stabilization
- change to shutter priority, 1/500th of a second
- turn off the 2 second timer
- increase the ISO.
It’s a good idea to practice making these kinds of changes quickly because that’s what you’ll need to do when wildlife walks into your landscape scene unexpectedly. It only takes me a few seconds to make all these changes to my setup and then I am ready to shoot.
The Bighorn Ram stared at me for awhile and then started ascending the hill. They really blend into the background! If it wasn’t so quiet in the desert, I might not have heard the tumbling rocks and missed it altogether!
Then it posed for me at the top of the hill before disappearing over the other side.
After that I took a moment to review the photos I made on the LCD. I looked back up, and was startled to see the horns of the ram just above the mountain top. It came back and it was looking at me again!
At that point, all the non-camera related thoughts started occurring to me:
“It’s looking at me. Why is it looking at me? Does it think I am a threat? They really ram those horns into each other, don’t they? Am I supposed to be scared now? Probably I should have thought of all this before. What should I do? Should I look small so I’m not a threat, or look big and throw rocks? What does a bighorn ram eat anyway? I should put my gear away. My only weapon is my tripod. Don’t turn your back on it. It’s getting dark. It’s still staring at me. Where’s Ray?”
I’m still not sure if I should have been scared of it or not, but I finally decided to slowly backup, backup, backup, (which is not as easy as it sounds with all those prickly cacti to watch out for and rocks that move when you step on them) until I was back on the trail and then I still kept my eye on it and it continued watching me until I found Ray close to the truck.
“Did you see it? Did you see it?” I said, feeling excited and just a little bit scared 🙂
“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien