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
Great post and pics, Anne! What a cool experience!!
Charles Stewart says
Nice Big Horn Photo: I have been photographing wild life and landscapes for over 50 years, and I still get excited when a good opportunity presents it’s self. I have learned that they are as interested in us as we are of them. They are always cautious, they have a built in fear of anything unfamiliar, given enough time they can learn that you are not a threat. But that can take quite a while. Charlie
Very interesting. Your advice about practicing switching the camera controls is so true! Beautiful images, as always!
Elizabeth parnis says
Exciting experience! Glad you were able to get the photos and not be charged by the ram. Am off to scottsdale in April and will be checking your advice. Thanks
Very cool, thanks for sharing this experience. Glad you had the chance to take these great photos!
Rob Hanson says
Nice series of pics, and great opportunity!
Diana Philpot says
To do: practice changing lenses in the field, memorize desired settings for wildlife photography, learn which animals can hurt me in what manner, and thank Anne when I finally get that lucky shot and find myself ready.
Raffaello Palandri says
Great shot !
I am also a wanderer and there is no better way to spend a day in my opinion! No matter how many times I have quickly changed settings and gear, I often forget something because I just get so excited. I hope I never lose that!
Sreekumar Menon says
Wonderful shots Anne. Your advice on shifting from landscape to wildlife is great. Awsome narration too.
Patricia Davidson says
Nice shots! I can’t wait to visit there.
Rebecca Waters says
You are an inspiration!
Leon H DeVries says
Beautiful image!!! Preparation-preparation! Great talent is wonderful, but nothing tops being prepared for the unexpected!!! Well done.
Those pictures would be welcomed by Big Horn Magazine. A friend of mine took several pictures by Murphy Idaho and was showing his pictures to different people and 2 months later he saw that his picture had been sent to the Big Horn Magazine and it was not sent in by him but another person he thought he could trust. Credit was never given to him but we do have the original photo. Excellent shots.
Nice article. You have written it in very interesting way and nice photos. And as a woman you are a great role model for the girls who love photography and travelling. 🙂
Grigor Mouradian says
I wonder what or who took those creatures to America as the wild rams originated from the Caucasus, I also wonder if any wild rams still left in Asia or Europe. Or I am just hallucinating..
What a great story and some great photos!
I found this blog back in May 2014, and have been a fan ever since. Anne’s expressive skills are outstanding and her photos give me something to strive for. (I have shared this site with the people in my photography meet-up group.)
I like that Anne is honest enough to say that even when she goes out with great intentions, sometimes she is just not inspired.
What a great tip about thinking ahead for the changes to be made if you have to switch from a landscape to a wildlife mindset..and practicing the necessary steps to make the change. I will remember that all my life.
This post was a great tutorial. Thank you, Anne.
Alfredo Arante says
Switching camera setting is instantaneous in my Canon 5dm2, using Custom Settings. Just assign one of the “Cx” setpoints to your wildlife settings. When the need comes, one turn of the knob instantly changes camera setting to my presets.
Brian in Whitby says
You had quite an adventure with that ram. From your description, I think he was just curious. You were probably quite safe. In general herbivores are not aggressive unless you corner them or get into their body space. The exception is during the rut when the males are so hormone crazed they might mistake you for another male.
As with anything else you might want to photograph, it is best to know as much about your subject as possible. Years in the outdoors have given me an understanding of most animals in my regular haunts.
Like you, I like to wander. Usually I am set up for wildlife as I wander. Wildlife has an annoying habit of running away as you are changing lenses but I have yet to have a landscape run away. When I wander I like to have my wide angle and some macro equipment with me as well. There are so many wonderful tiny things out there that it would be a shame to have to pass them by.