Friday, November 07, 2008

Bighorn Country

One slip and I knew I would have to abandon my camera or face a certain fall off of the ledge that I found myself on.....

It had started innocently enough a hour earlier as I trekked along the cliffs of the Sheep River gorge west of Turner Valley in southwestern Alberta. I spotted the small herd of ewes with a large male ram on ledges above me as I glassed the slopes overlooking the Sheep and the Rockies beyond. I was happy to have spotted them, however the problem was the fact that they were out of good camera range. So began my climb up the slope in a round about way, so as not to spook them over the ridge above the area they were grazing in.

After a forty-five minute climb, I inched around the rock-face before me and found that I was in a reasonably good location to get the captures I desired. I had slung my camera setup across my chest with the carrying strap that is mounted to the much more robust mounting lugs on the lens. However I had not been able to carry any additional support for the camera. So I pulled off my jacket and used it as a rest on a rock outcrop. This worked well and I was pleased with the results on my LCD screen.
 I soon was working my way in closer and got close enough to attract the attention of the ram who decided that I did not pose a risk and went back to feeding. Finally, I began the decent and that is where I ran in to trouble. The weight of the camera with lens was throwing me off balance, making for a somewhat precarious decent. I was prepared to dump the camera if I had to and being I have a all perils insurance policy on my camera gear, it was a better choice that taking a tumble that could end up with me lying on the rocks below. Fortunately I was wearing my favorite hiking boots that give good support and stability, as well as traction, although they are not in the same class as the hoofs on the bighorn sheep.

The front hoofs of mountain sheep are slightly larger than the hind, but both leave a print that is almost rectangular. A hard rim around the outer edge of each hoof surrounds a softer, concave, or curving in, area in the middle, giving excellent traction on rocky terrain. They are a treat to watch as they skip from ledge to ledge while working their way over to a small bit of new grazing. So with some careful foot-work, I was able to get myself back down to the gentler slopes below without any mishaps on this day. I was feeling quite pleased with my captures of these Bighorn sheep and enjoyed the trek out to the road where I had left my truck. Now, lets see, where could I get some captures of Mountain Goats as......

Working to within 50 meters or so from this big ram, got me this stare as I shot his photo.

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