Joan and I spent quite some time searching for, watching, and photographing wildlife during our trip in the Dakotas. Since it was our third time in Badlands National Park we had already a pretty good idea where to look for critters and this time we had again some wonderful encounters and joyful experiences. For those of you who like to go there sometime here is the tip, try Sage Creek Rim Road, the gravel road that leads to the primitive Sage Creek Campground. You may find wildlife along the Badlands Loop Road, where most of the tourists travel as well, but it isn’t always easy to park the car and work the critters with your camera along this busy road.
Finding and getting close to the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep was on my bucket list for this trip, and boy, we have not been disappointed!! We were still a little early for the rut and these two rams were standing peacefully side by side, watching the herd and having an eye on the photographer.
This is one of my favorite images during this trip. It shows the herd moving along the grassy slopes beside Sage Creek Rim Road and leaves no doubt about where this image has been made. The avid reader of my blog knows that I often like to go for the environmental shot and because of the typical landscape in the background, there is very little doubt that this was shot in the Badlands, South Dakota. It would have been a “butt-shot-only” image, except for the wonderful pose these two young rams put on display. They are too young to play a role in the upcoming rut but they like to test their power against each other.
When the bighorn sheep are comfortable with your presence they stick their head into the grass and do the “sheep thing”, eating and munching. Getting the shot may need a lot of patience. Remember, while eating every muscle in their face is in motion and the head moves around all the time. It is hard to get a sharp shot and the prairie grass covers quite often part of the head. The terrain in the Badlands sometimes allows you to shoot from below or at least at eye level with the critter. Waiting for the brief moments when the head comes up, either to watch out for a potential predator, or like in this case, for just chewing on a taller piece of prairie grass, can lead to the picture you have in mind. More to come...