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Behind The Lens

The photo was taken in the Rocky Mountains in the Kananaskis country area near Banff, Alberta, Canada. He is an older Rocky Mountain Sheep with some well defined horns. They often show signs of wear with the fierce combat that gets performed every year. As they are horns and not antlers, they keep them for life. A few more years and the horn will curl even more. if it doesn't get broken.
I lived in the area for many years and often took the full day hiking and walking the trails from early morning till dusk. The season was late fall start in the mountains. The time of day was late evening around dusk and this ram was the head of a herd that was walking the side of a mountain a little off the trail I was on. I tracked them into a clearing that had a mountain rock face and trees in the distance behind them.
The time was late in the day so I had some challenges with contrast as the sun was starting to go down. I had tracked the herd for about an hour and position myself to get the background clean and his face pointed in the right direction. I almost think of it as a portrait, only I couldn't direct the subject very well, just had to let him naturally get some Rembrandt lighting happening.
I use Nikon equipment and this was a D700 and was using a 150 - 500 sigma telephoto lens. I shot at 400 ISO and a 1200 shutter speed. I was a ways away to not spook them but wanted to fill the frame as much as possible so think it was the full 500mm. I used natural light which was getting nice and soft that time of day. I often use a tripod but for this one I crouched down and put my camera in the crouch of a tree to steady it. Careful to watch for tree sap (another story).
I love this part of the world for the beauty of the mountains and the wildlife you get there and the four distinct seasons you get for backgrounds. These sheep in the spring molt their winter hair (not that pretty) and slowly get it back through the year. By late fall it is very thick as is happening with this ram. This time of year can be fall leaves or deep snow - never know in the mountains. This was a cold day but great for the animals to come out lower down the mountain and they often move to more remote parts in the winter. This day they didn't seem to worried about me being there, as I was about the bears in the area. Great to capture them in a wonderful setting.
I had to dodge a little on the hair due to the contrast and used lightroom clarity to pull out a little more detail in the horns. But not to much post processing as the background went dark with the time of day and the lighting was soft from the sun setting. Some work out that way and we are always grateful.
In my camera bag
I currently have a nikon d800, I carry a 500mm fixed nikon lens for wildlife as I dont want to spook them and also most of them need to be approached with caution, as some of them may look at you as being lunch. I also carry a 70-200 nikon lens and also a 24-70 nikon for scenics. I have a manfrotto carbon tripod that is very versatile and steady. I also carry my flash and a flash extender for shooting birds etc that tend to be in darker trees. Other than the 500mm it all fits into a backpack which I need to be able to hike for hours with. Lens cleaners, extra batteries, rain sleeve, towel, bear spray, hat, bug spray, cable release, fast release shoes on all lenses, many flash cards, pocket knife, flashlight, cell phone, lunch, water and a trusty granola bar.
I would suggest that you do a little research on the area and the type of wildlife you are after capturing. I love spring for the babies and fall and winter for the background contrast and the great coats they all get. Mountain sheep live on the rocky sides of the mountains but can be seen along the roads sometimes as the salt used to stop ice on the road attracts them. Animals that have antlers grow them in the spring (get velvet on the horns) and shed them as late as December. In late fall you get the full racks and the fighting for females. They are often more aggressive then as well. For the mountain sheep in the late fall you can hear the load crashes of their battles from a long way away. Amazing to watch these animals raise up on their hind legs and just bash heads. The mountains are known for sudden weather shifts so be prepared. Summer best time for the wonderful scenics. The Banff area has bears, black and grizzly, elk, deer, moose, mountain sheep, mountain goats, cougar, wolves, coyotes, lots of birds, many smaller animals and great scenics with the mountains and lakes.

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