Today, we went through the park without our guide. It was great to have such an awesome guide as Steve, but we thought we'd take a day to go around on our own. Today was one of the best photography days I've had in my life.
I received a couple comments in previous posts from photographers saying they don't have the money to get an expensive wildlife lens, but would love to shoot some of the animals near their home. The answer to the problem is simple: rent a lens for the week! Borrowlenses.com was kind enough to send me the Nikon 600mm lens for the week and it was fantastic. I doubt that I'll ever buy this lens because renting is so cheap and easy for trips like this.
Tips for shooting bighorn sheep rams in Yellowstone
On the first two days of my trip, I got a lot of “grab shots.” A “grab shot” is when you just shoot something as you see it without any real creativity. I got a lot of “grab shots” because I was so excited to see the animals within range that I just shot every instant that I saw the animals. Today, once the excitement had worn off a little and I already had other images of the animals just standing there, I focused on getting more action into my shots (as much as possible).
The trick to getting action in your wildlife photography is patience. The bighorn sheep often stood on the cliff for 20 to 30 minutes without a bit of movement, and then the ewe would move and suddenly there would be head butting, chasing, and jumping as the bighorn sheep ran along the cliff. Photographers often get bored while the animals are sitting there, and so they step away from the camera or take their finger off the shutter button. Those photographers ALWAYS miss the good shots. Patience, patience, patience. If you want the good shots–patience!
The second tip for shooting Yellowstone bighorn sheep is to learn a little biology. The advantage of having a guide was that he could explain to us how a group of bighorn sheep operates. Once I learned to spot the dominant male ram, it was easy to know when there was going to be a fight. It seems that the non-dominant rams in a group rarely fight each other this time of year. The real head butting occurs when one of the non-dominant rams tries to approach the ewe too closely. Understanding this gave me 3 or 4 seconds of warning before a fight because I could see that the dominant ram was becoming uneasy.