Making New Friends


I made some new friends at Colorado National Monument last week… Desert Bighorn Sheep friends, that is! It was a cloudy day and I was hoping it would stay that way. Canyons are difficult to photograph because of their extreme contrast so I wanted diffused light. Upon arrival I was greeted by some bighorn ewes and got a few shots that show how adorable they are before another visitor scared them off. The sun came out shortly after making the lighting conditions harsh, so I spent the day scouting the park. I drove from one end to the other and back again… about 25 miles one-way, stopping to walk out to several of the overlooks. Right around sunset there was another group alongside the road in an area deep in shade. The light was fading fast so I boosted up my ISO and shutter speed for some captures of rams that made the day seem better! I like that the images show how well the sheep blend in to their rocky habitat.

Desert Bighorn Sheep are a subspecies of Bighorn Sheep. Both males and females develop horns soon after they are born. Older rams have larger, curling horns that can grow to measure over 3 feet. The ewes’ horns are smaller and do not curl.

'Desert Bighorn I' © Denise Bush

‘Desert Bighorn I’ © Denise Bush
click here to view larger or order a print

'Sheepish Greeter I' © Denise Bush

‘Sheepish Greeter II’ © Denise Bush
100-400mm @ 400mm • 1/250 sec. • f/8 • ISO 400

'Desert Bighorn II' © Denise Bush

‘Desert Bighorn II’ © Denise Bush
100-400mm @ 400mm • 1/125 sec. • f/8 • ISO 800

'Sheepish Greeter I' © Denise Bush

‘Sheepish Greeter I’ © Denise Bush

'Desert Bighorn III' © Denise Bush

‘Desert Bighorn III’ © Denise Bush

32 Responses to “Making New Friends”

  1. 1 Deb

    Ah, a wildlife photographer! – I knew it would happen! Great shots!

    • Thanks Deb! Don’t think of myself as much of a wildlife photographer but it is fun when given the opportunity. I think I would like it more if I had a 600mm lens! 🙂

  2. Nice work. I like the combination of the ram and the rock wall behind it in Bighorn I. The wall makes me think of places like Canyon de Chelly as well. Did you get releases?

  3. Great set! Such great clarity, Denise. Nicely done.

  4. I saw some along I70 yesterday. I love these critters. They look better this time of year than they do in the spring when they are shedding. Great shots.

    • Hi! From what I read I believe the sheep near you would be Bighorn and not the Desert Bighorn like these found more southwest. I hope to get some lamb shots in the spring!

      • Ah, I am sure you are correct. But boy, I wouldn’t be able to tell from looking at photos. Are the Desert Bighorn a little smaller than the others?

      • I read that they are stockier… and about the size of a mule deer. They have also adapted to be able to go long periods without water. Don’t know what other differences there might be.

  5. They appear quite calm with you taking their picture. Both Sheepish greeters are adorable. Love the Bighorn II

    • They were leery at first but when they realized I wasn’t coming any closer they went on about their business. Thanks… I liked the pose in II and the way the branches almost mimic it.

  6. Great captures, Denise. The last is my favorite – such a handsome animal!

    • I got pretty close for that last one Eliza. Those horn grow and curl even larger. They live to be 10-12 years old and age can be determined by the rings on the horns. Thanks for keeping in touch!

  7. You are living the dream. When the light is right… Shoot. When it is not… Scout. I like your new friends. If they could see how beautiful you made them look, they would bring the whole herd out when you get back there.

    • There was a pretty good herd at the second stop… 10 or more? Of course they are never all in a good pose at once. Yes, I think I do just as much if not more scouting than shooting. If the conditions aren’t right I chalk it up to learning!

  8. Great photo Denise 🙂 Your sheep in Colorado look like our goats in Scotland 🙂

    • I know… that always confused me… if they look like goats why are we calling them sheep? This morning I went by a big ranch that had sheep like the ones you have in Scotland… nice and woolly. Nice to hear form you. 🙂

  9. These are amazing animals, especially when you see them climbing steep, rocky grades. Nice shots.

    • Yes, their survival is attributed to their climbing ability in escaping predators. (Can you tell I went and read up on them on the web?) Thanks Ken… keep in touch!

  10. Very picturesque new friends! Lovely shots.

  11. Great shots D. Love the Bighorns!

  12. Such majestic animals and wonderful images!

  13. Have you ever gotten really close enough to see their eyes… fascinating!!! I am still amazed at how they can stick to the sides if cliffs. Love the red rock background to these shots.

    • Yes, their eyes are interesting and they certainly had their eyes on me. Can’t take credit for the background, but I like it too. Thanks for coming to see my new friends!

  14. Love these, Denise.

    • Thanks Ray. If you ever come out this way you need to contact me so we can go shoot together. I will go take a look at your blog to see what you have been up to, other than what I have caught on FB. It’s hard for me to keep up with everyone.

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