Photographing bighorn sheep in Kamloops

The day was a clear, freezing minus-12° degrees; nevertheless, my wife, Linda, and I bundled up to photograph the wandering bighorn sheep near Kamloops. I had heard they were currently located near the low, sage-covered foothills at Cinnamon Ridge, off Ord Road in North Kamloops.

  • Jan. 24, 2011 6:00 p.m.

The day was a clear, freezing minus-12° degrees; nevertheless, my wife, Linda, and I bundled up to photograph the wandering bighorn sheep near Kamloops. I had heard they were currently located near the low, sage-covered foothills at Cinnamon Ridge, off Ord Road in North Kamloops.

At the beginning we photographed roadside, and then climbed up through the sage to shoot on a flat area alongside the train tracks. This was not a physically difficult endeavour other than enduring freezing fingertips.

Linda was using a 150-500mm lens and I had an 80-400mm; and the 1.5 sensor crop of our DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras effectively gave us pretty good close-ups.

The term “crop factor” was coined in an attempt to help SLR (single lens reflex) film photographers understand how their existing lenses would perform on DSLR cameras, which had sensors smaller than the 35mm film format. A photographer might say that a 50 mm lens on his DSLR “acts like” its focal length has been multiplied by 1.5, giving the same field of view as a 75mm lens on the film camera.

The actual focal length of a photographic lens is fixed by its optical construction, and does not change with the digital camera.

Most DSLRs on the market have APS-C-sized image sensors that are smaller than the standard 36×24 mm (35 mm) film frame. The result is the image sensor captures image data from a smaller area than a SLR camera would, cropping out the corners and sides that would be captured by the 36×24 mm ‘full-size’ frame. Because of this crop, the effective field of view is reduced by a factor proportional to the ratio between the smaller sensor size and the 35 mm film format size.

Ultra-wide lenses become merely wide-angle, and wide-angle lenses become ‘normal’. For example, a usually wide-angle 28mm lens would become a not-so-wide 42mm lens. However, the crop factor is an advantage to photographers using telephoto lenses. It allows photographers with telephoto lenses to fill the frame easily when the subjects are far away.

A 400mm lens on my camera with a 1.5 crop factor delivers images that a 35mm film format camera would require a 600mm lens to capture and Linda’s 500mm was effectively a 750mm.

We both chose manual exposure modes to give us, and not our cameras, control over the mid-toned foreground, sometimes dark cliffs, blue sky and especially the brightness of the sheep positioned in the landscape. We also preset our cameras to ISO 400. The higher ISO increased sensitivity to light therefore enabling a higher shutterspeed.

The bighorns weren’t too bothered by our presence and we had an unobstructed front row view, but instead of the usual headshots so many photographers go for I wanted to place the sheep in the shrubby environment and liked the colours of the sage and the muted tones of light.

I didn’t do any wide scenics, just wide enough to include more in my composition than the sheep. The bighorn sheep were very aware of our presence, and whenever I tried to move closer to them they casually moved keeping a comfort zone between us. Cold as it was we were exhilarated by the experience, and both of us filled our memory cards with pictures, and had lots of fun.

I think successful wildlife photographers have the hunter instinct, are probably very patient people, and I am sure that for those whose wildlife photography stands out they study and practice their craft.

British Columbia has a wealth of opportunities like the bighorn sheep that Linda and I photographed.

I searched for other locations with wildlife subjects different than what we see here in the Interior. I understand the banks of the Cheakamus River are an excellent place for those wanting lots of eagles to photograph. There are tour groups in the Chilcotin wilderness for photographing grizzly bears, and there is a wolf photography excursion near Golden, to name a few. A quick search of the internet turned up www.canadiannaturephotographer.com and this site looks very interesting for those pursuing wildlife photography skills.

These are my thoughts this week.

Contact me at emcam@telus.com at 250-371-3069 or Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. I offer professional wedding photography, photographic instruction, and sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment. My website is www.enmanscamera.com.

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