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Well this is the second time that looking for Bighorn Sheep has led me to a man of good character who is also long on experience. Virginia Chadwick, a board member of the SNBSF gave me contact information for Steve saying, “He gets the best photographs of sheep and he knows where to look.”
Steve is as much a part of the Eastern Sierra Nevada as the sheep herds that migrate there in the winter. Steve has a long family history in the Eastern Sierra. His grandfather and father lived there before he was born. He is a husband, father and grandfather. His children and grandchildren also live in Bishop. He told me he was well acquainted with two Sierra icons Galen Rowell and Norman Clyde. Steve is a “retired” cement contractor.
We parked my truck and headed toward a possible view area where he had recently seen some rams. Wednesday was a cold and windy day but it didn’t seem to bother Steve much. He has spent most of his life outdoors. After scanning the area with binoculars and a spotting scope he determined there were no sheep to be seen. I was scanning with a second pair of his binoculars and knew that his experienced eyes were much more dependable than mine. Unless it is a brown sheep on a white rock, I will not see it. The California DFW had recently stirred things up with several captures using a helicopter.
We then drove up Pine Creek road to another possible view site. He got out of his truck and said; “I can smell them. They are close.” And he was right. He pointed to a slope that ran down into a slag pile from a closed Tungsten mine and I could see three ewes on the skyline along the ridge with binoculars. I took some 400mm shots while Steve got my tripod out of his truck. Some were good, some not so much. After several shots we moved below them on Pine Creek road. They were above us across Pine Creek and it was flowing too fast and deep to safely cross with camera gear so we were unable to climb any closer. These sheep are a part of the Wheeler Ridge Herd Unit. I got lots of shots and tried a 2X Teleconverter on the 400mm lens. I immediately lost autofocus and used focus peaking. The 800mm shots were disappointing at best.
The 400mm shots were my best so far and I have Steve to thank. I had spent much of the previous day scanning an area south of Aberdeen to no avail other than contracting a sore neck.
Follow The Leader
We tried other locations and eventually went over to some petroglyphs that Steve wanted me to see. What a day we had telling old man anecdotes. His were better than mine. He once called the California DFW to report a missing California Condor in the Pleasant Valley area near Bishop and has walked up on mountain lions by sheep kills!
Owens River With Sierra Nevada Mountains In Background