Bighorn Battle: A print of this image is appearing at the Art in Nature show at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado from Oct.21 – Nov. 26, 2011. A color version of this photograph is also included in my book: Classic Colorado.
As a nature photographer who usually composes wide-angle color landscapes, this image is a departure from my usual work. However, opportunity knocked to make this photograph and I had to answer it. While driving home from a previous photo shoot I noticed several cars pulled over on the side of US Highway 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon west of Loveland, Colorado. Many people stopped to observe these Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis) displaying head-butting behavior, an unusual occurrence on this spring morning since males usually spar in autumn during their rut/mating season. Perhaps these youngsters were just playing or practicing for when the battles become more serious later in the year. The rams focused on their contests, indifferent to human onlookers as I pulled over, exited my vehicle and stood directly across the road from these two males. I watched and photographed different head-butts using a telephoto lens and a fast frame rate for about an hour. This image portrays one of those “decisive moments” as a loud, concussive collision was about to commence.