I started my day spending some time with a reporter and camera man from KEVN, or Black Hills FOX, a FOX affiliate in Rapid City. I took them out near the northeast entrance and talked about photography, what inspires me, my residency, and whatever else came along. To illustrate my process, I took a shot that I normally would not have, in harsh, mid-day light. But, with the help of a warming polarizing filter and a break in the clouds, it turned out actually pretty nice, so I include it in this post (top left image in gallery below). Here is a link to the FOX interview.
But my time here in the Badlands is winding down. I only have two full days left, and one morning. So far, the weather has been quite cooperative. I guess it is trying to make up for how it has treated me sometimes on this trip. I had planned to spend some time this evening exploring a tiny section of the park off Highway 44. It is essentially the bridge between the North Unit and South Unit of the park. There are no pullouts or overlooks, but I was going to park on the side of the road and hike in to explore. Unfortunately, they are doing some road construction on Highway 44. The portion of the road that is now only one way, requiring the pilot car to take you through, is exactly the section I wanted to explore. So, no joy there. For Plan B, I continued on through and started from the far end of the Sage Creek Road, working my way back to the Pinnacles Area.
There were quite a few bull Bison out and about, offering me some great opportunities for close ups as well as broad landscape and wildlife images. They were all in various stages of trying to lose their winter coat. It has been almost three weeks since our last snow out here, so I guess they figured they were safe. It was interesting to be so close to them, as they were grazing I could hear them making this low grunting noise. Then I heard something I have never heard before. A large bull had been sitting on top of a rise for quite some time, but he stood up suddenly and stared straight ahead of him … right at another bull. The second bull had been slowly walking straight at the sitting bull, and the second bull was starting to growl. Or, at least, that is the closest I can describe the sound. It was a low, rumbling, very intent growl, and it kept getting louder. I thought for a second that the two were going to get into it. I was prepared, at a safe distance with my 500mm and ready to go. Unfortunately, the second bull stopped growling and backed off.
As I approached the Pinnacles area, I saw two ewe Bighorn sitting on a slope, providing an almost picture-perfect wildlife pose. They were collared, which most of the Piannacles Bighorns are, but I still photographed them. Even though they are being monitored, they are still wild. And wildlife population monitoring is important in guaging the health of the particular population, understanding its habits. I will try to get up early tomorrow and see if the weather will be right to set up my camera for another time lapse. I really want to do one more, for a full 24 hours, before I leave.