Monday, September 7, 2009

Oak creek winter feeding station, Naches WA

Bighorn sheep at Oakcreek feeding station

Equipment: Canon 20D, Canon 100-400mm

Image details: 370mm, f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 200

Every winter Washington department of Fish and Wildlife provides supplemental feed to the elk and the bighorn sheep in the Oakcreek area to help them get through the winter. A good portion of the traditional wintering grounds for these creatures are apple orchards today, so it is partly keep them out people's orchards. While the merits of doing this are very debatable - it gives us photographers a valuable opportunity to photograph wild elk and bighorn sheep at close proximity in their natural location. Refer to the following website for more details.

The feeding stations for the elk and the bighorn sheep are in different locations because apparently they don't really get along with each other. There are two feeding stations for the elk. The first station is at the visitor center. The elk are fed everyday around 1.30 pm. There are usually up to a thousand elk here. You can get very close to them and don't really need a big telephoto - this is both a challenge and an opportunity. The ground is usually muddy and dirty and does not make a good background or foreground - so it difficult to get good portrait shots. Try to use the sky or the snow as your background. The visitor center also provides truck tours inside the enclosure - it is worth going on it once. It is usually very cold, so make sure you are dressed appropriately.

Elk, Oak creek feeding station

Equipment: Canon 20D, Canon 100-400mm

Image details: 340mm, f/5.6, 1/100sec, ISO 200

The second elk feeding station is located on Highway 12 . Looks for signs after the junction of Highway 12 and Highway 410. You have to shoot the elk from behind a barbed wire fence but I find this location better than the visitor center. You will need a bigger telephoto lens at this location, a 300 or 400 mm is a must if you want to get good portraits.

The bighorn sheep are fed at the Cleman mountain feeding station that is east of the intersection of highways 12 and 410. The sheep feeding station is a little further away from the fence than the elk. The sheep are also very wary and take a little bit of time to approach the feeding area. You will need a bigger telephoto - atleast a 400mm to get decent shots of the sheep. A 600mm lens would be ideal here. If you don't have one you might be able to rent one for the weekend at Glazers camera. For good portrait shots make sure you shoot as wide open as you can so that you can get good bokeh. Think carefully about the background of your shots. It is important to have a simple, consistent and non distracting background.

The best time to visit both the feeding stations is January/February. It is very cold - usually close to zero, so make sure you dress warmly. Good footwear is essential and make sure you have warm gloves. Thicker gloves prevent you from operating you camera easily. I find it convenient to wear liners - usually operate the camera with the liners and put on the gloves when i'm starting to get colder.

Directions to feeding station


mohan said...

Those are some handsome bighorns !
Did u rent the 100-400 lens?

Dharshan said...

Yeah, they are beautiful creatures! I own the 100-400. Its my stock lens, not the best but the most versatile.