About Me

Wells, BC, Canada
Richard is a working photographer and writer in B.C. His camera focuses on natural history. archeology, travel, and documentary photography. His photography blog may be found at: http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

GoPro Hero on the road and Bighorn Sheep

On the road with GoPro Hero and Bighorn sheep

Dash cam, Nikon d7000 on auto.

I rode into Cache Creek, B.C. from the north, in the dark, listening to Marty Robbins.  As I pulled into the log lodge I realized this was likely the first time I had arrived here from the north, in the dark. Normally I am blasting through on my way from Kamloops or Vancouver, with perhaps a quick stop for a burger at Hungry Herbie’s, but now that I am watching my fat intake even that is rare.

Dash cam, Nikon d7000, auto exposure

The Bear Claw Lodge is a massive log structure built a few years ago. I have never stayed here but on this trip south to Christmas I decided to change my overnight stop from 100 Mile House to Cache Creek.  I had got a way from home earlier than expected, the drive was easy with clear roads and brilliant sunshine and my new eyes felt great. I lingered for a few minutes at Williams Lake while I tried to guide the local constabulary to a suspected impaired driver who had been weaving down the highway. I followed him for a while and got a tag number after he turned off the highway.  The constable was on him and was going to follow it up. Merry Christmas.  Many years ago I lost a good friend to a drunk driver, just at Christmas, so this one is for her.

I checked in to the lodge in the restaurant, the front desk being closed, unloaded bag after bag, turned on the TV, put the Do Not Disturb on the door. That’s about as secure as I can make the room.

The waitress/busser/desk clerk/ hostess was run off her feet.  Fourteen people at about six tables were in various stages of dinner.  A couple of truckers, a family traveling for Christmas, another family with the ubiquitous crying baby, and a single woman.  In a few minutes the tall, attractive woman warmly greeted two young boys, finished her coffee while standing and went outside where they unloaded snowboards and bags from what appeared to be their grandfather’s car into her rooftop carrier and truck. A quick roadside hug and they headed off in opposite directions. The roadside transfer. The Christmas child sharing. I knew folks who were doing the same maneuver.  I remember making the same painful separation myself, year after regretful year, never seeming to be able to make it right, to get it right – and it never ends.

Inside I was sure it was going to be a long wait for dinner. But Holly was rushing from table to table, somehow managing to keep up. My beer was on the table in a couple of minutes, then salad, then baby back ribs.  I wanted some protein.
“I’ll bring you a finger bowl in a minute,” she said.
“I hope you’re getting well paid for all this work”, I said.
“Minimum wage dear, minimum wage. But it’s $9.50 an hour now.”
“You deserve a lot more,” I said, realizing I had just talked myself into a large tip.
“I close at eight tonight – have to be back here at 5 a.m. ready for breakfast at 7.  The owners are away but they are supposed to be back soon and then it will be easier. Is everything okay with your room?”
“It’s all good – see you at breakfast.”

Just after first light I was on the road again. Heading south toward Spences Bridge and the Fraser Canyon.  I was going to take the canyon road this time, staying out of the high country snow on the Coquihalla, opting for a few hours of photography along the Thompson River.

I took a few minutes to try a new mounting option for the GoPro.  One of the mounts I picked up was a Ram suction cup mount.  It is a suction cup which is “squeezed” onto the surface with a lever. Above the suction cup is a ball and socket fixture, allowing the camera to be pointed in virtually any direction.  I had used the suction cup mount on the inside window but now threw caution to the wind and squeezed it onto the hood, and pointed it back at me.  “They use them on the side of helicopters,” the sales woman at Point of View cameras in Vancouver had told me.  Hmmmm.

GoPro Hero hood cam with a Ram mount.

But, sure enough I could see no sign of the mount loosening as I drover down the highway.  However, when I stopped to check and remount I decided to rig up a safety lanyard of parachute cord from the mount to my sideview mirror.  Set at one photo per 30 seconds it worked fine and a got a few more shots for my driving portfolio.

View from the GoPro Hero with a Ram hood mount.

If you are looking for a GoPro Hero you will find them in most cameras stores.
Or, click on the ad that is likely below this blog.
 However, for a variety of point of view cameras (POV) and mounts you might check out
Point of View cameras near Main and 2nd in Vancouver:
Another great site for GoPro cameras is
I have not purchased from them but their site is great and they have a number of very useful videos on their site and on YouTube. Their video of the LCD screen, for instance, I found very useful.
I just had an email from Russell Latimer at EyeofMine who says, “Our plan for 2012 is to work on more professional related products.  Right now we are working on a carbon fiber jib arm for the GoPro. Very small and light.”
Now this could be very useful as once you start using a GoPro you will find more and better uses for it and while the camera is great the real challenge then becomes how to get a different angle and how to mount it.

GoPro photos framed and exposed, or at least converted to digital pixels, I tucked the camera away and headed south again.  Then at Spences Bridge a parked truck drew my attention and just as I had hoped the local bighorn sheep were on a hillside just above the road – just as I had been hoping.

Bighorn sheep are one of my favorite wildlife subjects.  Back in the 70s and 80s Bighorns were the subject of two films my partner of the day (Rochelle) and I shot with an Idaho biologist. “Bighorn” was a CBC Klahanie half hour film and followed us around western North American in pursuit of bighorn sheep.  Some of the same film was then used for “The Nature of Things.”  The summer we shot the film was one of the highlights of my career, taking us from Idaho to Wyoming, from the Chilcotin to Banff. Banff was one of the climactic moments.  Way back in the mountains we layed down to rest and were joined by a herd of sheep with one of the largest rams we had ever seen.  That old magnificent ram made me a lot of money.  But all of that is a longer blog.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep at Spences Bridge

For now I am here at Spences Bridge.  This herd is an introduced herd of Rocky Mountain, brought here in about 1960 as I recall.  The usual sheep in the Chilcotin and Okanagan are California bighorn which are slighter in build with slimmer and wider set horns.  This herd numbers about 125 but usually a smaller band of about 20 are seen near the highway.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep at Spences Bridge

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep at Spences Bridge. Two ewes.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep at Spences Bridge. Young ram.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep at Spences Bridge. Two young rams.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep at Spences Bridge. Two young rams sniffing.

After a couple of roadside shots I headed up the hill, which was much steeper than I thought. That’s the trouble with photographing bighorns, they live in steep, difficult terrain, and I am not as young as I was in the 70s.  Nevertheless all the tricks came back to me. Don’t hide – stay in the open and move toward them gradually. Hiding and then appearing suddenly will spook them. Watch for the grandmother ewe. She is the one that the herd will take their warning from.  When she turns her white rear end toward you they are about to leave. Stop. Wait. Look for behavior shots – the pawing of the ground, sniffing, pawing of the rear end or pawing to make another sheep stand, feeding and resting.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep at Spences Bridge. 3 year old ram.

Gradually the band of ewes, yearlings and a few immature rams moved uphill, across the skree slope into the rocky escape habitat, heading for the meadows high on the mountain. What I wanted to do was head up a steep draw and come in above them where I could sit and wait for them to climb toward me. This was not the day to follow them. Christmas was waiting for me in Vancouver where I had a photo assignment waiting tonight; shooting Amy Newman’s Christmas Revelers at Burnaby Village Museum.  I reluctantly headed down the mountain back to my truck and out of Spences Bridge, which holds another raft of stories for me.

For more information on BC Bighorn sheep go to:
Though mostly based toward hunting there is some good information on BC’s sheep.

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