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Wildlife >
Big Daddy Bison, King of the Badlands

Big Daddy Bison, King of the Badlands

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I am a traveling photographer specializing in landscapes and wildlife. In mid-May, we found ourselves in Badlands National Park with all its dramatic views and animal inhabitants.

I was already familiar with this park from visiting many times in the past. My goal was to capture its breathtaking beauty and uniqueness. That one shot, one magic moment that encompassed all that the Badlands represents. That's what I was looking for.

When shooting wildlife, you often have mere seconds to press the shutter before the moment is gone.
I have photographed wildlife for many years, and I know that the secret formula for great shots is always luck meeting preparedness.

Having just gotten some wonderful long-range shots of a mama Bighorn sheep and her babies using my Sigma 600 lens, I saw some storm clouds gathering in the distance and coming our way.

As the clouds got closer, I saw they were unlike any storm clouds I had seen in the past, juxtaposed against the intense orange setting sun as we faced west.

I could smell the moisture in the air from the humidity rising. I could almost taste the damp grasslands on my tongue. I could hear the wind picking up, giving me goosebumps on my bare arms, making me shiver as I was aiming and shooting these dramatic photos.

The clouds started rolling in overhead, and it got very dark, even though the sun had not set. The wind started to howl, and the Park Rangers began moving us towards the exits to get out of the park before the heavy rains hit us with their full force.

As our line of cars rounded a bend, a traffic jam occurred and we suddenly came to a dead stop. Looking to the left through the driver's side window, I saw the most brilliant orange glow of the setting sun under the storm clouds that filled the air. I had Brett open his window so I could capture this.

While I was l getting the perfect shot of the storm clouds, a dark figure moved into the right side of my viewfinder. It was Big Daddy, a huge male bison that had walked in and stopped right across from us on the embankment from the road. I still had my long-range lens on and knew if I took the time to get a different lens out, he would move on.

So, in less than a second, I smashed myself all the way against the passenger side door to get back far enough to capture this magnificent beast, standing as a silhouette against his lands as the acknowledged King of the Badlands.

As quick as King Bison was there, he was gone, and I got the shot!

Suddenly, the heavens opened up above us into a full tornado-like storm. In silence, we followed the line of cars out of the park totally in awe of the incredible symbol of the Badlands we just got a brief glimpse of.

We finally reached the exits and proceeded back to camp, our windshield wipers at full speed with bad visibility. Instead of being nervous about the driving conditions, we were instead euphoric, beaming ear to ear over our chance encounter with Big Daddy Bison, the King of the Badlands.

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