Guaranteed* Bighorn Sighting in Las Vegas by John Clark

You’ll be able to test your creative boundaries trying to take Bighorn images that don’t look like they were taken in a city park!

Shhh… Don’t tell anyone, but there is a spot close to Las Vegas where you are guaranteed* to spot wild Bighorn Sheep. And it’s only about a half hour drive from the bright lights of the Strip!

Many people head out to the Valley of Fire State Park to see the amazing rock formations and search for Bighorn, and of course you can often spot them there. But you’ll have no guarantee* of a sighting, like at most of the locations around Nevada where they roam. But at “Bighorn Park,” you are (almost) guaranteed* a chance to not just see Bighorn, but actually get quite near the animals!

OK, so technically, “Bighorn Park” is my personal, unofficial name! The official location is Hemenway Valley Park, and since we are getting technical, it’s actually located in Boulder City, Nevada, not Las Vegas (fun fact: Boulder City is just one of two cities in Nevada that bans gambling!). Like most city parks it has large trees, shaded grassy areas and covered gazebos to enjoy a picnic. There is a playground for the children, and basketball and tennis courts nearby. And it boasts a wonderful view overlooking Lake Mead. 

But for wildlife photographers, or anyone wanting to spot Bighorn Sheep, it’s definitely worth a visit.

A quick iPhone snap showing just how close humans and wildlife get to each other

Shade trees and cool grass… Definitely a Bighorn vacation spot!

There is a large herd of Bighorn that comes out of the desert and lays in the cool grass and the shade of the large trees. It’s a perfect spot for them to cool off and enjoy a break from the desert heat. While you may get lucky and catch some of the Bighorn roaming the natural desert at the edges of the park or munching on the bushes, most of the time you’ll find them lounging in the grass which means you’ll need to get creative if you want to try and make your photos look like they were not taken in the middle of a city park! 

Usually wildlife photographers will be shooting the herd in the shade, but this can fool a light meter as the bright desert sunshine at the edges of the frame can overexpose the image. Try spot metering so you don’t blow out background while shooting in the shadows from the trees.

There are natural areas at the edges of the park, and if you are lucky you might spot the Bighorn posing in a more natural setting

I find it best to use a longer lens to allow more reach for more intimate, portrait style shots of the heads and horns, something you might not be able to capture if you see a herd far away in the desert. A 70-200mm type lens will work great, and if you have a teleconverter or even longer lens don’t be afraid to bring it. Parking is just steps away so you will have easy and quick access to your gear without any long hikes.

It can also be handy to have a medium wide angle or standard lens in the kit as well, something in the 28mm to 50mm range. This will allow wider shots that might include people sitting on a park bench with the Bighorn nearby. Of course, these shots will show more of the grass and park features, but it’s definitely an unusual image to capture and one that you won’t get in many other locations.

But please, remember, these are wild animals and not Disney characters. While the Bighorn are used to humans being nearby, they can still be unpredictable in their behavior towards people. For your safety, and theirs, don’t approach too closely or too quickly. Never try and pet one, or feed them. When taking a selfie, keep a safe distance away. Watch younger children and make sure they don’t run around and frighten the Bighorn. As with all wild animals, use common sense and watch your surroundings when taking photos so you, or a Bighorn, don’t get too close together. 

As a side trip, because photographing wildlife can build up an appetite, I recommend a stop for food at the Coffee Cup, a fun diner once featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” television program. The restaurant is located in the heart of the historic Boulder City district, and is a great place to grab breakfast or lunch! It’s less than a 10-minute drive from “Bighorn Park,” and well worth a stop.

The Coffee Cup has a fun atmosphere and a menu sure to please a hungry wildlife photographer

*This is not a 100% guarantee of sighting Bighorn Sheep, though I have yet to visit the park and not see some. However, this is not a zoo, these are wild animals, and therefore subject to moving around on their own accord. But I will say that the odds of spotting Bighorn here are better than hitting it big on one of the nearby Las Vegas slot machines! 

Favorite Photo Locations: San Diego & La Jolla by John Clark

Long exposure of the San Diego skyline from Coronado Island

Recently I’ve had two trips to San Diego within a few weeks of each other, and this has given me a great opportunity to explore this beautiful area of Southern California. And while there are still a great many photo locations I have yet to explore and look forward to capturing in a future visit, here are five of my favorite (so far) locations around the area. There are plenty of others that I have seen and explored, but I would say that these are among the “must shoot” spots.

San Diego Skyline

I really enjoy taking skyline and cityscape images, and there are a lot of spots on the beaches along Coronado Island where you can get a clear shot of downtown San Diego. Head over the Coronado Bridge and set the GPS for Centennial Park. The location is across the San Diego Bay, so be sure to pack a longer lens to get closer view of the city.

Bonus spot: If the bridge itself is something you might like to photograph, a great point for that is Cesar Chavez Park on the city side of the bay. There is a pier that extends out into the water and allows for some unobstructed views of the Coronado Bridge.

The eroded cliffs make a unique foreground element

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Possibly one of the most appropriately named areas in the city, this is an outstanding spot to watch the sun fall into the Pacific Ocean. Bring a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the uniquely eroded cliffs and sky as you can. This is quite a popular spot so watch the edge of the frame to make sure other people or elements don’t creep into the photo. The parking lot is also quite small and often full, so be sure to arrive early enough to find a place to leave the car before the magic hour begins!

Star trails and airplane landing lights make the Geisel Library even more unique

Geisel Library – University of California San Diego

Theodore Geisel is one of the area’s most famous authors, and his influence is all across the La Jolla area. Never heard of him? Maybe then you know his pen name – Dr. Seuss! His name adorns the main library on the campus of UCSD (there is a large statue of him with the Cat in the Hat at the front) and it is the home for many artifacts from his life and career. Weekends are a great time to photograph this unique building, as there are not as many students around.  Watch where you park as the signs are small (and hard to see in the dark) and the campus security will ticket vehicles in spots without the necessary permits 24/7. Just ask how I know!

The waves breaking against the reef at the Tide Pool areas of La Jolla

The Tide Pool Areas

There are a lot of large tide pools for exploration around Cuvier Park in La Jolla at an area that many people know as Hospital Reef. At low tides these make an interesting foreground subject, and you can walk along the reef to the edges and watch the waves breaking against the rocks. There are also a lot small pools eroded out of the rocks that hold water that could make a nice reflection at sunset if you are lucky enough to catch the clouds and color. Just be careful on the rocks as there are a lot of seaweeds that can be quite slippery, especially when juggling a tripod and expensive camera gear. This is another popular spot so watch the frame to make sure people don’t wander into the shot; I found that the majority of the tide pool hunters didn’t notice or didn’t care that there was a photographer with a camera on a tripod just a few feet away!

Sure felt like a pair of eyes were watching over me at the San Diego California Temple! 

San Diego California Temple

Easily one of the most recognizable buildings in La Jolla, this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints bears more than a striking resemblance to Queen Elsa’s palace from the movie Frozen.  Day or night this is a wonderful piece of architecture to photograph and the grounds are immaculately maintained with flowers that can give a nice pop of color in the foreground. If you want to capture the full buildings and both spires, a wide-angle lens would definitely be needed.

These are some of my favorite locations; let me know of spots I should visit in future trips below in the comment section!