Mountain Goats

In July 2018, I set out on a 17-day road trip across British Columbia and the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. The highlight of this trip was definitely spending three nights camping by a remote mountain peak with a herd of wild Mountain Goats. Usually a shy species, it was a privilege to be able to have a unique and intimate glimpse into their lives. Hover your cursor of these images to read more about the story behind these images.

This photo, taken on our first afternoon with the goats, shows the three largest billies (males) of the herd. The goats would frequently kick up dust to create comfy places to rest and to ward off the persistent swarms of biting insects.

This is the typical morning scene that we would wake up to. The most goats we ever saw at once was thirteen, and this photo shows ten of them that were feeding by our campsite shortly after sunrise one morning.

While I spent most of my time photographing the goats in their environment with a wide angle lens, I did spend some time with my long lens taking more traditional photos. Look at this stunning, muscular billy stretching at the top of a hill in the early morning light!

Even though it was Summer, there was still some snow up in the alpine and the goats occasionally walked across the ice. Being the expert climbers they are, they did it with relative ease, while my attempts often included much slipping and sliding.

This was the biggest and seemingly most dominant goat of the group, an impressive looking male that we affectionately referred to as "big boy". Big boy often came the closest to us as we were photographing.

The sunsets on the mountain were spectacular. I spent some time photographing goat silhouettes against the evening sky and was happy with this shot which features a sun "starburst".

As it got darker each night, the "blue hour" provided some new opportunities for more unique and abstract photos. Here, I used a slow shutter speed and a flash to create this motion-blur effect as this goat walked towards me.

It was incredibly picturesque to observe the goats relaxing at twilight as stars began to emerge in the sky. While they were surely just resting, it almost seemed as though they were enjoying taking in the scenery as much as I was.

While it was always amazing to observe the goats, perhaps the most amazing time to photograph them was at night. As this goat walked through the frame, I triggered a handheld off-camera flash multiple times during a long exposure to create the effect you see here. The near full moon also helped to light the stunning alpine landscape.

At night, small bugs flying around close to the camera often were lit up in our images due to the flash. This ended up creating a neat effect.

Here, a Mountain Goat walks past me in front of the near-full moon, photographed by triggering a handheld off-camera flash multiple times during a long exposure. I had envisioned this image during the day and spent a long time trying to get the perfect shot when it got dark. This was my first really successful attempt and I was thrilled when I saw it pop up on my camera screen.

After a night shoot and a short sleep, I would wake up each morning before sunrise. Here, a goat stands as mountain peaks across the valley glow from the first rays of light hitting the landscape early in the morning.

When I first got a close look at the eyes of a Mountain Goat, I knew I had to get a closeup. Isn't that a crazy eye? This was photographed with a 400mm lens near minimum focusing distance.

A male Mountain Goat stands tall in the morning. In the background, you can see a kid and its mother.

The herd of Mountain Goats had two young kids. It was adorable to watch them walk precariously among the rocks. In this photo, you can see the flies that were perpetual in the area, particularly around the goats. I'd never experienced so many biting insects before; different types would swarm all throughout the day, but I couldn't let that disuade me from spending time taking pictures.

Whenever a large billy goat would approach, I got a good look at the horns, and it served as a strong reminder of their potential power. On the last day, I made it my mission to get a photo showcasing this. When a goat stood in the spotlight of the morning sunshine against a hillside in shade, I focused on the horns and got this shot.

While observing the goats living their lives, it is easy to forget the threats that they face. Mountain Goats live in an incredibly harsh and rugged habitat. Beyond the dangers of the landscape and potential natural predators, they also face new threats; climate change is having an impact on mountains around the world, resulting in unusual weather that forces changes of habitat and diet.

After spending four days (three nights) with the goats, it was time to move on. We had an incredible time in this amazing place, and I felt as though I had gotten to know the individual personalities of many of the goats. It was hard to leave "Big Boy" (this goat) and the rest of the herd, but we had unfforgetable experiences and memory cards filled with pictures.

Of the course of three nights, I took nearly 4,500 photos of the goats. It was definitely one of the most productive photo opportunities I've ever had! Here are some more of my favorite images. You can click on an image to enlarge it.