Story By Jenn Gidman
Images By Jami Bollschweiler
Wildlife of the American West by Jami Bollschweiler
From birds of prey to bighorn sheep, Jami Bollschweiler captures resident creatures with her Tamron SP 150-600mm VC G2 lens.
Wildlife of the American West
For more than two decades, Jami Bollschweiler concentrated on being a mom to six kids, but when they started leaving the nest, the Utah mom found herself longing for something to keep her occupied. That desire only grew when she lost her mother, which spurred her to head outdoors and start taking pictures. “It was a form of therapy for me,” she says. “Some days I just had to get out of the house, and being in nature with my camera offered me the peace I was seeking.”
From resident wildlife to unique rock formations, the landscapes of the West present Jami with plenty of photographic fodder. “I like to capture scenes that people normally don’t take the time to capture,” she says. “Recently, for example, I spent eight hours watching a duck, eating fish and going about its normal routine. I try to tell a story with my photos, with a painterly fantasy element to them, so that the viewer feels some kind of connection. People will sometimes send me messages saying they’ve been through a tragedy and that my photos touched them. I love that I can make someone’s day better like that.”
For her most recent wildlife photos, Jami has been using the new Tamron SP 150-600mm VC G2 telephoto zoom lens. “The 150-600mm allows me to show animals in the context of their landscapes and habitats, as well as capture portraits of them,” she says. “Plus the Vibration Compensation (VC) on this lens is key for me. Some photographers prefer shooting the types of images I shoot on a tripod, but I like the flexibility of shooting handheld and being able to move around on the fly. I wouldn’t be able to capture such sharp photos without the VC.”
The lens got a solid test drive in Grand Teton National Park, where Jami spied some of the area’s resident horses grazing, the mountains serving as the perfect photographic backdrop. “These horses are used for recreational purposes, such as for horseback riding, during the warmer months, and in the winter they’re put out to pasture,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to photograph them in this scenario, but there was a metal fence blocking my access to get any closer. Luckily, the 150-600mm offered me the opportunity to zoom in and capture this image. I was lucky that day: The birds were flying about, the light was gorgeous, and of course, the Tetons are always magnificent.”
Jami also photographed birds of prey at Utah’s Antelope Island State Park with the 150-600mm. “I get a lot of feedback on this kestrel image you see here, mainly because these birds are driven killers,” she says. “You wouldn’t get that looking at this image. Right before I took this photo, it had ripped a mouse’s head off! The 150-600mm allowed me to stay in my car, far enough back to watch the kestrel hunt for two or three hours. It finally landed on some rabbitbrush, which is when I was able to capture this photo.”
One of Jami’s favorite subjects to photograph are bighorn sheep, which she had the chance to focus on during two separate trips to Nevada and to Yellowstone. “I love bighorns, and other people are fascinated by them, too,” she says. “Maybe it’s because they’re kind of elusive—you’ll see deer and other wildlife fairly regularly, but bighorn are more unusual to spot.”
The 150-600mm was ideal for Jami’s bighorn sessions, especially in Yellowstone, as the winter weather meant plenty of snow on the ground and plenty of chances to capture the bighorns wandering the landscape. Her favorite photo, however, was taken in Nevada, when several of the bighorns were posturing and ramming their horns into each other. “For some reason, I thought it would be neat if I could somehow capture one of the sheep’s eyes peeking through that tangle of horns,” she says. “So I positioned myself and patiently waited, and at one point I moved a bit and saw the eye pop right through and took the photo. The eye came out tack-sharp, thanks to the 150-600mm. It was just how I’d envisioned it.”
A coyote sighting capped off Jami’s trip to Yellowstone. “Many animals hang close to the road during the winter, partly because it’s easier to walk there due to all the snow further in,” she says. “This particular coyote was coming straight toward us as we were driving. We stopped and I jumped out to grab a photo of it gazing right at me. There were about 10 to 15 other photographers there, too, but the coyote acted like it didn’t have a care in the world. The image is a testament to the sharpness of this 150-600mm lens. You can see all of the detail in the coyote’s fur and even the specks of snow on its head.”
To see more of Jamie Bollschweiler’s work, check out her Instagram.