In September I spent a few days in the Dovrefjell National Park in Norway – the perfect opportunity firstly to take some photos of the rare and impressive musk ox, and secondly to test the new Digiscoping Adapter TLS APO 43mm from SWAROVSKI OPTIK.
There are only a few thousand musk ox left in the world: in Greenland, Siberia, Alaska and Canada. Musk ox were reintroduced in Norway some years ago, and today the population of these prehistoric animals there numbers around 320.
Musk ox can weigh up to 900 lb and are generally non-aggressive. Admittedly their eyesight is poor, but they can hear very well – as a result they are easily panicked if something unexpected happens, which can get quite dangerous. In the National Park you have to keep at least 200 yards away from them – not ideal for us as photographers. The thing is if you don’t stick to the regulations, they ask you to leave the park and make you pay a heavy fine.
When we arrived we were confronted with deep snow, and further up in the mountains it was still snowing. That’s fairly unusual for September, even in Norway. After a bus trip and an exhausting two-hour hike through the snow and icy cold we came across the first musk ox – tiny black dots on the winter landscape covered in deep snow.
A strong wind kept whipping up the powdery snow, which not only made it difficult to see anything, but also hindered our progress massively. Finally we managed to get our first photos of the musk ox, from our hiding place behind a rocky outcrop around 250 yards away. I had to overexpose by two whole stops to capture details on the dark animals, but as I was using ISO800 I still had enough shutter speed. For these shots I chose a lower position so that I had more shelter from the wind. I was able to judge the quality of the photos from the preview on the camera display and I was pleased with it – sharp details are a good achievement in these difficult conditions. My set-up seemed to have been a good choice from the word go: Canon 5D Mark III, STX 85 and TLS APO 43mm.
I realized it was time to turn back because my fingers were so cold that I couldn’t move them anymore. After all, we still had a two-hour hike ahead of us.
As we came down the mountain, the fog cleared a little – and what did we see before us? Two female musk ox very close by, a little further down the valley.
We could have approached them, but we wanted to keep to the stipulated distance. The animals were agitated and came dangerously close to us while we were photographing them. With a heavy heart we decided to return. On the way I had another look at my LCD display: What beautiful animals, what clear photo detail. The TLS APO 43 mm really works!
Peter Grobben is a fervent Dutch nature photographer, who shows with his photos and articles how beautiful and complex nature can be. As a travel guide for nature photographers and with his workshops and lectures, he tries to raise public awareness for endangered ecosystems and the animals and plants living in them.