Her mountain glories; Her alpine angels

They are not mountain goats to Shirly Ambrose, who, in her own words is an “amateur professional photographer”, they are her “Mountain Glories”.

“All of my life I’ve admired the mountain goat. I find them beautiful … bright-whit

e, long shaggy coats …

“Glorious,” completes Ambrose with a somewhat dreamy expression in her eyes and with a smile that not many would understand.

After living several years in Judas Creek, near White Mountain, Ambrose decided she was going to photograph the creatures she had been admiring “from afar”.

Armed with a 35-mm Minolta (and a gun, for safety), she ascended White Mountain in September of 1999.

Now she makes that pilgrimage pretty much every year.

Ambrose laughs in delight when she realizes, mid-conversation, that this is the 10th anniversary of that first time. “How appropriate!”

She doesn’t make the ascent alone. Now she is accompanied by her soul mate/husband, Doug.

“When we go sailing, he’s the captain and I’m the first mate. But on the mountain [her eyes sparkle as she laughs at this], Shirly is the captain and Doug is the first mate!”

Her first photographic subject, the first of her Mountain Glories, was “Grace”– so named because “Grace was a peculiar goat,” laughs Ambrose.

While the rest of the herd beat a hasty retreat, Grace never left, says Ambrose. “I had to leave.

“I was running out of film and food and it was getting dark. She ate the entire time.”

Ambrose was delighted to get within five-and-a-half feet of Grace.

The Latin name for her loves is Oreamnos americaus. Ambrose elaborates …

“This is funny … [and she laughs in the telling of it] It means ‘mountain lamb’, which is neither a true goat, they claim, but it’s not a sheep, either.

“We call them goats but, unofficially, according to our science, they are not actually a goat – they are a species of their own.

“I think they are certainly closer to a goat [than anything else].”

She laughs at the sheer ambiguity of it all and then continues, “People are surprised that someone would pay so much attention to a particular animal – and it’s a goat.

“But I don’t care because they are my passion and I’m not about to let the market dictate my interests.”

Ambrose has also called the goats her Alpine Angels, which is also the name of her current exhibit at The Chocolate Claim.

“This show is particularly a photographic show … but I do have a paint-by-number, a digital painting, tapestries … I even have puzzles.

“There will be no caps and there will be no mugs,” she adds with an easy chuckle.

She says that hunters and non-hunters, alike, seem to appreciate her shows equally.

Besides her Mountain Glories, her Alpine Angels, Ambrose also has two portraits in the show.

“One is a sketch and the other is a print from an oil painting.”

Ambrose explains that she is “particularly a portrait artist [for the past 20 years]. And self-taught. She has a long list of artistic endeavours and accomplishments and a list of achievements that includes being honoured with The People’s Choice Award – twice – in 1995 and in 2000.

Shirly Ambrose lists three of her passions: portrait painting, photography and writing. “I have a volcanic well of expression.”

You can see part of that expression in her Alpine Angels exhibit, which is on display at The Chocolate Claim until June 29. And you can visit her website at www.oreamnosoriginals.com.

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