Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
So here's the deal. You're walking up a slippery hillside path at Kluane National Park. Snowy mountains dominate the skyscape and Lake Kathleen shimmers below you, almost as far as the eye can see. You've got not one but two cameras around your neck and as you climb, they seem to get incrementally heavier.
You're concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, as efficiently as possible. If you slip, you're going to end up on your butt. There are tree roots. There are rocks. There is lichen. There are rivulets. There are mountain streams. Not dangerous, in any manner of speaking. But seriously embarrassing if you lose your balance.
So you get the idea? I have my eyes firmly focused downwards. That's when Brent Liddle, our guide, asks if we've seen the ptarmigan.
Ptarmigan? Mate, what ptarmigan? I can't see anything that looks remotely like a ptarmigan.
That's when he points up into a tree several metres in front of us. So now it's confession time. A city slicker like me would not have seen the bird, even if I'd been looking into the branches. It's all about natural camouflage. See how the bird blends into its surroundings and the tree bark in the first shot?
And precisely because of that, I try and creep forward, in order to get a better composition. The bird's one thing, but hey, I want to get him framed against the yellow and soft green of the fall colours. So one step at a time, I inch forward, making up ground while arcing round to the right a bit, to get the colours I want.
Mister Ptarmigan is watching me, but he ain't afraid. He ain't skeered at all. He's just a-sitting there, swivelling comfortably on his branch and making sure I show him some respect.
Even when his body language changes, he's in no hurry to take his leave. He leans forward, as if he's about to take flight - and I have the Sigma 300mm lens ready, if he takes wing. But he just sits there, as if he's testing me.
If I thought that was the only wildlife I'd see during the hike, I was mistaken. A few hours later, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. How many photographers get the chance to shoot an image of a Charging Grizzly?