A day in the Jof di Montasio mountain of Italy turned dramatic for a photographer when he came face-to-face with a young ibex running along the edge of a steep ravine.

Photographer Stefano Zocca shares the full story behind his astonishing shot. Scroll down and share this story with a friend!

Location: The fork of Disteis, about 2,200 meters near the top of the Jof di Montasio in Friuli, Venezia Giulia, Italy / 46°25’N 13°25’E
Time of day: Early afternoon
Equipment used: Nikon D800, Nikkor AI 135 mm
EXIF settings: 1/1600 s, f/8, ISO 400

“This shot was the highlight of a beautiful day up on the mountains with my 13-year-old son Pietro. On that saddle, I knew I had the opportunity to admire these beautiful creatures — the Ibex. I decided to take my son with me to let him experience the thrill of meeting these wild animals in their natural environment.”

“The ibex were particularly numerous and “sociable”. Naturally, I had with me all my camera equipment already.”

“These animals walked towards the edges fast—without fear nor uncertainty, making everything look easy and absolutely not dangerous. But it was, and I was afraid for them!”

“As soon as I realized this, I began to take pictures with my trusty Nikon and the fantastic AI 135mm f/2.8. I want to point out that this is a 70s lens, not an autofocus. Prodded by my son, I safely positioned myself on the edge of the ravine so I could capture the ibex balancing on the narrow ledge above the abyss.”

“Just as I was framing an ibex a few meters from me in the viewfinder, the ibex turns to me and stares at me—as if to check if I was following! ”

“That was the magic moment of the shot, and I thank Mother Nature for serving this moment up to me on a silver platter, and for allowing me to spend an unforgettable day in the company of my son. Later on, the only post-production treatment I did was to slightly increase the contrast and brightness to reduce the effect of haze.”

Interested in meeting the photographer behind these images? Scroll down to get to know Stefano Zocca in this exclusive interview.

Hi Stefano! Can you tell us how you got started with photography?
I started very young, about 15-16 years old, driven by the desire to imitate my father, a great enthusiast of photography. He and I spent hours in the darkroom to develop and print our shots. His enthusiasm gave me the incentive to continue to improve, before working on technique and then on the “cutting” of the photos. I think I have learned to see in a “photographic” way.

That is very inspiring, how you learned from your father as well as by yourself. What are your favorite subjects to shoot? We notice you travel a lot and you have the photographs to show!
I’m not an “artist”, and my pictures are related to the moments of holidays and leisure that I can cut out of my normal work. Yes, I’ve traveled the world, and I’ve taken thousands of slides—sooner or later, I’ll decide to digitize them. My favorite subjects are landscapes and portraits. For me, it is essential to nourish the memories with photographs related to them. It is not a sort of “collecting”, but a way of living the past as an incentive for the present and the future.

Who are your influences in photography?
I’m passionate about landscape and black and white images. My idol can only be Ansel Adams. I was initially only attracted to the technical aspect of his photos. But then as my knowledge deepened, I came to understand even the “interior” aspects of the photograph. To quote Ansel Adams himself, “Photography is an investigation of both the outer and the inner worlds. The first experiences with the camera involve looking at the world beyond the lens, trusting the instrument will ‘capture’ something ‘seen.’ The terms shoot and take are not accidental, they represent an attitude of conquest and appropriation. Only when the photographer grows into perception and creative impulse does the term make define a condition of empathy between the external and the internal events.”

Thanks for sharing those beautiful words for us to think about. Let’s talk gear. What can we find in your camera bag?
I use only my D800 mounted with a Nikkor AI 24mm f/2 and another Nikkor AI 135mm f/2.8. Other essential tools are a blower, a good lens cloth, and a monopod. I use the heavy tripod only for night photography and special occasions.

Any advice for photographers who want to capture images the way you do?
I have to admit I only recently started to photograph animals. I think this shot of the ibex, which had a lot of success, making me win several awards in Italy and abroad, is classic beginner’s luck. One of the things that I can recommend though is to carefully observe the behavior of the subject, to understand the best spot to portray them. That day, I took about fifty pictures of the ibex, but only one has left its mark, and it was one that more that I studied and tried. For the rest, I am a very “instinctive” photographer, and very sensitive to the type of light that is created at certain times of the day, or in the presence of particular weather conditions. Clouds are fundamental to me, for example.

What are you currently working on right now?
Not being a true “professional”, all my projects are related to my ability to break free from my work obligations. As the winner of the Go Wild! Photo Contest, I will be spending a week at the end of August in the breathtaking Western Bulgarian Rhodope. I will be going to the protected Natura 2000 sites and Trigrad-Mursalitza Rodopi-Zapadni with local photographer guides. I hope to have another lucky encounter with the local wildlife there.

Follow Stefano Zocca on 500px to see more of his work. You can also visit his official website.

Prints of his photos are available on 500pxArt.

Got a question for Stefano, or any of your own crazy wildlife photos or stories to share? We want to hear all about it! Share a wild story in the comments below.