Watch for Horses, Part I.

A few weeks ago I spent a quick 5 days in Arizona. I booked a flight, rented a car and reserved a mini cabin at the Saguaro Lake Ranch. I went by myself  which isn't all that unusual. All I wanted to do was relax, hike and photograph the Salt River wild horses. Considering that I left 5 degree weather here in Chicago for temperate days in the low to mid 60s and mild evenings in the mid to upper 30s, I was off to a very good start. Over the course of the next few posts, I'm going to tell you all about my trip, what gear I used, why I loved the ranch so much, some details that will help you plan your trip to photograph these horses and a few special series of images I made.

Today, I'm way too impatient for all that, and I just want to show you images.  The first is the yellow sign posted all along Bush Highway. It's also the title of this series of posts: Watch for Horses.  Nothing on my southwestern adventure could have made the heart of this horse-crazy-girl-turned-photographer beat any faster than seeing that sign as I turned onto Bush Highway the first time.

These images were all captured shortly after dawn in the Coon Bluff section of the Tonto National Forest, not far from Bush Highway.  A few minutes earlier, I had been lucky enough to sight the horses while I was still in my rental car.  I tossed my Tonto Pass onto the dashboard, grabbed my camera, an extra memory card, an extra battery and my iPhone, and flew out of the car.  There were barbed wire fences zigzagging through the area and since it's desert, it's also full of prickly cacti and unusual flora. I had a good, stern talk with myself about rattle snakes and the yipping coyotes I could hear but not see, and melted into the desert with the horses, rolling under fences as needed. After a long blue hour, the horses moved out of the shade of the ridge by the highway and into a golden patch of light. I was keeping a "safe distance" of 30-50 feet from the band, and trying to predict where they would head next. A ditch and a fence blocked me from easily skirting around the horses and shooting with the sun at my back.  It was a risk to shoot into the sun, and I knew I might come home with memories and a thousand unsalvageable images but the angle of the early light was in my favor. I held my ground as the band enjoyed the sun.

I have a tendency to post-process with a very light hand and these have hardly been touched at all. Straight out of camera (SOOC), they had a dreamy fairy tale feel to them with golden haze, rim light, creamy white horses and spooky back lit trees. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed capturing them.