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Friday, August 17, 2012

Out West Day Seven- Sand Wash Basin final day

It is 7:30am an we are heading back to the Sand Wash Basin in Moffat County Colorado... I spoke to John ad he gave us some tips in where to find the elusive Picasso. It is 48F but there is no wind so it is better than the Butte yesterday!
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Well it is 12:30p and we didn't see Picasso... However we did see almost everyone else- we estimated we saw 75+ mustangs today. We ended at 90F and a few more bruises and scratches... but it was worth every moment. The gorgeous Corona made
an appearance and I managed only a mere hundred or so photos of him.. I saw horses I have only seen in photos of the Sand Wash horse club on Facebook or John Wagner's page.

My little photo buddy Abby walked with me -every mile up and down the ridges and bluffs, through the gullies and sagebrush. All in all we took over 9,000 photographs between Little Book Cliffs, Pilot Butte and Sand Wash Basin Horse Management Areas. The cameras are cleaned and put away. All compact flash cards are reformatted and stored in their cases and I have transferred the photos to both the laptop and the external hard drive. Currently I have Lightroom making a catalog of the weeks adventures. Just glancing thru the photographs- Abby and I took some very nice ones that we hopefully will sell and make money for the mustang rescue groups. I am so happy both my children were able to see wild horses roaming "free"- that being a relative term but it was a privilege to witness the lives of these magnificent creatures.

Stay tuned,
Meredith


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Out West Day Six- Driving to the Sand Wash

We are driving on Wyoming 430 towards Colorado and the Sand Wash Basin... This entire area, which is managed by the BLM, is desolate and mostly sage and scrub brush... There are horses here- a few scattered herds- and we managed to find a herd of three. A bay stallion, a dark brown/black mare and a chestnut foal. Abby and I had to crawl under a barbed wire fence but a fifteen foot deep gully prevented us from getting closer to the tiny herd. But we managed a few photos nevertheless.

We passed over the state line into Colorado and the road becomes a dirt road. It is an 'open range' which means we have to watch for cows on the road. Most of the time it isn't a problem but once in a while we run into a cow-jam. The road, Moffat County Road, travels through a gorgeous canyon called 'Irish Canyon' which was a favorite hide-out for bandits and bad-boys of the old West. Butch Cassidy reputedly buried $30,000 in silver coins here and there are other rumors of $150,000 in gold ingots hidden in the canyon. It gives me the oogies (chills, the good kind).

Irish Canyon is also as Area of Critical Concern- environmentally speaking. The photo of the sign mentions some critically endangered plants. There are petroglyphs - ancient writing as well.

We are determined photographers and Abby has definitely inherited my tenacity! At Pilot Butte she was adamant about getting out of the warm car to photograph the mustangs despite being severely under-dressed for the cold. Clad in only Wellys, a sweatshirt and shorts she bravely went with me to photograph the herd... The mother in me wanted to send her back to the warm car but I gave in, allowed her to decide if it was too chilly and admired her spirit.

Out West Day Six - The Sand Wash Basin

Well here we are at Sand Wash- John Wagner is here today so maybe we'll see him. 160,000 acres and we covered almost all of it! Eight hours of traveling by car and on foot... We shot over 1,000 photos once we found the herds in 90 F heat. Quite a change from this morning's 45 F! Most if the herds were off the road quite a distance do Abby and I 'hoofed it' to get closer. We brought water with us and loads of sunscreen!

Ben and Bruce sat patiently in the car while Abby and I walked miles and miles across sage brush.... I have numerous cuts and scratches marking our travels. But we got the photos and saw a brand new foal- John Wagner says her name is 'Wild Spirit'. We didn't see John or his spiffy new camera but we did chat on Facebook later-

We will return to Sand Wash tomorrow and hit the water spots first- from my observations of mustangs, they often go to water first thing in the morning!

Out West Day Six -Morning on the Butte

Chilly morning on the butte- 45 degrees and with the windchill it is in the upper 30's... But when you see the mustangs, you forget everything. We were concerned because we didn't find any horses last night at Pilot Butte.

This morning we were lucky and found two small herds with horses we recognized from last year including Skye & Kira. It is so nice to see last years' foals all grown up and looking healthy.

The horses don't always oblige us by standing next to road- we often have to hike quite a distance. The longest was a mile if my GPS was accurate (I think it was longer!). The two photos of the landscape are mustangs in the distance with one cropped to prove there actually are horses in that photo...

It was a gorgeous morning at Pilot Butte albeit freezing. The sun finally cleared the clouds and we warmed up a bit. There's a quality of lighting on the Butte that reminds me a bit of the Hudson River School of artists. Granted they are the Thomas Kincaid of the Mid-Nineteenth Century but it is still breathtaking. I'd like to go to Tuscany some day- they say the lighting is similar but they don't have mustangs there so perhaps not... However I am lucky enough to live in the Hudson Valley where the artists used the beautiful lighting there to compose their paintings...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Out West Days Four & Five- Pilot Butte

We arrived late last night in Green River Wyoming after a long day fossil hunting all over Utah & Colorado. We made it to the Butte at disk and for a free good shots in... Then our tire popped and we limped back to the hotel. We changed the tire and my husband Bruce took the car to a garage this morning to buy a new tire. It isn't wise to go into some of these horse management areas without a good spare tire. We missed the early morning light on the Butte but we all slept in and we will catch the light tomorrow morning!

Now we are off to Fossil Butte and 'Fossil Safari' to find 55 million year old fossils! Then up to the Butte for the late afternoon lighting!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Out West Day Three- Holy mustangs Batman

Wow! It is 1:09pm and we just finished, we drove 40 miles in and about the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Management Area... We saw over 30 horses, some new from our trip yesterday. Paints, duns, roans, sorrels, blacks, buckskins, palominos, creamellos and one beautiful Appaloosa... It was amazing! The weather was mostly overcast and cool in the mid 60's and the horses were very active. Yesterday was in the high 80's yesterday and the horses barely moved. Today they were fighting and running and generally being rowdy and we got some incredible shots. Abby was by my side most of the time but occasionally she'd end up at about 90 degrees from my vantage point and she would get a wonderfully different perspective!

It is now raining lightly as we make our way out of the horse management area. We are all hungry and tired in a satisfied kind of way. My grateful thanks to Bruce for fearlessly driving over roads that gave me the willies and to Ben who patiently sat in the car while Abby and I photographed the mustangs.

The cameras are put away safely- all the Compact Flash cards are in their cases and carefully stored. I had so many good pictures that I changed the CF cards four times. Generally after shooting some action, I use another card just for security. I once accidentally reformatted a card with photos on it so I am extra careful.

A pretty amazing day- I can't wait to see the photographs later at our hotel!

Out West Day Three- The mustangs of the Little Book Cliffs

You're driving for hours- literally but then... through the trees you spot a small herd- a palomino, a buckskin paint, a cremello or two and a black stallion... They spook and head up the hill and we get a few shots.

Moving forward we spot the black/brown foal from the day before and Abby and I get our of the car. Suddenly we hear a high pitched squeal and we run towards the noise... We come upon four stallions fighting! Two blacks, one sorrel and the apricot dun we saw yesterday. The black stallion from the small band we saw yesterday challenged the bachelor herd. Wow! The backdrop is a burned out forest. There must've been a fire a few years back... It presented a challenge because the camera tended to autofocus on the branches so I switched over to manual focusing and that worked well.

The overcast skies also worked beautifully- sometime too much sun creates a harshness and a garrishness to the photos- which is why you want the early morning sun and the late afternoon light. High-noon is not very forgiving in full sun!

Out West Day Three- morning

We woke to overcast skies and the threat of rain- where we are traveling, rain can be deadly. Between flash floods and washed out roads, you must pay attention and be mindful of sudden storms. Below is a photo of a dry creek bed with evidence of a recent flash flood! And as well as some photos of rock formations (and the kids!).

Out West Day Two

We woke early and had breakfast-an we were in the road by 6:30. Grand Junction is about twenty minutes to the horse management area but it is another hour of back country driving to get to horses...

It was warm and sunny and we found our first herd at about 8:30am. This herd had about ten individuals in two family groups and a few bachelors (studs). They were fairly used to humans and wandered rather close to Abby and myself...

I generally stand 100-200 feet away from the herds and utilize my 300mm telephoto but occasionally the herds move towards me as was the case of this herd. Abby snapped a shot of the horses standing close to me though they didn't start there. This was in the North Soda area.

We moved on and found a small herd of eight horses- this group was quite skittish and took off pretty quickly- luckily they went around a ridge and appeared 50 feet from the car so we get some good shots. We left the North Soda area and back tracked to the Indian Park area. Little Book Cliffs is divided into these areas and each has its' own appeal.

At Indian Park we found two small herds one family and one bachelor herd. There seemed to be a lot of dubs in these herds and on non-fading black. I took 1,100 photos and Abby took 500. It was a good day!

We Reuters to the hotel after fossil hunting and cleaned the camera lenses recharge all the batteries- one for each camera and one backup and uploaded all the photographs! I backed them up to an external hard drive as well as keeping copies on the laptop. I imported them into Lightroom and went to bed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Out West- Day One

We were scheduled to leave New York at 0730 Saturday morning. We received a call that our flight was delayed until 10:00 which meant we had to rearrange our hotels and rental car. Originally we were flying into Salt Lake City but now we decided to stop in Denver. We arrived in the afternoon and got settled into our hotel room. The kids went down to the pool with my husband Bruce and I got the photography equipment together.

This means taking out each camera- cleaning the lenses, checking the sensors, hatching both batteries, reformatting all the CF cards & labeling them and cleaning all back up lenses.

Then we packed the bags for the next day- it is a two hour ride to horses at Little Book Cliffs so we have amusing things for the kids to do such as Nintendo DS, iPods and iPads, Nook's and other interesting things. And we need water!!!! Lots of water an Gatorade and Pepsi Max (thanks Howard, I am hooked). Water is critical as are snacks... Apples, dried fruit, Chex mix, bagels and assorted cereal boxes. Cell phones stay fully charged too!

I also bring books on horse geneticsi and my nook so I can continued to read "The Lost Art of Listening" & my favorite "The Art of Happiness"... We go to sleep early since we will be up at 5:30am for the photos shoot...

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Hudson Valley, New York, United States