Thursday, July 01, 2010
I just can't get enough of them. They teach me, they inspire me. Yeah, I like them and spending time out in the wide open spaces is good for you. Memorial Day weekend and on into the first week of June found me on a wonderful trip out visiting and photographing the wild horse herds of SE Oregon and S Idaho. Accompanying me on this trip was Kimerlee Curyl, who's lovely work some of you may have seen through Return To Freedom foundation.
photo above: wild horse country SE Oregon with a bit of weather.
With all of the wet weather we have had of late I was worried that we wouldn't have very good shooting conditions, but we both had this time mapped out on our calendars and we were committed. We loaded up the Expedition with necessaries, including all our camera gear and my trusty Staffordshire Bull Terrier Dottie and off we went. The trip turned into a dodge the rains contest. We arrived in Burns and drove east to look for a favorite herd of mine at Stinking Water Creek. But they were no where to be found in their usual area. I became concerned that I had missed a gathering date and they were gone. An early morning visit to chat with Ramona at the Burns BLM office gave us the scoop. The horses had moved on up the hill towards the pass which at this time, was accessible by a dirt road, now mud from all of the rains and more rain in sight. As much as I wanted to get up there, I just wasn't feelin the adventure in getting stuck 10 miles off the highway and out of cell service. So we reluctantly passed this herd up and went to what is probably the most photographed wild horse herd in Oregon, the South Steens herd. We drove up one of the BLM gravel roads where I was used to being able to spot them from. The road got treacherous from the rains and heavy use, as we started to fish tail in 4 wheel drive, I elected to turn around and head back towards the highway and from that vantage point we could see them off to the right wayyyyy over "there". They were quite a hike from the car on that day, but at least we could see them on the other side of a ravine. We reached them under overcast conditions. Storm clouds all around, but a break in the clouds brought the most yummy silvery yet warm light. We photographed for quite awhile and then, we saw the dark clouds looming. As the light faded, we headed back to the car that we could jusssst see a few rises over, parked on the edge of a gravel road. It became our beacon disappearing and reappearing as the terrain took us up and down. As the rains hit and we made our way as quickly as we could through the sagebrush and watched the many lovely little spring desert flowers pass by. In too much of a hurry to stop and enjoy them properly. I tried to walk fast with my most excellent but heavy camera gear getting heavier with each step. Dottie was waiting all snug in the car, with the clouds and rains at least I knew that she wasn't too hot.
As the rains looked like they were settling in with some seriousness, we headed back through Frenchglen to Burns and made the decision to leave the area, driving to southern Idaho the next morning for adventures with the Saylor Creek herd and hopefully better weather.
photo below left: Gray Stallion Saylor Creek HMA.
Photo below: Young bachelor stallions "practice" South Steens.
The Saylor Creek herd in Idaho lives in a huge open grassy area. No cover to speak of, very little shade. A band of about 135 horses all range together and they are very shy. Beautiful herd. Amazing thick long flowing manes, a wide assortment of colors. Some very Spanish looking blood in that herd. They made us work for our images, we never really got close in to the herd as we worked our way around their periphery. Eventually they tired of us and ran off and we let them go. The sun was full up, the light had become flat, we had seen a few rattlesnakes and we thought we would come back later. But the weather had other plans as the next morning we woke up to pouring rain. So back to Oregon we went. This time to the historical Frenchglen Hotel where we put in for our last night. We were treated to a wonderful dinner, fabulous sunset on the Steens Mtns and an early morning back up to the South Steens herd for a few hours before heading back to Portland. Once again, the light worked for us. Thank you light gods. The stallions were all agitated with each other as it was breeding season and we were able to get some great action shots. We returned home happy with our experience and already thinking about when we would be able to return again. It is addictive, it is a peace and wonderment that is hard to describe. It is best to experience it oneself. Alone, with a friend or two. This activity does not lend itself well to big groups. Neither for the horses peace of mind, or for our zen time communing with them.
Our government is rounding up thousands of our wild horses of late. Increasing pressures from a variety of interest groups have whittled the laws protecting them and the land once given to the mustangs down to a small percentage of what they once had and now that is wanted for cattle, mining, gas and oil interest, recreation, hunting etc etc. I learn so much about the true nature of horses every time I go out and sit with them. I go out and document these horses always with the thought foremost in my mind that one day there will be no more. Certainly no truly wild herds, just facsimiles in preserves. We really should not let that be their only future.
I'll be back....