What a magical place. I've never been somewhere that contains so much beauty. Gentle rolling hills and small streams weave their way to high ridges and sweeping vistas. Encapsulated by unique rock formations, the scenery alone will take your breath away.
But it's the horses that make this place sacred.
The Salt Wells Creek herd is unlike any that I've come across. For me, they represent what wild horse herds should be. Happy, healthy, dynamic, and free.
I spent much of 2022 with the Salt Wells Creek herd. One thing to note is when photographing wild horses, a long lens and four-wheel drive can only get you so far. What's more important is putting in the observation time to understand the horses' patterns and the overall terrain -- and doing so quietly. This is the key to finding the unobtrusive moments that authentically represent these animals to the fullest.
The biggest breakthrough I've had with the Salt Wells Creek horses is realizing that the bands move across the land in tandem. What's unique to this bunch is they reliably get together about once a day. Really, they do! If you can locate a few dispersed bands and know the terrain, then as one group starts to move, you can start piecing together where they're heading.
I've watched all the bands converge on a water source and form organized holding patterns like planes waiting to land at an airport. Incredible. On more frequent occasions, I'll find all the bands together in an open plain for hours. The mares resting, the foals scampering about, and the stallions keeping a pandemic-approved distance between their families. They're a party, and I wish I had this robust of a social life.
'Homeland' was taken by observing the movements of the herd as a whole. I watched a few bands start heading up a steep hill and disappear into a gully. Having spotted more horses a few miles north, I figured they were headed their way. Knowing there was a plateau at the top and a two-track vantage point, I hurried to get myself in position. Sure enough, after a few minutes of waiting, I saw the first lead mare come up from below. I photographed the four bands as each one moved to cross the ridge and then disappeared once again.
Some moments are simply perfect, and this was one of them. If I could describe what it's like at Salt Wells Creek in one photograph, it would be with this image.