Waking up at dawn to the glassy calm waters of Back Sound as wavelets lapped against the white sandy beach where out tents were staked out was like climbing out of my sleeping bag and stepping into a dream. A thin veil of fog hung low atop the water and the distant marsh. Grabbing my camera gear, I crept quietly passed my friends tent and made my way East along the soundside beach toward Barlett inlet. Countless sand dollars lay tangled in the dried eal grass along the high tide line and fresh horse tracks were sunk into the sand at the waters edge.
I had watched a young batchler stallion work his way along the beach the afternoon before, heading in the opposite direction, as we were searching for a suitable location to land out kayaks and set up camp. Intrigued by the possibility of stumbling upon this young fellow again, I decided to track him across the island. I worked my way past what appeared to be numerous shell middens composed of oyster, scallop, and welk shells – most likely left over from either the Native American inhabitants of this island or the old whaling community of Diamond City that used to sit in what is now the inlet between Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout.
As luck would have it, I did not need to search for long. I heard the unmistakable cry of a stallion in the distance and quickend my pace. Rounding a point enshrouded in wax myrtals I stumbled upon an open expanse of marshland from the edge of the sound, right up to the backside of the distant dunes. Looking out over the savannah I imeadiately realized what all the comotion had been about. Two harems of mustangs were occupying the landscape and the stallions were poised to meet each others challenge.
With camera held high, I crashed down into a creek that drained the marshy expanse and worked my way up into the mix of spartina and black needle rush toward the horses. The sun was in my eyes and there was obviously not enough time to work my way around to the other side of the horses. Considering the option of silhouetting the horses I decided instead to expose the scene so that the striking blond mane and tail of this palmino horse would glow like burning mercury and the chestnut reds would blend into the uniform colors of the marsh. As the stallion began to close in upon the intruder, the wind caught hold of his mane allowing me to fire off only a handfull of photos before clashing head on with his challenger.