Its good when a plan comes together. Actually, its fantastic. Just the other night I was on the phone with a client who wanted photographs of wild horses for use in both print advertisement as well as his companies website. Throughout the conversation he stressed that he was specifically interested in photographs of horses in the dunes. Well, the following day we were finishing up the last day of a photography workshop and we had be photographing a band of horses grazing waste deep in a wet meadow near the sand dunes. After an hour or so of working these horses we made the decision to move on to the backside of the island and wade out into the marsh to photograph horses grazing there.
As we began to load up, I turned around and spotted yet another band of horses about a half mile away as they were beginning to make their way up the primary dunes. Knowing that the sea oats and American beach grass that grows on top of the dunes had long lost its nutritional value and therefore situations like these would not last long this time of year, I had everyone just jump into the truck as is donning neoprene waders and just holding onto their lenses and tripods.
Hurriedly making our way to the other horses, we sent waves of water into the air as we dashed through holes a couple feet deep in collected rain water. Carefully situating our selves along the southwestern side of the horses so as to optimize our light, we clamored out and began to make our way through the dune field. At first the situation was rather placid with horses grazing upon what scarce food was to be found while two young foals reared back in play with each other.
Suddenly, one of the participants spotted the stallion of the last group charging full force through the dunes. At full gallop he was kicking up a cloud of sand in his wake as his closed the gap between himself and the stallion in front of us. Knowing that this could pan out to be an epic photographic situation, and because we now had a stallion bearing down on us at 35 mph, we all charged up the side of a 20 foot dune to ready for the action.
The stallion that was grazing in front of us immediately positioned himself in between the attacking stallion and his mares and braced himself for the impact and battle royal. Within an instant the opposing stallion was upon him and they both reared back onto their hind legs. With hoofs as weapons they thrust their front legs and at each others body while attempting to sink their teeth into the others necks. Round and round they went like two evenly matched heavy weight boxers locked in battle, the dance of survival at hand, the outcome dubious at best.
At last, the defending stallion turned and began to run is girls away from the challenger who by this point was beginning to make advances to separate the harem stallion from his mares. The horses once again turned and headed straight towards us. Just when we thought they were going to come right up our sand dune the lead mare changed direction and instead pulled around the base of the sand dune. With the stallion bringing up the rear and the challenger on his heals, once again he turned to meet his pursuer. The challenger dug his hoofs into the sand to stop, not sure of what to make of this bold move.
The defending stallion defecated as a means of marking his territory, essentially drawing a line in the sand. The other stallion called his bluff however and once again charged in and reared back with teeth gnashing and hoofs flailing.
In the end, the defending challenger and his mares were driven out of the area by the other stallion. Still full of piss and vinegar however, he soon turned his attention on us. We had begun to make our way back over the the truck when he suddenly came towards us full tilt. You should have seen everyone grabbing tripods and cameras desperately trying to jump behind the truck. Fortunately he veered around us and continued at full gallop back over to his own harem of females.
One of the participants turned around and said he needed a beer and a cigarette after that! I guess that means another happy customer.
Talk about a fantastic day! I came away with some of the best fight shots Ive made, the participants were stoked, and I have one very happy client who is purchasing several of the photos for his advertisements. Just another day at the office.