As I mentioned in my last post I had a bit of trouble locating horses on the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve last week. I had a bit more success yesterday morning. I found a small group consisting of one stallion and three mares out on the shoals. They even entertained me by crossing from one shoal to another while I was wathcing and photographing! I found a larger group on Carrot Island not far from the boardwalk/observation deck, across from the Lenoxville boat ramp. This group was staying up in the shade of the cedar trees and digging holes down to a fresh water source. I suspect that with the recent heat and humidity a lot of the horses are staying in shade and close to drinkable water. You wouldn’t think something as large as a horse would be difficult to find, but honestly if one hadn’t whinnied while I was in ear-shot I think I might have walked right past them! It makes me wonder if I’d missed some the other morning.
I exchanged a couple of emails about their behavior with Jared Lloydd, a professional wildlife photographer and biologist that’s spent a lot of time photographing and observing Banker Horses. (See the links area for a link to his excellent website and for information on his horse photography workshops). Jared mentioned that the Shackleford Horses also dig for water when conditions dry up fresh water pools on the island. He noted, however, that the Banker Horses up by Corova have no need to do so as it’s a much wider island and tends to hold large pools of fresh water. Also, even if the pools were to dry up he mentioned the Currituck Sound has a low salinity level and the horses could drink from that if needed.
It was good to spot the horses and to get a chance to photograph them some more. When photographing the shoals group I was in my kayak, hand-holding a 500mm lens. That can be a bit of a challenge due to the rocking nature of being in a boat. A faster shutter speed is required to keep from blurring the images. In order to keep the shutter speed up, a higher “film speed” or iso is required (light sensitivity setting) which can result in a bit of “digital noise” in the image. When on the island I’m using a tripod with a gimbal mount to insure everything stays nice and steady. This allows the use of slower shutter speeds and also a “slower” iso setting. Simply put when using the tripod you have more workable options available, giving you greater artistic control over the resulting photos. Shooting form the boat you often have to make some compromises and settle for fewer optsion to insure a usuable image. However you gain the advantage of often being able to approach closere without alarming your subjects using the boat. Below are a few photos from the morning’s session.