Finding and Photographing the Wild Horses on the Lower Salt River

By Sara Goodnick

Wild horses are beautiful and challenging to photograph, and there are several locations in Arizona where they may be found. By far, the easiest access to them is on the Lower Salt River NE of Phoenix.

To get there, from Hwy 87 going north towards Saguaro Lake, take the Bush Hwy exit and follow the signs. From Apache Junction, take Usery Pass to Bush Highway, and from Mesa it can be reached via Power Road.

The horses tend to be found near water unless it has rained a lot and there is plenty of green grass. The best places to find them are at the Coon Bluff Recreation area, the Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area, the Blue Point Recreation area, which is around the bridge over the river, and the Butcher Jones Recreation area. However, they can sometimes bee seen from the road in other places.

They are not fearful of humans, but do not approach them closely or offer them food! If they get too used to begging it will end badly for them as eventually someone will be kicked or bitten, resulting in their removal or destruction.

Being prey animals, not predators, they will usually run away if frightened. If cornered, those teeth and hooves can be deadly, so please keep a safe distance, and keep your dogs and small children under control. Horses will kill dogs because they are similar to coyotes and wolves, which threaten their young.

They spend a lot of time eating, so take your time to observe them while waiting for some action, or interaction among them. Don’t frighten them or try to get reactions from them-its not ethical. They need their energy and attention for survival.

Best lens to use is a 70-200mm, fast shutter speed of at least 1/800th sec. or faster, and the best ISO and aperture to go with that. Tripods are not needed, but a monopod can be useful.

What to wear: hiking boots, long sleeved shirts, long pants. This is rough country if you leave the roadside. The saying, “Everything out there stings, sticks, or bites”, has truth to it!

Plan ahead. The developed parking areas require a permit that you must purchase outside of the Tonto National Forest Recreation Area. Some of the local stores carry them, so check online. If you are over 62 years of age, you are eligible for a permanent Senior Pass ($80 – new fee as of August 2017) that will get you into all of our National Parks and Monuments, as well as other places.  You just display it on your dashboard when visiting. Theses passes may be purchased online or at certain fish and wildlife offices.

Sara Goodnick is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Zoo Photography – Shooting Through Fences

Author: Amy Horn

Capturing images of zoo animals should be easy. After all, they are waiting for us to take their photo in their enclosures. But the trick to capturing great zoo photos is to capture a photo that doesn’t look like it was taken in a zoo. To get these strong shots, you don’t want to see fences or food bowls and you want to capture expressions of the animals, otherwise your images will look like snapshots. So, here are five tips to improve your zoo animal images. To keep this simple, I have focused these five tips on enclosures with fences:

Tips for photographing wildlife in fenced enclosures:

1. Long lens
2. Wide open aperture
3. Background
4. Shadows
5. Patience

 

1. Long lens – Use a long lens to blur out the fence in the foreground. Focal lengths from 200-400mm are great lenses to use in zoos. It isn’t as simple as just using the long lens though, you also need to position your lens as close to the fence as possible. So, lean in, zoom and shoot. As you setup your shot, you will want to pay attention to light hitting the fence. If there is light on the fence you are shooting through, that light may become a reflection in your frame. Try to shoot through an area of the fence that is in shade.


2. Wide open aperture
– Using a long lens is only half of the formula for shooting through fences. The second half of the formula is to use a wide open aperture. Setting your aperture at f/2.8 or f/4 for example, will blur the fence in the foreground. If the animal is touching the fence, you won’t be able to blur out the fence, so start shooting when the animal is several feet away from the fence. Combine this with the long lens and your fences will be unnoticeable.

f/5.6, 1/2000, 400mm, but baboon is too close to fence.

f/5.6, 1/2000, 400mm, but baboon is too close to fence.

f/5.6, 1/2000, 400mm, now baboon is several feet away from the fence

f/5.6, 1/2000, 400mm, now baboon is several feet away from the fence

3. Background – Now that you have the technical aspects of a strong zoo photo, it is time to finesse the details of the shot and that starts with the background of the image. Can you see fences in your frame? How about food bowls? Are there sticks or trees creating unnatural attachments in your frame? Move yourself around the enclosure to omit these items from the background or foreground. Shooting from a higher angle can minimize the amount of background in the photo and shooting from a low angle will accentuate the animal and minimize the foreground. Using both of these techniques will create an image focused strictly on the animal and omit other distractions.

horn_wwz_12_16-0869
4. Shadows – Every enclosure is unique and shadows in the enclosure can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If the shadow is positioned behind the animal, your image will pop due to the juxtaposition of contrast. However, if the animal is sitting in shadows cast from fences or other distracting elements, the image doesn’t work because the viewer can see the fence shadows and these shadows are not natural.

f/5.6, 1/1250, 400 mm but shadows from fence do not complement photo

f/5.6, 1/1250, 400 mm but shadows from fence do not complement photo

5. Patience – This last tip is patience. Patience is what brings the image together. Whether you can be patient enough to sit for hours or minutes is up to you. If the animal is sleeping, come back later and often they will have moved to a better location in the habitat. If a docent from the zoo is nearby, ask them when these animals are most active (feeding times always wake animals). If the animal is awake, be patient and wait for an expression. Capturing images of sleeping animals is nice, but not as interesting as images exhibiting behaviors.

f/5.6, 1/500 sec, 300mm and patience for behaviors.

f/5.6, 1/500 sec, 300mm and patience for behaviors.

Patience.... This image was number 18 of 20.

Patience…. This image was number 18 of 20.

That’s it. Five simple tips to improve your zoo photography! If you want personal attention you can always join me on my zoo workshops at the Wildlife World Zoo, February 25 or at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum on March 11. Happy Shooting!

 

Amy Horn is a Lecturer of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Instagram: amyhornphotographer

Facebook: Amy Horn, Horndesigns Photography

 

Capture Your Moment: Macro-Photography

Bruce Taubert will be presenting two learning sessions at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ 30th Anniversary Symposium.  Here’s more about his “Macro- Photography” Session.

Macro Photography - Glass Frog

Bruce takes photographs of small things because they are beautiful, and he can only really appreciate how beautiful and unique they are by having an image to look at. It is almost impossible for him to see the scales that make up butterfly wings or the pollen on a bee’s legs without viewing a photograph.  He never really appreciated the intricacy of a dragonfly’s eyes or the interweaves of a bird’s feather, again until he saw a close-up photograph of them.  There is an incredible WOW factor when he looks at images that show the pieces of the natural world that he has never seen before. Even though many of his images of small things may never be published, it is through these images that he better appreciates the beauty of the small pieces of our world.

Macro Photography - Moth

Macro-photography is normally defined as “taking photographs of small items and making them larger than life size”.  This definition, for most photographers, is too limiting.  It can be defined more simply as “close-up” photography, allowing photos of less than life-size subjects to be included.

Macro-photography is unique from other forms of photography in that it requires the use of different types of equipment than landscape, portrait, and most wildlife photography.  It also requires some different skills than other forms of photography. The cameras are the same, but only through the use of specialized lenses and other equipment can the photographer take photographs at 0.5X and it is even more complicated as we attempt to photograph at magnifications greater than 1X.

Macro Photography - Gecko

In the “Macro-photography” learning session, you will learn all about the specialized equipment, techniques, and art of macro-photography.  Bruce’s hope is that after you digest all of that information, you will better understand how to use the cameras, lenses, and associated equipment to open up the special world of macro-photography.

To read the post on Bruce’s other learning session, “Hummingbird Photography,” visit our Capture Your Moment page.

Bruce Taubert is a photographer for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

For more information and to register for sessions like this, please visit the AHPW’s 30th Symposium website.

One “Golden Hour” You’ll Want to Skip

by Madeline Pado

You may know of the “Golden Hour” as it refers to the hour of golden light, just before the sun sets. It is a magical time of the day for photographers to capture images bathed in a soft warm glow. It is also the window of time someone has to get to medical attention after a venomous bite from some of Arizona’s desert dwellers.

Our trip leaders got a little lesson on the undesirable golden hour during a CPR/First Aid class last weekend, led by members of the Phoenix Fire Department. The instructor reminded us that rattlesnake bites and scorpion stings can be fatal if medical attention isn’t received within an hour. And once a Gila Monster clamps down, you’re locked into a painful grip. With the arrival of spring, these critters are out of winter hiding and on the move.

So the next time you are photographing in Arizona’s amazing desert landscape, be on the lookout for dangerous critters so you can avoid this golden hour. Don’t stick your hands in dark places—such as cracks in rocks or underbrush—and remember to always watch your step. If you come upon a rattlesnake, you will likely hear it’s rattle first. Stop and back up slowly. A rattlesnake can typically strike as high and far as half of its length.

If you want to get a good look at these critters, check them out in a captured environment. We offer two different photography workshops where you can photograph these critters in natural environments. Trip Leader Jeff Insel took the below photograph of a rattlesnake in an aquarium at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on our Desert Experience workshop earlier this month. After submitting a handful of photos to The Arizona Republic, this one was selected for publishing. Even though the snake was not in the open outdoors, Jeff managed to get this great photo by hand holding his Sony A65 with an 18-200mm lens against the aquarium glass.

40mm, f5.0, 1/60 sec and ISO 100, no flash

40mm, f5.0, 1/60 sec and ISO 100, no flash

We also offer a Creepy Crawly Critters workshop where our sole focus is photographing Arizona’s venomous and nonvenomous critters. With licensed Arizona Game and Fish Animal Wrangler Randy Babb and wildlife photographer Bruce Taubert as our guides, we get up close and personal with the “scary” Gila Monsters, scorpions, rattlesnakes and more in a controlled environment. We take these critters into their natural desert environments to capture realistic photos of them. In these workshops you won’t have to worry about risking the medical golden hour and you’ll have a chance to get amazing photographs of otherwise hard-to-photograph critters.