Sable Island Expedition – August 11, 2009

Newborn

Newborn

Red Bay Stallion

Red Bay Stallion

I awoke in the morning to thick fog and I new that our flight would not be leaving.  I was actually looking forward to getting some images of the horses in fog, especially since this was the norm for 125 days of the year on Sable.  I got a little extra sleep, and started at a civilized 8am, heading west towards the ponds.  This was familiar territory and easy to find the way in the dense mist.  The salt content was so high that I had to stop every few minutes and wipe the salt film from my glasses.  I kept my lenses covered except when I was shooting, and I wondered ‘if a new pick-up truck only lasts 3-4 years here how long would camera gear last in this climate?’  The horses kept popping out of the fog like apparitions and it was fun to photograph the dew on their whiskers and their long wet shaggy manes.  I started using a flash with some success.  I came across a mare with a new born foal, who was probably only a few hours old.  Surprisingly, the mare was also still nursing her very large yearling colt. The fog began to lift so I headed back to main station to see if we had a departure time.  Gerry explained that while it looked good here, Halifax was socked in with heavy rain and the small planes could not leave. Excellent!

Peaceful Mornings

Peaceful Mornings

Wildrose and Heather

Wildrose and Heather

Sexy Seal

Sexy Seal

Deb & Snippy

Deb & Snippy

I took some time to download photos and have lunch, but soon became anxious to get back out and take advantage of the unexpected extra day of shooting.  The fog had lifted but it was still soft grey light, so I set out to try some macro work.  I headed out into the heath lands with best intentions of shooting some flowers, but was constantly distracted by horses and quickly put my extension tubes away in favour of my teleconverter. A dark brown stallion marched right up to me and blocked my path.  When I stopped and tried to get my video camera out of my bag he got quite curious and pushed his nose into my pack to see what I was up to.  Trying to mind the ‘don’t touch the wildlife rule’ I did my best to ignore him, but he sensed that I was comfortable with this arrangement and rested his head on my shoulder looking for attention.  He reminded me very much of a Connemara pony and I thought how suitable he would be in the show ring.  Clearly the horses near the station we so acclimatized to people they were almost tame.

Laughing Mare

Laughing Mare

Rolling

Rolling

Followers

Followers

Two on the Beach

Two on the Beach

The weather continued to improve and by early evening it was gorgeous out.  Darren and I (now confident with our system for spying on seals) crept up a dune and hid on our bellies in the tall grass shooting out towards the ocean.  Here we could capture the seals without our presence begin known.  That accomplished we set out on a quest to find horses on the beach and fulfill the last major omission from our shotlist ‘horses in the surf’.  We started hiking west on the north beach and as usual the seals all dove into the ocean, but continued to follow us, their heads just above the surface.  WebsterThey always followed us as far as long a we stayed in sight of the beach.  At last we came upon a chestnut and a dark brown stallion.  The air was getting cooler in the evening and we hoped that would produce a little more activity, as the horses had been pretty laid back all day.  After a few minutes the pair started walking past us, just about when Beachcomber and his herd came down between the dunes and onto the beach.  The brown stallion took one look at Beachcomber and spun on his heals, closely followed by the chestnut.  The way Darren and I were positioned on the beach meant they had to go between us to get back to their home range.  They took off at a gallop right along the edge of the surf! Darren was lucky enough to have the angle and the light and captured them beautifully!  I had to be content with a smaller silouetted version, but was happy nonetheless.

Foggy View

Foggy View

We walked back to where Beachcomber’s group was grazing near the beach and took much needed rest from sand-hiking.  It was nearly 7pm and the western sky was quite dark from the weather happening back on the coast, so we knew the sunset would fizzle out.  A few last rays peaked out between the clouds and we watched Beachcomber pin his ears and herd his band of mares and foals out on to the beach and along to their overnight spot.  It was a short walk back to main station and we felt lucky to be given this extra day.  Inwardly I was wishing for bad weather and flight delays.  It seemed like I was just beginning to understand the horses routines and nuances and it was time to leave.

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