Quick Shot: Ponies of Assateague

It's been a few days since my last quick shot, but that's because I've been busy! I spent the weekend on Assateague Island, which is a long and uninhabited coastal island running through Maryland and Virginia. The island is most famous for the herds of wild horses and ponies that roam along it's beaches.  Equally famous are the marshes on Assateague, which are home to an abundance of birds and other wildlife.

The primary goal of this trip was to photograph wild ponies and birds. Like I normally do, I'd pre-visualized several photos I wanted to capture of these subjects (I'd never been there and used Google to research the wildlife extensively).  

One shot on my to-do list was a photograph detailing a pony's face. Ideally, I wanted to get the shot at sunrise or sunset, when the soft golden glow would cast the pony in a warm light.  

I had read online that the ponies often migrated to the beaches around sunset and would be inland during the day. Apparently the ponies read the same article I did; within hours of arriving on the island I found a herd of horses by the beach at sunset. Cha-ching!

I chose this pony for the face shot for several reasons:

1. He was facing into the sun, giving a nice cast of light on his face
2. I liked the white mark on his face
3. He was being a cooperative wild subject, which isn't something we get often as wildlife photographers!  

The ponies can be dangerous to humans if we get too close and the National Park Service gives every visitor a rather graphic flyer detailing the dangers of getting too close. That being said, I was sure to stay approximately 20 feet away and was mindful to never "box a horse into a corner" so as to not frighten them. 

Given the distance, it was a no-brainer to use the Nikon 80-400mm. I shot at f/8 to get a nice depth of field on his face and dialed in a -0.5 exposure compensation to ensure the camera didn't overexpose the areas in the sunlight.  

I did minor edits in Photoshop CS6 and ran a high pass filter over the nose fur to accentuate those details.  

_DSC3368 copy.jpg