I always enjoy a morning when I can wake up and head to the Salt River just outside of Mesa, Arizona and look for the wild horses. The Salt River Horses roam an area of 20,000 acres or so within the Tonto National Forest.
As far as photographing the horses, I usually go with my 24-105 on my Nikon and sometimes even my 150-600mm Sigma lens. Then it’s a fairly easy task getting some tight shots of the horse, even at a fair distance away. I will often look for the wide shot though if I can, because I just love seeing the horses, and all animals, in the desert landscape.
One of my favorite areas to check for the horses is along the entry road to the Coon Bluff area. When using a wide angle here, you can capture nice shot with Four Peaks Mountains in the background, like pictured above.
Another area I like is between Saguaro River, and the Beeline highway which comes out of fountain hills. You can catch some nice morning light here, and there are some nice hills if you can catch a band of horses, you can frame many in the shot.
If you are shooting tight for horse portraits and close crops, then find the horses in general will be more important than where you are along the Salt River area. Below, I was using my 150-600 and shot this at 550mm. So between the distance, and the crop, the background and location didn’t matter as much.
Salt River Horses Going For a Swim
And finally, my favorite shots for last. The capture photos of the Salt River horses either crossing, or eating inside the river! You can catch them roaming across the water often times in the early morning or late afternoon. Sometimes, if you’re lucky you can catch a group of them just hanging out in the water munching on the bottom, for a good hour or even more! On the shot below I watched as a mother and her foal crossed the water.
Take Care of the Desert
If you are ever in the area and decide to go visit the horses make sure you give them space and stay well away from them, at least 50 feet. If you have a pup adventuring with you for the day make sure you check up on the local leash laws in Maricopa County. And obviously keep you pup on a leash here, in case you do encounter the Salt River Wild Horses, as you would not want them startling each other! There are quite a few gates in the area, near the river, along the roads, and along hiking trails. Make sure you close them if you go through them. Remember, these are wild animals, so you should never feed them, but you should definitely enjoy them by observing them from a safe distance. They make for fantastic photographic subject, and add a great twist on your desert pics.