Filming Wild Horses in the High Sierras with August Bradley
I first got to know the High Sierra Wild Horse Sanctuary while shooting a music video for the band Filter. While filming at the ranch, I was incredibly impressed with the compassion and sense of mission of Nadia and Joe Lane who run the facility.
The High Sierra Wild Horse Sanctuary is a rescue ranch that takes in horses that are sick, held in stockpile on government facilities, or at risk of being bought or captured for slaughter. The American wild horse horse population is decreasing at an increasing rate, and is at risk of disappearing altogether. HSWHS is working to reverse this.
After that original shoot, they brought up the idea of doing a promo to help raise awareness for this cause — I loved the idea.
Filming the horses running wild and free just beyond the ranch, on the southern tip of the California Sierras near Lake Isabelle, was among the most remarkable experiences of my life. These incredible animals had such a combined power and grace, they would rush toward me filling the viewfinder so rapidly as they approached that holding the camera steady tracking with them was an act of faith that I would not be run over.
The camera is so often a link to situations you would normally never have access to, and a motivation to seek out exceptional experiences. Once there, it connects the photographer or filmmaker in a very intimate way with his or her subjects. In this case, it created a profoundly deep connection with these breathtaking animals in their wild and natural habitat. The strength and intelligence of the horses was remarkably vibrant as I shot them from sunrise into the late morning, then again near sunset that evening.
With such a remote location and on a small budget for a non-profit organization, I was out there filming this one solo. The ZEISS Compact Prime CP.2 lenses played a huge role in making this possible. Not only did they create stunning images, but the fast super-speed iris let me shoot in the low light before the sun came up, and importantly the small size let me put a wide assortment of lens options in my backpack as I worked by myself out in the field a good hike from the parking area.
As the sun rose higher, the consistently neutral Formatt Firecrest IRND filters maintained the exposure settings I had selected for creative effect — avoiding the need to stop down just to balance the changing lighting conditions.
This was shot at varying speeds from 60 to 240 frames per second in RAW on the Sony F55 with the R5 RAW recording module. With the high frame rates played back at 24 fps, you see nuances of the horses movements that you would never otherwise perceive — further enhancing the beauty and grace of their behavior on the High Sierra planes.