From the beginning
2020. The year of change for many.
If someone would have told me in February while I was struggling through heaps of mud and over volcanic boulders in the high elevation rainforests of Rwanda and Uganda searching for gorillas that only a month later my beloved island would close down with National Guard patrolling everywhere closing highways or that all major airlines except for one would have cancelled their contracts to fly to/from the neighboring Hawaiian islands it would have seemed like a fictional horror movie. But then it happened.
Businesses closed. Many forever. Tourists were all but banned from entry for 9 months. Cost of transportation of goods to neighbor islands via barge went up 46% and planes still weren’t flying. Even between islands.
The first couple months I made a point to try to do something positive each day. Mainly exercising on a favorite forest hike or going for a paddle. Fortunately exercise was always something deemed as “essential” and thus allowed, atleast on Maui. I took my cameras along and snapped images on the now deserted beaches and underneath the pristine offshore waters where boats no longer frequented. I started writing a blog to chronical the daily changes in rules and regs and how it was impacting the local people and economy. It also served as a way to post lots of wonderful images around the island to bring a little aloha back to friends and clients lives who were missing the islands dearly.
I had a trip scheduled the first week of August to a gorgeous but remote costal area of Alaska to camp and photograph brown bears which I’ve done many times. It was looking favorable that plans would prevail despite numerous airline cancellations. But then we got word 3 weeks prior to takeoff that the campground would not be opening for the season. The trip was now an impossibility.
Considering the only airline flying in and out of Maui during the pandemic was Delta my options for re-routing were limited to say the least and changing dates wasn’t in the cards. They had four flights a week to and from OGG so you chose your itinerary with care.
On a whim I remembered hearing about the Onaqui Wild Horses not far from Salt Lake City. As fate would have it the Salt Lake Airport was probably one of the only airports in the country I felt confident I could fly in and out of through LAX without fear of getting stuck without an option to get home.
One of my Alaska travel/photographer buddies drove down from Montana to meet me at the Salt Lake City airport and we headed out to the West Desert to photograph wild mustangs instead of bears for 10 days. We were fortunate enough to get a room at the Dugway Army Base hotel that borders the range (that panning out is still a minor miracle itself) and so for 10 days dawn ’til dusk were spent in the scorching heat up to 108 degrees with billowing dust and sometimes gale force wind blasts. Thousands of images were captured and an idea was born.
I began to wonder if all this talk of wildlife guiding over the past several years might be something I should actually pursue. It had come up many times to guide photo tours in various regions of the US and beyond but for one reason or another it just wasn’t feasible. Until now. My home as I know it was slowly being decimated by more and more closures. I wasn’t getting but a smidge of my regular work and starting over for a third time on the same island just wasn’t something I was willing to do.
Fast forward 6 weeks and a plan was hatched. I boarded the same Delta plane and back to Utah I came the last week of September. I had put my house on Maui up for sale on a hunch and gave myself 10 days to decide if I could make the desert my new home base. Somehow in those 10 days I managed to buy a new home, meet a wonderful realtor turned friend, open bank accounts, get PO Boxes and fall even more in love with the wild horses than I imagined. I was absolutely terrified but the ball had been set in motion.
Within 4 days of returning to Maui I was under contract to sell my place and boxes were being packed. I spent all the time I could soaking up island hikes and ocean vibes while working on the daunting process of moving my existing photography business (A Place In Time Photography) and creating a brand new business to provide private guided photography tours for guests to experience the Onaqui Wild Mustangs for themselves.
Just like that Wild Horse Photo Safaris was born.
I’ve been so blessed to have a smooth transition into my new town and my new home and have already logged more hours on the range than anyone would ever think possible. I’ve worked tirelessly to launch a new brand of Fine Art Creations from my images captured in the field. It is my mission to both help raise awareness into the plight of the wild horses and also to capture their uniqueness and strong spirits through the images and artwork I create. The only way I can truly accomplish this is by spending extremely long hours getting to know individual members of the herd and gaining their trust so that I can move with and around them with ease without causing any disruption to photograph their most true emotions.
So I welcome you and thank you for reading this far! I am so excited to be able to share new images and stories here depicting these gorgeous animals and their lives playing out wild and free on the Onaqui Wild Horse HMA (Herd Management Area) in Western Utah.
All direct inquiries are welcome regarding the horses, tours, artwork or collaborations.
Mahalo Nui Loa,