Photographing The Shannon County Wild Horses Using B&W Film & The Nikon F6
I first learned about the wild horses of Shannon County, Missouri back in 2010 when I was looking for land in the Ozarks. I ultimately purchased some land in 2015 and now I follow the horses on a weekly basis and I am telling their unique story using black and white film.
When I say that I follow and study the wild horses, I really mean that I follow and track them several times per week to watch them and learn everything I can about them.
I document the herd size, each individual member of the herd, and anything else that is noteworthy such as their behaviors, interactions, and trends around their migrations to different areas. I really enjoy learning about their behaviors and their communications amongst one another.
I made a radical decision this year and started photographing the wild horses with my Nikon F6 and 35mm black and white film. Yes, you heard me correct. I am using black and white film to photograph these wild horses and not the latest digital gear. I have previously shared this story, but the short of it is that I treated my wildlife photography as a hobby for many years while my core focus was creating large format silver gelatin botanical prints. Then one day I decided to try photographing the wild horses of Shannon County with a roll of Tri-X loaded in my F5 and I was hooked. The images portrayed the emotion and drama that I was feeling all along but seemed to be missing in the digital images.
FILM CAMERAS & FILM CHOICE
I typically use my Nikon F6 with one of my longer prime telephoto lenses (600mm F4, 500mm F5.6, 300mm F2.8), or one of the zooms (e.g. 80-400mm, 200-500mm) along with either Tri-X or HP5. I use Tri-X when I want a higher contrast image and HP5 when I want something lower contrast.
I develop both films in Kodak D-76 1:1. If I need a second camera, I will either use my Nikon F100 (smaller) or the F5 (bigger and faster) depending on the specific need.
By using black and white film, I have the option of making handmade silver gelatin prints in the darkroom or scanning the negatives for a variety of other output choices ranging from pigment inkjet prints to using the digitized film images in books, on websites, etc. I personally feel that my film-based images have a unique ability to communicate the unspoken emotion of these majestic wild horses.
SHANNON COUNTY MISSOURI
Shannon County Missouri is a rural area in the Ozark Mountains that is home to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the countries first national parks protected riverway.
The wild horses have been roaming the rugged landscape of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways for about 100 years now. Shannon County is a favorite destination for nature lovers from around the country because of the clean and pristine rivers and unspoiled nature.
The wild horses of Shannon County is a compelling story that has captured my attention and my heart. I just started a Wild Horses of Missouri digital magazine where I tell the ongoing story of these wild horses and share their beauty with you.
I invest a lot of time following them and learning everything I can about their behaviors, interactions within the herds, and how they live on a daily basis. The interactions between them are fascinating to me and I am learning how to read their body language as well as understand their verbal sounds and queues that they use to communicate with each other. I have a lot to learn, but I am excited to know more and continue to grow and learn.
There are a total of four herds that freely roam an area of over 100 square miles, so I have a lot of ground to cover to remain connected with them. Some of the Ozark's terrain is very rugged and often times mother nature doesn't allow access because of flooding and other events.
The four herds are known as: Shawnee Creek, Broadfoot, Round Spring, and Rocky Creek. These names come from the geographic areas the four herds tend to roam. The general public knows about these four areas but as a local, I have invested the time, money, and effort to discover about a dozen different places where the wild horses frequent. For photographers and people that want a personalized tour, I offer that as a service. Some of the unknown and remote locations require a lifted 4WD truck to reach because of the rugged landscape and the frequent flooding from the creeks and rivers.
WILD HORSES OF SHANNON COUNTY OVERVIEW
For the last 100 years, a heard of wild horses have been roaming the ancient and rugged landscape of the Ozarks in Shannon County. During the 1980s the National Park Service announced a plan to remove the wild horses.
In 1993 the U.S. Supreme Court denied a final appeal and gave the National Park Service the right to remove the horses from federal land at their discretion.
Luckily, by 1996 the Wild Horse League of Missouri, which formed in 1992 to save the wild horses, received help from the people of Shannon County, Congressman Bill Emerson, and Senators Kit Bond and John Ashcroft. Their tireless efforts paid off and President Clinton signed a bill into law on October 3, 1996, to make the wild horses of Shannon County a permanent part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
The Missouri Wild Horse League works with the National Park Service to manage the horses.
It is important to remember that these horses are wild. When looking for them be sure not to approach them or attempt to feed them. It is important to keep these animals wild and free.
I hope that you continue to follow along as I study and share the stories of these magnificent wild horses.
Keywords: black and white, black and white photography, darkroom, film, Missouri, Ozarks, Shannon County, Wild Horses
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