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03.29.2012

A mustang rolls around on the ground and the dust scattered in the air. The sunset casts dramatic lighting on the facility. The silhouetted mustangs were captured over a fence with the large aperture zoom lens. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/500 sec | Aperture:F5.6 | Focal Length: 200 mm

From Los Angeles, I head north on Interstate Freeway 5 (I-5) then into Highway 14 (SR14). 4 miles before reaching the city of Mojave, I get off the highway. Mojave was a passing point through Death Valley and Sierra Nevada and it was strange that I wished to stop by.

Driving over the highway, I headed west on Silver Queen Road. The road curved left and when the road name changed to Mojave Tropico Road, I drove away from the road and into the desert. I parked the car and walked into the wilderness. I hid behind a Joshua tree that towered over me and watched the wind turbines.

The Joshua tree with the wind turbine in the background. The wind turbines were larger than I imagined and I didn't want to go any closer. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/1250 sec | Aperture:F5.6 | Focal Length: 147 mm

There were several dirt roads after returning to the paved roads. I wondered if it lead to someone’s home. The white painted lettering stood out in the desert. Camera: SIGMA DP2x | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 100 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/125 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 24.2 mm

Returning to the highway overpass, there was a road lined parallel to the highway. Next to the road, there was a track and an endless freight train parked on it.

There were no signs of the train moving. The temperature was not excessively high, but the sun was strong in wintry Mojave. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: APO 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/1000 sec | Aperture:F5.6 | Focal Length: 300 mm

I continued north on Highway 14 and arrived in Mojave. Usually I would only stop here for lunch at one of the fast food restaurants, but I decided to explore the area this day.

Out of all baseball fields I have seen, this was the most closely situated to an airfield. The place was locked and I couldn't enter the ground. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/800 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 29 mm

There was busy traffic at the fast food restaurants along the highway and barely any cars in the town of Mojave. Not knowing if there were any tenants in this single-story building, no cars were parked in the parking lot. Camera: SIGMA DP1x | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 100 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/200 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 16.6 mm

Leaving Mojave, I proceeded on Highway 14 and the desolate Mojave Desert landscape spread throughout. I stopped the car a few times to consume the view. Carrying the long lens, I stood in the middle of the long highway that runs in the eastern direction. From the north, a pick up truck came down the highway and the elderly driver waved at me as he drove by. I waved back.

It is usually too hot to step outside of the car during the summer in this desert. I parked the car on the shoulder and pointed the large aperture lens on the red stop sign. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/1000 sec | Aperture:F5.6 | Focal Length: 85 mm

The highway stretched out in the eastern direction. Standing in the middle of the road, I pointed the lens at the endless stretch of road. I continued to drive east, but this was the best picturesque scenery. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/500 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 500 mm

Proceeding north on the highway, I stopped by Jaw Bone Station Visitor Center and was welcomed with a smile by a woman working there. On the wall there was a poster of a wild horse, so I asked if I could see them and she gave me directions to a wild horse and burro corral. She handed me a few posters. A few miles north from the visitor center, I stop by the Red Rock Canyon State Recreation Area. The highway goes through the recreation area and I’ve passed through it several times, but never actually stepped foot in it. The visitor center was closed, so I left the area after a quick view of the campground.

In this empty camping ground, I wanted to one huge tent here. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/400 sec | Aperture:F11.0| Focal Length: 11 mm

In the vast campsite, an RV monopolized mother nature. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/1000 sec | Aperture:F5.6 | Focal Length: 180 mm

Aiming for the wild horse and burro corral, I headed east on State Road 178 (West Inyokern Road) from Highway 14. After passing the small airport, I come across a small village with several shops.

I pass by a small airport, Inyokern Airport on State Road 178 (West Inyokern Road.) Same as the size of the airport, the sign at the airport entrance was small. The large aperture telephoto macro lens captured the white airplane sign. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: APO MACRO 150mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/1000 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 150 mm

There were several shops on State Road 178, but no one was there. The small connected shops looked like a movie set. Camera: SIGMA DP1x | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 100 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/320 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 16.6 mm

It was a little after 3pm, but the sun was already hitting my face even when standing under the eave. Other than the parked cars at the restaurant across the street, there were no signs of life. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/640 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 18 mm

This was the first time going through Ridgecrest and the city was bigger than I imagined. After filling up the gas, I asked the station attendant for directions to the corral facility, but he did not know. I read at the visitor center that it was easily visible from SR 178 and the smell of horses are recognizable, so I thought the townspeople would know what I was talking about. I asked a customer in a cowboy hat at the gas station and he pointed his finger in the eastern direction and said, “BLM? It’s four miles from here. It’s in that direction.” BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management and even when I got closer to the facility, it did not smell like horses. I entered the facility and parked by an empty small office-like building. Standing on the dusty ground, I saw a young fellow riding a horse into a stable. I walked over to the stable and he had just gotten off the horse. I asked him if he was riding a wild horse and he said that he was training his friend’s horse. When I asked about the adoption program and asked how much one would cost and he said that it is $125. It was much less expensive than I thought. He let me know that I can see the wild horses and burros around the fenced area right outside of the facility.

Once inside the facility, there were mustangs beyond the wall of haystacks. I read on the website that ten tons of hay was needed in a day. Camera: SIGMA DP2x | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 100 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/125 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 24.2 mm

“My friend’s horse is scared easily, so don’t go near him,” he said. He recently emigrated from Hawaii. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/200 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 22 mm

Leaving the facility and back on the dirt road again, I saw horses and burros fenced in at the shelter. It was too dusty to drive, so I walked around the fence. The horses congregated when I walked toward the fence. The sun was setting over the horizon and the mountains, ground, horses and burros were submerged in sunset. Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse & Burro Corrals is located on the east of the Sierra Nevada, south of Coso, west of Arugus Range and north of El Paso Mountains. On the 57-acre land, over 900 horses and burros, brought over from southern California, Nevada and Arizona, are protected here. When they arrive they go through vaccination, blood testing, insect removal and freeze branded and await a new owner.

According to most references, North America is the birthplace of the equine, but during the last Ice age (over 10,000 to 70,000 years ago) they became extinct and currently the mustangs were brought over from Spain. Mustang is not a name of a breed, but derives from the Spanish word, “Mestengo” which means a lost, livestock without an owner.

The setting sun on the western horizon is very bright. I hid in the shadows of the horses and fence to photograph. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/500 sec | Aperture:F8.0 | Focal Length: 18 mm

The fence was high. I stretched my right arm up and pressed the shutter without looking into the finder. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/125 sec | Aperture:F7.1 | Focal Length: 13 mm

With the sunset behind me, I saw the fellow I just spoke to on the other side of the fence. I didn’t know whether it was his friend’s frightened horse. It looked like a scene from a western film. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/400 sec | Aperture:F5.6 | Focal Length: 200 mm

The horses approached me when they noticed my presence. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Monochrome | Shutter Speed:1/500 sec | Aperture:F5.6 | Focal Length: 91 mm

I wondered what he was thinking about. I focused on the horse’s large eyes. Camera: SIGMA SD1 | Lens: APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/800 sec | Aperture:F5.6 | Focal Length: 86 mm

When the sun set, there didn’t seem to be any accommodations further east, so I headed back to the city of Ridgecrest. There were a number of motels and I had no trouble looking for one. The 60-ish looking owner said, ‘don’t worry, be happy’ several times to me before handing the room key. I wondered if I had a concerned look on my face, but maybe it was just his favorite phrase.

Opening the motel door in the morning, the clear sky looked promising. Camera: SIGMA DP1x | Exposure Mode: Manual | ISO: 200 | White Balance: Daylight | Shutter Speed:1/125 sec | Aperture:F5.6 | Focal Length: 16.6 mm

Usually I would leave the motel before sunrise, but I stayed to finish up some email even after the sunrise. When I opened the door, the day had already started. No concrete plans were set yet and I was hesitant to proceed to a location where there was no internet or cell service, but I remembered the “Don’t worry, be happy” mantra and headed east.


All artwork on this page was processed from RAW data (X3F) with Sigma PhotoPro software. After processing, some selected images were imported into retouching software to remove dust. This photo essay is currently running on Sigma Japan’s site and it is published here two months later.

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