Winter in Assateague

This past weekend I hosted my first solo run weekend photography workshop in Assateague National Seashore and the surrounding area of Ocean City, Maryland.

It was a wonderful group of people that had the enthusiasm and willingness to endure freezing winter conditions to experience the seashore in solitude.

Arriving a day early, I had the afternoon to myself to regroup from a busy week and to get ready to start the workshop the next day. It’s been years that I’ve wanted to see the wild Assateague ponies on the beach, but the few times I’ve been able to escape to the shore, they have been found along the roadways.

It was to be my lucky afternoon and they were casually grazing on the salty grasses and strolled into the dunes with the late sun shining behind them.

The sun faded quietly and not much color appeared. After the sun sunk below the horizon I was able to slow my shutter speeds down and enjoy the waves crashing on the shore. Watching the Sanderlings rush in towards the wet sand to dig for little things and then run back quickly when the waves came to shore.

It was cold, it was blustery, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to try to create my first star trail that evening. It was a clear night and the tail of the Milky Way was visible to the eye. Using my car as a wind blind, I set my Canon 5D Mark IV on Bulb Mode and started the exposure. Dashing into the car to hunker down from the cold. I waited 30 minutes to create the image above.

I was excited to start the workshop and several participants had arrived a day early as well. So we had an early-bird special as my sunrise predictor promised some good color at sunrise. True as promised, we had a beautiful sunrise along the Ocean City inlet pier.

We all pulled out our filter kits as the sun rose and worked on some long exposures to blur out the waters and cloudy skies.

There was to be a big rain storm coming in that afternoon and in spite of our efforts to get out to photography at late in the day, we got pelted with freezing rain and had to give up and enjoy a great dinner before tucking in before the big day which was to come.

Sunrise the next morning was filled with baby blues. I was able to capture a couple of images between helping participants with their captures. After a beautiful morning on the beach, the day warmed up a bit and we got into the cars to troll around to look for the Assateague ponies.

In short order we found the lovely family unit that I found back in October. The baby was more grown then when I last saw him and his sire stood at the ready, on guard wherever the colt went.

This visit, the horses were easily found and dotted the landscape. From the salty marshes, the sand dunes, along the roadways and even in the parking lot. In fact, on the last morning we were there, we had just parked and the back of my SUV was open so that people could get their gear out. A herd showed up and one of them walked straight to my car and stuck his head right into the back of my truck ! I had to tell him to “Git” in my best Cowgirl, and he was reluctant to move. I told him I meant it and after a moment he decided to amble off.

With the winter grasses, I decided to ‘shoot through’ them and create a more ethereal look to them grazing. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do as the grasses were moving in the frigid wind, the horse constantly munching away and moving with each bite.

Even more surprising was the repeated views of Sika deer. A non-native Asian species that is nocturnal, with one exception, I’ve only seen them in the dark at dawn dashing …. or rather bounding like Tigger away.

This was just some of the highlights so far in an action packed, wildlife chasing, landscape admiring workshop. Stay tuned tomorrow for some more amazing things we got to enjoy while together chasing our passion.

23 replies »

  1. Wonderful post! Aside from the fact that I really do need to visit Assateague, I love how you combine simple wildlife shots with your stunning creative images.

  2. Nice images Emily. I visited Assateague and Chincoteague a few times when I lived back east. It’s a great place for photography. I especially like your long exposure 6th image down,. The colors are wonderful!

  3. What terrific images!!! I only know about this area from the children/teen books by Marguerite Henry. The star time-lapse image is wonderful — the pony with shadow is wonderful β€” the ocean at dawn is wonderful. Thank you for making and then sharing them with all of us.

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