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A Rugged Winter Wonderland

As winter settles in and temperature drops, another beautiful season for wild horse photography begins.

Winter is one of my favorite times to go out on the range, especially if the landscape is transformed by a layer of snow. Although it can be more difficult to find the horses - both because they move into more sheltered/less visible areas and also due to challenging driving conditions on the range - snow can provide a different canvas for me to work with as a

wild horse photographer.

I love the minimalistic effects that become possible when the landscape is transformed largely into black and white. A blanket of white snow over the ground becomes a natural backdrop that allows the focus to be entirely on the mustangs.

In anticipation to this next season, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite images of mustangs in snow - each image accompanied by the story behind it along with some beautiful videos of the Fish Springs range in Nevada transformed into a winter wonderland.


Driving into the Pine Nut Mountains of Nevada, on a fresh covering of snow over the entire range, was nerve wracking. The snow was deep enough that we could not see any of the two-tracks that cross the range; we could make out the shapes of the large rocks and sage bushes under the snow, but usually not until we were right on top of them. 

Fortunatelly that day, we had company - two others in a Jeep and a truck who were experienced in such conditions. So we followed in their tracks across the plain, over the foothills and back into an area of dense pinyon pines, where we were able to pick up some fresh horse tracks.

Maneuvering between the close trees, we had several close encounters, nearly sliding into trees. Following the tracks, we finally spotted a band of about 10 wild horses huddled together in a grove of trees. So, we grabbed the camera equipment and began hiking towards them up a small hill.

Photo Credit: Horse Photographer Maria Marriott

Soon enough we were able to recognize the lead stallion, named “Zorro” by the locals, and his  band of mares and youngsters. In this image, Zorro eyes us warily over his rear end, nicely framing his eye.

The layer of snow on his coat thickened as the snowfall picked up and we finally decided that it was time to get off the range before we, too, had to shelter there for the night.

"A Wild Fairytale"

I was in Northern Wyoming in early Spring, anticipating beautiful weather for a week of wild horse photography. To my surprise, the promise of Spring quickly turned to the last reminder of winter. 

Waking up early in the morning to get to the range by sunrise, I was surprised to find a dusting of snow on our vehicle. Driving the 30 minutes to the range, the snowfall began to obscure our vision. By the time we reached the range, it was clear that we would not be able to go onto it this day. Conditions weren’t improving and getting stuck in a remote location in a snowstorm would be a dangerous proposition.

So we drove slowly along the shoulder of the road that forms the Southern boundary of the McCullough Peaks range. We were hoping that perhaps we would be able to see where the horses were from the height of the road. A herd should stand out against all the white.

But there was little visibility beyond the short distance we could see from the road into the adjacent field. As we talked about whether it would be better just to go back to the AirBNB and enjoy the day by a fire, we saw a small band of wild horses that had wandered to the front of the range. 

a wild stallion gallops under snow on open field
"A Wild Fairytale"

Photo Credit: Horse Photographer Maria Marriott

With the low visibility, we didn’t really expect to create any great shots that morning. But, surprisingly, the horses were in an energetic mood and put on a show for us in the snow as we stood on the shoulder of the road and watched.

One of my favorites turned out to be the image above as it evokes an ethereal winter wonderland - a single stallion making his way through the snowstorm.

"Blue In Snow" & "Blue In Snow II"

One of my most popular wild horse art images is of the iconic blue roan wild stallion (called “Blue” by the locals) of the Pine Nut Mountains of Nevada, leading his band across a ridge. This image, called "Blue’s Band", shows the band in silhouette against the Sierra Nevada mountains and a layer of cloud cover.  

However, on this specific this day, "Blue" and his band were on the plain in the midst of a snow storm on the Fish Springs Range. With his beautiful thick deep black winter coat, he stood out in stark contrast to the surrounding snow. The falling flakes, captured intentionally slightly out of focus, make an intriguing abstract layer in the foreground of the image. 

blue roan wild horse under snow fall
"Blue In Snow"

Photo Credit: Horse Photographer Maria Marriott

Taken on the same day, as the snow gently fell over the Fish Springs Range, this second image of "Blue" - "Blue in Snow II" - is a favorite of mine. Although still a bit ethereal due to the abstract feel created by the out of focus falling flakes and sage brush in the foreground, it is certainly very different. His intense eye locked with mine makes an immediate connections and draws in the viewer's attention.

portrait of a black wild horse under snow
"Blue In Snow II"

Photo Credit: Horse Photographer Maria Marriott

During the winter, a blue roan's coat turns entirely black. This creates an especially difficult photographic challenge due to the high contrast between the deep black and the bright white snow. It's a balancing act to keep all the details in the image - the details of the dark horse's coat and the beautiful snow flakes.

Coming within a respectuful range from "Blue", we set up the shots and then enjoyed the peaceful feeling of watching a band of wild mustangs slowly moving in the snow, providing a reminder that their quest for survival is not just against those who want them captured - but also against the natural elements that they must contend with throughout the various seasons.

About Maria

horse photographer maria marriott photographing a wild horse in snow

Maria Marriott is an award winning horse photographer who has dedicated her craft to capturing the beauty, strength and grace of equines, both domestic and wild.

With a background in Photojournalism, Maria's work has been recognized for its emotional impact and intimate portrayal of these iconic creatures.

Maria supports several non-profits, giving back to help equine theraphy organizations and the preservation of wild horses on our Western lands.


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