Photographing in Harsh Light

Whenever I have the opportunity to photograph working cowboys one doesn’t have an option as to the time of day to photography. Hence you aren’t always rewarded with the most beautiful lighting.  After all these are working cowboys doing their job so your photographing during their work schedule.  That can mean photographing during the harsh midday light when can lead to contrasty images with hard shadows.  The images from such a shoot are normally good candidates to convert from color to black and white.

These photographs are from the spring roundup on the o6 Ranch, located between Alpine and Ft Davis, Texas.  The late morning sun provided pretty harsh light.  The clear blue sky amplified the harshness of the lighting conditions.  Covering the images to black and white provides almost a high key look to the photographs.  I added a very slight sepia tone just to add and little warmth to the photographs as well as provide a little aged look to the images.

Little Trail Boss

It was the first light of the day as the early morning sun began to illuminate the wide open spaces of the o6 Ranch. Time to get to work and begin locating and rounding up the cattle. On this particular morning our little four-legged trail boss was going non-stop orchestrating the activities of the day and assuring everything was under control. He had to work extra hard as his short little legs were having to work extra hard to keep up with the much longer-legged horses but he met the challenge. Getting this particular group of cowboys on their way he turned and headed back to the camp making sure not to miss a thing and perhaps be rewarded for his hard work with a couple of scraps of bacon. Yes, everybody has a job to do on a working ranch.

Time To Saddle-Up

Recently I’ve been going back and re-visiting some of my older images, in particular many of my images of life on the ranch and working cowboys as I am in the process of putting together a portfolio of about thirty images. I have also been re-processing some of these images in Lightroom, trying a few different looks as new tools have been added to the software since I made many of these images as well as my processing skills have changed over the years.

The photograph above is another from one of my visits to the o6 Ranch located in the Davis Mountains. The cowboys and cowgirls are selecting their mount for the day’s work from the ranch remuda (herd of working ranch horses). Things can get a little hectic as well as challenging while trying to compose and build layers of activity into a photograph that tells a story. The biggest challenge with trying to compose such an image is staying out of the way and not get run over. As with all other things, with experience one learns to feel the rhythm of the activity and where best to place yourself as to afford the best possible images while

Hanging On

This is another photograph from the Benjamin Ranch Rodeo. It had been a while since I had done any action type photography with a zoom lens as the majority of my wildlife photography is done with a prime telephoto lens. Trying to zoom and frame the shot while at the same time maintain focus on the subject posed a few challenges as I quickly realized I had become a bit rusty from my lack of action photography lately but I managed to grab some keepers. This particular image of a young bronc rider was shot with a 70-200mm lens and is a bit tighter within the frame than I prefer but again that comes from being a bit rusty. I like the position of the horse, the dust and the dirt flying from the hooves of the horse. Yes it would have been better to have seen the face and potential expression of the young cowboy but to quote one of the great philosophers of our time, Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want”.

Also from my previous post your probably have noticed I have been dabbling a bit with black & white photography. It is where I started. The majority of great and memorable images were shot in black and white. Shooting black and white images removes the color as a distraction leaving only the lines, shapes, tones and textures of the image. Black and white doesn’t necessarily work for all images but I felt that it work for this one.

Benjamin Ranch Rodeo

This past Friday evening I traveled up to Benjamin, Texas to attend the annual Benjamin Ranch Rodeo. Even though the population of Benjamin is 258, the town continues to support this long tradition. Rodeo participants, family and fans came from various parts of the state to take part in this long standing tradition. I even managed to bump in to go friends Wyman and Sylinda Meinzer as they were eagerly waiting for their grandson to take center stage for one of the evenings events.

I prefer photographing the small town rodeos held at the local areas rather than the larger indoor rodeos. The outdoor rodeos afford the opportunity to incorporate the weather elements within the frame to help tell the story. The people at the small town events are more genuine, authentic, and are truly appreciative of the fact that you traveled some distance to attend their annual event. There is nothing ‘professional’ about an event like this and that is what I love. The events exist simply because of a group of numerous hard working volunteers that do it for the love and tradition of the event. You can’t beat that!

I made the photograph above during the later part of the evening as thunderstorms were beginning to build over the arena during the stray steer gathering event. We had been keeping an eye on the sky as there was a complex of thunderstorms out to the west for the better part of the evening. Shortly after I made this photograph, large raindrops begin to fall as a thunderstorm began to quickly build along the outflow boundary right on top of the rodeo arena. By the time I made it to my jeep it was pouring down rain. Once inside the jeep I took a look at the radar on my iPhone app. It indicated that this particular storm was still intensifying so I made the decision to head back to Abilene. It was raining so hard by the time I left Benjamin you had to limit your speed on the highway to about 35-40 mph. When all was said and done this particular little storm dropped 2.5 inches of much needed rain on the small town of Benjamin and the surrounding area. They had a total of 8 inches of rain during the 24 hour period. Of course as I finally pulled back in to Abilene I noticed we hadn’t received one drop of rain.