Some photos really make you wonder what the story is behind the image. Black & white photography, in my opinion, enhances the subject matter, making it more interesting by removing the distraction of “color noise”. Come on in … take a look at some black and white “stories” from my little corner of the world.
You would think that black and white photography would have gone by the wayside. It was “ground zero” … where photography began. To this day, professional photographers at the very top of the expert layer take black and white photos with artsy zeal. Black and white photography has oddly enough held it’s ground even though cameras are much more complex than their primitive ancestors. If it weren’t for the invention of the digital camera, I wouldn’t be telling this story. Anything much more complicated than a toaster turns me off. The seductive promises made by “New Age” cameras enticed me toward the baited hook. Automatic settings assured me that even I could take good photos. One DSLR camera and a huge memory card later, I became a pathological picture taker!
Nothing was safe. Images that I found interesting could be preserved or deleted, there is no waste. I like detail anyway, and my camera fast became a tool for me to better appreciate the little things and to capture images I wanted to remember … or in many cases, I like to help others “remember” by taking casual photos of things, people, places and the details in their lives that will mean much more to them years from now. Many of you have said such kind things to me about my photos and you’ve also asked what kind of camera I have. So, I wanted to respond to your inquiries and yet make it a little more interesting than just focusing on the me part. This clothesline is just a “working class” object, but to many, it is also conjures up ‘warm fuzzy’ memories. Just seeing a clothesline reminds me of my Grandma trying to talk to me through the clothespins held in her mouth. And, there you have it, a story behind an image.
Ok, I need to back up a little rather than cheat you out of meeting my darling little friend, Katie. She and I have much in common. We’re “girly” cowgirls…which is why there is a rose on my hat. She and I have fun with imagination too. Her daddy is a working cowboy and she and her sister can ride just about anywhere he does. They’re being raised with a “can do” attitude that isn’t exclusive to ranching, but, it is perhaps more common in this environment. Anyway, the photo at the top was taken when we went on a field trip to nearby Custer, SD. One of the places where we stopped was a tourist shop that caters to the “rendezvous” mountain main theme. Her sister is not girly and this was the stop of her choice. We bought a few trinkets and stopped on the way home to enjoy the Black Hills scenery and play with our toys…they with their wooden flutes, gen-u-ine leopard rabbit skins and a slingshot. Me, with my camera.
Then, there are cowboys. I’m surrounded by them and I gotta say that on the whole, most of them are a photogenic lot…some more so than others…a mysterious fact about all humans. Cowboys are greatly helped by a plethora of cool accessories … the horse, the gear and most of all the great outdoors. Charles Belden became the most famous of all the early cowboy photographers because he captured the romance of the west so vividly in what became a vast store of images. The cowboy has a long history in black and white “visuals” just as he does with being associated with the black and white principles of right and wrong. Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy and several others became heroes because of their moral conduct, not because they were “colorful” characters. There was no color…just stories in black and white imagery on the silver screen. To some, the cowboy is still a hero and a role model…
I’d like to let the photos do most of the talking, but they need a little help to tell their stories. But first, I want to say that I do not see myself as a “real” photographer. I just enjoy taking pictures of things in and around my life. A “real” photographer would categorize my camera as being in the “Barbie car” family :o) It isn’t a big gun, but I have fun with my little pea shooter – a Sony Alpha 100 DSLR. The above photo is of my nephew, Zachary, who idolizes his uncle, my husband. Zach was a city kid who came to stay with us for a few days that ended up being the entire summer…and three more summers.
Our little town’s High School kids and several other townspeople went out to a nearby interstate bridge and waited with as many flags as could be found in an effort to visibly honor a local fallen soldier who was being brought home…in a hearse. We waited and we waited. When the escort car was spotted, the flags waved and many VFW soldiers saluted as the entourage went by. There wasn’t a dry eye and the teenagers were silent.
“Necessity is the mother of invention”. An old gate at the Brislawn Ranch – also home to America’s first Spanish Mustang horse registry.
“YooHoooo, I’m Back!” The Canada Goose gander that my bantam hen and I raised several years ago. This past spring he returned again with his mate. Every year they come back makes me feel like I’m part of a miracle – albeit a small one. To me, being blessed by the touch of even a mini-miracle is no small thing.
“Jimmy”. The most interesting faces aren’t always the “purdiest” ones. Fifth generation rancher and a 10 on the character meter.
“A Little Bashful”. Boy loves horse, horse loves boy. You can see it in the horse’s body language…the eye, the ears, the lowered head held close to his master.
“On The Job”. The working life of a ranch cat isn’t just being a barn cat. A barnyard and all of the surrounding area and especially the out-buildings would be overrun with rodents if it weren’t for our feline friends.
“Boys Of Summer”. Big brother says to little brother, “Hold it like this. Here, let me help you.”
I am Aunt to the rider and great Aunt to the darling cherub in front of her. She is SO the cowgirl…just look at those spurs!
Kids…they are so user-friendly to cameras. Rare is the child who does not want their picture taken. Below is a young friend…first in his work clothes standing by dad, then in his cowboy wedding attire. He was so proud to be part of the wedding party for his Aunt.
When I showed the below photo to my friend, Sophia, her heart visibly melted and she cooed, “Ohhhh…Mi Amore.” Her husband and their babygirl. Not exactly the image that first comes to mind when you think of a hard-chargin’ cowboy.
This time it is Grandpa instead of Daddy with an arm full of love…
We have a ranch mascot who is a living reminder of what western range cattle used to look like in the late 1800s. Meet “Kramer”…named after the TV show character on Seinfeld – his curly-top hairdo being the reason for the name. Kramer is a 13 year old retired rodeo roping steer. Mexican Corrientes are a docile breed and Kramer will eat treats out of your hand. He also plays a useful role as “lead steer” when we move our cattle. Isn’t he the coolest?
And the face of the new West…as in really “new”…
Now, for one of my favorite people in all the world…our Veterinarian. “Dr. Pete” is the kind of vet they don’t seem to be making any more…and he’s just inches from retirement (a black day for all who do business with him). It doesn’t matter if you have a sick lizard, a bum lamb with a broken leg, an ailing goose, a lame horse, a prolapsed cow, an ornery donkey in need of castration…he’ll take care of them. He’s preg-checked billions of cows (ok, slight exaggeration, but only slight) and he would rather have remained a good ole country cow vet…BUT. There aren’t many veterinarians around these parts and the need for medical care for all kinds of animals is great. Our beloved vet has cheerfully taken care of any & all of God’s creatures that have come through his clinic door over the past 30 years. I don’t know that we’re issued halos upon entry to Heaven, but if so, Pete is going to need help carrying his.
We had a fabulous grass year. Cooler than usual, with just the right amount of rain at the right times. This ranch horse is looking through grass that was eye-high!
WooHooooo, look a those fancy boots!
I guess it might seem odd to some when I say that a cowboy working with a rope is a thing of beauty, but they are. Poetry in motion. This young lad already exhibits grace in how he handles both his horse and the rope. And below, a couple of other “pokes” – one just passing the time away by fiddling with his rope as we moved cattle to another pasture. The other fella, at branding time. In the old western movies, the cowboys broke into song on the trail…and while I’ve yet to witness that, I’m thinkin’ it could still happen. They do tell stories, some true and some are, welllll, “embellished”, shall we say.
And here is my husband, “Lynn”…
One more of my Beloved. His horses are “Peso” and “Chevis” – Quarter Horse geldings.
Ranch work is just plain dirty…and I mean dirty. Well, there’s all kinds of other “gunk” too…greasy grime from working on farm machinery, all kinds of “organic” goo from working on or with livestock … colostrum, blood, puss, mud, ohhhh you get the idea…and sometimes you get it all at the same time. Laundry From Hell. But, we like to go out and socialize like everyone else. Some of us clean up pretty good…
Have you ever wondered what it looks like when you peer through the “windshield” of a saddle…while riding a good cow horse? Well, wonder no longer. Here she is, with her ears laid back telling the cattle to keep-a-goin’…
And, who is the “she” in the above photo at branding time? My Morgan mare, “Bluebelle”; the below photo was taken last October while doing “fall work”.
Next in line is my baby-girl, three year old “Ribbon”. This is her kindergarten year of ranch work. I took this photo two weeks ago while my husband and I worked for over an hour to pasture-load an injured and grumpy bull into the trailer. Ribbon patiently waited and watched from a distance.
Ribbon’s big brother, “Mac”, belongs to my galpal, Anita, whom you might recognize from several of my previous postings. I bred both of these young horses, I bred Morgan Horses for about 15 years. Raising foals is just plain fun, but it is a lot of work if you do it right. Now, I’m kickin’ back and just enjoying the best part of horse ownership…the ride.
A true icon of the west…a ranch windmill.
Here is another true west moment…a rodeo roughstock event. “Bareback Bronc Riding”. The ride is brief, eight seconds at best, which is the time they shoot for. Anything less than “8” is a no-time. The rider’s style is also judged. If the time is made and the ride is good, the cowboy might get a score in the upper 80s. Beyond that number is pro-caliber. The below photos were taken at the annual Hulette rodeo (WY) – the rodeo grounds is just a hop, skip and a hooey from Devils Tower (America’s 1st national monument). I did not use a zoom lens, I was right at the foot of the fence, close to the chutes.
I was pickin’ a few clods of arena dirt out of my hair after I took the photo of the above ride!
Below is one of the owners of the horses in the rodeo. Now, you might think that a relationship could not exist with this type of horse. These horses are bred to buck and they are, by & large, not lap dogs, but the owners have a deep respect for these unique animals. They love them just as they are. Each horse goes by a carefully chosen name … “Blood Brother”, “Bath Bubbles”, “Beaded Moccasin” etc. Below, “Chad” is riding his wonderful roan gelding bridle-less while roping calves at a branding. That will tell you all you need to know about this man and his horse – 100% trust and respect on both sides.
Thank you again for stopping by, I hope you found something to smile about here. Do stay in touch, I love to hear from you. You can leave a note right here in the comments section below or please feel free to email me anytime. Other readers love to hear what you have to say also. Modernday cowboys have surrendered to high tech devices as evidenced below. A friend was checking for messages on his cell phone after a long day of moving cattle. He’d slipped the bridle off his resting pony and we left shortly thereafter.
One last item, I take photos of lots and lots of people and occasionally someone will offer to take a pic or two of me. I usually duck out. While I love photos of my horses, I don’t like photos of me. I’m not very interesting “material”. While some (like my sister) are photogenic, I’m not. Its ok, I’d rather be on this side of the camera anyway. But, here I am … thanks to my farmgirl pal, Lisa, who is the owner/editor of our local paper. You’ve seen her here before in my “Guns & Aprons” post.
Until next time, I’m wishing with all my heart that you really do have “happy trails” until we meet again.