cowboys

Young Cowboys, Elwood

Young Cowboys, Elwood

Young Cowboys, Elwood

I really do love small rodeos. I have a lot of reasons: the metaphors of the West, the poetry of youth and bravado, the music of community and tradition. But there are times I’m presented with an image that leaves me breathless, for it combines many of those beloved reasons into a single image.

These young cowboys had been sauntering around the Elwood rodeo all night, and as the saddle bronc and bareback event drew to a close, the future rodeo stars congregated on the fence like so many grown cowboys I’ve seen before, but with the starry eyes of admiration seeping from every corner of the image. Hopeful rodeo heroes, I thought.

Future stalwarts of the West, these young men. Future stalwarts.

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Wild Horse Race, Bartlett

Wild Horse Racing, Bartlett

Wild Horse Racing, Bartlett

I love shooting rodeos–after all, they’re the subject of my next book. And at rodeos, wild horse races are by far one of the most energizing, terrifying events for a photographer. Horses and people bucking and running and shouting and riding all mean lots of danger, and that’s a certainty if one isn’t careful.

But the photos are worth it.

Rodeo Cowboys, Arthur

Rodeo Cowboys, Arthur

Rodeo Cowboys, Arthur

Rodeo stops for nothing. Nothing.

A massive storm rolled through the skies over Arthur, Nebraska, for the Saturday performance at the rodeo, complete with massive wind, torrential rains, and…lightning. Big bolts of lightning. But no one moved, especially the cowboys.

And so the festivities continued, and so did I, photographing–and I was rewarded with the storm and sunset and visual drama and…this image.

Returning to the Land of the Living

Cowboys at Anthem, Stapleton

Cowboys at Anthem, Stapleton

I’ve always liked the last line of Tolkein’s The Return of the King: “Well, I’m back.” And so I am, after digging out the studio from a mound of baby clothes and papers after a nearly four-week absence. I had a wonderful group of students at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop, and I learned more from them than I’m sure they learned from me (which is how it usually works). Since I’ve been back from New Mexico and Colorado, I’ve been on a fair number of shoots as I try to develop the details of my upcoming Nebraska Arts Council exhibition in 2015, but the call of rural rodeos is strong.

Tough Hands 2014: Here We Go Again

Tough Hands No. 14

Tough Hands No. 14

It’s been a long winter. I’ve been sick—so has my family—and the extended, dry cold weather hasn’t helped. Spring is hinting at its return, and with it comes my favorite season: branding. I’ve already set up one shoot at the Adams ranch, a sprawling, treeless expanse in the Sandhills, and I’m working on several others for late May. There simply isn’t much that is more photogenic than real working hands and horses, in my book, and the above image from the Pyle / Meidell branding in 2013 is a reminder of the allure of spring in the West.

From the Rural Impressions Show: Machine Shed, Kansas

Machine Shed, Kansas

Machine Shed, Kansas

The Rural Impressions show opens this Friday at the Graham Gallery in Hastings, with a public reception from 6-9 pm on Saturday. Featuring 40 images from different series of work over the last five years that examine the complex relationships between the rural West and the land itself, including the image above, the show is meant to inspire viewers to contemplate the myriad forces at work in the rural Great Plains and American West.

Roping Team, Eddyville Rodeo

Roping Team, Eddyville Rodeo

Roping Team, Eddyville Rodeo

There are lots of photographs of rodeos and roping, but few that show the speed and dust of the high summer circus in the American West. I’d like to think that this is one of those images.

Cowboys, Eddyville Rodeo

Cowboys, Eddyville Rodeo

Cowboys, Eddyville Rodeo

It’s a interesting place behind the chutes at a rodeo; the cowboys are checking gear, saddling up, changing boots and joking nervously as their time to get on draws near. I spend a lot of time back there, watching and shooting, and the two men in the white hats made nice first and second layers for a larger photo of the world of small rodeos for the cowboys.

Digital Photo Pro’s “The Face” Entries

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These are the four photographs I recently entered in Digital Photo Pro’s “The Face” contest, which is exclusively for portrait and people photography.

These shots are perhaps my “people favorites” from several years of work. Enjoy.