saddle

Tough Hands No. 4

Tough Hands No. 4

Tough Hands No. 4

Jim had great hands.

James Stanfield, a National Geographic photographer, once noted how a crowd would have only a few classic faces within it, and I think this extends to hands. As a result, I often begin looking at hands and faces when I’m presented with a new venue, and at my last branding–a large one with more than 35 people working–I found several of each.

Back to Jim. He was castrating calves for part of the morning, and would come back to the antiseptic bucket near the fire to clean his hands and knife. It had been deeply overcast and cold early, and nearly everyone wore gloves, so I missed Jim’s gnarled, strong, creased hands. But near 9 a.m., the weather had warmed, and the gloves came off. And I found hands.

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Tough Hands No. 2

Tough Hands No. 2

Tough Hands No. 2

“That looks like an advertising image,” said Liz, my friend and fellow professional photographer.

“Maybe,” I answered, “but there’s a difference between an advertising image and this one.”

“Oh? What’s that,” Liz asked.

“Look at the boot,” I returned. “No advertising image could capture a boot that had been so ‘prettied up’ by ranch life. This is a document, not propaganda.”

Liz and I have shot together for countless hours, brandings upon brandings, landscapes beyond count, ghost towns unnamed. She sat and pondered for a moment, then spoke.

“Mmm-hmm. You’re right. That boot couldn’t be anything but real.”