Category Archives: Cowboys

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking.

I have been snapping shutters for many years, but only in the past 2 years have my photos begun to really show the mood and personality that I want in an image. The reason I am beginning to capture great photos, is largely due to two secrets I’ve learned. I am shooting with the same entry-level DSLR camera that I was using 5 years ago – but the quality of my images has greatly improved.

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

Last week they preg-checked about 800 cows. It was an ambitious undertaking, even in good weather! With shorter days, just getting it all done in daylight would be a challenge. As if things weren’t interesting enough – a snowstorm rolled in during the night, and preg-checking  would happen in an all-day snowstorm!


But ranchers are tougher than most, and they bundled up, saddled up, and were out at the first gray light – pushing cows through the alley to the chute. The vet was there, apron on and wand in hand. The snow swirled as they worked – a couple guys in the back, pushing cows, a couple in the alley, moving the cows into the chute, a few guys at the head – checking numbers, running the chute, writing down info.

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #wyoming #cowboy

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranchTwo secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

One man sat in the truck, out of the snow, so he could write down each cow’s information. That seemed like the best spot to be, on this stormy day! (Although he’s the kind of guy who’d rather just be out there working with the others, I think. ) Anyways, each man had his job to do, and they did it well. I didn’t help, but I did go out and take pictures. As Dave Stoecklein said:

“The worst weather makes the best pictures.”

He is so right! My photography made a huge leap when I read that and started implementing it. I wanted great photos, but my natural instincts and personality make me stay indoors (or at least in the truck) when it is bad weather. Especially cold! But I read that by Stoecklein, and decided to put it into practice. It worked! I started getting images far more interesting than those I captured from the comfort of my truck or house or behind the fence.

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranchTwo secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

I started getting up early to catch sunrises. I bundled up to get snow images. I just got wet capturing spring rainstorms. (maybe I should get a slicker? 😀 My fingers went numb from standing on a cold hillside on a chilly fall day. But my pictures began showing mood and interesting elements that they’d been missing.

I still dislike cold. I would much prefer to live somewhere tropical – somewhere that palm trees grow and the worst weather is storms over the ocean! But for now, I am here in Wyoming where weather is usually bad and always cold. And I will continue capturing the ranch life through snow and below-zero temps. 😉

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranchTwo secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

Another secret to great photos is one I learned from Chris Dickinson. I stumbled across his images on Instagram several years ago, and was immediately struck by the amazing action moments he captured! In your face brandings, over-your-head horses, and hooves just inches away. (that’s how it looks, anyways!)

“Don’t be afraid to get in close to the action!” Chris Dickinson

Chris is not afraid to get in close! He will let calves nearly run him over – and his photos show that intensity. It is mesmerizing – I study each picture at length, feeling the whoosh of air as hooves rush past, smelling the cow-trampled dirt, hearing the swoosh-and-thwack of the rope as it settles around the neck.

You don’t get that kind of action from the other side of the fence! You have to be in there, smelling, hearing, feeling. I have no desire to become the next CD Photog, (even if I could)  but I did learn to get in a lot closer, feel the action, not insulate myself from the experience. Again, my photos improved. I began catching the cowboys’ expressions, the cattle’s motion, the mood of the moment.

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

You can read all day about photography, but the best way to improve is to get out there and start experimenting. If you make some terrible shots, ruin some perfect moments – that will teach you faster than anything else, what not to do. It will force you to learn how to fix it and get better! :)

Another great way is to invest in a photography course or workshop. This will give you hands on help for your specific issues. It will teach you how to get great photos faster than just google or experimentation.

Leave me a comment and tell me what is your biggest challenge in making great photos?

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

Two Secrets to Great Photosand preg-checking on the ranch

 

TA Branding 2017

Morning on the ranchThe TA is a ranch west of us, that hosts a large branding every year. They actually have several ranches – quite a good-sized outfit. We were able to make it over for one of their brandings this year.
Cliff and I loaded up at 4:30 and drove around the mountain to meet at the ranch at about 6 am. We were there early, and joined the long line of trucks and trailers lining up to park.

The sun wasn’t up yet, when we mounted up and rode down to get instructions. They divided us into 4 groups, and off we went. We trotted a couple miles to the back of the pasture, got behind the cattle and started moving them back towards the corrals. In this part of the country we don’t round up and drive. 
We gather and push.
As in: “We’re gonna gather this pasture, and push them to the green gate.”

We were close to the back of the pasture when we came to this deep wash. (or gully, if you’re from the east)
The far side was steeper than it looks in the photo. One guy broke a rein-chain, and we all stopped at the top to get situated, readjust saddles, etc. This is why we use breast collars – because if you don’t, your saddle may end up over the horse’s rump.
We rode a bit further and there they were – the cattle were already starting to move, thanks to another group of riders that had reached the back of the pasture first.
Morning on the ranchAs we got closer to the corrals, the sound of lowing cows and bawling calves grew louder. The circle of cowboys tightened gradually, until we were riding side by side and bunching up to go through the gate.
It was a lovely, overcast morning. Cold at first but warming without getting too hot.The scenery was amazing, and the remote location meant no sounds of traffic or other civilization. Just cowboys, cattle, and horses.Morning cattle drive roundup wyoming


Quite the long line of trucks…
Question: Do you say pickup or truck? I was having this conversation with a friend recently, and I hadn’t thought about it much, but now I pay attention…. and yes, we say truck! 😀 Or at least I do. I guess I need to listen to what other around here call them. I have lived so many places in my life that I never know if I am speaking local slang or just carryover from my childhood. :)
PS – extra points if you recognize our rig. 😉Cattle trailers trucks at the branding

Once we had all the cows and calves into the corral, we waited for them to pair up a bit while we got instructions. Well, they got instructions. I offered my help but since there were so many people, the boss told me to just go take pictures. (Thank you Mr. Haskell!)Waiting at the TA branding

Firm handshakes 'round here.

Firm handshakes ’round here.

Oklahoma buckaroo Cody  holds a calf while it gets a brand.

Oklahoma buckaroo Cody holds a calf while it gets a brand.

 

Janet Jordan from Walden, CO throws a nice loop out there.

Janet Jordan from Walden, CO throws a nice loop out there.

Roping calves at the TA Cowgirl roping at the TA Funny cow photo heading and heeling at the TA Branding cowboy at the TA Branding calf in sagebrush cowgirl roping John Love roping at the TA Jed Roark and John Love roping at the TA Cliff Schrock roping at the TA Cody Roy roping at the TAThere were 800+ calves that day. They gathered, roped, and branded them by 11:00 am. There were two branding pots set up, and lots of ropers! Still, that’s pretty impressive. I had so much fun photographing them. Hope you enjoyed this little piece of western life. :)

Shipping Calves again.

red cow

We have been blessed with great weather for shipping and pregging. This morning I told myself to get with it and get outside, for once! It’s real easy to just say: “Oh, maybe next time”, but today I put on my big girl boots and bundled up to get some photos! :)
It wasn’t even that cold.
Which was nice.

They cowboys met in our yard, (yard being the general term for the parking area in and around the shop & barns) Once they were all there, they gathered around the cowboss to get instructions for the morning. Then they headed out by twos and threes, for various corners of the pasture. They got to the fenceline, then turned around and started pushing (moving) cows and calves together and towards the corrals. Some places call it a ’roundup’, I guess, in this area we call it a ‘gather’. We gather cows and ‘push’ them to the corrals. Obviously, we do not physically push them – it’s a term for herding. shipping 2016shipping 2016 ranchlife-213 ranchlife-223


I took the silhouette photo from my front porch, no joke.

cowboy sillouette

shipping 2016

Here they come – down the hill!shipping 2016

Once they get in the corrals, it’s sorting and weighing. Then loading them onto waiting semi-trucks. Sorting and moving calves down an alley is a great place to get photos – but I’m always afraid I’ll b in the way! :) So I try to stay pretty low profile. I get really nervous if I feel I am going to be a nuisance.

shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016

There’s my man!! :) He’s my favorite. He is currenty soaking his foot in Epsom salts, because he got stepped on so hard today, that he is limping. :( I wonder if that is what people think of, when they get starry-eyed about ranching? :) I doubt it. But still, cowboyin’ is a great life, if you’re tough enough to cowboy up! 😀

Ride The Brand, my friends.

Just More Branding Photos.

I was going through my branding photos from the TA, and thought I’d share a few more of them. I know some of you follow me simply for the photos. :) Forgive me if I include ones I’ve previously shared. My memory is failing me, these days.

Enjoy!

TA Branding


TA Branding TA Branding

TA Branding

TA Branding web

TA Branding

TA Branding TA Branding

TA Branding

TA Branding

TA Branding

TA Branding

TA Branding TA Branding TA Branding

Branding at the Esh Ranch.

A few weeks ago, we drove to CO to help a friend brand his calves. We took several friends along to help rope. My husband enjoyed it more because it was a head & heel branding. We are kinda partial to the buckaroo style. :)

I am leaving this as a photo post, hope you enjoy!

Early morning in the horse barn.

Early morning in the horse barn.

Waiting for their turn in the branding pen.

Waiting for their turn in the branding pen.

Branding at the Esh ranchBranding at the Esh ranch

Head and heels...

Head and heels…

There were several young boys who had never been at a branding before. They enjoyed setting ropes and just holding calves.

There were several kids who had never been at a branding before. They enjoyed setting ropes and just holding calves.

Branding smoke.

Branding smoke.


Branding at the Esh ranchBranding at the Esh ranchBranding at the Esh ranchBranding at the Esh ranchBranding at the Esh ranch

Owner and branding boss.

Owner and branding boss.

Cowgirl and city girl. Great friends! :)

Cowgirl and city girl. Great friends! :)

Branding near Wheatland.

We went to help our friends brand calves yesterday. Cliff loaded up the horses and older kids and left by 5:30 am. I woke the little ones and fed & dressed them and followed in the suburban by 6 am. (We can’t all fit in the truck, so I had to drive separate.) It was a gorgeous morning, sun rising through a bit of clouds and into a clear sky.

branding

By the time I reached the ranch, the cowboys were almost done gathering the cattle. The lane runs through the pasture, so I was surrounded by cowhands at one point. It always feels a bit like I’m living in a western movie set, when I see cowboys riding down the hills on either side of me. :) Never gets old.

Looking for strays.

Looking for strays.


The wind wasn’t too bad, thankfully, so the baby didn’t have to gasp for breath. 😉 Babies just don’t appreciate this Wyoming wind much. I strapped him in the stroller, and assigned an older kid to keep track of Reata while I ducked around horses and cowboys to take as many pictures as I could. I knelt in some questionable damp stuff with my new jeans – yuck. And I was awash in branding smoke most of the time, but I did get a couple of nice ones, in between feeding and changing the baby, and getting him to sleep.

My 3 older kids.

My 3 older kids.

branding

Brandings are a favorite time of year for most ranchers. We reconnect with friends and neighbors – some we haven’t seen since last year’s branding! We share jokes and tips and stories of the past year. We gather for a huge feast afterwards, always a highlight! Yesterday they served prime rib, which is a very delicious cut of meat. Most of the time if a fellow ranch wife comes to a branding, she will bring a dish to add to the table… a pie or salad or some rolls. It is not required, but always appreciated.

Cowboygirl.

Cowboygirl.

Dragging to the fire.

Dragging to the fire.

Cliff and Jenni wrestled calves a while.

Cliff and Jenni wrestled calves a while.

And remember, calves hide (skin) is ‘way thicker than yours, so branding them is not nearly as painful as it would be for you. 😉 And besides that, it is required by law.

branding

Jane Grove branding.

Jane Grove branding.

branding

Branding

Chasin’ Cows.

One fine, windy day in October, my husband needed to doctor a couple heifers. It was close to the house, and my mother-in-law was visiting, so I drove her out to watch her son rope stuff. :) I parked in the pasture and snapped the shutter as my husband was chasin’ cows.

Chasin' Cows.

Gettin’ his eye on the sick one.

This heifer had foot-rot, (if I remember correctly) and in typical cow-fashion, the minute you start swingin’ that rope, the ‘sick’ bovine decides it is quite healthy after all! Off she goes, fast as her legs will take her… which isn’t really very fast, if you know anything about cows. (calves, on the other hand – those babies can make time!)Chasin' Cows.Chasin' Cows.

Chasin' Cows.

Heel trap.

Not every catch is picture-perfect. Sometimes he catches only one foot, other times he misses altogether. But that’s real life with pasture-doctoring. We don’t go to many rodeos, but when we do, we often remark: “hmm, would like to see him do a little pasture-doctoring on a windy day!” 😉 You keep practicing and improving, but you have to get the job done, whether it’s a windy day, your horse is feeling cranky, or the snow is blowing. Cattle health waits for no man. (or woman!)Chasin' Cows.


Meanwhile, the rest of the cattle were just taking it easy… munch a little here, taste a mouthful there…Chasin' Cows.

And just plain relaxin’! :)Chasin' Cows.Once the cow is down, my Man gave her a shot and a couple pills. HUGE pills, by the way, called bolus’s. Yuck. Chasin' Cows.Chasin' Cows.

Then he let her get up, and off he went to catch the next sick cow. Chasin' Cows.Chasin' CowsHope your day is lovely, warm, and not windy — especially if you’re chasin’ cows!

Shipping Season on the Ranch, 2015

When it’s shipping season on the ranch, I am up before the sun – preparing the meal for the cowboys, and feeding an early breakfast to my man.
shipping season on the ranchSoon the sun is high and the yard filled with horse trailers and cattle trucks, and the sound of incessant bellowing is heard.shipping season on the ranchMy Lucia doesn’t want to miss one minute of the action!shipping season on the ranchSometimes the drivers get the truck backed up perfectly the first try, sometimes it takes many tries. But it all works out. :)shipping season on the ranchCalves and trucks wait to be loaded.shipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchSorting off a specific number of calves to be loaded.shipping9shipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchShipping is the sigh relief of a job well done at the end of the ‘cattle year’. Sometimes the calves come in at a good weight, and sometimes under. Sometimes the market is high, and sometimes low. But for those of us who enjoy this life, it is worth the uncertainty and risk. We ship off the babies, then begin preparing for next year – starting the cycle all over.

We don’t ranch because it is a sure way to get rich, but because we enjoy the way of life. The quietness, working with the livestock, the pleasure of working outdoors, the comfort of a neighborly community who has your back – all things that are disappearing from our culture in America at a rapid rate.

We ask for help when we need it, we return the favor gladly, and we have a jolly good time doing so. We find comradeship and sympathy during the rough years, mutual cheer during the good.


Next time you eat beef, think about the hard-working ranch families who raised it. :)