Jackson, Montana, USA
Time / Date:
12:16 pm / June 18, 2010
Camera: Nikon D200
Lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.4
Shutter Speed: 1/750s
Focal Length: 50mm
This image was part of my first longterm project working with fellow photographer and writer Morrigan McCarthy. Eight months prior we had set out from Maine to bicycle around the United States, photographing and interviewing Americans and documenting their opinions on the environment. We never set up interviews or predetermined our route. The idea was to travel naturally, photographing and interviewing a more or less random sampling of Americans.
This image is a portrait of Ty: a rancher/cowboy in Jackson, Montana. We met Ty the night before while having a drink in the local restaurant. He was our bartender. The three of us started chatting and he told us about his day job. He described how his family ranched on a piece of land down the road with horses and dogs. He invited us over the next day. We gladly took him up on the offer. This led to a day of documenting his family’s work. They were just about to move a huge head of cattle up the road to their new grazing land and I made this image just as they started driving the cattle.
I’m a strong believer in traveling with as little gear as possible. For this entire project and all longterm projects since, I have only carried one body and a 50mm lens. I love how quickly I can move when I’m not carrying a photo bag or tons of gear. I also think that staying compact allows the photographer to blend into the crowd.
Making the Shot:
For this entire project I was attempting to show a glimpse into the subjects lives that would be paired with their interviews. In Ty’s case, I wanted to photograph him in his working environment but ideally at a moment of rest. It was important for me to try to stay eye level with him, so I stood on the fence that surrounded the corral. Among the tension of the nervous cattle Ty remained calm and his brother (who can be seen in the background) was joking around. The dust rose from the hooves of the cattle and the clouds were setting in for a spring storm. Ty turned his head and looked past where I was standing, and over the ranch. It was the perfect moment.
Editing & Processing:
For editing I brought the RAW file into Photoshop where I did very basic tonal corrections. I opened up the cattle a bit to get a touch more detail in them, and I also opened up Ty’s face slightly underneath his hat where there were shadows. The colors were naturally spectacular, and the light was beautiful, so not much needed to be done.
I would have been interested in to have stepped back a bit and gotten the whole horsejust to see what that image would have looked like. But I was standing on a fence, and so it wasn’t possible. One thing I learned during this shoot was not to ride horses while wearing rubber boots: later that day my foot got caught in the stirrup and I was dragged 30 yards or so. I was fine (and I saved my camera), but I had some pretty good scrapes and bruises to show for it!
It’s important for photographers to slow down… Talk to people. We would never have gotten such amazing access if it weren’t for that conversation we had in the bar. I’m passionate about people’s stories. Where they came from, what they do, and how they do it. I’ve found that people want to share their life if someone wants to listen. Once you’ve gotten the access, work hard even if you think you’ve nailed the shot, because you never know what will happen next.
I’m inspired by questions. If I think I can explore answers visually, then I start researching and sometimes a project is born. Inspiration also comes from fellow photographers, or from leafing through the books of masters.
About the Photographer
Alan Winslow is a photographer and educator based out of Brooklyn, New York. His work is regularly featured on the Leica Blog and has appeared internationally in NYMagazine’s The Cut, ELLE China, Adventure Cycling Magazine, Pro Photographer New Zealand, and PDU edu. He has lectured at numerous Universities and taught at the Maine Media Workshops and College. Alan has spent the past six years alternating between freelance work and longterm projects with Restless Collective, which have taken him halfway around the world by bicycle, and all the way around the United States twice (once by bicycle, once by camper).
Restless Collective is a small multimedia collective aimed at producing largescale documentary photography projects centered around travel. Their most recent project, The Geography of Youth is a threeyear, grantfunded participatory public art project documenting what life is like for the Millennial generation around the world.
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