Fort Worth, Texas
Time / Date:
3:40 PM / October 2012
Camera Body: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 400mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S
Other: Polarizing filter, monopod
Shutter Speed: 1/200s
Focal Length: 400mm
This was part of a project looking at how the old cowboy culture of Texas, specifically Fort Worth (also known as Cowtown) has adapted to still be part of the modern world of Texas. The Dallas, Fort Worth metroplex is one of the oldest part of Texas still holding on to it’s roots. The old city of Fort Worth still has twice daily cattle drives, mostly as a tourist attraction, through the old town still resembling it’s early days as a favorite saloon destination for Billy the Kid.
Several drovers are running the herd through the old western town as onlookers (not pictured) look on. The cattle hands are hand picked from ranches across the country each with their own individual stories. Sporting a white handlebar moustache and bearing a striking resemblance to Sam Elliot in The Big Lebowski, David Mangold from Evansville, Indiana, came to Texas originally, “doing what all men do….chasing a woman.”
This shoot started early that morning at around 4am when the drovers get ready packing their authentic 19th century cowboy gear together. I always carry at least two cameras on me, one with a telephoto lens attached but I try and keep it in the pack unless I absolutely have to. I had a D700 body on me with a 25mm f2.8 attached with an extra 50mm f1.4, and an 85mm f1.8 in the pack. The second body was a D3s with a 70-200mm f2.8 telephoto attached and an extra 400mm f2.8 prime telephoto was on standby in my car. I mostly tried to stay close to the drovers while they hung around with each other. The camaraderie was something I wanted to capture, because the element amongst them was the unspoken team work they had when dealing with each other, along with the hulking long horn steers. This image was a little different. As the long horns trundle down the main street, pedestrians are not allowed to be on the street. Even me with my all-access to the drovers and the cattle drive I had to stay on the sidewalk. In a bid to get close I opted to use the 400 prime lens because of its shallow depth of field it would get me into one of the moments of interaction between the cattle and the drovers.
Making the Shot:
Shooting with a prime lens is difficult enough sometimes because of the lack of a zoom capability, but it was especially complicated given the short minimum focus range of the prime telephoto. The light was what I was trying to use as my defining frame element because so I had to keep repositioning myself up the street in order to get the light where I wanted it in conjunction with the cattle and cowboys.
Editing & Processing:
I always edit through Lightroom initially then usually drag an image into Photoshop for added touchups if necessary. Outside of some dodging and burning nothing was really done to this image from the original.
I had tried to put a GoPro on top of one of the cattle in an attempt to get things from their perspective. One attempt was made to put a camera on the steers horn but that obviously proved to be a logistical problem. Nobody had ever tried to do something like that so there was very little time in trying to come up with a way to secure a camera onto them. I would have wanted to try and frame this image lower to the ground or from farther away to really layer in the spectators as well as the cars that are on the roadside when the cattle drive happens.
Take your time. Find one spot ahead of time where you can shoot from a good vantage point. The idea would be to get something other people cannot get on their Instagram. One thing I did not realize was how fast the herd moves. Despite the horses being relatively old and the cattle being fairly aged themselves they still had some hustle in them. Several shots did not work out because by the time I had the shot lined up the herd was already past the mark I wanted them to be at to use the light through the trees to my advantage.
I shoot very different things, moving from commercial editorial work to photojournalism to architecture. Each have their own different values and masters. One of my favorite photographers is Irving Penn. The perfect simplicity and minimalist approach really gave you a no bullshit kind of feel to the work. By not getting caught up in any kind of pretentiousness you know exactly what’s going on, there’s a reason why he redefined fashion photography into art – beyond catalogue work of the time. I try and bring that element of simplicity to my work across the different kinds of styles.
About the Photographer
I’m a freelance journalist focusing on stories related to culture and the permanence of the anthropological status quo currently based out of Washington D.C. I’m in the final stages of wrapping up a documentary project about the vanishing tribes on the Saudi Arabian and Yemeni border as globalization slowly helps to uproot fragile cultural communities in the oldest part of the Arabian Peninsula. I’ve spent the last 8 years working on stories in the Middle-East as a freelance journalist for various publications and corporate clients. Now my work focuses on US based story-telling as well creating video content for corporate clients as well as newspaper and magazine publications like USA Today.
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