Cowboy in the snow

Here I am following Jimmy to the location

This is my shadow while riding, the big lump behind me is my 35 pound (16 KG) camera bag

Another select 2 frames later

Location wise for this shot I looked for a large flat area that has pristine snow, i.e., no animal tracks. I then asked Jimmy if this area has good “footing”, meaning is it safe for the horse. I don’t want to run a horse where there are rocks, holes, irrigation ditches or anything else that could seriously injure an animal.

Once I have established a good and safe spot to shoot, I then look for where I need to be. I’ll then dig out the snow down 2 or 3 feet (0.6 – 1 meter) so I can get into the hole. This allows me to get down to the snow level without having to lay down on my side.

So I now am standing, sitting or kneeling in the hole in the snow with my right hand holding my camera and my left hand on the zoom control of the lens while also holding onto the reins of my horse. This is very important because I want be be sure I can ride back & not walk back.

The trick here is to have the horse close so if it moves it’s head it will not jerk the reins, and therefore, move my hand on the lens while I’m taking photos. It also helps to have a a calm horse and a comfortable spot for the horse to stand, a level spot is best. This way the horse is not dancing around, stepping on you and/or your camera bag or being a nuisance in general.

Most horses, being a herd animal, want to be with their buddies. In this case my horse would prefer to be with the horse Jimmy is riding. But since I have used this horse before it knows it would be better to stay with me rather than running. I have shot with other horses and they sometimes are almost out of control jerking on the reins wanting to leave. After a few “Lessons” applied to the horse they normally decide that standing still is a better idea. If they are still a problem, I will use a different horse the next day.

Gear: Canon professional digital camera, 70-200 Canon Zoom lens at 100 mm, 1/320 sec., f5.6, 100 ISO and then processed using Photoshop.

If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Cowgirl Fashion

This cowgirl flavored fashion editorial image was shot inside a B&B in the Buckhead part of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Wardrobe styling by Vicki Perry with hair & make up by Sav Wood. Originally this was to have been shot the day before, but I was a bit ill so I asked my producer to delay it until the next day.

I still was not 100% (maybe 25%) the next day but the model had traveled 6 hours to shoot the project and I figured that I might as well feel lousy and shoot (something I really love doing) vs. staying at home feeling lousy. So I sucked it up, packed my gear into the Explorer and drove to the location, about 25 miles (40 KM) away. When I arrived I asked the crew to bring my stuff in, normally I help but today I decided I needed the energy to “See” and think.

Shot with a Canon 5D MKIII set at 1/160 second, 320 ISO with a 16-35 mm f2.8 IS Canon lens set at f2.8 and 16mm hand held.

This was the second look we worked on and was very easy to light. All light is from a Lumedyne battery powered strobe system using a FourSquare softbox and a Lighttools grid, all of which was set just to the left of the photo. Microsync radio trigger system.

Any image is available for comp or mock use at no charge, just ask first.

Cowboy on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains

This Cowboy image was shot a little after 6 am on a ranch on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I was on this location for 2 weeks and when I first arrived all of this vegetation was gray or brown due to a drought. Shortly after arriving it either rained or was solid overcast every afternoon and caused just about everything to really green up. This was the last day I was able to shoot before returning to Denver and then home. This photo was shot a few minutes after sunrise but a mountain behind the cowboy is blocking the direct light and will for another 20-25 minutes. Click on image to enlarge.

Shot with a Canon 5D MKIII set at 1/400 second, 640 ISO with a 400mm f2.8 IS Canon lens set at f2.8 and everything resting on a Gitzo fluid head and a set of Gitzo carbon fiber sticks.

Styling credits: Coat by Miller Ranch – Hat by Larry Mahan – Saddle Blanket by Mayatex – Wildrag by Cowboy Images  

Cowboy – Western Lifestyle Fashion Image


This Cowboy-Western Lifestyle Fashion image was shot for The Milano Hat Company for catalog, web & ad use near Eagle – Vail, Colorado inside an unheated 1890′s homesteader’s cabin. This was the first set up of the shoot and it was about 10 (-12C) degrees inside. Most of the light on the cowboy is from a battery powered strobe inside a softbox just to the right of the camera.

Cowboy Fashion

This fashion image was taken as part of a project for a fashion client in Colorado on a cold winter afternoon. This was the 5th set up of this session and even though was shot during the day, is illuminated primarily by strobe light. This allowed us to control the light direction, fall off and quality. By doing this we are able to deliver an engaging image that makes people stop & look, something important in branding of a single product or a wide range of products made or licensed under a common brand name.

Go here to see a larger version and read how this image was created.

If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Hello world!

This Cowboy Lifestyle image was shot on a ranch in Colorado for a client’s Christmas card. Click here to see it larger The real story here is not how I shot the photo, but what I had to do to get the photo, specifically the tree. I shot this image on January 31st so buying a good looking tree was out of the question. In looking at the ranch in this photo you can see there is not a tree in sight, other than the one being dragged behind the horse. I found out that the US Forest Service allows you to go and cut a tree for Christmas for a fee if you wanted. So I contacted the local forest service office and explained what I wanted and they approved the permit. I called another office that I was told to go to and the woman said “Yes I have your permit waiting here and we close at 4 pm”.

So I drove to the office got the permit and drove to where it was suggested I go to locate an appropriate tree. I then got out the tree saw, put on my snow shoes and headed to the tree line, about 300-400 feet (60-90 meters) away. After 5 minutes trudging through the snow to get to the tree line, I spent an additional 15 minutes looking for the best tree that was not too small. I finally located the right one and cut it down. Up until now everything was going according to plan and I truly had not a clue what I was in for next.

I folded the tree saw back into it’s handle for safety, turned around and latched onto a branch of the tree and started to drag the tree out. It was at this precise point in time did I realize just what I was in for. Upon the first attempt to move the tree, it did not move. The sheer amount of all the needles and branches added up to a tremendous coefficient of drag. (A little physics term there). What this meant was I was going to have to really work hard to get this tree out. Now a little bit more information, this location is about 10,000 – 11,000 feet above sea level (3050-3350 meters) meaning what little air is left is a bit thin. So within the first 20 feet (7 meters) of really dragging this tree I am starting to huff and puff a bit. About half way back to the car (some 30 minutes after I started back) simply huffing and puffing would have been preferred because I’m now wheezing and honestly wondering if I’ll make it back to the car before dark…. if ever. I was also glad I was not needing to drag this “King of the Forest” up a hill.

I kept dragging the tree and when I got to gasping for breath I just fell back into the snow, closed my eyes and sucked in as much of the bitter cold oxygen starved atmosphere my poor lungs would tolerate. After an hour I finally was able to drag the tree back to the car. I took off my snow shoes and worked the tree into the back of my Ford Explorer. It was then apparent that the tree was 2 feet (60 cm) too long. So I closed the back hatch and opened the back window and drove back with the tree sticking out of the back window to the ranch with the heater on high. The things I do for an image.

When I was shooting this project the cowboy was complaining that the rope was painfully cutting into his leg and was surprised how much drag there was. You can see from the 3 foot wide (1 meter) scar violently scraped into the snow that the tree, with every fiber of it’s being, is still resisting being moved. I of course was not surprised in the least and after I finished shooting this got back on my horse and rode back to the barn thankful that I able to make it back alive, without spitting up blood and this job was finally over.

Gear: Canon professional digital camera, 16-35 mm Canon Zoom lens set at 16 mm, 1/100 sec, f5.6, 100 ISO and then processed using Photoshop CS5 Beta and using the Adobe RAW converter.

Note: When shooting in the snow, or just in extreme cold, take spare batteries. I have a Lightware GS6000 “Small flat stash” (don’t ask me who thinks up these names) where I put my spare batteries. I then, depending on how cold it is, put 1-4 chemical hand warmers in with the batteries. You can buy the hand warmers at Home Depot, ski shops, outdoor shops like REI, Cabela’s etc. This way the cameras will still work because the cold kills the charge in the batteries quickly.

If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!