By Martha Mintz, Coral Creek Communications, 2019 First Place Winner, Nuts and Bolts Category
Apologies for the repeats as the winning photos all came from the same day—I guess the judges were really into cowboys, but aren’t we all?
As mentioned in the last installment, the subject matter of this Arizona shoot was great, but conditions were tough. The sky was cloudless, fine dust coated everything making changing lenses a risk and light became harsh very quickly. Overcast or over-sunny, my go-to in these situations is to shoot tighter, seeking out points of interest that don’t rely on sweeping vistas. On this day dust, smoke, close-ups and motion were my friends.
This branding was unique from any I’d attended. Usually at these collaborative events a person gets a job and keeps it all day. The purpose of this branding was to educate. Navajo tribe members from young children to long-time livestock owners rotated through each position learning and sharing knowledge. Also rotating through the jobs of vaccination, wrestling and even castration were representatives from the food distribution companies and grocery stores they partnered with for their branded beef program.
The pace of the event could be slow at time as there was much conversation and teaching happening, but the guys packing the hot irons were always in a hurry. Chaps and spurs still in place from the gather, this brander drew my attention visually and audibly. I can hear this picture. The swish of rubbing leather, the patter of fringe sweeping side to side and the clink of the spurs.
This symphony of sight and sound had to be captured. Due to the boring and high-contrast sky, I opted to focus on just the moving legs. While blur is nice I often prefer to freeze motion, capturing what is never truly seen with the eye. With a fast shutter speed and plenty of light I was able to use the continuous shoot mode to collect multiple images quickly and get a couple that worked.
Besides the motion of the fringe, I love the story the leather tells. The scratches and shine of the chaps tell me they’re well used and have lessened the sting of countless ropes after their owner made a catch. Pair those textural details with the bright pop of color from the boots and jeans and it becomes a photo that really shines.