I’ve been shooting at the Ranchlands’ ranches for a little over a year and a half now, building a body of work for an upcoming photo book. When I am not abroad for my job photographing mountain bike racing, I will follow the Ranchlands crew and document their day-to-day life. I reckon that I have brought along a little bit of the action sports photographer philosophy with me to the ranch; I’m always trying to be as close as possible to the action (safely, of course), but I’ve also learned to take a step back and observe.
Through this observation, I’ve learned the routines and can better predict what might happen next. It’s also allowed me to lend a hand when needed. Lending a hand and becoming involved is key to understanding the subject matter. It also cultivates a bond of friendship and respect. I can now help operate the scale at Bison Works or run the animals down the alley. I can also help move cattle, although to date I’ve only done it by mountain bike. The crew always seems to get a kick out of it. I suppose the rush from such activities is not unlike the one I get when shooting bike racing.
My schedule last spring and summer left me little time in the States and I was missing a key aspect of the Ranchlands story – branding. Branding is talked about by the crew with reverence. The photos I had seen of it were the images I had perhaps romanticized in my mind. Horse muscles straining from hard turns, dust flying from hooves and cowboys roping calves that are on the run. I’ve freed up a fair bit of time to shoot and live on the Chico when not traveling this summer, and I finally witnessed my first branding last week. It was spectacular. Some of the crew had mentioned it was a bit like Christmas for them and I quickly understood why.
Duke, Jake, Sam, and Madi looked to me a bit regal in clean button down shirts, chaps, vests, hats, and ropes. It transported me into a simpler time, and the modern world slipped away for a day. It had the look of well-organized chaos but, to my eye, that’s a beautiful thing. The smell of the fire, the shouts of “bull!” or “heifer!”, and the wrangling of the calves was a scene beyond what I had envisioned. We have a few more brandings coming up and I am beyond excited for them. I’ll go into them knowing the “dance” a bit better and will hopefully get a chance to step away from the camera and take a turn, giving me an even greater understanding and appreciation for “Christmas in Spring”.
By Matt Delorme.
To book a stay at one of our ranches during a branding, contact us at 719.428.5006 // firstname.lastname@example.org .