Butch Walker: Conor — Blackall, Western Queensland, Australia
“Gillespie”, Blackall, Western Queensland, Australia
Time / Date:
4:50pm / October 10 2013
Camera Body: Canon EOS 6D
Lens: Canon EF 24-105mmf/4L IS USM
Shutter Speed: 1/800s
Focal Length: 24mm
This image was taken as part of a continuing body of work that aims to document the people, animals and places that I work with and experience on “Gillespie”. Conor is a good friend who usually works in an office in the City and wanted to experience life as a “Ringer” (Australian term for farm hand). He worked at “Gillespie” for a little over four weeks with only a couple of days off. This is a typical work cycle when we are mustering cattle for branding.
I found this scene very interesting, when Conor arrived from the City he was fresh faced and pale in comparison to the people he was to be working with. Perhaps because of this obvious contrast he tried to cultivate a cowboy image in order to fit in, which we found funny because it was such a stereotypical Hollywood version of what we usually wear.
This image was taken on the drive home, after branding 300+ calves and working through a couple of weekends to keep on time. We were tired and talking as we drove. It occurred to me that he’d been so focused on work for the past few weeks that he’d forgotten all about his cowboy image. It was this moment that I remember looking over and thinking “He looks like he’s been doing this for years!”. It was ironic that he only really started to look like a genuine cowboy when he forgot all about trying to achieve that look and experienced the life of a cowboy instead.
I had the 6D and 24-105 lens only, I try to keep my kit as light as possible as I usually carry it in a sling bag or backpack whilst riding a horse or motorcycle. Also, the environment is very dusty so I try to limit myself to one lens per day in order to reduce dust on mirrors etc.
Making the Shot:
I wanted to get the worn look in Conor’s face, and also try to include as much of the view toward the fron of the car to try to put the image in context. I was very lucky that we were driving North and the sun was setting to the West, providing a decent amount of nice soft light for the inside of the car and Conor’s face.
Editing & Processing:
I use Lightroom 5 for the vast majority of my editing, for this image I applied a VSCO film preset (Fuji Neopan that I modified and use quite regularly) to convert it to black and white. I wanted to give the image a gritty, raw feel so I reduced the temperature slighty, increased contrast, shadows and clarity. I pulled the highlights back slightly as well in an attempt to get a very subtle HDR effect.
I chose this image because I think it has a lot of character. I was very happy with the shot in a technical sense, as I feel it’s quite nicely balanced. I also like that although it’s a familiar perspective to many people, it’s probably an unfamiliar scene.
I think it expresses my style of photography in a general sense, as I try to document things that are very normal for me but so different for many others. I’d call my style of photography artistic documentary; I enjoy an aesthetically pleasing image as much as the next person but what I really love is an image that is both pleasing to the eye and able to convey a story.
It can be difficult to stay focused on shooting good images when you are working in another capacity at the same time, but probably what you may think is boring day to day work is interesting to others. A lot of times it is simply too unsafe for me to be concentrating on taking an image as I may need to be able to move out of the way of aggressive cattle or lend a hand in some way, for this reason I try to streamline my approach to photography, only having one lens on me at any time and trying to choose moments when I can get a few shots off without too much risk of injury.
A big thing that took me a while to learn was to know when to leave the camera in the car. We have very harsh light in Australia through most of the day, so apart from the soft light in mornings and afternoons and the occasional overcast sky, I don’t really bother taking the camera with me. I found that if I do take it on a horse or bike, I get hot, uncomfortable and lose interest in taking shots for a couple of days. By limiting myself to the times when the light is the best, I can keep inspired and put myself under a little more pressure to get the shot I’m after. It’s just something that works well for me.
My favourite photographer would have to be Scott Bridle hands down. He’s a helicopter pilot and professional photographer. I find it really inspiring that he’s been able to combine his two passions and make them complement each other. I’ve been told by many people that photography is a waste of time because everyone has their own camera now, but his story has really helped me keep trying to improve and hopefully one day put a book together.
Apart from Scott, I find a huge amount of inspiration from Tumblr, petapixel and the VSCO Journal. I enjoy the huge spectrum of different photography and try to take parts of an image or style that I like and modify them to suit my own photography.
About the Photographer
I manage a 55,000 acre organic cattle station in Western Queensland, Australia. I am passionate about photography, flying and humane and efficient livestock treatment among many other things.
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Very nice image, so true, so real. Well done.