Trase Bell - Paradise Valley, NV
I have always appreciated people that display a sense of brutal honesty in their lives both in their words and actions. It is a rare quality in this world that has my utmost respect. It takes a lot of courage for people to simply live their lives without filters or excuses especially while doing something they love. It turns out the perfect examples of this are the Nevada Ranchers.
Several months ago I decided I wanted to take on a human driven portrait project. I don’t photograph portraits very much and I was looking for a challenge. I wanted the project to focus on real people doing real things with a sense of grit. Luckily I live about ten miles from the Nevada border and if you are looking for grit you need look no further.
While driving through the fields of the Carson Valley one afternoon the idea for a portrait of the ranchers in Nevada dawned on me. Not soon after, I contacted my friends over at Nevada Magazine to see what they thought about the idea. Immediately, the editor turned me on to a program called the Nevada Centennial Ranch Program. The program is facilitated by the USDA and the Agricultural Council of Nevada. To be inducted a ranch must be in the same family for 100 years or more. You couldn’t ask for a better set of parameters to build a story around.
I knew the biggest challenge shooting this project would be getting access to photograph the families. A lot of the ranches are fairly off the grid, aren’t used to outsiders and asking a family to simply let you into their lives is anything but easy. Luckily the folks over at the USDA were thrilled about the project and offered to help make introductions. Within several weeks there were five ranches willing to participate and it appeared that the project would come to fruition.
The first ranch I traveled to was the Dalton Ranch in the Clover Valley just south of Wells, NV. As I pulled onto the property I was welcomed with beautiful snow capped peaks towering over endless miles of pasture on the valley floor. It truly defines the term, “wide open.”
Brad Dalton manages his herd of cattle at the Dalton Ranch in the Clover Valley, NV
I got out of my car and was greeted by Cameron Dalton and two of the ranch hands Trevor and Payton. With a quick hello they pointed me towards Brad and Dani Dalton the owners of the ranch (Cameron is their son). With a firm hand shake and a smile Brad introduced himself and his wife Dani. “I’m going to do my best to make you guys look good” I said. “Good luck!” Brad said with a boisterous laugh. I knew immediately I was in the right place.
Cameron Dalton rides his horse through his pasture at the Dalton Ranch in the Clover Valley, NV
The day’s activity was a spring branding. We went out into the fields to herd the cattle that were being branded that day. Walking out into the pasture I was overtaken with how vast the landscape was. I asked Brad how many acres encompassed his property. “About 15,000,” he said, “30,000 if you include the BLM land that we use.” “Oh, I said” trying not to let my jaw drop, “is that all?”
Cameron Dalton and Trevor Zimmerman brand cattle at the Dalton Ranch in Wells, NV
The day progressed as calf after calf was branded, earmarked, vaccinated and castrated. The tasks were carried out with an efficiency that could only come from the tradition and knowledge passed down generation after generation. After the branding I was invited into lunch and got to chat with the Dalton’s a bit about their lives and what ranching means to them. What became immediately clear, and remained clear with all of the families that I met over the next several weeks, was that ranching isn’t a job; it’s a way of life. The Dalton’s don’t ranch because they have to; they do it because they love it.
A cowgirl and her horse hold a calf while it is branded at the Dalton Ranch in the Clover Valley, NV.
After lunch it was time to shoot everyone’s portrait. The key with these portraits was that no one was allowed to clean up from the day’s activities before being photographed. Ranching is hard dirty work and the photos really needed to convey that sense of emotion. I also envisioned all of the portraits being in black in white from the get go. The idea was to strip away any distracting factors from the images so that it was all about the people.
Brad and Dani Dalton - Dalton Ranch - Wells, NV
Trevor Zimmerman - Ranch Hand - Dalton Ranch - Wells, NV
After the portrait session it was time to part ways and head for Paradise Valley to shoot the Stewart’s Ninety Six Ranch and the Ferraro Cattle Company. I arrived in Paradise Valley the next day and waited for Fred Stewart to meet me at the local bar. For this leg of my journey the Stewart’s were kind enough to offer up a cabin for me to stay in that they keep way up in the mountains north of Paradise Valley. After a quick beer and introductions Fred jumped in his truck and asked me to follow him up to the cabin. We wound up the mountain side on a fairly well-maintained dirt road and after about 30 minutes arrived at one of the coolest places I have ever had the pleasure of staying. The cabin was nestled in a beautiful aspen grove next to a small creek and looked down several thousand feet to the valley floor. It was incredible.
The next morning I awoke early and made my way down to the Stewart’s Ninety Six Ranch; where they too were conducting a late spring branding. What differed from the branding I had just photographed over at the Dalton Ranch and this one was the amount of kids involved. The Stewarts invited several other families to participate in the day’s events and all of the roping was being done by the kids.
Two cowboys brand cattle at the Ninety Six Ranch in Paradise Valley, NV
Branding irons sit in the fire during a branding at the Ninety Six Ranch in Paradise Valley, NV
It was wonderful to see how involved the youngsters were in the branding process. Several things were clear. Firstly, there was a lot of history and tradition being passed down to the next generation of ranchers. Secondly, all of the kids loved every minute of it. You just don’t see this kind of practice and pride very much anymore, especially in the United States.
Fred Stewart - Ninety Six Ranch - Paradise Valley, NV
Paul T. Herrington - Ninety Six Ranch - Paradise Valley, NV
The Bell Family - Friends of Ninety-Six Ranch - Paradise Valley, Nevada
After another amazing lunch I drove back up to my mountain retreat to gear up for the next shoot at the Ferraro Cattle Company.
Steve Ferraro feeds his cattle at the Ferraro Cattle Company in Paradise Valley, NV
I met Steve Ferraro early the next morning to start shooting. He greeted me in front of their house, invited me to jump in his truck for a tour of the property and off we went. Immediately I knew that this day would be much different from the last two shoots I had just completed. Steve was a lot older than the other ranchers I had dealt with and I could tell things moved a bit slower for him. It was actually a really nice change of pace.
Steve Ferraro stands in an old shed on his ranch, Ferraro Cattle Company, in Paradise Valley, NV
He showed me around the property where part of the land is dedicated to raising cattle and the other part to alfalfa production. Underneath one of the largest Cottonwood trees I have ever seen we chatted about the history of Steve’s ranch and his life in Paradise Valley. “If you could sum up your time in Paradise Valley what would you say?” I asked. “Paradise Valley is one of the best places in the whole state of Nevada in my books! If you need help in this valley, you’ve got it.” Steve replied.
Steve Ferraro - Ferraro Cattle Co - Paradise Valley
I finished talking with Steve and made the long drive to my home in Lake Tahoe to reset and shoot the last two ranches on my list, the Snyder Livestock Company in Yerington and Ranch #1 in Genoa.
I left before sunrise several days later for my shoot with the Snyder Livestock Company in Yerington. The Snyder Livestock Company is not your typical ranch. It is a feed lot.
I thought it was important to try and see all the different sides of the ranching industry for my portrait of the Nevada Ranchers. Feed lots are an integral part of the beef industry and I was curious to see what they were all about.
I pulled into the dirt parking lot and was greeted by one of the owners Lucy Rechel. She introduced me to her brother Jim Snyder and explained that Jim would be showing me around their operations for the morning. I hopped in Jim’s truck and off we went.
The Snyder Livestock Company actually isn’t all about livestock. They also deal in onion, garlic and alfalfa production. Jim’s role in the company is to oversee all of the farming aspects of the business. We spent the morning taking a tour of the fields. He was a great insight into learning about the ins and outs of the modern farming industry; a separate subject that I hope to spend more time capturing one day.
A cow is weighed at Snyder Livestock Co. in Yerington, NV
After the morning with Jim I met back up with Lucy to get the tour of the feed lot. It was fascinating to see the process of modern cattle production. From weighing, branding, inserted magnets into the stomach, artificial insemination and tracking each cattle’s food consumption using ultra modern technology and techniques, I was fascinated. The folks over at the Snyder Livestock Company really have their business down to a science. The thing that rang true with the folks at the Snyder Livestock Company that was similar to my experiences at all the other ranches was the love for what they do.
Eddie Snyder - Snyder Livestock Co. - Yerington, NV
The last ranch on my list was Ranch #1 in Genoa. I was especially excited to shoot this ranch because I had been told that the owner, JB Lekumberry, was quite the character. From the brief phone conversations that I already had with him I knew it was going to be a fun day.
Getting out of the car and meeting JB it was clear that he was a lively guy, full of energy, ready to take on whatever challenges the day had to offer. In this particular morning’s case it was the slaughtering of about a dozen rabbits for his local restaurant clients. From there it was a quick change of clothes and off to herd some cattle. Throughout the day it was great to talk to JB about the ranching industry as a whole and the small intricacies of his business. He has carved out a really great niche for himself in the Carson Valley. All of his cattle are 100% grass fed organic and he handles all of them from birth to the dinner table. It is clear this is something he is very proud of.
Knowing this was the last ranch I would visit, I was really looking to get a sense from JB about the future of the ranching industry and where he believed things were headed. I asked him what he thought about the topic and I think his comment summed up the beliefs of all the ranchers I encountered in the great state of Nevada. He said:
J.B. Lekumberry - Ranch #1 - Genoa, NV
“I think the future of agriculture in the Carson Valley has a great chance of continuing. There is a younger generation of kids that are ready to take the reins. If you had asked me the same question in the 80’s I would have told you it was all going to hell. Now I am optimistic.”
This story appears as a feature in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Nevada Magazine
Watching the sunrise from the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park, CA.
It is almost the middle of January in Lake Tahoe and by now I should have a ton of new ski and snowboard images under my belt. Unfortunately this season Mother Nature has other plans. We are currently experiencing one of the driest winter seasons on record and it looks like it is going to last at least another week. It feels more like May than January. There is no snow on the mountains and to sum it up in a word is “depressing.”
To curb my overwhelming desire to bundle up and cram myself into my refrigerator with a few cold ones and pray for winter, I grabbed my fiancée and we headed down to the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley National Park to brighten our mood.
My first goal of the trip was to photograph the Bristlecone Pine trees high in the White Mountains near Bishop, CA. I have photographed the Bristlecone Pines in Great Basin National Park quite extensively, but have never had the opportunity to visit the groves in the White Mountains of California. I wasn’t sure if the road would be open (it usually closes in October after the first snow) but I figured I would give it a shot. Luckily, and completely abnormal for January, the road was good to go.
We got a later start than I wanted to leaving Lake Tahoe and didn’t arrive to the Bristlecone Pine Forest until just after sunset. At first I was upset that I hadn’t given myself time to find some proper compositions but there was still some ambient light left. I did some quick exploring and came up with a few ideas. I knew I would have some moonlight to work with once it got dark and I was counting on using that to make some compelling imagery.
Once the sky was dark enough I began shooting. I shot a few exposures using the available moonlight but after previewing a few, something was missing. I decided to try something new, at least for me. I have shot under moonlight and played around with light-painting quite a bit with great success. I hadn’t however, combined the two. This was the perfect opportunity to give it a try!
An ancient Bristlecone Pine tree in the White Mountains, CA
I put together a composition of an impressive gnarled Bristlecone that I really liked. I set the camera to Bulb mode and opened the shutter for 160 seconds. While the shutter was open I used my headlamp to paint the tree from the side for about 45 seconds. I painted the tree from the side to give it some added depth. If I had lit the tree head on it would have given it a flat effect. After the first exposure I checked my preview and was thrilled with the results! I was really pleased with the combination of ambient moonlight and artificial light from my headlamp. The Bristlecone pines are such an oddity in nature to begin with (they are the oldest single living organisms on earth) and I have always wanted to make an image that really conveyed that. I finally felt like I succeeded.
With a winner in the bag, we made our way back down to the valley floor and headed for the Alabama Hills outside of Independence, CA. There, we set up camp.
I awoke early the next morning below the shadow of Mount Whitney and hiked over to Mobius and Lathe Arch to photograph sunrise. Both provide an excellent feature to photograph at sunrise. In the case of both arches it is possible to frame Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous US) and Lone Pine Peak perfectly in the negative space of both arches. As the first rays of light spill over the horizon lighting up the entire Eastern Sierra, it is truly a site to behold.
The Mobius Arch frames Mount Whitney and the Eastern Sierra Nevada at sunrise in the Alabama Hills, CA.
After shooting for about an hour I had everything I needed. We drove down to town, grabbed some breakfast and continued on to Death Valley National Park.
Having photographed in Death Valley before, I had a good idea of what I was looking for. On my previous trip most of my time was concentrated on photographing the famous Racetrack and the Zabriskie Point area. My goal with the limited time I had on this trip was to put my efforts towards creating some fresh imagery of Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the North America) and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
Regina (my fiancée) was really excited to do some yoga in a spectacular location and I thought a late afternoon photo shoot in Badwater Basin would be perfect. I could photograph her in a variety of poses in a surreal setting and could then switch gears and photograph some dynamic landscapes once the sun set. We styled her out in some clothing that I liked and off we went.
Regina performing Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana) in the Badwater Basin area of Death Valley National Park
The shoot went better than expected. The white salt surface of Badwater Basin provided the perfect natural reflector (similar to snow) to soften the harsh shadows of the late afternoon light. It balanced the scene out perfectly. The combination of the surreal landscape and yoga made for some great imagery that will surely sell in the commercial stock photography market.
Regina performs the One-Legged Inverted Staff Pose (Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana) in the Badwater Basin area of Death Valley National Park
After the sun set I stayed out on Badwater Basin for another hour composing a variety of landscape images. What a dreamlike place! Absolutely spectacular!
Badwater Basin at sunset
The next morning Regina and I awoke early and made our way over to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. We arrived early enough to give ourselves time to hike out a good distance on the dunes and scout a location to shoot before the actual sunrise.
We found a few spots we were happy with and began shooting. Early morning and late afternoon are the ideal times to shoot on the sand dunes. When the sun is high overhead it illuminates all sides of the dunes and it doesn’t translate very well photographically. The drama of the shadows at the beginning and end of the day provide the best chance to create dramatic imagery. We shot for over an hour until I was happy with a variety of different scenarios. It was a really fun morning.
Running down the sand dunes at sunrise in Death Valley National Park
After photographing on the sand dunes it was time to drive home. For two days of shooting I was extremely happy with the results. I was the most pleased with my frame from the Bristlecone Pine Forest. I am excited to use the technique of combining moonlight and artificial light in more photo shoots down the road. There is a lot of possibility for unique imagery using that technique and I’m excited to explore it further.
Once again I sit back in my office in Lake Tahoe getting all of these images out into the market. As much as I enjoyed this trip I would really like to start seeing some snow fall in Lake Tahoe. If any of you readers out there have some free time be sure and wash your car, do a snow dance and PRAY FOR SNOW! Until next time…
Posted By: Rachid
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With the winter season coming to a close in Lake Tahoe some friends and I decided it was high time to get the mountain bikes out. With snow still in the forecast in May, the biking in Lake Tahoe wouldn't be ready until sometime in June. That meant only one thing – it was time to load up the cars and head for Utah!
After hearing a lot of great things about the mountain biking on Gooseberry Mesa, we decided that would be our destination. With the car already packed, my friend Sean got off work at 11pm and we started the overnight drive through the Nevada desert. After multiple cups of coffee, several delirious 4am conversations and 11 hours later we pulled into camp. Sean and I set up camp and slept for the better part of the day – not too late though, since we had to fit in an afternoon ride.
"Wesley King takes a break at sunset on Gooseberry Mesa"
"Dan Keenan rides on Gooseberry Mesa with Zion National Park in the background"
Once we awoke we got the bikes unloaded and headed out to see what all the hype was about. Within 10 minutes I could see exactly why we had heard so many good things about the biking on the mesa – IT WAS EPIC! Extremely technical slickrock combined with a mix of singletrack provided some of the most fun I've had on a bike in awhile. The unobstructed view of Zion National Park in the background wasn't too shabby either. Over the next couple days we really gave the place a going over. It took a little bit to settle into the kind of technical riding style that Gooseberry demands. It is completely different from any type of riding that I have ever done. In Lake Tahoe you become accustomed to long climbs with fast moderately technical descents. Because of it's extreme technical nature, Gooseberry riding is much slower and precise. Fast short sprints up very steep sections of slick rock, mixed with tight corners and sharp turns keep you on your game 100% of the time.
"Sean Cronin mountain bikes on the very skinny terminus of the North Rim Trail. There is a 300ft drop on either side of him"
One of my favorite parts about riding on Gooseberry Mesa has to be the camping. Because the mesa is on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land the camping restrictions are very loose. You can pretty much camp wherever you want and it is all free of charge. It is important though that you bring enough supplies with you. There is no running water or much else in the way of home comforts on the mesa. The only facility in the immediate area is a lone toilet that is, sometimes, stocked with toilet paper. The biggest benefit to camping on the mesa is that all of the rides are accessible from camp. You can simply crawl out of your tent, make breakfast and get on your bike and ride. There is no need to drive anywhere. Within minutes of riding on one of the several double track roads you can be at the entrance to all of the trails.
"The view of Zion National Park from camp"
"Corey and Sean relax by the fire"
"The night sky from camp, note the shooting star"
After about four days we had ridden every trail on the mesa, in both directions. We decided to go check out some of the other trails in the area. We did a 15 mile loop on Little Creek Mesa (about a 20 minute drive from Gooseberry), and car shuttled the Jem trail (also about a 20 minute drive).
"Dan gets some air on the downhill section of the Jem trail"
"Heading back after the ride on Little Creek Mesa"
Even though there was a lot of good riding off the mesa, the accessibility of the trails from camp won us over for the rest of the trip. We continued to link up different sections of trails and come up with creative and cool lines all over the mesa. Trails like God's Skateboard Park provided entire afternoons of entertainment. The possibilities on the mesa are endless and the trails are still definitely in the baby stages of development. The appeal for a strong intermediate rider will be the ability to ride a lot of the terrain and simply have to walk sections one is not comfortable with. On the other end of the spectrum Gooseberry has terrain for the most advanced rider with stunt possibilities that range all the way up to the extreme. It all depends on how creative you want to get. Our favorite trails included: God's Skateboard Park, South Rim Trail and Hidden Canyon.
"Corey finishing a climb on the South Rim Trail"
"Corey sprinting up one of the many short technical climbs on the South Rim Trail"
"Dan riding on a small ledge in God's Skateboard Park"
"Corey on the South Rim Trail"
"The merry-go-round section of the Hidden Canyon Trail"
"Sean climbing some slick rock in God's Skateboard Park"
The likely choice for many people heading to Utah for a mountain bike trip would be Moab. Even though the riding at Gooseberry isn't as extensive as Moab, the mesa offers up some of the best slickrock and singletrack riding in the lower 48, with virtually no crowds. So my advice to you would be to load up the bikes and get out there before everyone else figures out what they've been missing.
"Sunset on Gooseberry Mesa"
Posted By: Rachid
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Categories: Photography • Travel
I was finally packed and ready to go. My trip to the American Southwest was becoming a reality at last. As I pulled away from my home in Lake Tahoe, I knew I was going to see and photograph some of the most iconic places in the world. On my trip I would have the pleasure of visiting Death Valley, The Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion National Park. And what a trip it was…. The American Southwest is like no other place on earth. The landscape is awe-inspiring and sometimes surreal. There is such a diverse amount of terrain located in a relatively small area that it provides for endless photographic enjoyment. My first stop was Death Valley. I didn't have much time in Death Valley but the sunrise at Zabriskie Point was not to be missed.
"Zabriskie Point Sunrise"
From there I continued east through Las Vegas, across the Hoover Dam and onto Grand Canyon National Park where I arrived just in time for some great afternoon light and a wonderful sunset.
The real treat in Grand Canyon National Park was the Big Horn Sheep that I came across. Not two minutes after being out of the car and walking along the rim of the canyon I ran across this amazing creature. He posed for several minutes along the edge of the Grand Canyon and then went on about his business. I couldn't believe I walked into such an amazing opportunity. Sometimes you go looking for great photographs and sometimes, by dumb luck, they find you.
"Grand Canyon Big Horn"
After darkness took over I headed for Page, Arizona and made camp. I awoke early and grabbed some breakfast in town. Eager to start photographing, I headed east out of town towards Lower Antelope Canyon. I chose Lower Antelope vs. Upper Antelope because it seemed to me that less people went into Lower Antelope. Instead of having to book a tour and get on a bus in town (Upper Antelope), I was able to drive up to the entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon, pay my fee, and go exploring.
Lower Antelope Canyon is one of the most serene, peaceful and enjoyable places that I have ever had the pleasure of being in, let alone photographing.
Lower Antelope Canyon is much narrower than Upper Antelope Canyon. I found myself contorting my body in all sorts of various positions to get the angles that I wanted.
"Hot and Cold"
As an added treat I was able to photograph several beams of light penetrating from the canyon's roof. I heard this was only possible in the summer months. Going to the canyon in October I had written off the prospect of photographing the famous light beams. Turns out, for just a few seconds, I was able to capture a couple beautiful displays of light. They only occurred for about ten seconds apiece, but it was more than enough time to get a good shot.
The next day I made my way out to Monument Valley. Whenever anyone thinks of the American Southwest they probably have a vision of Monument Valley in their head, whether they have been there or not. The Mitten formations in the valley are some of the most iconic formations in the world.
"Monument Valley Sunrise"
I arrived to the valley in the afternoon and took a lot of shots. Some were ok but the real treat was the sunrise the next morning.
"Monument Valley Silhouettes"
It was on to the last and final stop of the trip, Zion National Park. The easiest way to describe Zion is that it's like a sandstone Yosemite, at least at first glance. When I pulled into the valley I was surprised to find that the fall colors were still in full swing.
After taking a drive around the park I headed over to the ranger station to get my permit for the next day's hike, The Subway.
The Subway is one of the most unusual canyons in the Southwest. The approach isn't easy but it's well worth it. Once you reach The Subway, and yes it does really resemble a subway, you will most likely stand there and recap in your mind the millions of years it took to form such an amazing canyon.
After leaving Zion I headed back across the Nevada desert on Hwy 50, The Loneliest Road in America, to finish up some shots for a project I'm working on for Nevada Magazine…………but that's for another post.