Wyoming cowboys

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I went on long service leave. I thought about it yesterday as I walked from the train station to my office building. How quickly I’ve settled back into reality and my boring life! I remember how euphoric I felt with 7 glorious months of freedom ahead of me. It all went much too quickly.

A highlight of my travels was the wild horses, cowboys and western photography workshop in Wyoming. I was the only workshop participant who had travelled from another country; my fellow photographers were a friendly bunch who came from different states of America: Oregon, Washington state, New Mexico, Texas and California. Part of the tour was spent in the historic town of Cody, with dawn and dusk trips to the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Range so we could photograph wild mustangs. The other part was spent at K Bar Z, a ranch in the high country with real cowboys (and a couple of cowgirls) who were great sports and just so incredibly photogenic as they rode, roped and did their thing. We started each day with an early breakfast so we could capture the cowboys in action before the morning light turned harsh; we’d take a break in the middle of the day for lunch and a rest, then regroup to capture more images in the late afternoon/early evening before it got too dark for photography.

My cabin was the Goat cabin. At K Bar Z, I had my own cabin in the woods. The cabins were all named after animals; mine was ‘Goat’. The gravel path was pretty dark when walking to breakfast just before sunrise and walking back after dinner each night, so I always had my headlamp with me to light the way (and help me avoid stepping right into fresh horse poo on the trail).

DSCF3128After each photo session, I took off my mud-spattered, horse poopy boots, tried to clean them as best I could and left them on the porch. The cabin was very clean, but I couldn’t help but think of all the microscopic ghosts of horse poo past, trod into the cabin carpet by guests over the years…

kbar-z-3My cabin was rustic and cosy. The bunk beds were warm and comfortable. The shower was nice and hot and there were plenty of towels. There was no TV or internet in the cabin; when I wasn’t sleeping I read books on my iPad and drafted emails to send to Jac.

DSCF4347The air was crisp and clean and the scenery all around me like something out of a storybook. Every morning and evening, the Beartooth Mountains would be shrouded in mist, so picturesque it sometimes seemed surreal.

DSCF4343There was wifi (slow, but better than nothing!) in the main house where we had our meals. I did all my emailing and social media updates either here on the couch or at the dining table before and after meals.

DSCF4344The ranch dogs hung around wherever we were.

DSCF4350The ranch cat took a shine to me and sat on my lap at every opportunity.

The view from 'cat on my lap' cam. The view from ‘cat on my lap’ cam.

DSCF6497-2These two border collies were usually together. The one in front carried a tiny piece of wood, not big enough to even be called a stick, and begged us to throw it for her. The one behind cheekily tried to steal the wood. They played this game for hours with hapless guests.

DSCF3154In the dining room, we were welcome to each grab a mug off a hook and pour a cup of coffee.

kbar-z-food1 I looked forward to meal times – they were home-cooked, family-style and delicious. The food was served buffet-style so you could help yourself and have seconds if you wanted. The cowboys ate in the dining room with us.

Dishes served at meals included: roast beef with beautifully soft homemade bread rolls; pumpkin pie; tamales and enchiladas with avocado sauce; quesadillas with pepper jack cheese or cheddar and green chili; roast beef sandwiches served with gravy, French-dipped-style; bread and butter pudding; chocolate chip ice cream; chocolate brownies with chocolate icing; fried eggs with hash browns and burger patties; French toast with bacon… We were fed very well.


DSCF0091-sm2As a child, I liked to watch old TV westerns. You can’t imagine how much I loved taking these photographs, feeling like I was capturing scenes from an epic western movie.

DSCF4368smThe mozzies were biting as the cowboys sat by the crackling campfire; I hadn’t even thought about mosquitoes! Luckily the others were happy to share their mozzie repellent.








DSCF4224smThis is one of my favourite shots, taken in the rain. We were pretty lucky with the weather – it only rained heavily on one of the days. We trudged through soggy fields (I’d call them paddocks; they call them pastures) and traipsed through horse poo and mud to get into position to take our shots. I protected my cameras with plastic bags and wore my Rainbird jacket over my SCOTTeVEST Q.U.E.S.T vest, which kept my top half warm and dry. My jeans got soaked up to the knees from those soggy pastures, but it was totally worth it.



























On my last day at K bar Z, I added a pin to the world map of ranch visitors, on the wall in the dining room – I was the first guest from Perth.


To finish, a picture taken by Tommy, one of my fellow photographers who became a friend. Jac and I caught up with Tommy over dinner in Dallas later in the year.

lassoedYep, I’ve been lassoed by a cowboy!

Photography notes:

  • I was the only person in the group using mirrorless cameras (Fujifilm X-T1) – I was pleased with how my cameras performed in the lighting conditions, the rain and cold, and the fast-moving action.
  • I mainly used my 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses for cowboys and horses; 23mm for food.
  • I lost my 18-55mm lens hood somewhere in the woods near my cabin. I searched for it unsuccessfully. I bought a replacement when I got home.
  • I brought my tripod along on this trip but didn’t use it for a single shot!
  • More on my my photography travel gear.

Wyoming Cowboys, Wild Horses and Western Photography workshop

The tour was run by Jess Lee and Tamara Gooch. The 2014 tour was from 1 to 8 August (the dates vary year to year).
The cost was US$2995 plus $350 single supplement which covered guiding, ground transfers and accommodation. Meals were not included in the cost.

For the cowboys portion of the workshop, we stayed at:
K Bar Z Guest Ranch & Outfitters
Shoshone National Forest, next to Yellowstone National Park
More on the wild horses portion of the workshop.

My solo USA trip (2014) – about this series

I travelled alone to the United States from late July to mid-August. This trip covered California, Wyoming and Colorado. The primary reason for the trip was to attend a couple of workshops, one on hot air balloon photography and the other on photographing wild horses and cowboys. I also caught up with an old school friend.

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