Fashion and Beauty Photography shot by Advertising and Editorial Fashion and Beauty photographer, Steve Thornton

Advertising and Editorial Cowboy & Western Lifestyle Photography

Brand Image Consultant

Merry Christmas!

This Cowboy Lifestyle image was shot on a ranch in Colorado for a client's Christmas card. The real story here is not how I shot the photo, but what I had to do to get the photo, specifically the tree. I shot this image on January 31st so buying a good looking tree was out of the question. In looking at the ranch in this photo you can see there is not a tree in sight, other than the one being dragged behind the horse. I found out that the US Forest Service allows you to go & cut a tree for Christmas for a fee if you wanted. So I contacted the local forest service office & explained what I wanted & they approved the permit. I called another office that I was told to go to & the woman said "Yes I have your permit waiting here and we close at 4 pm".

So I drove to the office got the permit and drove to where it was suggested I go to locate an appropriate tree. I then got out the tree saw, put on my snow shoes and headed to the tree line, about 300-400 feet (60-90 meters) away. After 5 minutes trudging through the snow to get to the tree line, I spent an additional 15 minutes looking for the best tree that was not too small. I finally located the right one & cut it down. Up until now everything was going according to plan and I truly had not a clue what I was in for next.

I folded the tree saw back into it's handle for safety, turned around & latched onto a branch of the tree and started to drag the tree out. It was at this precise point in time did I realize just what I was in for. Upon the first attempt to move the tree, it did not move. The sheer amount of all the needles and branches added up to a tremendous coefficient of drag. (A little physics term there). What this meant was I was going to have to really work hard to get this tree out. Now a little bit more information, this location is about 10,000 - 11,000 feet above sea level (3050-3350 meters) meaning what little air is left is a bit thin. So within the first 20 feet (7 meters) of really dragging this tree I am starting to huff & puff a bit. About half way back to the car (some 30 minutes after I started back) simply huffing & puffing would have been preferred because I'm now wheezing and honestly wondering if I'll make it back to the car before dark.... if ever. I was also glad I was not needing to drag this "King of the Forest" up a hill.


I kept dragging the tree & when I got to gasping for breath I just fell back into the snow, closed my eyes & sucked in as much of the bitter cold oxygen starved atmosphere my poor lungs would tolerate. After an hour I finally was able to drag the tree back to the car. I took off my snow shoes and worked the tree into the back of my Ford Explorer. It was then apparent that the tree was 2 feet (60 cm) too long. So I closed the back hatch & opened the back window & drove back with the tree sticking out of the back window to the ranch with the heater on high. The things I do for an image.

When I was shooting this project the cowboy was complaining that the rope was painfully cutting into his leg and was surprised how much drag there was. You can see from the 3 foot wide (1 meter) scar violently scraped into the snow that the tree, with every fiber of it's being, is still resisting being moved. I of course was not surprised in the least and after I finished shooting this got back on my horse and rode back to the barn thankful that I able to make it back alive, without spitting up blood and this job was finally over.

Gear: Canon professional digital camera, 16-35 mm Canon Zoom lens set at 16 mm, 1/100 sec, f5.6, 100 ISO and then processed using Photoshop CS5 Beta and using the Adobe RAW converter.

Note: When shooting in the snow, or just in extreme cold, take spare batteries. I have a Lightware GS6000 "Small flat stash" (don't ask me who thinks up these names) where I put my spare batteries. I then, depending on how cold it is, put 1-4 chemical hand warmers in with the batteries. You can buy the hand warmers at Home Depot, ski shops, outdoor shops like REI, Cabela's etc. This way the cameras will still work because the cold kills the charge in the batteries quickly.

If you would like to use this image, or any of my images, for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

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