Great American Cowboy

By Jim Loring and Jeff Gulle

Photography Instructors Jeff Gulle and Jim Loring, from North Georgia Technical College, bring their critical eye to this student image taken by Kevin Kellas.



Jeff Gulle’s perspective: Wow! Intense… This photo sings Americana and brings back memories of the Cowboys that settled in the American West. The photo’s rugged look, portrayed by worn clothing, chaps, and hat are all enhanced by the adjustment in the processing, namely the clarity and detail. The matte provides continuity for this rugged motif.
Although the belt buckle and saddle both hold priority, neither overshadows the centerpiece of the photo. These elements, coupled with the strong patriotism provided by the Stars and Stripes, create a strong theme evoking powerful emotions.
Lighting anyone donning a hat is a challenge in itself; one can only position the light to a certain height before the brim blocks the light from the eyes. The broad brim of a cowboy’s hat only augments this challenge. However, both the cowboy’s face and hat are lit to perfection in a job well done.
This image has very few negatives, with only one standing out. The mood created in the image is of strong emotions, though the cowboy’s face seems to contradict this idea. His stone-cold stare feels numb, unlike the rest of the image.
Do not discount the value in a piece of Americana when photographing. Whether it lies at a local soda shop, a used car lot, or here at a rodeo, an opportunity may present itself at any time, so be prepared to shoot. Ride’m cowboy.
Jim Loring’s perspective: It is difficult to think of a more iconic image to represent the independence and spirit of America. One man alone against the odds – grit, leather and strength, this image has it all.
Visually, the texture immediately leaps off the photo from the flag in the background to the leather saddle. But so many things are hanging together that make this image a winner. In a portrait, the most subtle things make a huge difference. The body posture leans to one side with the weight of the saddle, and there is no tilt of the head with a facial expression that is engaged with the camera but not smiling.
He neither asks for anything nor expects anything in return. He does not shy away but looks directly into the camera. From a photographers’ point of view, these things are anything but a coincidence. The camera height, lower than eye level, creates a sense of empowerment. Any lower and it would be too much and if we were looking down, it could imply a sense of vulnerability. The camera distance too is close enough to be completely engaged with the subject but far enough to create a sense of distance – this is not someone whose space you will invade. With strong lighting and even tonality the result is a powerful image fit for the wall.

Leave a Reply