Cowboy Sharp Shooter
Without a doubt the best part of being a photographer is the people you get to meet. I met B.J. in a thrift store while buying props for upcoming shoot. I introduced myself and asked if I could take his portrait. I didn’t know at the time that he owned Old Town, a western themed facility where they do cowboy gunfighting shows. B.J. is also a sharp shooter who does tricks such as shoot a cigarette out of a person’s mouth while aiming his rifle over his shoulder with a mirror (yeah you read that right). I asked B.J. how long he had been shooting, he said he had been shooting for about fifty years and professionally for about twenty of those years. He is one of the few who does trick shoots with a live target which he said took years of trust to develop.
I photographed B.J. at Old Town which is located on the back of a large acre of land well away from the roadway. Old Town itself is built to look like a western town with blacksmith shop, doctor’s office, general store, and the marshall’s office which gave me lots of options for the session. I knew I wanted my lighting to have a lot of contrast so as to show the character of B.J.’s face so I placed him well out of sunlight in the shade of the porches. To light his face I used a 24″ softbox as my key light and bare speed light as my rim light. Lighting is part of telling your story, I wanted B.J.’s to be as interesting as he was.
After shooting portraits for about half an hour I knew I needed one more image to complete the set. It is one that my mentor taught me was very important when photographing a subject that was to include a picture of their hands. A person’s hands shows about them and the type of life they lived. B.J.’s hands showed he had worked hard in life, they also showed the skill he had to have to not accidentally kill his partner during shows. I asked B.J. to aim one of his pistols over my shoulder just as he would if he was shooting. I cross lit this image using a shallow depth of field to make his gun hand seem three dimensional and come forward out of the frame.
The opportunity to photograph B.J. was a good reminder that photography, like any other profession, is about people. It’s you get to meet, whose lives you touch, and who touches yours. Till next time, stay foucsed.