Mark Maggiori

Mark Maggiori has taken the western art scene by storm with his dramatically realistic paintings of cowboys, horses, landscapes, and scenes from the American West. But painting is only a small part of Mark’s journey as a professional artist—he is also an accomplished director, filmmaker, drawer, photographer, and musician, working for companies like Disney as an illustrator and fronting a major-record-label rock band. To make his story even more interesting, Mark was born and raised in France, and is a relative newcomer to the western United States.

When he was 15, Mark took a road trip across America with his adventurous uncle, igniting his passion for Western landscapes and planting the seed of his western art career that would flourish two decades later. Between then and now, he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to dive headfirst into a wide array of artistic endeavors with single-minded focus and work ethic, enjoying success at every level.  At little over three years ago, at age 36, all of Mark’s talents and experiences melded together when he decided to try and paint his first cowboy. In what he describes as an epiphany, Mark immediately knew he had found his true identity as an artist.

Mark and I had a fun conversation. We talk about all the stages of his prolific career as an artist, and how he has approached each one with a laser-like focus and uncompromising work ethic. Mark explains how he discovered his talent for drawing—a talent that he had no idea he possessed until after he had enrolled in art school. We also chat about how being new to America has afforded him a fresh perspective on the people and landscapes of the American West, a perspective that shines through in his paintings. He gives details on his workman-like approach to painting and ensuring the historical accuracy of his work, and how exercise helps to fuel his creativity and work ethic.  As usual, we cover favorite books, documentaries, and the craziest thing that’s ever happened to him in the outdoors, which is a ridiculous and pretty damn scary story!

Be sure to check out the webpage for links to all of Mark’s work, his upcoming solo show, and everything we discuss in this episode. Hope you enjoy!

All images courtesy of Mark Maggiori


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:00 – How Mark describes his work
5:11 – Growing up in France
6:30 – Road trip across America
11:20 – Mark’s interests as a teenager
12:40 – The attraction to art school
15:40 – Discovering his talent for art
18:45 – Learning work ethic
20:30 – Working for Disney
22:45 – Working in music videos
23:45 – Performing music and creating art
24:30 – Mark’s time with Pleymo
27:25 – Leaving music
32:00 – Coming to America to make a film
35:40 – Demolition derbies and rodeos
36:50 – Starting to paint cowboys
41:00 – Building his following through Instagram and networking
44:00 – Expanding to new galleries
45:00 – Secret of painting clouds
47:55 – Keeping his work accurate
50:00 – Starting to paint Native Americans
54:30 – Mark’s daily routine
58:45 – Favorite books
1:01:00 – Favorite documentaries
1:02:30 – Favorite place in the West
1:03:50 – Most powerful experience in the outdoors
1:05:30 – Getting chased by crazy people in Louisiana
1:10:15 – Mark’s request of the listeners
1:12:50 – Connect with Mark online and learn about his upcoming art show
Information Referenced

Tyler Sharp, Part II – Modern Huntsman

Tyler Sharp, Part II – Modern Huntsman


Tyler Sharp

If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, then surely you’ll remember Tyler Sharp. He’s the creative director, photographer, and writer who has explored everywhere from east Africa to Montana’s Paradise Valley and has the stories and images to prove it. He currently works with some of the biggest brands in the outdoor industry, such as Filson and Yeti, helping them to tell authentic and engaging stories. Tyler’s first podcast episode has been one of my most popular—we went deep, covering everything from big-game hunting to kung fu to conservation—so I wanted to have him back to continue the conversation and discuss his latest project, Modern Huntsman.

Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication and online forum for conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. If you enjoy this podcast and my guests’ depth of thinking on topics related to the natural world, then you’re going to love Modern Huntsman. Through thoughtful writing, captivating photography, and elegant design, Tyler and his all-star team intend to improve the perception of hunting in our society by highlighting its thoughtful and conservation-focused aspects, which are often ignored by established media.

I like to hunt, although I’m not obsessed with it like I am with endurance sports. But my work in conservation and deep reading of natural history have given me a firsthand appreciation for the importance of hunting, and the vital role it plays in conserving landscapes and species around the world. Without the efforts of visionary hunters like Theodore Roosevelt, the healthy wildlife populations we enjoy here in the American West would be a mere fraction of what they are today, if they existed at all. Thanks to their deep respect for wildlife born from their love of the sport of hunting, TR and his contemporaries set in motion a conservation ethic that continues to grow and evolve. Now, over 100 years later, Modern Huntsman will carry that ethic forward.

Once again, Tyler and I had a wonderful conversation, and I was incredibly impressed with his ability to discuss complex, sometimes emotionally charged issues in a respectful, intelligent, and non-arrogant tone. Of course we discussed the details of Modern Huntsman, its origins, and why there is a need for such a publication. We chatted about Modern Huntsman’s current Kickstarter campaign, which I highly recommend you support—links are in the notes. We also talked in depth about some of the misconceptions around hunting and specifics about why hunting is so important for conservation throughout the world. And just like last time, Tyler had some excellent book recommendations.

This was a fun and enlightening conversation, so I hope you enjoy. Check out the episode notes for links to everything, and be sure the check out the Modern Huntsman Kickstarter page, watch the film, and support the project.

All images courtesy of Tyler Sharp & Modern Huntsman


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:30 – How Tyler describes his work
6:10 – Modern Huntsman overview
8:40 – Improving hunting’s image
10:00 – Modern Huntsman as “new media”
12:00 – Tyler’s relationship with Simon Roosevelt
14:30 – Modern Huntsman’s target audience
16:30 – Misunderstandings surrounding hunting
20:30 – Modern Huntsman’s strategy for telling the correct story
22:00 – Importance of having a woman’s perspective
23:20 – Engaging with non-hunters
26:15 – Esthetics of the magazine
31:00 – List of the editors and contributors
34:50 – History of hunting and conservation
39:00 – Tools for connecting conservation and hunting
43:00 – How safari companies contribute to conservation in Africa
47:50 – The Kickstarter film
50:15 – Tyler’s favorite hunting books
58:10 – Best advice Tyler’s ever received
59:30 – Connect with Modern Huntsman online

Information Referenced

 

Scott Slusher – The Cowboys’ Cowboy Photographer

Scott Slusher – The Cowboys’ Cowboy Photographer


Scott Slusher

Scott Slusher is an Oklahoma native and Texas-based photographer who is best known for his stunning images of cowboys and life on working ranches. After seeing Scott’s work, it is crystal clear that he has a deep understanding of the ranching lifestyle and has invested more than his share of time out in the heat and dust, on horseback or in the branding pen. Given his immersion in the tough, hard-nosed world of ranching, you may be surprised to learn that Scott was trained as a fashion photographer and still works with a variety of big-name companies on their fashion and clothing line spreads.

So what allows Scott to have success in two worlds as diametrically opposed as ranching and fashion? Well, as you’ll hear in this interview, Scott has a habit of pursuing his interests with a single-minded intensity and curiosity, unafraid of getting in over his head, venturing outside his comfort zone, or working harder than expected. Combine those traits with endless energy and a knack for making friends with everyone he meets, and you’ll understand how Scott has managed to work his way onto iconic ranches, riding alongside and photographing some of the best ranch hands in the business.

Scott’s enthusiasm and love of people really come through in our conversation, so I know you’ll enjoy it. We talk about his childhood in Oklahoma and how his father’s work as a veterinarian and horse breeder shaped his outlook. We chat about his time as a photography intern and how he chose to dive head first into no-fun chores (like mopping the floor), and how that optimistic, high-energy approach has paid off time and again throughout his career. We also discuss how he broke into photographing cowboys, and how his respectful approach has allowed him to be accepted by ranch hands throughout the West. We cover a ton, so check out the episode notes for a full list of topics and links.

If you don’t already, be sure to follow Scott on Instagram at @slusherphoto—if you love the West and the ranching lifestyle, I can guarantee you’ll love his work. Hope you enjoy this episode.

All images courtesy of Scott Slusher


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:
2:45 – How Scott describes his work
4:50 – Where Scott grew up
8:30 – Time working at a vet clinic
12:00 – Applying to art school in Dallas
14:00 – Finding focus in art school
18:00 – Work ethic during his first internship
22:30 – First time taking photos of cowboys
26:00 – Making folks feel comfortable during photo shoots
27:20 – How he broke into the cowboy culture
33:00 – Working at the Four 6s Ranch
36:15 – Importance of networking
40:00 – Close calls during ranch photography
44:45 – Close call during a rodeo
49:30 – Importance of social media in Scott’s career
1:04:00 – Important books
1:09:00 – Favorite films
1:14:00 – Words of advice to the listeners
1:15:00 – Connect with Scott online

Information Referenced

Teal Blake – At work, outside the studio

If you love art and the American West, chances are you’re already a fan of Teal Blake. His paintings of bucking horses, working cowboys, and the Western ranching lifestyle are some of the most authentic and creative around. Teal’s art is authentically Western because he’s so authentically Western—he has worked on ranches for all of his life, has ridden rodeo on the professional level, and has been making art since before he can remember. These unique life experiences, combined with a deep-seated drive to create original and striking art, meld together to make him one of the most genuine and fresh faces in Western art today.

Teal grew up in Augusta, Montana, the son of two creative parents who allowed him to roam free—fishing, hunting, and exploring the wilderness out his backdoor. During high school, he discovered his talent for bull riding and rodeo, and he pursued that passion for years, eventually competing on the professional circuit. Throughout all of his various adventures and life stages, Teal was continuously sketching and painting, and after several impressive showings at western art shows, he decided to make a go of it as a professional artist. Since then he hasn’t looked back, and his stature in the Western art world continues to grow.

We had an in-depth conversation in which we discussed Teal’s upbringing in Montana and Idaho, and how his artistic parents influenced his life and work. We chatted about his experience at art school, which ended with him flunking out, yet being the only one from his class to actually make it as a professional artist. We discuss his background in ranching and rodeo, and his process of transitioning into life as a professional artist. We also talk about the important role that external validation can play in a solitary creative endeavor such as painting. As usual, we discuss favorite books, favorite films, and his favorite place in the American West. We cover a lot in this episode, so be sure to check out the episode notes for all the topics and links to everything we discuss.

Images courtesy of Teal Blake


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:45 – How Teal describes his work
3:33 – Process of becoming a professional artist
5:00 – Teal’s childhood in Montana
7:55 – Teal’s parents and their influence on him
9:35 – Early artistic influences
11:20 – Early artistic endeavors
12:00 – Move to Idaho and rodeo beginnings
14:55 – Decision to stop riding bulls
17:40 – Teal’s experience at college art school
21:30 – Transition from rodeo to full-time artist
24:00 – Teal’s first art show
28:00 – Teal’s daily routine and artistic phases
31:05 – Ranch work and its influence on Teal’s work
35:25 – Teal’s attraction to bucking animals — painting and riding them
38:20 – Biggest changes in Teal’s art over the past 10 years
40:33 – Challenge of creating new and original work
43:00 – Thoughts on the business of professional art
48:20 – Favorite books
52:10 – Importance of being humbled
53:10 – Raising kids in the internet age
56:50 – Favorite films
58:40 – Surprising hobbies
1:01:00 – Great advice Teal has received
1:02:15 – Favorite place in the West
1:05:50 – Teal’s advice to the listeners
1:07:45 – Connect with Teal online
1:08:10 – Chappin’!!

Information Referenced

John Dunaway – The Life and Times of a Merchant Mariner

John Dunaway – Life and Times of a Merchant Mariner


John Dunaway at sea

John Dunaway is a Texas-based merchant mariner who spends six months each year traveling the world as the captain of large cargo ships. Whether cruising the calm, warm waters of Central America or avoiding Somali pirates off the coast of Africa, John’s goal is the same: deliver the cargo efficiently while ensuring the safety of his crew—quite the responsibility for a 32-year-old. When not at sea, John is an avid bird hunter, surfer, and all-around adventurer who uses his downtime to explore everywhere from Jackson Hole to Canyonlands to Antelope Island with his wife and young daughter. Thanks to a talent for photography and writing, John has gained a huge following on Instagram, where he documents his exploits on his account, AbstractConformity.

So you might be asking, what does a ship captain have to do with mountains and/or prairies? Although John may spend most of his time on the high seas, far away from the American West, you’ll notice that his optimistic perspective, focused sense of purpose, and thirst for adventure parallel the attitudes and outlooks of many of my previous podcast guests. Also like other guests, he is well read, a deep thinker, and has a genuine conservation ethic thanks to his close connection to the natural world. Although the objects of our affections may be different, our underlying values and priorities are surprisingly similar.

After almost a year of recording this podcast, I was excited to switch it up a little with this in-depth conversation with John about a subject that was fairly new to me. We start by covering the basics of his job—how one becomes a ship captain, particulars on the size of the ships, and details of day-to-day life on a 90-day ocean voyage. Then we dig deeper into some of his thoughts on leadership, his rituals and superstitions, how fatherhood has changed his outlook, and how he manages the pressure that comes along with being responsible for a massive ship, his crew, and the cargo. He also tells a few crazy stories from Africa and India, and he shares some insights from his recent trips around the American West. As usual, we discuss favorite books, films, and thoughts on conservation.

I found this to be a fascinating conversation, and I’d love to hear what you think. If you have a moment, please shoot me an email and let me know your thoughts. As always, thanks for taking the time to listen; hope you enjoy.

Photos courtesy of John Dunaway


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:00 – How John describes his work
4:20 – Details on the ships
5:40 – Length of the typical ocean voyage
8:35 – How John became a ship captain
10:25 – A typical day on an ocean voyage
12:40 – John’s morning routine
19:00 – Superstitions on the ship
21:00 – Details on the crew and boat
22:15 – How John leads his crew
25:20 – Comparing leadership methods of old-timers and younger captains
27:20 – Ernest Shackleton
28:40 – Common misconceptions
30:35 – Most dangerous areas John has visited
31:00 – Adventures with Somali pirates
33:50 – Robberies at port
36:15 – Getting a gun shoved in his chest in Mumbai
38:40 – John’s early years in Brazil and Texas
39:10 – Family ties to ships and the ocean
41:00 – John’s decision to pursue ships as a career
41:55 – John’s advice to young students at the Merchant Marine Academy
43:45 – How fatherhood has changed his perspective
49:30 – How John became a well-known photographer
54:45 – Background on John’s ability as a writer
58:00 – John’s recent adventures in the American West
1:03:30 – What was most striking about the American West
1:07:30 – Favorite books
1:10:15 – Favorite documentaries
1:11:00 – Best piece of advice he’s ever received
1:12:30 – Biggest challenge facing the oceans today
1:15:00 – John’s request to the listeners
1:15:40 – Connect with John online
Hail_Mary_Boots_0014

Tyler Sharp

Tyler Sharp is an adventurer, sportsman, conservationist, and world traveler with a gift for telling stories through images and the written word. While he may be best known for his photography focusing on Americana and Western lifestyle, travel, and adventure, Tyler has built an impressive resume that includes filmmaking, directing, writing, and creative strategy. His work has taken him to some of the most spectacular and far-flung regions of the globe, with an emphasis on East Africa, Montana, and his home state of Texas.

As a devoted hunter and fisherman, Tyler has chased game in some of the world’s wildest regions, giving him a global perspective on the importance of natural resources, game management, and sustainable hunting practices. As you’ll hear in our conversation, Tyler has thought deeply about the practical and ethical implications of hunting and fishing both abroad and here in the American West. His sincere devotion to conservation and adventure shines through in his work and has made him the go-to photographer for iconic brands such as Filson, Cabelas, and Stetson, to name a few.

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Photo by Tyler Sharp

Tyler and I met up in Estes Park, Colorado, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, for a fun conversation that could have gone on for hours. We discussed his beginnings as a professional photographer, which started in earnest when he moved to East Africa just out of college—he’s got some intense stories from his travels that include run-ins with lions and leopards. We covered his thoughts on conservation, and how his time traveling abroad has given him a clearer understanding of conservation issues facing the American West. Then the conversation took an unexpected but interesting turn when we chatted about his commitment to Kung Fu (yes, Kung Fu!), meditation, and eastern philosophy.

Feast_001

Photo by Tyler Sharp

Be sure to check out the episode notes for the full list of topics covered, because we touch on a lot.  This is a wide-ranging conversation that takes many surprising twists and turns.  Hope you enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Tyler Sharp


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Tyler describes his work
3:40 – Tyler’s niche in the creative world
4:25 – Tyler’s background
5:35 – Heading to Los Angeles from Texas for college
7:00 – Post college adventures in Africa
8:10 – The shock of moving to Tanzania from LA
10:30 – Learning how to “grease the wheels” in Africa
11:25 – How time in Africa changed Tyler
13:20 – Threat of people versus wildlife
14:10 – Craziest experience in Africa (spoiler alert – it involves a lion!)
20:40 – Showdown with a leopard
22:20 – Transition from Africa to American West
24:15 – His choice to focus in on his passion
26:30 – Specific actions that have allowed Tyler to separate himself from the competition
31:10 – Tyler’s personal brand
32:00 – Tyler’s conservation ethic
35:00 – Discussion about conservation and hunting
39:00 – Hunters and others coming together to save public lands
40:00 – Details on The Modern Huntsman
41:55 – Blowback from posting hunting photos online
44:35 – Importance of having conversations versus fighting
46:30 – Tyler’s definition of “conservation”
50:00 – Kung Fu and other martial arts
52:50 – Physical and mental benefits of Kung Fu
56:00 – Favorite books
1:00:50 – Advice to take better landscape photos
1:03:50 – Favorite place in the West
1:05:30 – Tyler’s request of the listeners
1:09:50 – Connect with Tyler online

Camrin Dengel – Slow Living in the American West

Camrin Dengel – Slow Living in the American West


Camrin Dengel is a professional lifestyle photographer who lives and works on the quiet side of the Teton Mountain Range in Teton Valley, Idaho. Her work focuses on a broad range of subjects, with an emphasis on sustainable agriculture, hunting, fishing, and life in and around her mountain community. In her work and leisure, Camrin is a devoted proponent of slow living, and she strives to approach her profession and life in a manner that is intentional, simple, meaningful, and positive.

horses

Photo: Camrin Dengel

Growing up in Valdez, Alaska gave Camrin a unique perspective and toughness (she calls it “stubbornness”) that have allowed her to pursue her passion for art full time, while staying true to her ideals and enjoying a slow-living lifestyle. She attended college on a running scholarship with the intention of becoming an engineer, but decided midway through that art and photography were her true calling. After graduation, she moved straight to Teton Valley where she has built a life and business centered around documenting the people and places that make the American West such a special place to live.

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Photo: Camrin Dengel

I’ve spent a lot of time in Teton Valley and can honestly say that Camrin’s work captures the landscapes and lifestyle more authentically than any artist I’ve ever seen. She is obviously a talented photographer, but she is also a super-interesting person who has managed to sidestep a good deal of the “busyness” and distractions that dominate many of our lives. In our conversation, we discuss her career trajectory, and also her love for the community of Teton Valley. We dig deep into the idea of slow living, and she offers some thoughts on ways for people to adopt a slower, more intentional lifestyle. As usual, we discuss favorite books, documentaries, and challenges and opportunities facing the American West.

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Photo: Camrin Dengel

This is a really fun episode full of lots of great info. Be sure to check out the episode notes for links to everything we discuss. Hope you enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Camrin Dengel


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:30 – How Camrin describes her work
3:50 – Good example of Camrin’s work
5:30 – Teton Valley explained
7:25 – How she ended up in Teton Valley
8:30 – Transition from adventure photography to lifestyle
9:50 – Thoughts on slow living
10:45 – Ways to live slowly as effortlessly as possible
13:25 – Being intentional with social media
14:20 – Advice for adopting a slower lifestyle
15:30 – Growing up in Alaska
16:35 – Unique aspects of growing up in Alaska
18:50 – How Alaska shaped Camrin’s perspective
20:05 – College years in California
21:15 – From engineer student to artist
23:15 – Time with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council
24:35 – Similarities between fisherman, ranchers, and farmers
27:10 – Camrin’s definition of conservation
28:00 – Thoughts on fishing and hunting
31:45 – How Camrin developed the confidence to follow her passion
33:15 – Role models and mentors
35:10 – Other possible career paths
36:45 – Advice to aspiring photographers
39:00 – Photography advice
40:30 – Book recomendations
41:20 – Slow living resources
42:45 – Favorite documentaries
44:20 – Surprising activities
48:00 – Favorite place
49:20 – Ideas for off the beaten path experiences in Alaska
51:00 – The insanity of the Mt. Marathon
55:15 – Biggest challenge facing the American West
57:30 – Request of the listeners
58:50 – Connect with Camrin online

Ben Masters is a filmmaker and conservationist whose work explores some of the most important conservation challenges facing the American West today. He was the mastermind behind the award-winning documentary Unbranded, which tells the story of Ben and his three buddies who ride wild mustangs from Mexico to Canada as part of an epic five month-adventure. The film also examines the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Program, a well-intentioned, but now controversial, government program created to protect the wild horses that roam the western U.S. For those who love the American West, Unbranded is one of the best documentaries in recent memory—it combines hardcore adventure with important conservation issues, all while accurately capturing the true beauty of the American West.Unbranded - film

Conservation is the common theme running through all of Ben’s work, and his passion is fortified with a deep knowledge of natural history, public lands, and policy issues related to the American West. His expertise recently earned him a spot on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, the group tasked with solving the challenging issues surrounding the program he profiled in Unbranded. His most recent film, Pronghorn Revival, is the story of Texas wildlife biologists capturing and relocating a struggling herd of pronghorns (i.e. antelopes). Not one to rest on his laurels, Ben is working hard on more conservation projects to be revealed in the coming months.

Unbranded - cliffWhen we recorded this episode, Ben was less than a day away from leaving on a multi-week guiding trip to the area around Yellowstone National Park, so I really appreciated him making the time to chat.  In just under an hour, we managed to cover a wide range of conservation-related topics: the BLM’s Wild Horse Program, invasive species in the American West, thoughts on hunting, as well as Ben’s personal background, favorite books, favorite documentaries, and a crazy horse stampede story… with plenty of other intesting subjects thrown in.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Unbranded. You’ll love it.  In the meantime, enjoy my conversation with Ben Masters.

All photos courtesy of Ben Masters


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Episode Notes

Topics Covered

3:05 – How Ben describes his work
3:35 – Ben’s upcoming adventures
5:40 – Overview of Unbranded documentary
7:45 – Genesis for the idea for Unbranded
9:45 – Overview of the BLM Wild Horse Program
10:15 – Natural history of horses in North America
14:20 – Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act
17:16 – Ben’s thoughts solving the wild horse challenge
21:10 – Political challenges surrounding wild horses
23:45 – More North American natural history
24:55 – What “conservation” means to Ben
26:00 – Ben’s personal connection to conservation
27:40 – Resources for understanding the history of conservation
29:00 – Conservation challenges facing the West in the next 20 years
32:10 – Ben’s thoughts on hunting and conservation
33:45 – Cautionary tale of Texas Screwworms
36:30 – Overview of Pronghorn Revival
38:35 – Favorite books
40:20 – Favorite documentary
41:30 – Ben’s work with veterans
42:23 – Hobbies that Ben enjoys
43:48 – How Ben learned the art of filmmaking
45:00 – Craziest outdoor experience
47:50 – Ben’s favorite place in the West
48:40 – Ben’s request of the listeners
51:30 – Connect with Ben online

Information Referenced

Stephen Smith – Adventures in Photography, Motorcycles, and Ranches

Stephen Smith – Adventures in Photography, Motorcycles, and Ranches


Stephen Smith is an agrarian, adventure, and lifestyle photographer who has successfully combined his love of ranches, farms, motorcycles, and travel into a full-time career in professional photography. Thanks to his artistic eye, hard work, persistence, and willingness to take risks, Stephen has successfully created a niche for himself in the crowded arena of professional photography. (Check him out on Instagram.)

Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith

He is obviously a naturally talented artist, but it seems that a great deal of Stephen’s success can be traced back to the fact that he is committed to putting himself in unique—often difficult, uncomfortable, or scary—situations that allow him to capture one-of-a-kind experiences and perspectives. Among other things, he has worked on a 90,000-acre Colorado cattle ranch, taken a five-month solo motorcycle trip through South America, and put in time at several California and Colorado vineyards, all while constantly shooting photos and refining his craft.

Stephen’s solid understanding of agriculture and years of adventure are evident in his work. His images are as authentic as they are artistic, and he knows how to capture the true spirit of a person, place, animal, or experience in a fresh style that creates a genuine connection with the audience. I came across Stephen’s agricultural photography several years ago and was immediately drawn in. (And keep in mind, I can be a bit jaded when it comes to ranch photos—I look at them all day as part of my job.) I have been a fan of his work ever since.

I was super-excited to finally meet Stephen and learn more about his work and personal story. We had a fun (and funny) conversation and covered a wide range of interesting topics. We dug into his connection to agriculture and talked in depth about how ranches and farms play an important role in land conservation. We talked about motorcycles and some of his adventures. We discussed the importance of international travel and his lessons learned from immersion in foreign cultures. We obviously chatted in detail about photography, as well as an insane bear story that you definitely need to hear.

Cool guy. Thoughtful conversation. Crazy stories. Great episode!

All photos courtesy of Stephen Smith


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Episode Notes

Topics Covered

3:55 – How Stephen describes his work
4:55 – How he decided to focus on agriculture as a photography subject
7:45 – How long he’s been shooting photographs
10:00 – Lesson learned from starting with film photography
12:00 – Stephen’s time working on a Colorado Ranch
16:00 – Overview of holistic range management
19:15 – What “conservation” means to Stephen
22:30 – How his deep understanding of agriculture is reflected in his work
26:00 – Some examples of extraordinary agricultural operations
31:00 – Economic benefits of holistic management
32:30 – Stephen’s love of motorcycles
36:00 – Connection between motorcycles and agriculture
37:00 – Five-month solo motorcycle adventure
42:30 – Lesson learned from traveling and living abroad
47:10 – Books on motorcycle adventures
48:30 – Recommended motorcycle trips through the West
50:00 – Upcoming Mexico motorcycle adventure
54:30 – Big breaks versus a slow grind
58:00 – Advice to young photographers
1:03:30 – Favorite books
1:05:20 – Favorite documentary
1:06:40 – Thoughts on surfing
1:08:45 – Simple advice to be a better landscape photographer
1:13:00 – Insane story about being chased by a bear
1:20:20 – Favorite place in the West
1:21:10 – Biggest threat facing the West
1:24:10 – Stephen’s request of the listeners
1:26:00 – Connect with Stephen online

Information Referenced

With the east coast covered in snow and a storm scheduled to hit the Rockies on Sunday, here are a few suggested articles and a video to keep you entertained if you’re hunkered down.  Enjoy!
  • ‘Unbranded’ Sheds Light on Wild Horse Issues in the West, Outside Magazine – I had not heard of this film before stumbling across this article, but I’m hoping to watch it in the coming weeks.  The article delves into many of the issues that I find interesting – adventure, ranches, political issues about western land – so I have high expectations for this film.
  • How Two Filmmakers Cracked the World’s Most Bizarre Trail Race, Outside Magazine – After reading the article above, I fell down the rabbit hole of linked sidebar stories and saw this one.  I love running long trail races, but the Barkley Marathons is crazy even by my skewed standards.  Also, I’m always intrigued when filmmakers can make running through the woods for 30+ hours interesting, so I’m excited to check out this film soon.
  • Stewardship with Vision, Western Landowners Alliance – Western Landowners Alliance is a cutting-edge organization and an excellent resource for all things related to ranches, land ownership, and issues in the West, and I highly suggest signing up for their email list.  They periodically release informative videos about their work, and this is the latest one.  Very well produced and informative.
  • Town Milk Put Tarboro on the Map, Our State Magazine – My wife came across this article from Our State Magazine, a great publication that focuses on unique, upbeat stories from our home state of North Carolina.  This one focuses on one particular aspect of my hometown of Tarboro and even has a quote from my grandfather, who was the longtime mayor and town doctor.
  • Why You Should be Talking About Work All Holiday Season, Ryan Holiday – One of my pet peeves is when I meet people who get annoyed when I ask them what they do for work.  Most of us spend at least half of our waking hours working, so why wouldn’t we want to talk about it?  Maybe their work is mind-numbingly boring, they’re no good at it, or possibly a combination of both.  Ryan Holiday, an extremely smart author and thinker, tackles the subject.
  • This is Your Brain on Nature, National Geographic – I’m a firm believer that spending time outdoors is good for everyone, whether you’re running 100 miles or simply sitting on a bench in a park.  Proximity to open space and nature is one of the main reasons I live here in Boulder, three blocks from the trails.  The article examines this idea in full NatGeo style, with a thorough analysis and stunning photos.
  • Deconstructing urgent vs. important, Seth Godin – Wisdom from Seth.

Go Broncos!  Go Panthers!