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

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