Alderspring Ranch
Melissa Hemken


Food System Weaver.
Western Horseman: Living with the Cattle

To photograph the Alderspring Ranch, I spent three days in their cow camp. Each day, we rode 12 hours straight to 'in-herd' the cattle. At one point, I sat under my horse - to cool down in the shadow that his body cast - as I watched the cattle graze.

Youth watch the rodeo from beside the announcers’ box.

I hustled to capture Lander's Fourth. I began the day at 6 a.m. on the half marathon's course, and I didn't stop shooting until after that night's rodeo. In between, I caught a bird's view of the parade because I stashed a ladder behind friends' Main Street building.

Cowboys & Indians: A Small Town Fourth

When I called John Fandek about joining him for a day’s work at the Black Butte feedground, he casually mentioned he had a second snowmobile for me. I had to admit my inexperience in driving snowmobiles. He assured me the trail to the feedground was packed by his daily passage. I drove slowly, and thankfully didn’t embarrass myself.

Cowboys & Indians: Where the Elk Roam
Working Ranch: Sandhill Story
Shadbolt Cattle Company

I quickly saddle my horse to ensure I can photograph the ranchers as they prepare for the day's work. Often, it's before sunrise. We may then ride until sunset. I strive to stay out of the ranchers' way; assist in their tasks; and visually capture their story.

Cowboys & Indians: Inspiration Point

These teenage cancer survivors inspired me. I spent two days trailing after them as they - some with prosthetic implants - canoed, hiked and rafted in Grand Teton National Park. For many, it was their first introduction to outdoor recreation and our public lands.

Cowboys & Indians: Inspiration Point

On assignment with outfitters packing in gear into the backcountry, I rode along as a self-sufficient unit: ride horse, pack horse, camp gear and food. With only two hands, it was a juggle of my horse's reins, my pack horse's lead rope, and my camera.

Bear Basin Adventures

I enjoyed sharing my horsepacking experiences, whether as a contract packer or on personal trips, during my 3-year tenure as 'Western Horseman's' backcountry columnist. Each month, I blended technical and ancedotal writing to teach and entertain equestrians.

Western Horseman: Horsepacker for Hire
Cowboys & Indians: Let Them Be Wild

I walked, on foot, out into the Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary's pasture to photograph the mustangs that live there. The curious horses gathered around me. The horses aren't tame. I worried they may stampede over me!

Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary
Sage-grouse Lek

It was still night when I entered the University of California, Davis researchers' blind on a greater sage-grouse lek. They warned me that we couldn't depart the blind until the grouse finished their morning strut. The hours flew by as if they were minutes. It fascinated me, and my camera, to be mere feet from the grouse's mating dance.

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