Woman spends hours in the saddle with her camera to capture cowboys and cowgirls at work

An Ozarks woman is working to preserve the heritage of the American cowboy, one photo at a time.
Laine Smith grew up in the Fair Grove, Mo., area and her life has been filled with horses, rodeos and cattle, but in 2012, her life took a hard turn. Family health issues, a very sick horse (her favorite horse), a broken heart, and the tragic and sudden death of a friend bombarded Laine. Feeling lost, she spent countless hours driving the back roads of the Ozarks and on her travels she took along her camera, which she said had been gathering dust for sometime. Through the pictures she took on her journeys, she found a way to let some of the stress of the world float away – and a new vision.
Today, Laine travels the Midwest with her horse and camera, capturing imagines of cowboys, cowgirls and ranchers.
“All these traditions like dragging calves to the fire (for branding) and gathering on horseback, I realized that you don’t really see that around here anymore,” she said. “It’s in Texas and Oklahoma, but not so much in Missouri, but it happens here. I just kind of began myself into that (lifestyle) and it opened my eyes that there are still people out here doing that.”
From those early experiences was born MemoryLaine Western Lifestyle Photography. Laine, who now lives in Foose, Mo., travels from ranch to ranch to capture the cowboys and cowgirls at work. She has to be invited to the gatherings or roundups, and doesn’t charge the ranchers for her services.
“I still work a full-time job, but I spend a lot of time on the road in the spring and fall,” she said. “I try to space out trips a little, so that it isn’t so overwhelming. There is more to it than just taking pictures – you have to know where you can be, know that you have to stay out of the gate and things like that, because all of the images are captured while they are working.”
There have been times she has had to put back on her cowgirl hat and put down her camera to help move a herd, which she said is just part of the experience.
“I’m on my horse a lot,” she said. “I’ve been riding since I was little and still rope a little, and so it is really cool to saddle your horse up at 4 in the morning and by the time the sun is coming up, you are on the backside of the pasture. A lot of people think that cattle gatherings are like what they have seen come out of Hollywood with the ‘yeehaws’ and running cattle everywhere. That’s not how it’s done, so I really try to capture the images that emphasize the low and slow working of the cattle. Sometimes you only have a split second to think about it.”
While her photos and blogs are gaining popularity on social media websites, Laine said she hasn’t put herself “out there” yet.
“I haven’t really done much with them,” she said. “Now I have some galleries that are calling and wanting to see some of my stuff and that’s really cool.”
She is also working on a couple of print projects with different writers.
“One is going to be a collection of cowboy poetry with my images,” Laine explained.
She is also hoping to make a coffee table book that will feature images taken in different regions.
“They do things a little different in each region,” she said. “Oklahoma is different than Missouri, and West Texas is different than Missouri.”
Lanie added that there have also been a few critics who claimed that the shots were “fake” because there wasn’t enough dust in the air.
“It’s Missouri, not Texas,” she said with a laugh, adding that she doesn’t even know how to alter a picture in Photoshop. “We have trees and a lot of rocks.”
While Lanie uses a camera, she doesn’t consider herself a photographer.
“I guess I see myself as more of an artist,” she said. “I’m just trying to capture a dying breed of the working ranch cowboys, and my camera is my tool.”


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