Zach Anderson's Project with Zoetis: Ranch Life Unscripted
Spontaneity is an attribute that allows photographer and director Zach Anderson to capture unscripted moments that can define a narrative. Always on the go and always with a camera, Zach captures life as it unfolds in front of him, leading to imagery that is raw, contemporary and genuine. His work is always a celebration of those around him, which translated to his work for Zoetis.
This project focused on a small community in rural Western Nebraska, highlighting generational cattle farmers and the hardships they face as well as a celebration of the legacy the family has created. The many facets of the project came together through Zach’s talent of being a fly on the wall alongside a video crew, while still capturing hero images that brought the client’s vision to life. In his color-forward style, the collection of images shows the full scope of what it means to be a cattle farmer in 2023. Read on to learn more about the shoot.
What is the larger story of this particular ranch, and why was it chosen for this shoot?
The project was a three-day shoot on a cattle ranch in Nebraska. Originally, we planned for a five-day shoot, but due to scheduling, it was condensed into three days, which meant being agile to capture all of the needed assets. We were working alongside video crews capturing various aspects of ranch life. The challenge was that we couldn't always shoot at the same time due to video interviews and lifestyle shots. This made timing crucial.
This particular ranch was chosen because it's not only visually appealing but also has an interesting story. The town itself is small, with only about 1,200 residents. The ranch provides a significant economic impact to the area. It's an essential part of the community, so that made it a compelling subject.
How did you navigate working alongside video?
We had to capture moments that complemented the video footage, so continuity was essential. I’ve worked alongside video crews before, so I know how to take complimentary imagery without imposing in on their production. Though they wanted some of the imagery to mirror the motion assets, we also had opportunities to capture images of the ranch when video was shooting interviews so the way the schedule was worked out for the stills production.
Since this was a cattle farm, how did you handle shooting with animals, and what are the challenges involved?
I feel comfortable around animals, having grown up in Idaho and worked on ranches and farms before. Obviously, you aren’t able to communicate with animals like you can human talent, but in some ways that makes it easier. Cows, in particular, are generally calm and don’t move a lot so they are generally easy to work with. We shoot with a long lens to avoid spooking them.
Do you have a favorite shot or moment from the shoot?
One of my favorite shots is of an old rancher with a distinctive mustache. He's been working on the ranch for over 40 years and serves as the mechanic. His character and the stories he shared were some of my favorite parts of the shoot.
Were there any memorable moments during the shoot that stood out to you?
I really enjoyed getting to know the family and the people who worked on the ranch. We had conversations about the challenges facing farmers and ranchers. It is an incredibly hard job and life and being able to talk to them helped give us perspective that shaped how I viewed the project.