Nothing personifies the American West like the cowboy. The image—of a weather-worn man, in jeans, cowboy boots and hat, riding his horse on the open plains, swinging a lasso, herding cattle, or enjoying an evening cookout by an open fire—is woven through the last 150 years of U.S. history. Fortunately for photographers, the cowboy is alive and well, working on ranches around the country. There are working ranches where cowboys tend to their herds of cattle, and "dude" ranches that specialize in teaching horseback riding to anyone with the curiosity to learn, and offer "city folk" the opportunity to get their hands dirty helping out. If you ever have the opportunity to visit a ranch, do so, and bring your camera, as you'll be able to make great photographs, reminiscent of a bygone era.
When shooting action shots of cowboys, horses or cattle on the move, and especially the action of a rodeo, you'll want to use a high shutter speed, at least 1/500 of a second, to capture the action. Use the shutter priority mode to set the shutter speed, and the camera will choose the corresponding aperture for the correct exposure.
Family trips to a dude ranch make for wonderful photographic memories. Pictures of the kids in western attire, complete with cowboy hats make for great shots. Add in farm animals and you've got the makings of fun images—what's better than children and animals together!