Sometimes photographer Michal Venera gets inspired by the rolling landscape out the windows of his northern California studio. Sometimes he gets inspired by the neighbors. “Bob runs the ranch next to my land,” says Michal, “and they just don’t make them like him anymore.”

Video of a day in the life of a Sonoma rancher, from still and motion photographer Michal Venera

During one of Michal and Bob’s occasional evening walks, Michal broached the idea of doing a little filming. “Bob is old school, salt of the earth” he says. “He just goes about his business, doing what needs to be done without any fuss. I wanted to capture that simplicity and strength on film.”

Well known for his lifestyle and product-focused commercial photography, Michal often finds himself drawn to people and portrait work for personal projects. “Everybody has a story,” he says. “And if you’re open and patient and respectful, sometimes they’ll let you tell it in photos.”

A man comes out of his house to begin a day of work on the ranch, from photographer Michal Venera

In his travels around the globe, Michal has befriended mountain men in Montana, school children in Africa and proud locals in Cuba, capturing highly impactful portraits along the way. Shooting photography on his own time allows him to experiment with lighting and composition, inspiring new creativity in his commercial work.

Two Cuban women in their small apartment, from photographer Michal Venera

Smiling young school children in Africa pack into a window frame, from photographer Michal Venera

“Bob really didn’t get why I wanted to follow him around taking photos and videos,” says Michal. “He didn’t think there was anything that special about him. In this era of endless selfies, that attitude alone is worth capturing.”

A rancher unties a bale of hay in a loft, by still and motion photographer Michal Venera

You can see more of Michal’s commercial and fine art photography and film right here.