The cowhand's job was hard and dusty work. At the end of the day, he was hungry, tired, and frequently in need of diversion. Smith photographed cowboys enjoying cards and other games, as well as singing and dancing around the fire. One of the most enjoyable forms of recreation was telling and listening to stories. Many of these stories were tales of adventure and romance, and Smith seems to have understood their universal appeal. His photographs evoke a bygone era in much the same way the stories did.
Smith enjoyed making nighttime photographs around the camp; he used a flashgun to provide some illumination. However, seeking to create a natural-looking scene illuminated only by the firelight, he often had an associate throw gunpowder into the fire at the appropriate time. To heighten the effect of firelight, Smith sometimes painted lines on the negative to simulate sparks bursting from the blaze.