For a while now I have been counseling photographers to consider shooting scholastic and minor league sports because the expanded access that often accompanies these events creates opportunities to make pictures that are next to impossible to make at higher profile events. I found myself taking my own advice after the California Rodeo Salinas inexplicably denied me a credential, the only rodeo in the last two years to do so, even after I shot it last year. They must not like publicity. Way to go.
My friend John Curless spent a lot of time trying to persuade me to shoot the Fortuna Rodeo, and I kept humoring him thinking that I couldn’t really shoot a CCPRA rodeo when there was a PRCA rodeo the same weekend. So after I heard that Salinas was not in the offing, I set up the trip to Fortuna.
Walking around the rodeo grounds after the five hour drive from Oakland, I ran into John and his dad Roy:
Lou Bugenig, father of multiple NFR-qualifier Billy Bugenig, does the stock for the Fortuna rodeo:
I learned more talking to announcer Ted Dwyer for 10 minutes before the rodeo than I would have thought possible.
Cowboys all prepare for the rodeo in their own ways. Some get their gear in shape:
Others trade stories:
Others have a smoke:
Speaking of access, normally it’s difficult to get very close to the roping chutes. At Fortuna, I was able to shoot from just beside the rail:
I was well within range of maybe getting hit in the head with a rope, so I put on my widest lens and tried some panning shots:
There were some wild bronc rides:
Thanks to some sneaky steer, there were a few spectacular wrecks in the bulldogging:
Local cowboy Kelly O’Day won the all-around title thanks to his performance in steer wrestling and roping:
A few on the bull rides started out looking good:
But after four sets of bull rides, no one covered. The West Coast Rodeo Co. bulls reigned:
The arenas wasn’t especially conducive to shooting barrel racing, but I got a few more conventional pictures that I was happy with:
Motorcycles are the hot specialty act in rodeo, and Fortuna got in on the action:
I want to thank Lou Bugenig, John & Roy Curless, and committee president Shannon McWhorter for making everything possible.