I arrived at the Red Bluff Round-Up early for slack and walked around the trailers making a few pictures here and there. I ran into Luke Branquinho getting ready with his kids. Though Luke is a four-time steer wrestling world champion, his son Cade was practicing his tie-down technique on a wooden dummy horse with the same intensity Luke shows in the arena. I figured I’d better get some pictures for when Cade becomes a world champion too.
Oakdale is always the beginning of my pro rodeo season and since it’s fairly close to home, a good way to get back into life on the road. It’s also where the Flying U Rodeo Co. debuts the year’s new colts. Last year my wife fell in love with #317 on his first trip out, and we ended up naming him U-Gene and starting a Facebook page for him. When we went to visit him for his first birthday, we found his little brother #417, just a week or so old and named him U-Too. Oakdale was #417′s first rodeo also, so I made sure to get a picture of mom Dream With Me and U-Too in their pen.
The rodeo started off kind of rocky as I found out that Dan Hubbell (one of the rodeo photographers who shoots Oakdale) had arrived before me and convinced someone there to limit my access because he doesn’t like competition. Since this was my first rodeo I’d be shooting with my PRCA card, (which allows me to shoot from the arena floor) this was a problem. Eventually it was solved. In the mean time I got to shooting slack:
When the first performance started, I set up along a wall running along side the bucking chutes. It allowed me to be very close to the chutes yet have an escape if any of the stock decided to get too close. The second bull out, Ned Kelly, decided to test out this plan.
After shedding his rider, Ned Kelly ended up next to the wall about 8 feet in front of me. I made one last picture and bailed. But there wasn’t quite enough time to scale the wall, and all I could do was turn sideways and lean out of the way. As he went by, I could feel his horn as it grazed my shirt. All in all, a very close call.
The rest of the performance I was amped up on adrenaline. After it was over I decided to go get a stool that wouldn’t stick out into the arena, yet would allow me to get out faster. I found one at a local hardware store where the clerk tried to talk me out of buying it because he said it was too expensive. I told him it was a life and death situation and he just kind of stared at me and rung me up.
The next day, Ned Kelly was out again, and before the gate opened, everyone by the chutes turned and laughed at me, suggesting he’d come after me again. Elliott Jacoby rode him, and yes, it was right at me again.
This time I was ready and jumped in the stool and to the top of the wall. Here is what it looked like, courtesy of my friend Al Golub who was shooting from across the arena:
Adrenaline is a hell of a drug. Here are the rest of the pictures:
As in past years, I started my 2014 rodeo season at the La Grange Rodeo in La Grange, CA. Since it is a semi-pro rodeo and comes the week before my pro rodeo season starts, La Grange is both a convenient warmup and testing ground for the ideas I came up with during the winter. La Grange is also a colorful rodeo where there is as much action outside of the arena as there is in it.
One of the ideas I had over the off-season was to shoot roping next to the chute with a wide lens.
Lots of roughstock action with the stock winning more than they lost.
The best part of the rodeo for pictures is the goat scramble. Volunteers line the kids up at one end of the arena and hold some goats at the other end. When they release the goats, the kids take off to try to catch one. The lucky kids who do catch a goat get to keep it. The joy and dejection pictures are always great.
Part 2 of my 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Diary “What to Bring & Why” is up now on Big Lens Fast Shutter.
Part 2 of my 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Diary “Picture Editing and Workflow for a high-volume/multi-day event.” is up now on Big Lens Fast Shutter.