2010 Grand National Rodeo

Miss Grand National 2010 Holly Casera caries the flag during the national
anthem at the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace, Daly City, CA
© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

As I have mentioned before, the 2007 Grand National
Rodeo was the first rodeo I ever shot. It was also only the second sporting event
I had shot, and it was then that I started buying as much gear for low light
situations as I could get. The last two times I shot rodeo at the Cow Palace, I
was far more prepared to deal with the poor lighting. But somehow, between
the PBR event last April and the GNR last week, ~3 stops of light simply
disappeared. So 1/400th at 3200-4000 ISO became 1/320th at 12,800 ISO.
For those not versed in the technical side of photography, that's vanishingly
little light in which to shoot sports. With no time to rent arena strobes, the
best I could do was clamp a pair of SB-800 speedlites to the rail and point
them toward the roughstock chutes.

This "solution" left large parts of the arena, including the timed-event chutes
and the area behind the roughstock chutes unlit, meaning that some of the
best pictures would be plagued by deep shadows and sensor noise.

Steer wrestling (aka bulldogging) is one of the most photogenic rodeo events,
but it is also very unpredictable as a two-second difference translates into
maybe 30 yards down the dirt. Shooting head-on is a safe bet to get pictures,
and shooting from the side means waiting until the horse clears to have a
clean shot. I tried to mix it up as much as possible.

Sterling Lambert of Fallon, NV © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Garrett Boekenoogen of Gonzales, CA © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Levi Rosser of Gridley, CA © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Casey McMillen of Redmond, OR © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Michael Reger of Redmond, CA © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Shooting behind the roughstock chutes is one of the best places to get
dramatic pictures. It used to be that the area behind the chutes was off-limits,
but this year was different. The only problem: almost no light at all, and I
wasn't about to risk spooking one of the bucking horses or bulls with a flash.

© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

I have seen The Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls at a few different rodeos now, and
their trick riding never fails to impress. One thing these pictures don't convey
is that the horses are in a full gallop when these girls are pulling their tricks.
© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Barrel racing is the even reserved for women, with horse and rider weaving
through barrels looking for the fastest time.

Cindy Roberts of San Luis Obispo, CA © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Cambria Fetherston of Riverside, CA © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Flying U Rodeo Co. boss and King of the Cowboys Cotton Rosser watches
his animals throw riders around.
© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Speaking of animals, here's a dog in a cowboy hat riding a yak. © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

And barrelman Martin Kiff runs around the arena with champagne after news
that the Giants won the NLCS.
© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

The roughstock events (bareback, saddle bronc, and bull riding) are by far the
main draw. Rider's put their bodies at risk against powerful animals specially
trained to throw them to the dirt.

Saddle bronc rider Ivy Iverson is thrown from Hill Top. © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Bareback rider Zach Brown of Red Bluff, CA can't stay on Peppy Bound © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Saddle bronc world champion Jesse Kruse of Great Falls, MT looks back for his
score. Kruse did not earn a check at the Grand National.
© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Bareback rider Paul Jones of Elko, NV rides Blackhawk Blaze. Jones took second
place with an 80 score.
© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Bull rider Brett Bush of Auburn, CA gets bucked off of Mr. Aloha. © Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Bareback rider Heath Ford of Elkhart, TX rides Sundowner. Ford tied for 7th
place with a 70 score.
© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

I've shot multi-year NFR qualifying bull rider Steve Woolsey several times over
the years, and never knew that he had a brother who rode. And it's no wonder
because he hasn't ridden full time since 2004. Nevertheless, Lee put together
an 84 score on The Liberator to take the first place check, his second in three
weeks.

© Matt Cohen 2010 - All Rights Reserved

Though none of these pictures will end up in my rodeo portfolio, any day shooting rodeo
is a good day by me. I also enjoyed bringing along two photographer friends
to shoot their respective first rodeos. Next up, I'm working on putting
together a trip to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, and looking forward
to all of the great OUTDOOR rodeos California has to offer.