Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: Barrel Racing

Usually I would make this picture kneeling in the dirt using a wide angle
lens to accentuate the size and power of the horse. Unfortunately the
limited shooting positions at the Thomas & Mack Center ruled that and
many other shots out. Since it was the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the
only option was "figure something else out."
© Matt Cohen 2010

This is Part 1 in a series of posts about my trip to Las Vegas for the 2010
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. This post will cover barrel racing.

When an event organizer sells out of 180,000 tickets across 10 rounds, there
is a strong disincentive to providing more space for photographers as it would
come at the expense of paying fans. And when you use a basketball arena
for a rodeo, the space concerns only increase. As such photographers were
confined to a pen about 40 feet long, along the side rail. For barrel racing,
this meant no wide angle turning pictures...

2007 Grand National Rodeo © Matt Cohen 2007

...and the other dramatic shot, the final sprint for the finish where the rider
is often bounced out of the saddle.

Melissa-Sue Perry at the Red Bluff Round-Up. © Matt Cohen 2009

For the first go-round, I shot from the pen. Panning was difficult due to
the cramped quarters and the backgrounds were dominated by signage.

Nellie Williams © Matt Cohen 2010

Sherry Cervi © Matt Cohen 2010

After the first round of editing, I decided that my only chance for interesting
pictures was to head up to the mezzanine and shoot down on the riders,
even though this was against the rules. I managed to find an usher who was
into sports photography, and he let me shoot and kept people from walking
into me. I used the space to do some panning with my 400, handheld, dropping
the shutter speed every so often in the quest for the slowest speed I could
pull off.

Jill Moody at 1/40th © Matt Cohen 2010

Nellie Williams at 1/30th © Matt Cohen 2010

Brittany Pozzi at 1/25th © Matt Cohen 2010

Angie Meadors at 1/20th © Matt Cohen 2010

and finally... Sherrylynn Johnson at 1/10th © Matt Cohen 2010

After I had pictures of all of the riders I started looking for lower percentage
shots including vertical panning of riders coming toward me...

Lindsay Sears © Matt Cohen 2010

Angie Meadors © Matt Cohen 2010

...and going away from me... Lindsay Sears © Matt Cohen 2010

Finally, I tried for something wider, if 200mm can be considered wide... Sherrylynn Johnson © Matt Cohen 2010

Also from the 2010 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: Saddle Bronc & Bareback Bull Riding Steer Wrestling / Tie-Down Roping