Though I'm fortunate enough to regularly shoot the NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, and other professional sports, for the last two years, my absolute favorite shooting weekend has been at the Red Bluff Round-Up in Red Bluff, CA. I enjoy shooting rodeos no matter where they are, but the combination of top-flight competitors in every event, first-rate access, and friendly, helpful people at the Round-Up provide the perfect environment in which to make great pictures.
When was the last time you filled the frame with a sports action picture at 14mm?
Or for that matter, a fisheye:
Another reason the Round-up is great to shoot: 8am slack. The bigger pro rodeos get more entries than they can handle in the timed events (barrel racing, roping, and steer wrestling) so everyone rides to determine who qualifies for the main event. This is called slack, and thanks to the 8am start, there is great golden light peeking into the arena.
Yet another cool part of the Round-Up is the box seating that overlooks the bucking chutes, and the inexplicable (but very generous) willingness of the Round-Up committee to let me shoot from a very expensive seat. Pictures like this are rare without having to set up remote cameras.
And then there's just the insane rodeo action featuring world champions, local Tehama County cowboys, and other pros who travel from as far away as Florida to battle the Growney Brothers and Flying U broncs and bulls.
And this is pretty much how I feel when it's time to go home on Sunday.
If you live in the Bay Area and thought that you had to go to Texas to experience a real rodeo, think again. The 2011 Red Bluff Round-Up is only 3 hours away, and runs April 15-17.