This post is part 2 on my trip to the 2011 Red Bluff Round-Up. Part 1 is here. One of my missions whenever I shoot a rodeo is to try to add to my knowledge of the sport. I didn't grow up on rodeo, I've only been shooting it for a few years, and it's not like it's televised apart from the National Finals Rodeo each December, so talking to cowboys and officials is really the only method I have to deepen my understanding of rodeo in general. With this in mind, I arrived a couple hours early each day and hung around the chutes talking (and listening) to the cowboys.
Last year's world champion Bobby Mote took home $204,484.04 in prize money last year. 10 of the other top 15 from 2010 were also there, most of them well into six figures. And they were competing against some guys who hitchhiked to Red Bluff.
Being at the top of the saddle bronc standings must be kind of fun for Bradley Harter.
One of the all-time great sh!t-talkers, Shannon Miller of La Luz, NM prepares to ride. Miller showed up with a box of beer and his dog, and someone asked him how he thought he'd get away with having an 18-pack and a dog behind the chutes, and Miller said: "It's a 12-pack, come on, I'm not an alcoholic."
I made this picture of bareback rider Jared Smith last year, and it's one of my all-time favorites. I guess I didn't recognize him without the rockstar shades, and ended up talking to him for half an hour without realizing who it was. While I was making this picture, Smith said "Don't tell anyone it's baby powder. Tell them it's cocaine." Sure thing, Jared.
Even with some serious black & white conversion work I couldn't make this portrait of saddle bronc winner Cody DeMoss look period-appropriate enough for that mustache. But I really like shooting portraits with the 24mm 1.4.
Ethan McNeill was one of the guys who kindly spent some time talking with me before he rode. He had a nice ride but unfortunately finished out of the money.
No one knew this at the time, but on this ride, Bobby Mote became the career earnings leader in bareback riding history with $1,877,065. As I was shooting this, it didn't look that impressive, but the video replay showed that Mote was spurring faster than even my camera could catch, and looking so smooth that he didn't break a sweat. Mote also competed in team roping and ended up winning enough between the two events that he won the all-around buckle.
Shooting roughstock from behind the chutes is really exciting and produces some interesting pictures, but it also gets really crowded with guys much taller than I am. A couple days before I left, I started experimenting with putting a fisheye on my camera on a monopod and holding it as far away from me as I could. I only used it for a couple of sessions, but I did get some distinctive pictures that will add some diversity to my rodeo portfolio.
Logan Knibbe, a rider I had never shot nor heard of before took the bull riding buckle with an impressive 85 on Captain Obvious.
In my opinion, saddle bronc/bareback pictures are more interesting when the cowboy is riding, but bull riding pictures are better when the cowboy is getting dumped. For example, this series of Justin Rickard on Fly Boy:
This picture of A.J. Hamre getting bucked off Ivory Soap ran on Sports Illustrated's website, which should make it a good bit easier for me to get into other rodeos. (And yes, I still get turned down - or flat-out ignored - from more rodeos than I get to shoot.)
The truly scary pictures are the ones where the cowboy, after being bucked off, gets driven into the dirt by the bull.
Luckily two of the best bullfighters in the business (Joe Baumgartner & Eric Layton) are from Red Bluff, and their work keeping the cowboys safe is top-notch:
How much money would it take to get you to trade places with Joe?
Along with the great atmosphere and top-flight competition, the Wild Ride is what makes the Round-Up special. Roughstock riders sign up to compete for cash and a custom saddle by dressing in outrageous costumes and riding saddle broncs. The last two years, I was in the skybox shooting down on the last round of bull riding, and only got to shoot the Wild Ride from behind. This year I made it a point to be on the other side to get all of the crazy action.
After winning the bull riding buckle and $4,532, Logan Knibbe subjected himself to this:
Likewise, saddle bronc winner Cody DeMoss:
Before Sunday's performance, volunteers laid out the costumes, and Ryan MacKenzie ended up drawing Jersey Shore's Snooki. MacKenzie (and the vast majority of the other cowboys) had absolutely no idea who Snooki was until we handed him an iPhone with her picture in the browser. His face was the dictionary definition of regret. I still have no idea what the stuffed alligator had to do with it.
If I was voting, I would have picked Heith DeMoss who dressed up as Avatar and got dumped head first in a shower of silly string:
Once again, I want to thank the Round-Up committee, and especially Tonya Redamonti, Mike Dudley, and David Ramelli for not only putting on a truly exceptional event, but also seeing the value in allowing me to document it each year.
And yes, the countdown to the 2012 Round-Up has begun. Making that countdown a little shorter will be my first trip to shoot the Clovis Rodeo this weekend. Never thought I'd say this, but 2 weekends in a row shooting rodeos is a great way to start the spring.
Some early clips: