By the time I got home from the Red Bluff Round-Up (blog posts here and here) and cleaned the dirt off of my gear and backed up all my pictures, it was time to drive down to the Central Valley for the 97th Annual Clovis Rodeo. I had no idea what to expect, but I was looking forward to shooting back to back rodeos for the first time.
After a quick tour of the rodeo grounds, I headed to the bucking chutes to catch up with a couple of my friends who were riding broncs. Both Ethan McNeill and Cesar "Kid" Banuelos have been really cool about helping me understand the behind-the-scenes mechanics of rodeos, so I was of course pulling for those guys. Unfortunately both got bucked short of the buzzer.
Clovis has a unique shooting position on the roof of the announcer's booth, directly above the bucking chutes. But if you want to shoot from up there, you have to sacrifice. The roof is slanted, made out of corrugated metal, and covered in bird, um, droppings. There's also no railing, so laying down is really the only way to quasi-safely shoot over the edge. So glamorous.
I went up to the roof for Friday night's bull riding, and ended up with a couple of nice buck-off pictures:
Clovis runs roping/steer wrestling slack at 7am, and though some grumble about having to get up that early, I'll take it every time for light like this:
It's also nice to be able to get clean pictures of heavy-hitters like Luke Branquinho, Josh Peek, and King of the Cowboys Trevor Brazille from positions not accessible during the main performance:
There was no barrel racing slack, so I had to do my best to get pictures of the ladies during the main performance, not how I normally do it:
The roughstock action was pretty intense, especially the saddle bronc event:
Not to be outdone, the bareback guys did anything but play it safe:
Kaycee Feild was up last in bareback, and just crushed it with an 86 for the buckle. During his ride where he somehow managed to keep his hat and stunna shades on, he also found a way to wave and smile for the camera:
For bull riding, I split time between the roof and the stands across from the chutes. I like the bull in the chute peeking over to check out Myron Duarte & Full Force:
On Sunday with the sun getting low in the sky, I went up to the roof and got two buck-off pictures I'm really happy with:
Clovis does two events for kids, the first being mutton busting where little kids actually ride sheep for as long as they can hold on:
And on Sunday, they had the Special Kids Rodeo conducted by professional cowboys and Clovis Rodeo committee members benefitting Break the Barriers.
I broke a barrier of my own in Clovis when I finally gave in to the pressure from my rodeo friends and bought a real cowboy hat. I had been making do with a Stetson of considerably smaller-than-regulation circumference, which was enough to get me behind the chutes according to PRCA rules, but decidedly not enough to escape teasing. When my friend and Red Bluff Round-Up director Mike Dudley called out to me across the horse pens to "Get a real hat!" I knew it was time to quit putting off the inevitable...
My hat is off to the Clovis Rodeo committee and especially Alfreda Sebasto for the great access and an awesome time.
Some early clips: