As I was looking for one more rodeo to squeeze in before football season, I saw that the Flying U Rodeo Co. had one in San Juan Capistrano, CA at the end of August. Before really looking to see how far away the Rancho Mission Viejo was, I set it up with Reno Rosser, blocked off the weekend and reserved a hotel. Then I looked at a map and figured out that with traffic, it was going to be close to eight hours with traffic each way. But with my escalating problems with the idiots that run the PRCA, I figured I can't turn down any rodeo I can actually get into at the moment. While most of the rodeos I shoot have been around for 90+ years, the RMV rodeo is just 12 years old, and it's set up differently than most other rodeos in that they add a ton of money to the prize pool, and only invite the top 30 guys (yes, guys only as the sandy soil isn't appropriate for barrel racing) in each event. With so much money and coming so late in the season, RMV attracts a large portion of the best cowboys. The other difference between RMV and the other rodeos I shoot is the venue and the fans. Orange County is one of the wealthiest in the country, and with the manicured lawns and white tents for VIPs, it looked as if a tennis match could break out at any second. It's a shame I quit wearing my Stan Smiths to rodeos, I would have fit in well. The VIP tents featured an insane amount of food, including this TORTILLA CHIP WATERFALL:
The Flying U brought along their famous boot, and Linsay Rosser-Sumpter to rise out of it with the flag during the national anthem:
They also brought Juan Carlos:
As a pop-up rodeo arena, RMV lacked the traditional behind-the-chutes area so warm-up pictures were a bit thin:
The bucking chutes were split into groups of two at either end of the arena and all four sets were used in each section. This meant that I basically had to pick a spot and stay there since moving around was limited. So I set up in one corner and shot the opposite end with the 400mm and the near end with 24-70mm (closest three cutes) and 70-200 (other three near-end chutes). This was less than ideal, first because picking just the right spot from which to shoot is a key photographic skill, and second, shooting across the face of the chutes brings the possibility of getting blocked by judges, pickup men, and bullfighters. But you still have to shoot the rodeo as it is setup, and sometimes that produces pictures you wouldn't have tried.
Long live bullfighters:
I would have totally missed this series of Jesse Wright from the other end:
Team roping and steer wrestling came out of one end and tie-down out of the other. Running through the VIP tent with all of my gear to get to the other side to shoot tie-down was comical.
It was fun shooting a new rodeo seeing some SoCal friends, and introducing my girlfriend to one of my favorite places to eat, but LA can keep their traffic. Thanks to the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo, Cotton & Reno Rosser and the Flying U, and Cervi Championship Rodeo Co.