Rodeo Time

By Roger (19 July 2015)

It's been a busy couple of weeks, with very little chance to exercise my shutter fingers. I did get to spend a couple of hours, at the Fauquier County Fair, with our local camera group. We went on opening night for the rodeo.

As rodeos go, this one is small. You don't get to see many of the events found at the big rodeos. This one is limited to a couple dozen bull riders and the barrel racers. And, since it started late, the sun set before we got to the barrel racers. The good thing about small rodeos is you can get close to the action if you get there early enough. We did and were right on the fence, across from the chutes.

While we were waiting, we got to chat with the show's official photographer, Chris “Click” Thompson. (You can check out his site here.) He was setting up strobes around the arena, so he could keep working after sunset. He spent some time with our group, talking camera geek stuff. He travels with the show, as a free-lancer, so he's seen the action many times and passed out some shooting advice. He dropped by, again, mid-way through the bull riding to check in on us. It was a thoughtful gesture from a full-time professional.

Since our group had been to this rodeo, last year, we knew the best place to catch the bulls coming right out of the chutes.

Let 'er rip

Let 'er rip

This is a good time for a zoom lens, with a quick autofocus, because the action moves quickly around the arena, and you can't move with it. I used the 70-200 and kept the autofocus on active. The sun was fading, so we were increasing our ISO to keep the shutter speeds above 1/640.

Hanging on

Hanging on

My favorite shots have the bull's feet completely off the ground. You might not think a 1,600 pound bull could jump that high, but they seem to get real agitated at the riders. You can tell how low the sun is by looking at the bull's shadow on the chute.

That bull has great hang time

That bull has great hang time

I noticed more riders wearing helmets, rather than hats, this year. I'm all for safety, but maybe you shouldn't be hanging onto the back of a bull to begin with. The disadvantage of those helmets becomes apparent when you hit the dirt. And many of the riders did just that.

Bull Rider Faceplant

Bull Rider Faceplant

That facemask scoops up lots of dirt.

That facemask scoops up lots of dirt.

When the bulls cooperate, you can get some great facial expressions from the riders. There comes a point on the ride where they realize the bull has the upper hand, and they are going down.

End of the ride

End of the ride

Uh-oh!

Uh-oh!

Unfortunately, because of the late start, I didn't have the light I needed for the barrel racers. The speed and skill those horsewomen display is fun to photograph. Here's one of my favorites from last year.

Gotta love the barrel racers

Gotta love the barrel racers

We all had a great time at the rodeo: eating only the finest cuisine; hanging with other photographers; and lots of challenging subjects to photograph. Don't miss your chance when the rodeo comes to town.

Shooting in The Mid-Day Sun—Be Prepared

By Mark

It's a scholarsheep student, of course!

It's a scholarsheep student, of course!

A quick blog covering something we don’t often spend a lot of time talking about; useful equipment that every photographer should have in their bag.  This last week we went to Oklahoma to attend my stepson’s college graduation.  Very smart young man, double major, summa cum laude, etc-Sarah and his dad have every reason to be very proud, but I digress. I knew that the window of opportunity for taking the cap and gown photographs would require us to be out in the middle of the day.  The noonday sun is notoriously challenging for good portraits.  It puts harsh light on people’s faces and angry shadows for their eyes and under the nose—it is just not flattering light.  Plus of course, you get the chance to have everyone squinting into the camera.  What we want is nice soft wrap around light, which we can control.  Shadows are important for providing depth and contrast; but not for making your subjects look as if they were on a chain gang.  As we walked around the University of Oklahoma campus, we saw numerous family groups holding out camera’s and pointing them at arm’s length in the general direction of their graduates.  It was very scary.

Faced with all this I was prepared. Folded neatly into a small circle inside my camera bag was the Lastolite  One Stop 30” TriGrip Diffuser.   http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/375570-REG/Lastolite_LL_LR3651_TriGrip_Diffuser_One_Stop.html

From B&H

From B&H

The diffuser is designed with a convenient handle, so that you can if needed hold it with one hand and shoot with the other.  It clips to most light stands as well.  It also folds up into a small circular package.

The most convenient method is to have a helpful assistant, who can both look at the subject and the light and help get the right coverage.  As you can see without the diffuser, the light is pretty harsh.   

Those shades were required.

Those shades were required.

You really want to get the TriGrip as close to your subjects as you can manage.   As you can see, despite the really bright sun directly in their eyes, the lighting on their faces is nice.   You can tell where the limit of the diffuser falls as you can see the sun on the bare arm. 

Kaitlyn, John, and Holly

Kaitlyn, John, and Holly

You just need to frame the image to hide the arm holding on to the screen either in camera or leave yourself room to crop it out afterwards.  

In some shots you will want to consider adding back in a little “pop” of light to open up the shadows and add sparkle to their eyes.  You certainly can use another off camera reflector for this or actually use the dreaded on camera flash.   I powered down the flash to -2/3 to -1 1/3 stops.  You don’t want it to look like a flash was even there, but without it, the difference is noticeable. 

All in all it was a great weekend and everyone had a good time.  Now I just have to find the chance to process all the rest of the photos.