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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.