3 years ago5,000+ Views
I have been fortunate to have access to shoot many interesting things in my career. But honestly I'd never shot a rodeo before this past Saturday night in Santa Barbara, CA - as part of the week-long "Old Spanish Days Fiesta". I took my Nikon D4s & Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens on a heavy Manfrotto monopod. What I captured blew my mind. I mean these rodeo bull and bronco riders are totally, utterly, unquestionably insane.
Take a 1,500 - 1,800 pound animal who is really, really, really pissed off you are on it's back - that's the horses, BTW. Or take a 2,500 to 3,000 pound animal made of SOLID MUSCLE that is pissed off at the universe and everything in it - that's the bulls of course - and strap yourself to it to see how long you can hold on.
The end result is rather interesting when you break it down into little 1/1100 second slices of time. You have the 150-190 pound cowboys experiencing Newtonian physics with brutal results.
OK seriously - look at the creature in the photo above... does it look like something you'd want to be ANYWHERE near? I mean it looks like it should be chasing Luke Skywalker or Han Solo across some alien landscape trying to suck their brains out or something. Bulls are freaking scary! They are anything but timid. Yeah. Go out into a field with this guy sleeping and try to tip him over - he'll jump up and stomp you flat.
What I do really love about shooting with such a long and fast lens is that I can capture the pure terror and regret on each cowboy's face as they stare into the abyss and see death waiting for them.
I mean, sure - why not? I wonder what was going through the first group of cowboy's heads when they watched one of their buddies getting launched into the air like a pop-fly-ball in a Major League Baseball game and they decided, "This should be a sport."
And what about the first time the situation in the photo sequence above happened? I watched through my camera for almost a full minute as this poor cowboy got his hand pinched and stuck in the rope... he couldn't let go. So this rather large and powerful animal - who wanted nothing to do with some human being being stuck to him - ran around the arena like a cat with a ball of tape stuck to its tail. It totally ruined this guy's shoulder, nearly ripped his arm off. He had to be taken out by ambulance. I'm sure he's going to need a couple of surgeries on his shoulder.
And as it is with any concert or major sporting event like boxing... the very best is saved for last. The bull riding! No one could stay on these animals. And no one got off without being batted off like a pesky fly. What was interesting to me was that I was on the ground of the arena, behind a metal gate - but right there with an unobstructed view of the action - and I could see a huge difference in attitude between the horses and the bulls. Horses wanted you off and wanted to get away from you. But the bulls... oh no. You'd obviously insulted their sense of dignity by attempting to ride them. They were out for blood. The second you were off their back they'd turn to come get you. I mean it... these things are freakin' evil. Think about that next time you sit down to a nice big New York Strip or Ribeye steak... You are ingesting evil. LOL.
Above - A couple of selfies from where I was shooting. I am now a reformed beef eater. And I've never cared for the taste of horse. :D
@2littlelegs - Thank you so much! I do enjoy it. There's a mix of technology and what I consider trade work - knowing the math and the science behind the tech and how it can be used to achieve your creative goal - and there's the creative goal itself. Then there's the ability to capture a slice of time - a moment that once passed is gone... except in a photo it can live on. Photos can also remind you of little details of a moment that you'd forgotten about. So in a way photos give us the ability to keep our memories of this or that moment alive with greater detail and vivid sharpness. As someone who was trained as a photojournalist - I appreciate the challenge of anticipating a moment and then being in the right place with the right settings on my camera to capture it. I love juxtaposition - being able to capture the beauty in horrible moments or the horror that can belie a beautiful one. It's a never ending canvas of new and interesting challenges and in the end you are preserving bits of the reality you experience and sharing your unique vantage point with others. Ultimately I see photography as a way to communicate - the sharing of a visual story that doesn't rely on words or language to share the universal commonalities of life, living, and everything this entails. @shannonl5 - I have a good friend who inherited the 4W Ranch - one of the largest working ranches in Wyoming. His name is Chad Sears and he is a true cowboy rancher - he's a gentleman and a scholar - a US military veteran - and just an all-around great guy. I met he and his wife when they lived in Savannah, GA (where I grew up) while he was stationed there in the US Army. I traveled to their ranch for a cattle drive once - 35,000 acres of ranch to cover on horseback. They had gotten a bad pregnancy test batch back - which meant pregnant cows which should have been separated from the main herd of over 5,000 animals had not been - and they gave birth and their calves were with them. It was getting to be winter and the calves, now about 5 months old, had to be separated from the moms and penned in the main ranch compound so they could be protected from predators (the Western Timber Wolf is making a comeback) and the harsh winter weather. Trying to separate 100 calves from their moms in a herd of several thousand cows is dangerous, taxing, physical work. And without roping skills it simply wouldn't be possible. Additionally, if the calves were left with their moms there wou...
@JonPatrickHyde I feel like I'm learning so much! My family is all from the midwest but they're all very far north so their traditions are very different. And I grew up in cities my whole life so these are definitely not experiences I have! It's cool to know that a lot of these events are based on skills people need when dealing with livestock. I'd never really thought of it that way because when you see events like this in films and stuff it's not really framed like that... I should know better than to trust movies by now of course XD
@JonPatrickHyde thank you for posting :) I've always admired photographers especially when it comes to action shots.
@JonPatrickHyde your pictures are amazing!
@jokes - I spoke with several - and totally... they know what they are getting into. They're all hard-core adrenaline junkies without question, but many expressed that they are proud to be part of a uniquely American tradition. @2littlelegs - Aspects of it are fine with me - others are not. I grew up in the South and am no stranger to horses, ranches, cattle... all the "sports" at a rodeo save the bull-riding - were born of real-world skills necessary to be successful on a ranch. From breaking horses and roping cattle, to controlling and training your horse - AKA cutter horses. I'm not a fan of barrel racing... it's really hard on the horse for no real purpose. And I am never a fan of the calve tying - I know it's a real skill that's important on a ranch, but for sport - when you are down in the arena and you can hear the terror in the way the calf calls out. It's just not my thing. I like the bull-riding because you know - that bull is an animal to be respected. @shannonl5 - It's totally intense! But so much fun. You are most welcome! @danidee - Thank you! 11 frames per second - 300mm at f/2.8 - at 75-100 yards you have several feet of DOF - you just need to make sure you are OK with exposure and ISO - most of these are around 3200ISO and the shutter speed floated between 1/800 and 1/1200 second. The frame rate is really vital here. There was a guy with the rodeo shooting a Canon 5D MKII - I used to own one - it's a VERY respectable camera - and he was getting 4 frames per second. He heard my camera firing like a machine gun and was "I gotta get me one of those!!!!" Truly, the frame rate was the greatest variable in capturing the perfect moments I was lucky enough to catch!
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