OK – so last summer was the first time I’d shot a rodeo. Went on a free admission night at the invitation of another photog friend (Greg). Didn’t think too much of it – but mostly considered it a photographic challenge. I figured the action would be fast, and as the sun went down, the lighting would become a challenge. That first night was “slack” (roping and barrel racing events only). And truth be told, it was fun. So much fun, in fact, that I went again the following Sunday afternoon to shoot rough stock (bull riding, etc.).
This year, I was excited to get an opportunity to get a little closer to the action. And, so, with camera, one long-ish zoom (70-200 f/4), and a fixed wide (24mm f/2.8), I was off to the shoot the rodeo for all four days. 8000+ images later…
So, how did it go down? Thursday, Friday, and Saturday events were in the evening. Before the light got too dim – I was shooting the trusty zoom. As it got dark – and the dim arena light was the available light – I changed tactics and went wide while pushing the ISO to 1600. And at the end of the day, I plopped down a few bucks for Noise Ninja to manage noise in some of the low light shots (works great – maybe I’ll work in a review in the future). Sunday – with an afternoon start time – I was able to shoot with the long lens all day.
For all of you action / event photographers who haven’t yet shot a rodeo – and if you’re at all interested – go for it. The small, local rodeos have all the action, typically great views from the stands, and low cost.
Tips? Fast focusing lenses, shallow depth of field to separate the subject from an often times busy background, frames-per-second, good light, and patience. The bull won’t always turn your way – but, thankfully, there’s likely another shot in just a couple of minutes.
You can check out the extended portfolio (around 185 images) here.