Well – I can’t speak as a rider – but from a photographer’s perspective – I think about three primary shots in bareback (as well as for Saddle Bronc and Bull Riding): (1) Pre-ride (2) Ride (3) Post ride.
Pre-ride: Pretty straight forward. Horses, riders, gear, gates.
Ride: I look for classic, rugged, gut-wrenching, crowd-pleasing frames.
Post-ride: There’s a few options here: (1) the crash – where the rider is in the process of exiting his comfortable seat atop the horse (2) the walk – where the rider is either soaking in the glory of an 80-point ride – or is still trying to calm the ringing bells in his head or (3) the runaway horse – the scene where the horse is running around the arena (or edge of the arena). Sometimes – the rider is still attached.
Gear: Long, fast-focusing lenses will really help here. Often, small rodeo arenas put the audience close to the action. If you’re only packing a 100mm – no worries – a little cropping will often help with that nice tight shot.
The arena in Philomath has lighting – but it’s not that bright. In fact – from a photographer’s view – it’s startling how little light there is in there. This year I picked up the Canon 85mm f/1.8 for when the sun dips – and the fast aperture really helped. The rest of the time – I’m typically shooting the 70-200mm f/4L.
And frames / second can increase your chances to capture the decisive moment. The Canon 50D shoots 6.3 fps. That puts me at something like +50 images for an 8 second ride – and that’s OK. I’ll typically only use 1 photo from the ride – but hopefully – it’ll be a compelling pose. As for filtering through the images – Lightroom 2 is the tool I use.
Keep shooting: As you shoot and make mistakes – you’ll get better. Funny thing – I’ve been shooting this rodeo for 3 years – and this year I was still able to make a lot more mistakes. And we’re not talking simply out-of-focus frames – we’re talking good ol’ fashion “Rats! – I should have known that”.