Pritchard Rodeo 2017    

A whole year has past and once again I joined my friends and neighbours for a dusty, fun-filled Sunday at the Pritchard Rodeo.

Now that the rodeo has come and gone and I am sitting at my computer looking through the many pictures I took, it is easy to see that I had a great time. Actually I am pretty sure everyone that attended, participants, organizers, spectators and photographers, had a great time.

This year’s event was a little sparse. Not when it came to all the spectators, the stands were full. But the numbers of cowboys and cowgirls participating was way down because of the wildfires across the province. I expect many were either evacuated and were struggling to safeguard their homes and livestock or they couldn’t get to the rodeo with all the road closures.

The days leading up to this weekend have been smoke filled and the sky has been grey. But by 10AM on Sunday blue sky with a few clouds. My friend Dave Monsees stopped by my house and ten minutes later we were ringside with our cameras, Dave with his 100-400mm and me with my 70-200mm.

At 1PM the Rodeo Chairman, Pritchard Rodeo stood center ring and waved his hat, the announcer called out the first event, a bronc rider burst into the arena, and all the photographers along the rails started shooting.

I’ve written before how suitable the Pritchard Rodeo grounds are for photographers. There’s a strong metal arena railing that makes it safe to stand close to the action without restricting the view. And every year I look forward to standing there along side all the other photographers that, like me, enjoy capturing the fast moving test of wills between animals and riders. I think that photographing any action event is fun and there’s always action at a rodeo.

This year I met two well-known British Columbia rodeo photographers, Elaine Taschuk from Vancouver and Tony Roberts from Kelowna. They talked about other rodeos in BC and their favourite lenses for capturing the action, and naturally the Canon vs. Nikon quips were flying.

Pritchard is the only rodeo I attend. Its close by, easy to get to, and easy to photograph. All one has to do is pay attention to where the participants are coming from and take up a position that allows everything to move towards the camera. Then I select shutter priority, choose a fast shutterspeed and start shooting. I prefer to use Shutter priority (“TV” on Canon and “S’ on Nikon) so I can select the shutter’s speed and let the camera choose the aperture. Yep, it’s darned easy.

This year’s rodeo (or any rodeo for that matter) was a great way to spend the day. When I got home I downloaded my images and quickly edited out those that didn’t look good, then cropped and balanced the exposure on those I chose to keep.

There will be lots of rodeos over the summer and into the fall that are well worth any photographer’s time. My advice is to grab that camera and mount any zoom lens that, at least, goes to 200mm. Then enjoy a day that will fill your computer with some great action photographs.

The Annual Pritchard Rodeo       

Pritchard Rodeo

Canadian Flag

Bull wins

Cow-1 Cowgirl-0 Dustin

Lost the seat

Roper  Barrel racer

Barrel racer 2

Wild bronc

Bucked off Bareback ride

Hard ride

Cooling off ringside

As usual July has been a busy month, and, along with everything else, this past weekend had been one of my most looked forward to events to photograph, the annual Pritchard Rodeo.

I know I write about it every year, but I like talking about subjects that I take pictures of and there is nothing like fast paced subjects to keep photographers on their toes and rodeos, easy as they are to photograph, are always worth taking a camera.

The Pritchard Rodeo grounds are perfect for photographers. It has an arena that is enclosed with a strong metal fence that’s safe to stand close to and doesn’t restrict the photographer’s view. Of course, one has to be careful when excited horses are getting ready for competitions like the Barrel Race, but it is a rodeo and one must remember that the animals, like any other athletes, are focusing on what they are about to do, and not some silly person with a camera.

When photographing fast, volatile subjects like those at a rodeo I prefer shutter priority mode where I select the shutter, and the camera chooses the aperture. I like shutterspeeds of 1/500th or more if possible. One also must be aware of depth-of-field, and I balance my shutterspeed and aperture taking that into consideration.

All I do is follow the action, choose a position that allows everything to move towards me, and let the camera’s computer handle the rest. Yes, it’s all so easy for photographers, no matter what their skill, to get images worth framing.

I remember a friend telling me last year why he liked attending the Pritchard Rodeo. He said, “I like the wild location. Look at the hills, and trees, and all the open space. Everyone is so friendly, they say hello even though they don’t know me, and there is even a beer garden with people socializing, but no one is getting drunk, being loud, or causing trouble.”

My favorite activities to photograph are the bronc riding, and bull riding events. The action is explosive and I think the participants (horses, bulls, and riders) pitted against each other are well matched and one can never be sure who will win. I am of the opinion that both animals and humans know it is a game.

I also enjoy photographing barrel racing. What a great subject to photograph. Trying to capture what seems to me like a gravity-defying moment as horse and rider, fast and furiously, circle the barrel is exciting.

I am pretty lucky to have a local annual rodeo about five minutes from my home. I can go there to have fun, socialize with friends, and still get as many shots (that are keepers) of the rodeo as I can.

I said this last year and I will say it again. There should be a note saying,

“No animals, cowboys, cowgirls, or photographers were hurt during the process of having a great time.”

Photographing Things That Go Fast.

Lucas racing   Flying Black  Quick turning  At the gate  White bull calfa Fast court      Nascar

I received a call from a photographer asking help with a new camera purchase. He had selected two and was comparing their difference in frames-per-second. I had read about both cameras and have to admit with so many other spectacular and enticing features both offered I hadn’t paid much attention to how many frames each could shoot in one burst.

When I asked him why FPS was important he said, “So I can photograph things that go fast”.  A good point, although a minor one in my opinion, shooting with continuous advance might increase the number of keepers he has, as he learns techniques for photographing fast moving subjects.

I will admit I like photographing things that go fast. Capturing less than of second of a subject’s life that will be gone forever is exciting.  That photographer could hope to stop the action by putting his camera into it’s P, or A mode, and employing his camera like a machine gun, make a burst of the shutter to stop a moving subject.

Some experienced photographers know how to get great results at the 8-frames-per-second or more, but if he is just starting out, he might want to dial it back a little and experiment to find what works best. The belief that faster would be better is not always the case. A DSLR cannot always find focus on a passing subject while the mirror is up and one can’t track the action through a viewfinder blocked while several frames are being made.

When I approach action photography at say, a basketball game, rodeo, or cars at a dragstrip, I don’t bother with the continuous frame feature on my camera. I know that the best way to stop action is with a fast shutterspeed. First I increase the ISO so the sensor is more light sensitive. Modern cameras have no problem with ISO settings of 800 or more and depending on how bright the location is I might move ISO higher or lower. I just make some tests before things get going.

Next I set my camera to a mode where I choose the shutter and the camera chooses the aperture. (S on Nikon and TV on Canon)  I select the fastest shutterspeed that will let me keep some depth of field, then do more test shots, and I am ready to start taking pictures.

I anticipate and choose the best location to catch the action. Gosh, it’s all that easy. I suppose one could do additional testing with a high burst of frames-per-second. I don’t think that is needed, it just eats up memory and might require hours of editing in Photoshop, but what the heck, with today’s exciting technology we need to experiment to find what works best for our shooting style.

My first camera didn’t have auto focus, programmed exposure modes, or eight-frames-a-second capability. I couldn’t even shoot at shutterspeeds over 1/500th of a second. But, I read a lot, took classes and learned about the aperture and shutter, learned how to follow a moving subject, and about how my camera exposed a subject. And practiced a lot in spite of the price attached to each roll of film.

Oh, and my advice to that photographer didn’t discuss the need for fast shutterspeeds. As I wrote, there were so many other spectacular, and enticing things about the cameras we talked about, that I forgot about adding an opinion about frames-per-second.

I really appreciate any and all comments. Thanks, John

My new website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Photographing a Rodeo

There is something about a rodeo that changes the visible culture, or, at least, what seems to be the normal dress code for many folks. Baseball caps are traded for cowboy hats, beige slacks and cargo pants are changed to blue jeans, and footwear for a day out with the family changes from running shoes or toeless sandals to cowboy boots. It could be that a sporting event like a rodeo is more a celebration of a lifestyle than others that are attended by fans donning a team jersey and cheering for their favourite team.

The 17th Annual Pritchard Rodeo was the first I have attended just for the sole purpose of photographing the fast-paced, explosive action, and I thought about the words of professional rodeo photographer Rick Madsen as I walked down the dusty road to the arena, “Each event in a rodeo involves more than one player. It is the interaction between man and animal, or in many cases man and beast, which makes the technical and creative aspects of rodeo photography so exciting and rewarding.”

I was late and the saddle bronc riding had started, but that gave me the opportunity to watch the photographers and I easily figured out who were the first-timers, the dedicated amateurs, and the experienced rodeo photographers. Anytime I am faced with a new photographic adventure I look to those with experience, and don’t mind asking questions if given the chance. I also realized there was time between riders so I would have time to check my metering and get myself in the best position for the action.

It was hot under the midday sun and a bright blue sky with riders starting from a location that was under deep shade, which was fine for them, but I knew that no camera sensor could handle that much contrast; and I knew I would have to make exposures before the participants reached the sunny area, wait, change settings, then start making exposures again when they were in the bright light. I missed the first, and then nailed the rest when I figured out the timing. I quickly learned how important it was to listen to the announcer, not only because he was expressive and fun to listen to, but also because he gave all sorts of important information a photographer could use about the horse and rider.

I am experienced at photographing sporting events, so other than the time it took me to know where to stand for each event, I was ready. My camera was mounted with a 70-210mm lens and I selected shutter priority mode, with 1/500th second shutter speed. The bright day let me get away with ISO200. I also selected the continuous shooting mode so I could get bursts of up to eight frames a second if I wanted.

I photographed from several locations then moved to one end of the arena where five photographers were working. There was a husband and wife team who said they were “just enthusiasts” that liked to photograph rodeos in their spare time. One fellow said photographing rodeos was a hobby, and he had just returned from photographing one in Arizona. I also met a vacationing photographer from France, and while travelling through Kamloops she had heard about the Pritchard rodeo and decided to spend an extra day to photograph the rodeo before continuing south to the Okanagan. We talked about photography and her trip, and, of course, I reminded her about the wonderful BC wineries she would be soon be driving by.

All those people were great to meet and added another dimension to an already great day of photography. Along with them, I met Bernie Hudyma (http://www.berniehudyma.com), an experienced and well-known photographer whose images regularly appear in magazines. In my opinion it doesn’t get much better than that when one is trying to learn about photographing a subject. He gave me tips on where to shoot, and once reminded me I had to take care as a massive bull charged the fence where I was and I quickly pulled back. (Just how heavy are those animals?) Nevertheless, it was a fun day of shooting and I ended up with lots of great photographs.

For those photographers that want to try something new and exciting, I recommend finding a local rodeo. Photographing those explosive moments, as Madsen puts it, “the interaction between man and animal… makes the technical and creative aspects of rodeo photography so exciting and rewarding,” which corresponds to how I found the experience – very exhilarating and satisfying.

http://www.enmanscamera.com