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.”

Rainy Day Photography

Last drop

Wet fir tree

Spring bud

Oregon grape

Rain drops

Reflection

Too many springs

Monday was another day of rain. It is spring here in the hills of Pritchard, earlier than usual, but it is spring and rainy days go with spring.

Rain doesn’t bother me much and had I thought about getting my camera and going for a drive up into the hills to see what I could find. However, as I walked through my wife’s garden on my way to the car I noticed all the drops of water hanging from branches and those leaves that made it through winter. The wet and foggy hills would have been interesting, but all those droplets were just waiting to be photographed.

How does one prepare to do photography in the rain? Put on a hat with a brim if, like me, you wear glasses. I also like rubber boots. Bring an old tea towel in your pocket to wipe the rain off your camera, and you are ready. Oh, and remember to keep the camera lens pointed down.

When the garden is dry I would usually put a couple of flashes on light stands, and add umbrellas so I can control the direction and quality of light. But when it is raining I prefer using my ring flash.

A ring flash fits tightly around the front of my 200mm macro lens and is perfect for building reflections on the droplets of water that were clinging to branches and sparse foliage that I wandered around photographing.

I expect many photographers prefer waiting out the rain and the unappetizing low, flat light on rainy days. I can understand that. Rain is such a hassle, and getting wet is uncomfortable. Nevertheless, that flat light, slight breeze, and wet conditions forced me to approach my subjects differently and I like that challenge.

In the low light of a rainy day we don’t think about light in the same way as we do on a sunny day. Everything is usually about colour, and how to deal with the contrast, especially on a bright spring day.

When the light is low one needs to see tonality and shape, and raindrops are a challenging element to add. In this instance there was also a slight, intermittent breeze.

I chose a setting that without a flash everything would be underexposed. That means I would only see my subjects when they were properly exposed and a flash is the best way to do that. Using my camera’s manual mode I selected 1/250th of a second and I kept my aperture at f/11 so I would have as much depth of field as possible when and if a branch shook back and forth in the breeze. I also switched my flash to a manual mode. The flash power would always be the same putting out the same amount of light. I then could control exactly how much light I wanted for each location.

I could have increased my ISO and shutterspeed if I had decided to only use natural light, but then everything would have been flat and it would have been hard to get a sparkle in the raindrops.

I know it can be disappointing to see those gray clouds on your day off when you had made plans to be out shooting. However, keep a positive attitude, remember you don’t have to go far, and with a bit of creative thinking and preparation you’ll be out having fun making photos, even in wet weather.

I always look forward to everyone’s comments. Thanks, John

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 Eagle’s Nest – An Adventure

    

Generally, when looking for eagles viewers are peering upwards, and most photographs of eagles are of eagles flying high or perched overhead. So, thinking of all that, it was with excitement that my friend, Walter, and I began a somewhat hazardous climb up a steep, loose, shale-covered hill that would allow us to photograph an eagle’s nest from above.  He had found and climbed to this nest late in the spring about four years ago, but that time he only made a couple of photographic climbs because he thought he might be bothering the eagles.  I was able to photograph it only once and what a great day that was.

Last week Walter and I made the half-hour climb again and we found a position on a ledge where we could watch and photograph the eagles from a distance slightly further away than where we were four years ago.  This year there was one fluffy chick in the nest and although I am sure they were very aware of our presence, with the added distance between them and us, they didn’t seem to be bothered.

Walter brought his Sigma120-400mm and I had my wife’s 150-500mm. Both are big and heavy lenses, but because we followed the old photographers adage, “always select a shutter speed number that matches the focal length” neither of us had a problem handholding our hefty lenses. I know fixed-focal length lenses tend to focus faster and are usually sharper, but for this excursion we both wanted the versatility of multi-focal length (zoom) lenses.

The only difficulty we had was the climb. The shale was loose and we caused small avalanches as we crossed and slipped over the face of the hill. I stepped wide and constantly leaned into the hill and had to watch where I placed my feet seeking stable footing. And looking about, or straightening up, only increased the probability that one would end up bruised some distance down the steep hill with damaged equipment.

When we finally reached our photography perches we sat quietly for a while as our trip up was noisy and we expected we might have agitated the eagles.  After a time we moved to where we each could see the family of eagles, then pressing our eyes against our viewfinders we both began photographing them.

The day was clear and bright, so a sky shot, although dramatic, was always a silhouette. I wanted to show the eagles on the nest, to include parents and the chick, so most of my shots were level or angled downwards. The eagles would sit at the nest for long periods, and then seemingly take turns flying off to perform acrobatics high in the windy sky. Too high to photograph, but amazing to watch all the same and when they did zoom back to the nest I would start releasing the shutter all the time wondering if any of my captures would be usable.

Bird Forum, www.birdforum.net, claims to be the largest birding community, dedicated to wild birds and birding. The advice on photographing birds, by one of the moderators is, “A bird will pretty much let you know if they feel threatened by you so you should let them be your guide… The birds come first. Sometimes your close proximity to a nest can cause the parents to abandon the nest,… close proximity to a nest will only invite other predators to the nest… The best way to photograph birds is to make yourself stationary rather than chase them down. Stay put, you would be amazed at just how close the birds will come to you once they are comfortable”.

It was a great day for both of us; outdoors, fresh air, sun, wildlife, and great pictures to help us remember.  The eagle chick should be full grown by nine weeks, and now that we know we aren’t bothering them we’ll plan another visit shortly.

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my website www.enmanscamera.com