Let me just start this off by admitting that I am an idiot when it comes to travel plans. Somehow I failed to notice that I scheduled a flight from Oakland to Las Vegas that featured a THREE HOUR LAYOVER in Long Beach. Mechanical problems added a bit to that, and waiting an hour* at the airport for the hotel shuttle meant that basically I had about enough time to drop my bags in my room and walk over to the Thomas & Mack Center. As I have written before, good planning leads to good pictures, bad planning leads to stress.
*This wait was not totally in vain however. A little girl, maybe four years old, pointed at me and said “Look mommy, a real cowboy.” The mother told me that the girl loves cowboys, but had never seen one in real life. I told the mother not to get too excited because I’m not a real cowboy, and she gave me a “don’t ruin this for her” look, and said “You have the hat, you have the jeans, and you have the buckle. You’re a cowboy.”
I walked around Thomas & Mack for a bit checking out the bigger media room (good) and the same old shooting position (very bad). I made my way to the bareback riders room and caught up with Clint Cannon, Brian Bain, Matt Bright and Bobby Mote and made some pictures of them getting their riggings set up before their rides. I decided that I would shoot the first night from overhead rather than squeeze into the official shooting position at the rail and test my already thin patience.
The lighting at Thomas & Mack isn’t bad, but getting the white balance right is a little tricky, and because I had some trouble with it last year, I made it a point to get a few custom readings before things got stared. Then they had a pyrotechnics show that blanketed the arena in smoke and I had to scramble again.
When the action started, I moved from aisle to aisle trying to get the best angle possible on each of the events. Shooting people in cowboy hats from overhead introduces another risk, namely the brim of the hat covering the face unless they lean back. Luckily winning bareback rider Kaycee Feild helped me out:
Barrel racing is the only rodeo event for the ladies, and unfortunately it generally produces the absolute most boring photography. I like to use panning when I shoot barrel racing, and when shooting from overhead, I try to pan up and down (not just side to side) as the ladies go through the pattern. My favorite picture of the night is this one of Tammy Fischer attacking her second barrel:
That’s all from the first go-round. My mission today is to get caught up on sleep so that I can go into tonight as fresh as possible, and also to sneak into some better positions. But don’t tell anyone…
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