Matt: WNFR #3: The Pecking Order

Last year when I shot the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the credential conformation email that I got said that shooting positions were “first come, first served,” which to someone who doesn’t mind getting to events early, was good news. But when I arrived, a woman with an 18-55 on a consumer body explained to me that positions were based on seniority, and I didn’t have any. Somehow I managed to keep my head from catching on fire. This year, I pulled aside one of the guys who has “seniority” and asked him what the real deal is, and I swear he said the phrase “pecking order”. So not being one of the official photographers I can’t get in the ring, and not having seniority I can’t get a decent position in the little corral, yet my responsibility to get pictures of my subject remains. There’s something oddly freeing when you’re completely boxed in, so I figured I was down to two choices: find the best position however off-limits and shoot until I got kicked out, or ask one of the media reps to make some kind of accommodation.

I decided to ask first so that I could say that I exhausted all proper channels, and to my surprise, I was allowed to shoot the steer wrestlers from the bucking chutes, giving me a nice head on view of both the dismount and the ground work. The only drawback was that the bucking chute platform is made of steel mesh, and I had to balance my monopod on my shot lest it drop through the mesh. Everything went well during the steer wrestling…until my subject Billy Bugenig jumped off his horse a little funny which obscured most of his face. Such are the dangers of shooting two horses, two cowboys and a steer coming directly at you for 4 seconds. I still have 8 performances left and a couple of tricks left to try.


*Please Read Below*
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8 thoughts on “Matt: WNFR #3: The Pecking Order

  1. You’re doing a hell of a job from wherever you’re shooting! I’ve been involved in Rodeo since I was a little guy and I’m drawn to your work simply because you take the different angels and positions and turn them into ART!! Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ … it’s working!

  2. I’ve only had one opportunity to shoot a hockey game where that was an issue. There was a guy who had been published in SI and someone like me. There were two spots so the two of us shared a spot because we were the lowest on the pecking order. The guy I was sharing with was very cool though, so we got along and both ended up getting what we needed. I may have an opportunity in January where I have to try your tactics though. Looking forward to hearing more about this shoot. The information you and Ryu have been sharing about your recent shoots is invaluable to people like me just getting started.

  3. I like this kind of blog . The every day obstacles of an action photographer trying to get into a position to shoot something interesting . Why is it always so hard to get into that great position . Why do so many people have jobs to keep us back . This will be a first for me . I have never replied before . I am just back into action photography , for the last 12 months . I gave it up 30 years ago when the editor of the Tulsa Tribune wouldn’t look at my work because i didn’t have a degree . He was right of course , I should have gotten a degree . But I gave it up , I had a living to make . The coming of digital finally lured me back in . Now that I have almost enough money to acquire decent tools , I will try again. Almost nothing gives me more pleasure that a great action shot . I haven’t felt that great pleasure yet, but I hope to . When I shoot one that looks like it belongs in the first few pages of Sports Illustrated , I’ll die happy. Keep it up

  4. Matt it might be a blessing. I really like the unique shots you get, and I think a lot of this comes from not shooting from the traditional spots. Keep ’em coming. I know I have sure been enjoying them.

  5. Matt,
    Thanks for writing these daily insights into your experiences at WNFR. Reading the behind the scenes posts really helps me visualize what goes into the making of your awesome shots. As busy as I’m sure you are with this assignment, it’s nice of you to take the time to do these posts. I look forward to reading them and seeing some of your shots each day.

  6. Matt, I am not a professional photographer, but I think this picture of Billy is pretty damn cool. Great facial expression on B and the horse… Plus, I like the way the horse’s movement matches the steers. I always like seeing your pictures! Good luck today with shooting!

  7. Thanks Jenn. This picture is actually of Todd Suhn, my pictures of Billy are embargoed until they have a chance to run in the paper.

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