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.
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