2012 was the year that I took my own advice.
After putting up with a lot of access hassles the prior two years, I decided to focus on shooting events where I would have good access and ignoring events where access would be a problem. And for the first time in years, it meant no pro football and no pro baseball. I filled in my schedule with extra rodeos and worked on picking up new clients, and I’m glad I did.
It was fun watching the once-hapless San Jose Earthquakes win the regular season title, and a big reason was the play of striker Alan Gordon. Gordon came over in a trade in 2011 but promptly got hurt and missed the rest of the season. He turned it around with a 2012 that saw him score the most goals per 90 min of anyone in the MLS, including a staggering number in stoppage time. Gordon did me the favor of celebrating right in front of me several times, including this one where you can literally see the goosebumps on his arms.
Going from shooting around 20 NCAA and NFL games per year to shooting 6 is kind of scary. It’s far easier to take the kind of risks you have to take to get a few special pictures when you know you have a bunch of chances at it. After the first two Stanford home games ended up being awful for pictures, the remaining four games were much better.
It’s tough to get good light at major sporting events as they’re either played with the sun directly overhead or under floodlights. Mid-season day games at Stanford can be exceptions, and I took advantage.
Here’s tight end Zach Ertz stepping into a beam of light to make a catch for the game-winning touchdown against Oregon State…
…and USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor striding down the field by himself.
Knowing in advance that I was going to be shooting a bunch of rodeos freed me up to spend a lot of time away from the action showing what happens behind the scenes. Cowboys and cowgirls travel thousands of miles a week to compete for seconds at a time. The preparations and down time are a huge part of the life, and one that is very visually interesting.
I rented a 24 1.4 to get some of these behind the scenes pictures, and was very pleased with this one of roper Russell Cardoza hanging his loop on his saddle.
Later in the day, after it got far too dark to shoot the action, I took out the 24 1.4 again and shot the saddle bronc riders from behind the bucking chutes. It’s always very hectic behind the chutes, but somehow the bodies parted and Andrew Counts lifted his rein perfectly as the gate swung open:
Hanging around the chutes a week later in Clovis, CA, I saw bareback riders Ryan Gray and Jason Havens getting ready for their rides. I zoomed out to 14mm and moved around until I found a composition that worked.
The rodeo season started off really muddy, and steer wrestling is what you want to shoot in the mud. Jim Banister and his steer had a rough go and both ended up coated:
After getting my fisheye/monopod rig dialed in, I used it at least once per rodeo, waiting for a horse to go vertical. Here, a horse called Huckleberry took bronc rider Brady Nicholes for a ride:
Mid-buck pictures are a dime-a-dozen, but when you can get really close, have cool old-style wooden chutes in the background, and a bull coming right at you, it can make a nice picture:
Stock contractor John Growney will talk your ear off, but he can be shy when it comes to pictures. When I saw him standing by one of his trailers, I jumped on a chair and got a portrait before he could get out of the way. Probably as cool of an environmental portrait as I have:
If you want to see more, my Best of 2012 rodeo slideshow is here.
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