One of the things that most rodeo fans don’t get to see is the preparation that goes into each ride, and I consider it part of my job to show it. Some guys do yoga, some guys use miles of athletic tape, baby powder files, rosin is cracked onto bull ropes, etc. Towards the beginning of the rodeo season I was shooting behind the chutes at Clovis, CA, as bareback rider Josi Young was wrapping his riding arm in white tape. As I was composing, a head-shaped object filled my viewfinder. Joking around, Josi’s fellow bareback rider Steven Peebles stuck his head between my camera and Josi’s arm. Peebles was far too close for me to focus on him, but it did give me a good idea, extreme closeups with the (GEAR NERD ALERT) Nikon 14-24mm at 14mm. Here’s what that first picture looked like:
I put it up on Facebook and people kind of went crazy for it. I figured it was lightning in a bottle and left it at that. A few weeks later I ran into Josi at a different rodeo, and he said “So, let me get this straight: You try to get a picture of me and Peebles interrupts. You take a picture of him and everyone loves it. So I get screwed.” “That’s about right Josi, but I’ll do one of you if it makes you feel better.” So I did:
After that I thought about it for a minute and decided to shoot as many of these pictures as I could for the rest of the season. Here’s why.
First, it’s good to have a long term project to work on, and this is far more interesting than the one I had been doing. In repeating a similar theme you (ideally) force yourself to work within a framework, and make each new picture good enough to stand on its own. In the end, the goal is to have a series of great pictures that go together and will hold the viewers attention.
Some side benefits of this particular project: Using the same lens over and over can teach you a lot about using that lens. The 14-24 can produce some crazy distortion depending on how you arrange things in the frame. Using it repeatedly on faces can help you learn the best way to use it even on other subjects. A project like this requires you to get very close, and that’s what the 14-24 was made for. It also means that you can’t sit back and observe, you need to get in there and talk to people and get comfortable with that. We see far too much sitting back in the Flickr group. Some of these guys are my friends, and some of them I’ve never spoken to before, but now I’ve at least had a small conversation with all of them, and the better rapport with your subjects, the better your pictures will be.
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