I can say that now. “This ain’t my first rodeo, partner. I’ve been around the block a time or two.” Yup. I took in my first real-life rootin’-tootin’ helluva good time rodeo this weekend in the town with the best BDS* name of all time, Greybull, Wyoming.
*see Tropic Thunder for more on BDS.
I was excited to experience my first rodeo. I was also a little nervous; I don’t know a lick about cowboy culture and I sure don’t know much about horses (I had an irrational fear of them for more than a decade. I’ll tell that story another time) and therefore I was unsure where to stage myself to catch the action. I don’t carry a big f/2.8 zoom in my kit, either; the big boys are just a little to heavy for me to lug around on a day to day basis along with my regular kit.
Let my first experience shooting a rodeo be a lesson to you; don’t sweat the small stuff. Dance with the bronco you brought to the ball (that’s how that goes, right?); don’t get caught up in shooting what you think you should shoot. Shoot the way you know how, in your own style and on your own time, and interpret any event the way you see it, not the way you think it should be shot. You aren’t a sports shooter and you don’t have a 400mm f/2.8 lens on a monopod with you? Don’t worry about it. Use what you’ve got, take another angle and do something different. Maybe Sports Illustrated will call your name. Maybe not. When you’re doing this stuff for the first time – when you’re taking on any assignment for the first time – do it your way. You’ll be more comfortable that way and you’ll put yourself in a position to succeed.
I recently began doing some work for American Cowboy Magazine, so I figured I might as well do this stuff right. I weaseled my way behind the scenes, got up close and personal with the horses and the cowboys and the people putting on the event because that’s what I do in these cases; I put myself in the best possible situation to capture what I want to capture. There’s no going back later, no adjusting the lights and doing it one more time. This kind of even comes around once a year; if I miss a shot, it’s gone. I don’t want to be out there worrying about the shots I think I should get or what someone wants to see from me. I have enough confidence in my own style and work ethic to know I’ll get the work done. This ain’t my first rodeo, after all.
Anyway, I had a blast in Greybull. The Rodeo was incredible, the weather was perfect and the scenery was second to none. I can’t wait to get over the mountain again.
To that end, I’ve put together a little collection to join my Great American Road Trip series. I took more than 1,200 photos over the weekend, but I have to keep quite a few of them back while I pick and choose the right pieces for my magazine assignment. This is what I can share for now.
Top to Bottom:
1. Abstract Updownism in the Big Horn Mountains!
2. Copeman’s Tomb, Big Horn Mountains.
3. We stopped here to pee. I’m glad we did. Big Horn Mountains.
4. A real deal Big Horn Breakfast at Lisa’s in Greybull.
5. Wilford Brimley, star of stage and screen. I wish I could say he warmed up to me as the day went on… but he did not.
6. A young cowboy at the Saddle Bronc Event, Hands Across the Saddle.
7. Pro Bronc Rider. Scary stuff.
8. Panning action of the barrel races.
9. More Bronc action.
10. Alex Johnstone, one of the all-time legendary cowboys.
11. Taking in the rodeo action.
12. A painted horse, a broken down barn, the Big Horn Mountains.
13. Big Horn sunset.
13. Megan’s aunt, Lisa. Train engineer. Restaurateur. Author. Owner of Lisa’s Restaurant in Greybull, my favorite Wyoming eatery. Best of all, an absolutely fantastic person, like every member of Jahrensy’s crew!