Rodeo Photography

Like most sports, players/contestants rely on knowing the strong points of their teammates and try to decipher the strengths, weaknesses and personalities of their opponents’.
Unlike most sports, rodeo is fascinating in that the teammates and opponents don’t think or act as humans.
The communication between rider and horse during a barrel racing or roping event is incredible.
Understanding their opponents’ traits during the bronc, bull or roping events is critical.
Rodeo contestants are true athletes and deserve far more recognition than they often receive.

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Bull Riding and Rodeo Photography

I’ve realized it has been over 15 years since I’ve worked on any form of motion/action photography.

With either night skies & light painting or my primary focus of historic artifacts and locations,
most of my subject matter has been very still. Depth of Field and composition had become my central focus and half my work involved tripod use for longer exposures.
This year I’ve been feeling the need to bring my photography back to me, inspire my feelings of creativity and learning.
I’ve gone back to many of the older techniques I learned in my film days, selective focus, soft focus, black & white (which has always been my preferred taste),
pinholes and zone-plates; I’ve even been trying to refine my use of strobes.
It has been difficult to find motion inspirational. I enjoy wind and water working a landscape but receive much more pleasure from simply watching.
The same applies to wildlife. And though I do enjoy partaking in certain sports, I find spectating is usually quite boring.
Reflecting back on my childhood, the two sports I always enjoyed watching were baseball and rodeo.
Besides requiring incredible athletic ability and endurance, I find rodeo fascinating because of the teamwork.
Especially when your partner, as well as the opponent, doesn’t reason with the human mentality.
Being able to communicate with your horse to make the tight turn of a barrel or cut a steer for roping takes talent.
Riding the bulls is one of the finest shows of endurance, agility and reading your opponent.

So off to the Desert Empire Fair for the bull riding and rodeo photography. Continue reading

Using ND Filters for Strobes and Speedlights

ND Filters, often used to slow exposure times can also achieve great effects with flash.

Being a loyal Pentaxian, one of the biggest limitations to my setup is the flash sync speed of 1/180.
I often wonder where Pentax came up with this exposure and why they hadn’t developed a higher sync speed of 200 or 250 like many of their competitors.
Then I remember my film days and cameras that only had a sync of 125 and realize that even a shutter of 800 is slow compared to the speed of flash.

Flash or strobe work is really the balance of two exposures simultaneously.
Background or intent – exposed with ambient light, controlled by shutter, ISO and aperture plus Subject – exposed by flash, controlled by ISO and aperture.
Shutter speeds don’t really come into play during the flash part of the exposure, as most flash units fire much faster than the top sync speeds in cameras today.

Often, I find the strength of my studio strobes and non-ttl speedlights powerful enough on their lowest settings, that even with a low ISO 100 and the fastest sync speed of 180
I must still use an aperture of f11 or f16 to keep the highlights from blowing out beyond recovery.
When I have my ideal exposure setting for the flash, these small lens openings often cause an undesired effect,
they create a greater depth of field, taking focus away from the subject. Continue reading