This weekend I had a chance to photograph the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace. My friend Matt Cohen, has been covering rodeo for years (his photo was used as the main advertisement for the Red Bluff Round Up Rodeo) and has a strong enough relationship in the industry to be able to get extra credentials. I saw on facebook he had a spare credential and I had spare time, so I was able to shoot rodeo. YeeHaw!
I had previously been a spectator for PBR (Professional Bull Riding) at Arco Arena thanks to my mom's love of all things "cowboy." But this was a full on rodeo with Bareback Riding, Steer Wrestling, Saddle Bronc Riding, Team Roping, Tie-Down Roping, Barrel Racing and of course Bull Riding. I thought the bull riding was going to be my favorite, but I think I walked away being most impressed by the Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls. These girls are doing tricks on horses that are galloping around the arean full trot. CRAZY!!
It's almost debatable which is more dangerous considering they are in pretty costumes as opposed to protective gear, but I think I was most impressed just because it was unexpected and new to me, where bull riding I had an idea of what to expect.
This makes me really want to go home and watch one of my top 5 movies, Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken =)
But back to the rodeo. Started with the bareback riding.
And then WOMEN'S bare back riding, you go girls!!
Next was Steer Wrestling... this was crazy. You have to basically fall off your horse, onto a steer, and then man on man, or rather man on steer, have to wrestle it down.
This was followed by Saddle Bronc Riding. For this set, Matt let me borrow the strobes he had set up which helped considering the Cow Palace is REALLY DARK inside, but my images were still no match for his (check out his blog about GNR here)
Then they announced that Giants had beat the Phillies and were going to the World Series!!
Next up, team roping. This seemed like the event the required the most pure skill and less danger. THe first cowboy had to lasso around the horns, then the second had to get the feet.
That was followed by Tie-Down Roping. In this event, the cowboy has to lasso the calf, jump of his horse, pull on the rope to get to the calf, flip the calf down, tie him up, and you only get scored if the calf doesn't struggle free within 6 seconds.
At first glance, this one appeared the saddest because you see the calves laying there all tied up, but then immediately the other cowboys untie the calf and he walks away, no harm done.
Next to last was the women's barrel racing. This one was impressive because you realize more here than any other event that DANG these horses are athletes. They are more fit both physically and mentally than any human athlete I've seen.
The only problem is, sometime the forget their rider.
This was possibly the highlight for me: Ever heard of "Sallie Gardner at a Gallop"? Probably not but I'm sure you've seen the black and white photo of a horse with all hooves off the ground. Story goes, Leland Stanford wanted to prove the debate that a horse is airborne in the midst of a gallop. He hired Eadweard Muybridge who was able to take a picture of a horse mid-air. The original negative from 1877 had been retouched and was dismissed but in 1878 Muybridge again proved the theory through an experiment involving 24 camera with shutters triggered by a trip write from the horse's hooves, and this experiment led to the development of "motion pictures." And I caught one frame of a horse mid-air, yay!
Then it was time for the main event, bull riding!!
I will also note some of the awesome names that just sound like cowboys: Chad Everett Denton, Cody Bullock, Brett Bush, Colin McTaggart, Blake Hirdes, Chant DeForest, Levi Rosser, Jake Wright, Heath Ford just to name a few! My mom said, in her mind, this was the most exciting thing I've ever photographed "because they are real men"... so here's some cowboy shots for her, though I resisted full on wrangler butts... this time ;-)
This was such an awesome experience and I hope I can photograph rodeo in the future. A HUGE thanks to Matt for getting me in and showing me "the ropes" for my first rodeo!!
All photos up at: http://photos.kelleylcox.com/rodeo/grandnationalrodeo2010