About a week ago I attended my first rodeo in Morgan, Utah. It definitely was a new cultural experience … and a huge learning experience as a photographer. When I was a kid I loved to photograph sports (yes, I was the photo-geek standing on the sidelines of the football games, dreaming of a career with Sports Illustrated) and this was a fun way to revisit that style of photography.
Some things I learned were mostly about how insufficient my Nikon D200 is for shooting fast-action low-light events. Both lenses I used were pretty fast (Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 & Sigma 70-200 f/2.8) but as the sun went down I found that even at my highest ISO (1600) I was getting speeds that were way too low for the lenses I was using (along with tons of noise). Now, don’t get me wrong, the D200 is a really good camera but it has its limits, especially after the sun had set and all that I had left to shoot with was the lights in the rodeo arena.
The good thing is that while the sun was still up I could get decent shutter speeds, but the bad thing is that the light was best as it started sinking over the horizon. My counterparts, Ann Torrence and Rich Legg, were both shooting with some nice equipment (a Nikon D700 and Canon 5D Mark II) so when the sun went down they were able to get into those higher ISO values and shoot away. So … what did I do?
Well, as you can see in the photo at the top of this post, I started to get creative. I couldn’t get fast enough to freeze the action after the sun went down (note the movement in the above image) so I tried to find other things within my surrounding that told a story. I also attempted some panning (as in the photo below) throughout the evening. I ended up having a really great time in spite of my camera limitations, and got some good shots. It forced me to try new things and not just to get the regular shots that I was expecting to take. Not everyone can own or can afford the top-of-the-line pro equipment … and I am no exception. :)
BTW, if you are interested in learning more about “Rodeo Photography” Rich Legg has a post on his site with some good tips to get you started. Also, if you live in Utah there is a free “Rodeo Photography” clinic led by Rich Legg & Ann Torrence at the Sanpitch Cowboy Expo in Sanpete County, Utah on July 24th.