I grabbed my camera and met some friends at the Hopkinton State Fair to watch the Rodeo in the Grandstand. I started out in the bleachers, but soon enough became too antsy to be confined to a seat, so I needed to find a better spot to capture the event. I approached the fence – the closest you can get as a spectator and was disappointed. The fence was in the way, bad angle to capture the event, and I would be blocking the view from the people sitting in the front row. Julie, a wife of one of the riders (whom I’ve never met before), was there watching her man prepare for their competition. I asked her a couple of questions about the risks of bull riding. She answered the questions, then asked me if I worked for “the paper”. I told her: “No, I’m taking pictures for personal use and this is my first Rodeo experience.” That was all I needed to say… Five minutes later, Julie had me in the safety pen with the cowboys. It’s amazing what doors open up when you are willing to make conversation with a camera and a smile. I was the closest you can get to the bulls, the action, and the risk without being on the bull.
I was trying to find the right formula to prepare my camera for the low-light situation with the overhead floodlights being my main light. The lighting, my lens, and flying dirt from the bulls pounding their hooves, wasn’t easy on the camera. I pushed my camera to it’s limit, trying to capture the fast action in a low-light situation. I was ill-prepared and challenged with one lens (my 70-300 lens) and had only the environment light (no flash) to work with. I needed a faster shutter speed and wider aperture. I cranked my ISO up to 3200 and the lens was as wide as it could go.
I’m truly grateful to have had the up close and personal experience at the rodeo. I was within 5 feet from the bulls as they waited their turn to challenge a rider in the arena. To be there to capture the cowboys on camera as they prepared for competition and as they rode bad-tempered bulls was truly amazing!
I hope to meet these guys again someday with a better lens.