Hi, Jim Patterson here from Phoenix, Arizona. I’m a college professor and photographer. This is a target rich state for photographers. Every year in February I try to make it to the Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Festival of the Cowboy), more commonly known as the Tucson Rodeo.
Wind and dust and a bit of rain were the backdrop of the first day of the rodeo. Having spent so many years in Tucson and having attended the rodeo in the past, it was really a coming home for me in so many ways. I’ve been through rain and snow and hot hot sun and temperatures at previous rodeos. I wish I could have worn my cowboy hat, but I knew it would blow off, darn it.
I used aperture priority, low f/stop (wide open aperture) for the most part, and shutter speed of 1/500th and above to freeze the action. I also used “back button” focusing on my Canon 7D. And I used shot at 8 frames per second to make sure I froze the action. You are only limited to the size of your memory cards, so take lots of photos. And get used to hitting the delete button before you get home to edit. By the way, I edit primarly with Adobe Lightroom, with an occasional edit in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
The wind and rain presented some real challenges in photographing the event. I was at the north end of the arena, which is located south of I-10 down 6th Avenue. Always AFTER an event I think of things I should have done differently. I wish I had brought my monopod, although that wasn’t crucial. I wish WISH I had brought my Tamron 100- 300mm lens instead of the all purpose Tamron 18-270mm. The latter lens was fine, as you can see from the photos, but I wanted a bit more reach. I didn’t get any keepers from the bull riding because they put up temporary fencing and I couldn’t shoot over the fence. I wish I had gone up higher in the stands for that, but then I would have needed a lens with more reach. I also sadly did not get any mutton busters, the young 4 and 5 year old kids who ride the very docile sheep. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen for you on a shoot. By the way, with dust blowing directly in my face, changing lenses is a no-go. I had to find a men’s room, close the door, and then change the lens. If you ever get dust on your sensor, you will find out how hard it is to get cleaned. No thanks!
What did go right? Well, I think I got some great bronco riding and steer wrestling shots. Use the wind and rain to your advantage. I think some of the shots look pretty good with the dust flying in the air like that. There are a few great photos I got of a Native American cowboy steer wrestler… I didn’t get his name, but what a face!