I haven’t really been to a rodeo yet in Montana. I did attend the Cleveland Rancher’s Rodeo a few times, but the real deal is a lot different and so I was looking forward to photographing my first rodeo.
There have been other opportunities to attend rodeos. In the summer there’s always a rodeo somewhere in Montana. But the vast majority of these rodeos are run by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and they don’t exactly make it easy to photograph at their events. They restrict the number of photographers, they shake you down for cash to photograph their events, and they limit access. So when I heard the Blaine County Fair was going to host the Milk River Rodeo Challenge I made sure I was there.
The action inside the arena during a rodeo flies by quickly when photographing them. Each event happens at a different place in the arena, so being able to quickly move around the perimeter of the arena is a must. Also, because the event was held outdoors just as the sun was setting, working with changing light conditions was also a challenge. But I’m not complaining. Late afternoon light is perfect for photographing cowboys and cowgirls riding horses. And bulls.
One of the other challenges of photographing a rodeo is making sure you don’t get too caught up in the action. When a bull rider started to take a nasty spill, for example, I had to resist the urge to stop photographing. I just wanted to watch the action. But I managed to convince myself that I would just have to watch the action through my lens instead.
The Milk River Rodeo Challenge was fun to photograph. But it begs the question, why on Earth would a sane person ever ride on a very angry 2,000 lbs. bull? It really does defy logic.
Here are 20+ photos from my July day at the Blaine County Fair’s rodeo.