It was around 1985 when IMG's sports marketing group convinced Polaroid their advertising wasn't hitting one of America's greatest spectator sports, the rodeo. Although I didn't see it as lucky initially, I was given the responsibility for being Polaroid's representative and manager of the rodeo team.
I lost track of most of the team but followed the careers of several over the years. Tuff Hedeman became a three-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Bull Riding Champion as well as the 1995 Professional Bull Riders World Champion. Rod Lyman was president of the PRCA for many years and along with several other team members, including Bud and Jimmie Munroe are in the Rodeo Hall of Fame. It was a fantastic group of athletes.
When I look back on the adventure, it was one of the greatest experiences of my career. Unless you've followed rodeo, you don't realize the level of athletic ability of the cowboys, or their patience. While a big part of their score in each event is based on their skill level, it's also related to the degree of difficulty in working with the animal. So often I saw "the luck of the draw" played out as a cowboy drew an animal that was a minimal challenge to ride.
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I went to my first rodeo in Homestead, Florida. I immediately fell in love with everything about it and have been trying to learn to capture that feeling ever since. One thing I’ve learned to get good photos is to see if the rodeo has “Slack”. Slack frequently takes place early in the morning of the rodeo and is meant for cowboys to try out for that day’s performance. The stands are empty, the light is great and it’s usually free.
These images were all taken during Slack at the St. Paul 4th of July Rodeo in St. Paul, Oregon. I used a Panasonic Lumix G9 with the Lecia 100-400mm or the Leica 50-200mm lenses. I used shutter priority at 1/2500 to 1/4000 second with Auto ISO and continuous auto focus. My goal was to stop the action and try to keep the subject framed the way I wanted.