Hanging on and Holding Tight

October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

1. Jeep Steenhoek, a bull rider at the Jesse James Rodeo in Kearney, visits with friends before his event at the festival grounds September 15, 2012. The two-day rodeo was part of the larger Jesse James Festival that also featured a demolition derby, mud volleyball and a carnival.

For my One-Day Shoot I decided to go to the Jesse James Rodeo in Kearney, Missouri.  This accomplished two things for me; it let me explore cowboy culture a little more before the summer was out, and it got me out of Columbia…two hours out of Columbia.  I loved every minute of the escape.  Except for those few moments of panic that I wasn’t getting everything I needed.  And in fact I did walk away feeling I had missed some shots, but that’s typical for just about every shoot I think.

I was anxious about this project since it was to be event coverage, and looking for that five cents of string within the event, that storyline that would tie all our images together.  The initial plan was to go in and follow the story of a cowboy who travels from rodeo to rodeo in the area (even better would have been in the country) while also shooting the peripheral activity.  I did try to accomplish this, but the story took on its own life after I (and the rest of the class) looked through the images.  What started as a story of one man, became an essay on cowboy life, which, to me, is much more interesting.  I love the finished product.  One of my biggest regrets is not finding that overall and not taking a picture of the arena after everyone had left.  I failed to follow the “arrive early, stay late” credo in its entirety.  I also failed to stay within the shooting limit and shot well above 300.  This was due to a combination of things; my attempt at capturing action and having the camera set to rapid fire, my desire to try new/different techniques while still getting the “safe” shots, and boredom.  I was there all day and was keeping myself entertained.

For this assignment I wanted to push myself, to get closer and to not let my self-consciousness get in the way of my ability to take the pictures I wanted.  I also had a couple of other goals in mind including practicing unconstricted awareness and viewing the world from different perspectives.  So often I fall into the trap of anticipating the shots I want and getting only the cliches that permeate our understanding of the world.  Don’t get me wrong, this event was chalk full of cliches, which made my efforts all the more important. I did record some of the stereotypical cowboy pictures, but like Rita said, sometimes you just have to take that expected picture and be done with it.  So I did.  For the most part I did a fair job of not allowing my expectations get the better of my work, but I still have a long way to go.  I worked hard to be bold as well.  When I realized that my contact for the event would be shuffling me from one “interview” to the next rather than helping me find a family or person who fit the description I gave him I changed direction…literally.

I first noticed Justin Williams as he walked over to the shoots just before the rodeo started.  He nodded to a few friends and said hello before beginning to change.  He carried a dirty black duffel bag over his shoulder and was older than the rest of the riders, scruffy, looking like he had just rolled out of bed and was still recouping from the night before (which in fact he was I later learned).  He also looked like he had done this before. As my contact led me toward the announcer stand where I was to interview the announcer himself, I turned around and headed in the opposite direction to talk with the cowboy I hoped would give me my story.  I walked up as he was changing (bold move #1) and asked if he was participating in the rodeo.  He said yes, and that he rides bareback. I asked if he would mind me following him the rest of the rodeo (bold move #2) and he said sure.  I’m always shocked when people say yes for some reason.  I guess I expect the worst.  But it worked out well.  In the end I met some great people, hung out at a rodeo all day, and got a few more story ideas.  Below is the rest of the essay.

As the Jesse James Rodeo gets underway participants sit along the fences where the calves are kept before the calf-roping event at the Kearney rodeo grounds September 15, 2012. The annual rodeo draws cowboys and girls from the region to participate in events such as bull riding, bronc riding, calf roping and barrel racing.

Colton Michael makes the final preparations for his bull ride before the chute gate is opened into the arena at the annual Jesse James Rodeo in Kearney, September 15, 2012. Although Michael is a local, bull riders from across the state participate in the Kearney rodeo, competing for money and earning points to qualify for the Interstates Rodeo Association finals in September or the United Rodeo Association finals in November.

A bull-rider tries to hang on with one hand for what has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports,” at the Jesse James Rodeo, September 15, 2012. Although an average bull used in this event can weigh nearly a ton, riders continue participating, even after suffering injuries.

Justin Williams shakes out his legs minutes before entering the chute for the bareback bronc riding event at the Jesse James Rodeo in Kearney September 15, 2012. Williams, who works as a UPS delivery man during the day, travels throughout the region to rodeos and has plans to attend the URA finals in November, for which he is already qualified.

Audience members look on as a barrel racer runs for the finish in the final event of the Jesse James Rodeo. Originally established as a woman’s sport, barrel racing requires participants to complete a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the fastest time possible.

While changing shirts behind the chutes as he prepares for his event, Justin Williams flashes his tattoo of a bronc rider, September 15, 2012. Williams, who considers himself one of the “old dogs” of his event, said he’s been bareback bronc riding for 25 years and doesn’t have any plans to quit. Continuing to ride also gives him the chance to pass down technique and tricks of the trade to a new generation of thrill seekers.







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