Tuesday, May 1, 2018


I’ve been doing extreme action photography for over 40 years. Examples include many motor-sports such as formula race cars, Grand Prix motorcycles, motocross, top full dragsters, funny cars and drag bikes, WWII fighters and bombers. Some of the non-mototized sports have been BMX, hang gliders and sailboats. But, by far, the most challenging has been rodeo photography.  Why?  It’s not all that fast especially when compared to motor-sports—true.

There are two facets that make it difficult:
1.  The action is chaotic.  Because there are animals involved that the riders have no control over you never really know what they are going to do or exactly what direction they may go.  In contrast with motorsports I always knew exactly where my subjects were going and because they were on a closed course I knew about when they’d come by me again; that’s organized action.

2.  Rodeos are in stadiums which means there are fences and, worse, grandstands all around the subjects making a mess of my backgrounds.  This makes it very difficult to isolate the subject from the clutter of the fences, grandstand supports and a very colorful crowd of hundreds of people in those stands.

So, there are two ways to isolate the subject in stadium rodeo photography—you do it up front with your camera position….

f5.0 @ 1/2500 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 120mm
This method of isolation is just camera elevation. Easy if you have enough lens and you’re at the top of the grandstand. That way you can shoot down on your subjects getting just the stadium dirt as a background. Not all that easy because if the horse or bull get too close to your side of the stadium then the fence on your side will intrude on your subject. And, if they are too far past the center of the stadium then your background will be the other fence and those ugly grandstands.

That’s when you get this kind of image…

 f5.0 @ 1/2500 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 165mm
As you can see my bronc buster is pretty well lost in that colorful cloud of people behind him. Now the only way to isolate him is “in post”.

Here’s where I thank the “Great Cosmic Muffin” for Photoshop and layers, and my wife Kathi for her skill and patience in using those layers!

The first and hardest step is separating our bronc and cowboy, by using Photoshop’s Magnetic Lasso, to create a new layer that is independent from the background so that we can apply a gaussian blur to just the background.
Background Blur Added
It’s better and there is separation by softness, but there’s till too much color to really make him stand out from the crowd.  So, as a final step I had Kathi apply a sepia tone to the background layer…
Sepia Tone Added to Background
Now he’s really popping off the background! That’s all there is to it! You either plan and prepare—using lens choice and camera position—to take advantage when your subjects hit that magic spot in the stadium or you spend hours in Photoshop afterwords…usually both!

I suppose it’s all in what you as the artist will settle for as a final image…I don’t settle.

’Til next week….let me know if you have questions.

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

No comments:

Post a Comment