These horses were walking slowly alongside one of Water Valley’s backroads. We pulled over and I took a few minutes to compose them and a couple of cows in a few different ways. This was my favorite. The animals were languid on a nice afternoon in the Foothills. This field was beautiful to my eye with green and pale gold sharing space across the uneven ground. I used a small aperture of f/22 to keep the three horses each in sharp focus while separating them from the forest in the background. Beautiful country there. I’ve enjoyed wonderful encounters with great gray owls there. It was nice to enjoy another aspect.
I liked it in black and white too!
Kezia and I went to the first night of the Tsuu T’ina Nation Annual Celebration’s 43rd Annual Rodeo. Kezia’s friend was dancing in the Pow Wow so we did not stay too long. Definitely looking forward to getting back tonight.
I was fortunate to be able to join a great group in the infield for the first day of the 2017 Calgary Stampede Rodeo (thanks Todd!). It’s been a couple of years since I had a good opportunity to photograph down there. Our seats were at the top of the infield which afforded a great view from above the chutes. The bareback event was foreshadowed by the novice bareback riders and they had exciting rides. Below, Lane Ferguson from Granum, Alberta rode Xotic Departure to the day win in the novice bareback event.
A little while later, the professional bareback riding got started. Caleb Bennett and Up Ur Alley put up an 85.50 on the first ride.
Cole Goodine on Soap Bubbles went the full time as well but fell a little short of Caleb’s opening mark.
I’m always amazed watching both the cowboys and the horses – balance, power and speed on both sides of the contest. All are world class and they did more than their share to help the Stampede to live up to its name as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
Richie Champion astride Twin Cherry won the Day 1 money with a score of 89.00. The first image in this set shows Richie set up well on the horse during the winning ride. Below, the pair explode out of their gate – setting the tone for a great ride.
So far, spring has come in fits and starts. Over the weekend we had a day long snowstorm on Saturday and then it was warm enough to wear shorts outside on Sunday! Crazy stuff but not too far from normal in April on the prairies.
My son and I were out for the day and I photographed these horses when we were in Springbank, west of Calgary. I appreciated their ignorance of sleet falling and the cold winds.
The horse that ended up posing for me before padding away led the small herd up the hill towards me. During one of their pauses on the way up I took the opportunity to frame them as part of the larger scene of dawn on the prairie. As I said before, I wish I had brought some horse-friendly snacks.
(click on any image to open a higher resolution version)
The Bews are a ranching family and the youngest generation is following that well-worn path. When I was photographing them at the ranch Mady and Katie showed their ease in the saddle and proved to be very good sports while the shutter clicked away.
Katie was learning to trot and she seemed to master it over the course of a few crosses of the overgrown field during the morning. Mady practiced her roping which made for some great photographic opportunities.
While the girls rode, their grandmother Rosemary, grandfather Tom and his brother Joe alternated between time in front of the camera, tending to their horses and chatting. Very good people with lot’s of room in their hearts for their family, their animals and their land. It was a pleasure to spend some time with them.
Joe Bews in the morning leading his horse up with his partner by his side and later running through the dry creek bed.
Tom taking a break from the saddle
The last image I took up at the ranch was of the Bews family as they headed back for the trail back down to their farms. A warm thank you to them for coming out on a cold morning which became a hot afternoon. And, thanks to Julian Ferreira and his team at The Camera Store for arranging for a great day in the High Country on the edge of Kananaskis.
In fact, Julian stood in as a cowboy model in the cook shack and played the role exceptionally well.
Saturday was the last chance for competitors in the rodeo events to qualify for finals. A lot of fun watching these athletes (people and animals) perform. I’m heading down to the Stampede for the finals now but wanted to share some of the moments from the day of wildcards.
Sunday’s Finals should be the exclamation mark to end a great rodeo over the past 10 days. Good luck to all the competitors!
The rodeo down at the Calgary Stampede today was great today. It was Day One for the Group B competitors and it seemed obvious that they were ready to get started.
Here, Cody Cassidy has just left a perfectly comfortable horse to dive onto the back of a slightly ornery cow. The Donalda, Alberta cowboy did a great job with this ride pulling the steer down in 4.5 seconds which was good for second place on the day.
Blake Knowles, from Heppner, Oregon, digs boots into the dirt as he drags the steer to a stop.
Clint Cannon had a wild ride on Coal Black with the horse winning today’s round. It was a good Bareback event matchup and I would like to see Clint turn in some good scores and get into the final.
In the same event, Jake Vold drew Witch Doctor. The horse lived up to its name and was a tricky ride. One that the Bareback rider from Ponoka, Alberta was up to the challenge for. Together, the pairing won the day with an 86.0 ride.
Savannah Reeves, a perennial contender from Cross Plains, Texas who won the 2010 Ladies Barrel Racing event rounds the first barrel during her run.
I can’t wait for the weekend. The performances have already been great and I am excited about what we will see for the finals.
I walked up to a small group of horses in West Bragg Creek this morning as the sun was slowly warming up their frigid meadow. They were lined up along the fence, likely waiting for their morning hay. This mare walked towards me and when she was close I noticed the ice frozen onto the whiskers around the mouth. It was -19°C so the moisture in her breath was freezing as soon as it was exhaled. The distortion in perspective of a wide angle lens created an interesting view of her head when I lowered the camera and put it very close to the nose.
I love to show movement in my photographs. One of my favourite techniques to achieve this is to pan with my subject as it moves in front of me. I like the effect of the blurred elements stretching and wrapping around a train, horse or any number of other things in motion. The actual shooting is great fun too and I enjoy interacting with the scene to create the image I have in mind.
Standing on a street corner, a forest’s edge or along the fence at a rodeo, I will slow my shutter speed down either by using a smaller aperture or lowering my camera’s ISO setting. With the camera ready, I then focus on the subject in motion and shoot it as goes. When the panning of the camera matches the speed of the train, animal or athlete, the subject will remain sharp while the static elements and those moving in another direction or at a different speed will blur.
It is this blurring that frames the subject and creates the sense of speed. I like to play with the shutter speed to adjust how much blur there is and to affect how sharp the subject is. An abstract quality can be found in some images where the details are soft allowing patterns and colors to step ahead of the subject in importance.
There are numerous techniques to improve the success rate of sharp subject’s in a motion blur image including keeping the camera parallel to the subject’s path, starting to shoot as the vehicle approaches and following through as it passes, locking arms, shoulders, knees and feet and pivoting at the hips and many more. I try to practice these and incorporate as many as possible when I am panning.
The results can be really interesting and create compelling images. The web is your friend for specific details on these and many other ways to pan effectively. It is worth mentioning that while the slower the longer the shutter speed, the harder it is to keep the subject sharp, the payoff can be more interesting blur and consequently a more dynamic image. I often set my shutter speed as low as 1/10 of a second, which can result in more misses (blurry, unusable pictures) but when everything comes together there is a chance for something magical.
If you have an interest, give it a try and see if you like the photographs you create. It can be a great way to see a common scene in a new way or to pass a few minutes waiting for the bus. I would love to see any results you would like to share.
I was down at the rodeo with my kids and my parents for a couple of hours yesterday. Here are a few from the events that I pulled off between runs to the fair ground and the snack tent. After a rainout the night before, Saturday was beautiful. A great small town rodeo – definitely part of what summer in Alberta is.
Sunday was the last day of the Calgary Stampede. The final event at the grandstand was the Rangeland Derby where the chuckwagon teams who had successfully vied for a place in the last heat ran for the $100,000 first place prize. The final four drivers were Kelly Sutherland, Reg Johnstone, Jerry Bremner and Kurt Bensmiller based on their record over the previous nine days of racing.
Kelly Sutherland is the king in the world of chucks. Last year he surpassed legendary driver Dick Cosgrave for most wins at the Calgary Stampede with 11. This year, he came out of the barrel turns clean and held on to the lead tightly all the way down the stretch.
Lined up for the race here is the calm but crowded start to the final.
(I’m still not sure if this slow shutter, zoomed focal length image works or not but thought I’d include it anyways).
Coming out of the barrel turns, Sutherland was tight on the rail and even with Reg Johnstone. He pulled away through over the open track and beat the Bashaw Flash (Johnstone) by just over a second.
Kelly Sutherland’s thumbs up is a trademark move and with the success he’s earned, the Stampede crowd has seen it many times. Here Kelly celebrates the win with the grandstand crowd.
And here are some more images from the Sunday evening heats that preceded the final.
Jason Glass guides his team around the barrel on his way to winning Heat 1.
Another of Jason Glass showing the intensity that has carried him to a very successful career – including 3 world champion chuckwagon titles .
The horses of Ray Mitsuing and Hugh Sinclair in a flurry of motion as these two lead wagons race free of the barrel turns and out onto the racetrack.
One of the outriders pulls his horse towards the starting line for the next race.
Devin Mitsuing rounds the one barrel during the demonstration race before the heats start. The announcer narrates the race to help spectators new to the sport understand the rules and some of the nuances of chuckwagon racing.
The last image in this post is of Troy Dorchester as he rides by the crowd during the cool down trot following the race.
This year’s showdown final was great fun and was a fitting way to close out the Stampede sporting events just ahead of the last Grandstand Show and the fireworks display. I am already looking forward to next year.
Wild Card Saturday on July 16th was the last day of the competition before the Calgary Stampede Rodeo Finals. Billed “Rodeo’s Richest Afternoon”, Showdown Sunday is the day all of the athletes were gunning for throughout the event.
The top four money winners in each pool leading up to the weekend had their ticket to the Finals in hand so they had the day off. For the rest, this was their last shot to qualify for the finals. There were two wild card spots in each event so getting to Sunday was no easy task. Here are some images from the rail.
Bell Dinger bucked Chad Besplug of Claresholm, Alberta off just after the gate was opened ending this cowboy’s run to the Finals for 2011. Chad had a good ride on Monday with an 84, I hope he gets invited back next year.
Seven Persons, Alberta bareback rider, Reid Rowan, in the middle of a battle of wills with Gorgeous Connie. Reid won with a full time ride but scored 80 and missed the Final.
Sierra Stoney from DeWinton, Alberta bares down on the second barrel. Sierra’s horse knocked this barrel down while exiting the turn and she finished outside of the top two spots.
Despite appearances, Tyler Corrington rode Awesome for the full 8 seconds. He scored 83.50 and missed the Finals by half a point. The Wild Card saddle bronc event had a two point spread between the top spot and 6th place. Very tough to sit out Sunday when you’re that close to being in.
Ryan MacKenzie of Jordan Valley, Oregon stares down the neck of Gross Beetle during a 79.50 point ride in the Saddle Bronc event during Wild Card Saturday at the 2011 Calgary Stampede Rodeo in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
A final one from Reid Rowan, well known for his curly mane and his exuberant flair, here disappears altogether to suggest that the Invisible Man has taken up rodeo – for one kick anyways.
I spent the afternoon back at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo on Sunday. Some great rides across all events matched with fine weather made for a great afternoon. The rain came with a fury later during the chuck wagon races but left us alone for the rodeo.
As is the custom all of the day’s competitors come out at the beginning to tip their hats to the crowd and stand for the national anthem.
Here one of the mares, Lush Margie, launches Jim Berry of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta on a short-lived flight.
Wade Sumpter of Fowler, Colorado leaps on a mini bull before trying to wrestle it to the ground.
Leaping out of the chute like a beast on a mission, Broken Lady gave Ryan Gray of Petersburg, Texas a pretty entertaining ride.
Joe Gunderson of Agar, South Dakota pulls free of his ride, Kalispell Whiskey, as the horse runs along the rails sending the cowboys up the rails to get out of the way.
Kelly Timberman of Mills, Wyoming in the middle of a good test with Jay Bar Nine.
A break in the action for the Red and White
Clint Cooper leaps while his horse stands on the brakes during the tie-down roping event.
Mid-flight after being flung well clear of the saddle during the saddle bronc event.
Lane Stuckey of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta competing in the novice saddle bronc event gets bucked off Tough Alloy.
Cory Hines from Rocky Rapids, Alberta as he and Super Nest leap out of the gate during the novice saddle bronc event shortly before parting ways as seen below.
I had a full day along the rails down at the Stampede yesterday. Here are a few photographs I liked from the quick scan of the wagon load I took yesterday.
The rodeo is a great event and I’m amazed by the performances of both the athletes and the animals. Huge helpings of strength, balance and sheer will on both sides. And, a lot of fun to watch.
I’m just heading down for today’s rodeo, can’t wait to get back down there.
There is a small herd of wild horses that occasionally spend a couple of days along Highway 22 near Bragg Creek. This past week they stayed in one of the meadows with most of the group fawning over a very young foal. It was great to see them in the field and I was glad they didn’t disappear into the forest when I stopped to watch them.
Wild horses are a contentious issue for some here in Alberta. There are arguments over whether they are actually wild or are feral and what protections should be extended as a result. These horses stay on Tsuu T’ina first nation land and I hope they continue to be safe to roam the territory they have staked out.
I was out at the Folk Tree Lodge yesterday and had time to wander around the farm buildings and visit the horses. It was a beautiful afternoon, a warm day after a long spell of cold weather. I was photographing with a Lensbaby Muse which is tricky to focus at the wide open aperture but is really fun for the slices of focus and blur you can work with in camera. I really enjoy using this lens in strong midday light when I might otherwise be tempted to put away the camera and wait for softer, directional light.
Alvise and Paola were making use of the day and working around the farm. Alvise was up and down the road hauling with his machinery. The colors of the hard hat and the tractor drew my attention and made good subject matter for a few photographs before I ended up talking to the horses. They were not as inquisitive as a few weeks ago but still fun to work with.
My wife and I were out at the Folk Tree Lodge near Bragg Creek, Alberta to give the kids a night with the grandparents. We spent New Year’s Eve there with a great group at the invitation of Paola and Alvise so it was great to spend another night there – such a great retreat.
In the morning I had plans to wander the trails around the ranch and find a good spot to photograph the sunrise. I threw those out once I came up to the fence for the horse paddock. Paola and Alvise have a small herd of horses they take care of. In the pre-dawn I could make them out on the far side of the large field so I decided they would be the subject of the morning’s shoot. All the horses had to do was cooperate. Horses can be wary but their curiosity will usually takeover if you can remain still and just wait for them. It took a while but once two horses approached the rail and, after a good pat, went back to the herd, then the rest of the horses relaxed and followed me around as I worked with the increasing light and rising sun out of the east. I really enjoyed talking to them and playing with them as I was photographing.
In the processing of the images, I worked on a few different approaches. I will give the summary of what work I did in post for the applicable images in case you are interested.
Shooting towards the sun washed this photo out a little bit so I brought it back by increasing the contrast and black level in Lightroom.
This mare was easily the most curious in the group, followed closely by the black horse. Both enjoyed the attention and the scratches on the cheek and behind the ears.
The curious horse playing shy among the trees on her way over to the fence.
Brightened slightly in Lightroom and then I increased the saturation in the coats and trees while cooling the white balance in the snow. I spent about one minute on this image which is more than usual but I like the result.
This was the first horse to approach once the herd had moved across the field, into the trees and close to me on the fence. The sun was still a while away from rising so the deep colours in the coats was not there yet so I preferred this image in black and white. I converted it using the split tone functionality in Lightroom’s develop module. I like to use a a pale gold color for the highlights and a blue gray for the shadows. I increased the exposure to accomplish two goals: bring out the details in the foreground horse’s face and to lend an abstract, graphic feel to the other horses.
I desaturated this image in Lightroom and then used Topaz Adjust to bring out detail and to do targeted exposure adjustment. The sun backlit the horses and I loved the way it highlighted their coats. I used the adjustments to brighten the faces and bring out the detail.
Great subjects and fun to work with these images a little bit on the computer. Thank you to Alvise and Paolo for enabling a night (and morning) in their wonderland.
On Monday, I went down to the Lion’s 44th Annual Labour Day Rodeo for the finals of the weekend long event. This was my third rodeo that I have attended this summer and I joined my parents, aunt and uncle, and my wife’s parents. It was fun to enjoy a bit of time together down at the grounds.
I can’t say enough good things about this event. A large portion of the townspeople of Cochrane were down on the grounds. The banter between the announcer and the lead rodeo clown throughout the afternoon was fun and held the crowd’s interest between rides. The cowgirls and cowboys were impressive as they competed in their specialties. There were more than a few outstanding rides. I am always impressed by the level of skill on display at all of the rodeos, big and small, throughout Alberta.
I wasn’t at the rodeo on Sunday, so I missed seeing Darwin Wiggett and Wayne Simpson there. They both posted images from their time on the grounds – great work by both. The event drew a fair number of photographers but there was plenty of room to set up and move around the gates.
The Tsuu T’ina Nation’s reserve lands run on both sides of Highway 22x, The Cowboy Trail, as you approach Bragg Creek from the east. Every year, the band holds a Rodeo and Pow Wow in July at their Beaverdome and rodeo grounds across the road from the Redwood Meadows Golf Course.
The event is attended by nations from all across North America. The rodeo is a major pull for competitors and fans alike. Drawing on a rich history of horsemanship and true cowboy toughness, these men and women put on an exciting, unpredictable and truly enjoyable show.
Here is a sequence showing a great ride ending with a hard, hard landing…
… I spoke to this gentleman afterwards where he had missed a full ride by less than a second. He told me he almost had him and all he wanted to do was get back on tomorrow. Awesome! Pretty mean looking horse too.
I stayed late on Saturday night, with the sun leaving us in twilight, a moon drifting higher in the east and the bulls seeming to gain the upper hand over the would be riders. It was a relief at the end, as there were a couple of bad tramples. There may have been a couple of broken bones but not many moans. It has been said how tough cowboys are and watching a bull stomp on a rider’s knee or chest, that comes to light in the aftermath.
The breath holding eased as the last of the riders made their way off the dirt. Giving room for the beauty of the area and a great sporting event to take back center stage in the minds of the crowd as we shuffled out of the grandstands.
I already can’t wait for next year’s rodeo (July 22-24). If you can make it, you will have a great time and meet some wonderful people.