There are lots of photographs of rodeos and roping, but few that show the speed and dust of the high summer circus in the American West. I’d like to think that this is one of those images.
It’s a interesting place behind the chutes at a rodeo; the cowboys are checking gear, saddling up, changing boots and joking nervously as their time to get on draws near. I spend a lot of time back there, watching and shooting, and the two men in the white hats made nice first and second layers for a larger photo of the world of small rodeos for the cowboys.
I’ve been very fortunate over these many years that a great number of folks at a great number of rodeos have been gracious enough to allow me into their lives and actually work with me in the quest to realize an iconic vision of the American West.
The Eddyville Rodeo was just such a place.
Well, I’m off photographing in southern Colorado won’t return until July 14. So in the meantime, I’m posting this image from my shoot at the (very) rural Eddyville rodeo from last week.
It was a grand, dirty evening due to the dust; when the light would pass through it, stunning shots happened. It also took me three hours to clean my gear the next day.
As the bronc teams set their mounts and prepared to perform, the sun dropped low on the horizon and the dust mingled with the latent clouds remaining after a strong storm had passed just to the south. The rider’s hand on his hip left a small space for the sun to illuminate the hanging particles of dust hanging in the air, and the light–oh, the light–on his hat and the shadow of his head were simply intoxicating.
My friend Jane Bell at Texas Tech is a fan of dogs, and the day after I made this image, I sent her a note with the image attached. I couldn’t resist the image opportunity, what with the cowboy and his rough-and-tumble boots, the grass-and-dirt texture of the rodeo arena, the miniature canine so daintily attached to the cowhand with a pet-store retractable leash and a paw raised in preparation for motion. Irony incarnate, say I.