Taking One For The Team – Arcadia Rodeo – Arcadia, Florida

This is one of those photos that kind of make you laugh. I had to shoot the Arcadia Rodeo here in Florida last year. Arcadia is a quaint, quiet town…until the rodeo comes. Overnight this place becomes the mecca all things rodeo. The hotels and restaurants are full and everyone is buying antiques (this is really what Arcadia is known for).

To prepare for this shoot, I traded in my comfy sneakers for a pair of boots and spurs. This is an all American town. I pulled into the unpaved parking lot and made my way to the entrance. Luckily, enough I found the editor that was doing the piece. I didn’t stand out at all. I was properly dressed in all black with a big black camera, hat and sunglasses. You could have heard a pin drop. I was waiting for someone to yell out “Norman” like Billy Crystal in City Slickers.

First, we got the lay of the land from the gentleman that was running the show. Everyone was very nice and accommodating. I met some REAL cowboys from the west as this event brings everyone in from all over. I felt as if I was back in early America. They had a gun to shoot, I had a camera to shoot. So far I hadn’t pissed anyone off yet and wanted to keep it that way.

I took a few profile photos for the gentleman that was in charge and he lead us to the “press box.” There was an area right in front of the arena that was reserved for the media. This consisted of old wooden planks that were covered in dirt. I thought to myself, “What did I get myself into?” After I got settled on the floor, the gentleman proceeded to tell me this, “I wouldn’t recommend getting up after this starts. In this area there is lots of beer and guns. The guns are probably loaded. Don’t block anyone view of the rodeo.” I told him a big 10-4 on that one! I was glad that I didn’t have lunch yet or a Big Gulp from the local 7-11.

Since this was my FIRST rodeo, (I’ve always wanted to say that) I was not familiar with the layout. There was a group of people that put on an old western show and it was quite entertaining. The brawl, drinking, people getting shot, oh so I guess it wasn’t any different than regular life. Anyway, none the less it was neat to see. Then it was the one and only time I stood up, to salute our nation’s flag during the Star Spangled Banner. Then I promptly sat down as I looked around in the sea of 10 gallon hats and belt buckles.

The media was positioned right next to the pit where the cowboys suited up and got on their bulls. Thinking this was the beginning of the rodeo, I was all ready. Until, the action was starting at the other end of the arena. Apparently there is a sport called “Mutton Riding”. This to me is a legal way to have an animal beat the crap out of your kid. I can see why this is so popular with parents. Basically, they slap a helmet on the kid and tell them to hang on the back of the sheep. They give the sheep a good crack in the hind end and off the kid and sheep goes. The goal like in the regular rodeo is to stay on as long as possible. Some did better than others. I was using my 80mm-400mm lens to reach out in the middle of the arena to catch the action. I set this up as I did with To Catch An Angel or Flyin’ Out. Fast shutter speed and motorin’ the camera.

The poor kid in the photo knows what is about to happen. The dirt looked soft and no one got hurt. I had more fun watching the kids take a dirt dive I forgot what I was really there for.

At the end of the day, take your camera and get your kids to ride a sheep that has been hit with a cattle prod. It’s entertainment at it’s best and I have found a suitable replacement for pin the tail on the donkey at birthday parties. Shoot lots of photos and you’ll come home with a winner.

Until next time…

Keep You Glass Clean


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