For those of you who aren't familiar with what a jr. rodeo is, it's gymkhana. For those of you who don't know what gymkhana is, click here. My girls do jr. rodeo. Yes it's scary, yes it's dangerous, yes you could get hurt. So is football, basketball, soccer, riding in cars, crossing the street, going to school nowadays. I have been accused of being a helicopter parent sometimes, but I don't wrap them in bubble wrap before they ride. I have threatened to..but so far I've restrained myself.
So, what does a photographer/rodeo mama do when her kids take the arena? Shoots them of course. But why stop at just my kids? Nope, I do my best to get all riders. These kids are working their tails off and so are their horses. They are on animals that could kill them in an instant should they choose to. Instead, they trust these kids and perform because they are asked to. There is a special bond between horse and rider and I wanted to capture that for them all. At first, I charged per image. However, I changed my view on that. These kids are the future of rodeo. If being able to spread the image of what they do to the world helps preserve the sport of rodeo, I'm going to do my part. Also, it is not just for the kids, it is for the parents to enjoy and reflect upon as well. The amount of time and money put in so their children can compete in these events rivals any other sport, I'll bet. Afterall, the equipment needs to be fed, boarded, chauffeured, health maintained, etc. That folks, is not cheap. Not cheap at all.
The coordinators of most of the rodeos allow me in the arena to shoot these kids doing what they love. Risking injury and riding on adrenaline to win a prize. When I capture those moments, they kids are pretty grateful. They download their images and share these pictures, have them printed, or use them as their profile pictures on social media. I get asked why I don't charge for this service, often. I do charge for prints because they cost me money, not just my time, but downloads are free. I donate my time during the rodeo and in post processing. I usually shoot anywhere from 350-600 images and cull them down to about 100, edit and provide for the participants. I do not sell many rodeo prints, but downloads and page visits are high, honestly. I will say that standing and kneeling in that arena, baking my pale freckly skin in the sun, jumping out of the way when that 1000 pound beast is barreling toward me, helping a kid who may not be able to get their horse in (or maybe falls off at the end and my mommy/"medical" training kicks in), is really hard on me. However, that is also my payment. Capturing their rush is my rush. Giving back to them when they've given their all is my payment. It helps grow my craft and business, and hopefully it helps them reflect on it as they grow as competitors. You can see some of the rodeo images here. The pure joy on their faces, the fear, the determination, and the time and money spent by parents, volunteers, and supporters of these kids makes it all well worth my time and effort. To all the rodeo moms, dads, kids, and supporters, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to do this. You've helped me grow as a rodeo mom and as a photographer.
Side note/question: Does everyone else still have major fear when their kids get ready to go into the arena? So many fears cross my mind: tripping horse, bucking horse, rearing horse, dragon swoops in grabs my kid, bee stung horse, meteor, etc. etc.