How to · Macro · People

Cobbling together rodeo photos with the “wrong” lenses

Before leaving home on my current odyssey, I knew that I would be going without my favourite lens, the 70-200 f/2.8 VRII. As one user described it, “This Nikon lens … is an excellent combination for capturing everything from the action at a sporting event to beautiful images of a family against the sunset or a young couple in love.” Another gushed, “… colour, contrast, and bokeh are all outstanding, with good sharpness at 2.8 … The lens is a joy to use, quick and responsive … I’ve made great shots handheld at 1/15 seconds, which I never thought would be possible.”

For the last few years it’s been my go-to lens. Fortunately I’m happy to improvise – learnt over several years working in experiential education. Within my first week in Canuckistan I already had to figure out how to shoot the fast-moving action of a rodeo from the bleachers – too far for my wide-angle and 50mm lenses. I tried getting closer to the action by climbing onto the broadcast company’s scaffolding right next to the arena, but was chased off in no time. I name-dropped to get myself a good vantage point at ground level, but I still needed more zoom than my 105mm macro could give me for some of the shots. And so, for much of the action, I used the 1.7x teleconverter with my macro, to give me an effective 178.5mm lens – not a typical combination for this type of photography.

Three years ago, shooting at the same rodeo (with my 70-200) I revelled in all the opportunities to practice “panning” – following the subject on its plane of motion with the camera, shooting at very slow shutter speeds, giving me a relatively sharp subject with a blurred background. This gives the shot a feeling of movement, grace and speed.

Unfortunately, with the fixed focal length, I couldn’t zoom at all if the action came towards me. Secondly, I had to quickly change settings in order to “freeze” the motion in those types of shots. All in all, I was pleased with the results though!

Without further ado then, here are a few of my favourite photos.


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