It has taken me almost a month to let my trip to Las Vegas sink in. The trip was a huge step in my rodeo photography career and one I won’t soon forget. I am so thankful for the opportunity and what it has brought me in the new year.
After shooting at one of the Arizona Cutting Horse Association (AZCHA) shows I casually posted one of my favorite photos from the week. I only started shooting these in January 2021 and was excited to be moving up from editing to shooting. Soon after I posted one of my mentors, David Hollenbeck, who is a PRCA photographer in Montana reached out to me about a position available in Las Vegas to shoot with Andersen C Bar C.
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe one little post lead to a last-minute pack-up-and-go trip to Las Vegas. I was excited, nervous and a little overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to expect. There were a million things going through my mind on that nine-hour drive. As the time was ticking down to arriving it was starting to set in. I stopped for fuel one last time before I was in the city and noticed an increase in cowboy hats and trailers at the truck stop. I had to laugh, you know it’s NFR when…
I got settled in and met some of the crew that evening and was thrown right in the next day. We started at 7 am each morning to prepare our cameras. We had to change file numbers, reset counts, format cards and test our strobes. I was also thrown for a loop when I was given a Nikon to shoot with. I am a Canon user and was familiar with how the camera operates but not how the settings work. It was a sink or swim moment. I took it all in and tried to keep it all straight.
I was stationed in “the cage” as they called it. It was simply two panels made into a little triangle on the far end of the arena directly out from the roping chute. I was in the main arena along with two other photographers. One was stationed to the right of me, diagonal to the chute while the other was in the stands right at the box getting candids or ropers.
My first day was overwhelming but smooth. I wanted to prove myself to the people who hired me and really impress them. I was soon sent out to do some candids outside and in the stall areas. I know they were expecting a lot and I felt a lot of pressure. I looked for unique perspectives and angles on many different things I could find. While on my walkabout I met a lot of cool ropers from Texas to Colorado to Utah. At the end of the day, I had walked over seven miles. My feet were killing me and soon I started to feel sick.
I woke up with a stuffy and runny nose and a sore throat. I thought it could be just from all of the walking in the dry air but come to find out I was allergic to the shavings and the dirt they had indoors. Allergy pills saved my week.
The rest of the week steadily coasted on, I was back in the cage for the remainder of the time. We photographed roughly 700 teams a day. Some I recognized from home and others were a little more well known to the western community such as Cody Johnson.
I joined one of the other photographers at the Chancey Williams concert one evening which was a fun getaway from the long days. I also got to see Randall King for the first time. We would get done late in the evenings and would miss the NFR. I was thankful for the Cowboy Channel to keep me updated and was still able to tune in.
Each morning I joined the photographer of Cowgirl at Heart Photography for breakfast each morning and shared laughs and good conversations about old west history and rodeo adventures we had been on.
I made so many new friends and connections and I learned so much as a photographer, as a business owner, and as an employee. I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. I am grateful to my good friend for inviting me and supporting me along the way from day one.
SInce this event, I have been lucky enough to get called back into action with Andersen C Bar C and will be headed to Wickenburg, Az in the near future to photograph more team roping action. I will still continue on with my own work locally at the True Western Roundup this summer and hopefully will have more scheduled soon!