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2022 Cooper, TX Rodeo: Life Through the Lens of Rachael Watts

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

Rodeo season is here! I have attended the Cooper Rodeo almost every year since 2015. They always put on a great show and the contestants never disappoint. This year was no different. From the opening ceremonies of prayer and the National Anthem, the pageantry of the Cowgirl Congress Rodeo Drill Team's pre-show performance all the way to the bull riding... this is a little bit of the action I captured over the weekend.

I've started trying to do some video lately. I have GOT to remember to bring my tripod for videos though, I apologize for the shakiness. I wished I would've caught the singer's name.

I used two different lenses this weekend. These pictures below were taken with my trusty 70-200mm. This lens is my go-to for just about everything. I love the bokeh it creates. For you non-photography savvy people, bokeh is the blurry effect of an out-of-focus background and is the result of a shallow depth of field.

All of the photos down below were taken with my 24-70mm lens. Notice how you can see the entire arena in some of the photos? That's because of the wide angle zoomed all the way out at 24mm. I don't typically use this lens for action shots. Mostly because I love that soft bokeh effect that I get at 200mm with a low aperture, but also because I feel like I am so far away from the subject and as a result miss some of the action details.

I love doing photo series. This girl had a great start, but her calf ran right through her loop!

Breaking down this series, the first two pictures were taken zoomed all the way in at 70mm. The 3rd, 4th & 5th pictures were taken at 65mm, 59mm & 42mm, respectively. The further the calf got away from the rider, the more I had to zoom out to keep them both in the frame.

This image below was shot zoomed almost all the way out at 28mm. If I had taken this same image with my 70-200, I probably would've only been able to capture the horse's head and the rider's hands.

I will usually always prefer a black and white rodeo image over color. There are multiple reasons why. Number one being the lighting. After the sun goes down and all your camera has to rely on is the stadium lights, things get a little... interesting. You would think they would be bright enough, but what you see and what the camera sees are very different. Because it's so dark, the settings on your camera have to compensate for the lack of light. As a result, a lot of detail is lost, and some images may appear very grainy. Some may have a green tint; some may be a little warm or have a hue of magenta to them. This can be corrected in post processing, but that is time consuming and leads me to my second reason: I prefer black and white over color for rodeo images is because it makes them timeless, and it reminds me of where the American cowboy and the sport of rodeo has come from. They made a game out of daily chores and said, "I bet I can do that faster and better than you!"

^ This image is probably my favorite that I took at the 2022 Cooper Rodeo.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures and possibly learned something.

What's your favorite rodeo to attend? What event is your favorite to watch? Let me know in the comments!

- Rachael

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