Monday, February 27, 2012

The Cinch Shoot Out

Cinch03 The final rodeo performance of the season here in San Angelo is a new format that has not been done here before. It's called the Cinch Shoot Out (Cinch Clothing is the primary sponsor) and the only way a competitor can get into the performance is if they're invited. Eight of the top athletes of five events (bull riding, saddle bronc, bareback, tie-down and barrel racing) go head-to-head in a winner-take-all format. The athlete that has the fastest time or the highest score wins a cool $10,000.
Let me explain how this works. Lets take tie-down roping, for instance, and you have the eight competitors all make a run in the first round. The top four fastest times move on to the next round. The roper with the fastest time gets to pick in what order he will rope in the next round. So, Trevor Brazile had the fastest time from the first round of tie-down and he chose to go first in the second round. He could have decided to go last to see what everyone else did, but he decided to go first. Cinch02 Cinch04 Cinch01 The top four bull, bareback and saddle bronc riders got to choose their rides for the second round. Some of these guys had never seen some of the stock they were about to climb onto, but that's what made it so exciting. I think that if they had to do it all over again some of them might pick a different bull or horse. Some of these animals were just to much to handle. But it was a great show. I wonder if there is going to a fundamental shift in the way rodeo does it's performances coming soon. I like the way the Shoot Out was conducted more than the traditional rodeo format. You can still have all the slack (prelims) before the rodeo to fill all the performances, but change up the way the performances are run.
After the Shoot Out, my legs were sore from walking up and down the Coliseum stairs for 10 straight hours. It was late and all I wanted to do was sit in a comfortable chair. I called a few friends of mine who I knew where going to be up late and relaxed a bit with them. It was two weeks filled with nothing but stock show, rodeo and playoff basketball. I have a few days off this week to head up to my step-brother's wedding on Wednesday in Denver and then it's back down to Dallas for another wedding this Saturday. I have a few major projects in the works, but I'm hoping that I can hold off on those until that first full week in March. Whew, life just moves to fast sometimes. Cinch05

2012 San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo: The Finals

FinalsRodeo04 I knew going into Saturday that it was going to be one long, arduous session of nothing but rodeo activity. I was assigned to shoot both the finals rodeo that afternoon followed by the Cinch Shoot Out that evening. Fortunately, we were going to be double staffing both performances so I wasn't going to be responsible for shooting everything. Cynthia, our other full-time photographer who has recently returned to us from maternity leave, and I hashed out a plan that would be pretty easy to execute. For the first performance, I would stay down on ground level to shoot a majority of the action while she would stay up top and shoot features. For the Shoot Out we would switch positions, I'll take of the feature photos while she took care of the action.
I think I have switched my favorite rodeo competition from bull riding to bareback, and it was this year's competitiveness in that event at our rodeo that did it for me. There was a kid from Lubbock, my old stomping grounds, named Wes Stevenson who gave a great show in the bareback competition. I guess I've changed up my preference because in the performances I saw, the bull riding was terrible. No one could ride for the full eight seconds and there was no real drama. But bareback on the other hand was full of drama. Riders were scoring in the high 80s making for a tight race to get into the Finals rodeo at the end of the week. And Saturday's matinee Finals performance was great. FinalsRodeo07 FinalsRodeo05 FinalsRodeo01 Here's the rundown of what happened and who won each event at the Finals Rodeo:

- Former world champion steer wrestler Olin Hannum took top honors with a combined time of 15.1 seconds and set a new San Angelo Rodeo record with a 3.2-second run in the finals.
- Texas natives Tate and Dakota Kirchenschlager won team roping with a total time of 22.1 seconds. They had a time of 4.8 seconds in the finals.
- Wes Stevenson of Lubbock won the bareback competition with a 87-point ride in the finals. His total combined score was 170.
- Wade Sundell won the saddle bronc competition with a combined score of 174. In the finals, Sundell missed a 90-point ride by just one point.
- Cory Solomon won the tie-down competition with a combined time of 35.7 seconds. Solomon beat out some of the biggest names in calf roping to win the event.
- Brittany Pozzi won the barrel racing event (the only female event in professional rodeo) with a time of 14.34 seconds in the finals. She rides a palomino named Duke.
- Nevada Newman won the bull riding by default because no one was able to stay on the full eight seconds during the finals performance. Newman scored a 89 on Wednesday to win the whole thing.

There you have it in a nut shell. Just one more performance to go for the night and the rodeo season in San Angelo is over. FinalsRodeo02 FinalsRodeo03 FinalsRodeo06

2012 San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo: Goats Galore

StockShow07 Day two out at the stock show was much better than the first. While there was still only just one animal on display, it was much better than a motionless flatbed trailer. Today's show: goats. Of the various goats that are on display for the judges, I would have to say that my favorite are the Angoras. Those are the ones that look as if they would be right at home at a Bob Marley concert. Just give them a knitted stocking cap and tie-dye a few strands of their hair and they'd be set.
I know that goat judging doesn't sound like it would be all that much fun, but there is a kind of suspense that goes with it. Part of it is because you never really know what the judge is actually looking for. Are they looking at the shape of the animal, height or the color of it's eyes? I have no idea. The judges keep a stoic pose, rarely revealing any kind of emotion as they pace back and forth in front of a line of nervous exhibitors and their animals.
Typically what happens is the students and their animals enter the arena under the watchful eye of the judge. They line up in a long row, face the judge as he inspects each animal. Specifically with the Angora goats, the fleece is inspected first. I came across a high school senior from Paint Rock the day before carefully going over every inch of her goat trying untangle any major knots in the fleece. I don't even want to think about how long that process must take. I think the judge is obviously looking for the highest quality of fleece, but also the softness and density of the fleece is also taken into account. Once a winner is chosen from the lot, the goat then go on to the shearer to have the fleece removed and inspected and then it's back to the show floor where the goats are judge on their skeletal and muscle structure. They do look a little odd out of their fleece, naked almost. StockShow05 StockShow06 I would never laugh out loud at a show because this all very serious stuff. The kids have raised these animals since they were young, feed and cared for them if they were sick and spend hours with them everyday to get them into top shape for the show. Plus, there's the added bonus that if you make your way through the very end of the competition, say in the grand champion selection group, there could be some serious scholarship money coming your way through the premium sale at the end of the week. But, there are those times when it almost hurts trying to keep a laugh down. There could be any number of things that can go wrong during a show, but the funniest of them all is when an animal absolutely refuses to cooperate. Mostly it's the goats that have that stubborn streak in them. Often they decide that they have been led around by the face long enough and put up such a fight that it becomes quite comical. You want to feel bad for the student who is having to deal with this animal, but at the same time, things like this happen at every show and is expected to happen.
Unfortunately, these are the only two days I get to spend out at the stock show. Playoff basketball and rodeo performances dominated the rest of my weekend. Just as quickly as the rodeo and stock show rolled in, it quickly rolled out. Even though there were a few days in there where I had to change gears and shoot some basketball, I'm glad that the these two weeks have finally ended. It's always a stressful time around the paper hoping that all the stories we have planned for the front page stock show or rodeo coverage pans out. I've had my fill of rodeo coverage for the year. StockShow08

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2012 San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo: Ag Mechanics Show

StockShow01 Finally, I got to head out to the stock show for the first time this year for a relaxing time of photographing the Ag Mechanics show and whatever animals I could find. Typically, the fairgrounds are abuzz with activity from the Midway to the Livestock Barn to the Spur Arena with kids, parents, animals and exhibits. But this year, there was a bit of a mix up in the scheduling of stock show and rodeo events. Normally, the San Angelo stock show and rodeo performances are held these two weeks of February and the following week the San Antonio stock show and rodeo events begin. For whatever reason, San Antonio moved their events up to coincide with San Angelo's. As a result, San Angelo officials had to reschedule just about every stock show event so that students could participate in both San Angelo and San Antonio. The San Angelo stock shows, along with the rodeo performances, are big deal and I don't have any facts backing up this next statement, but I wonder if the folks down in San Antonio are starting to think that San Angelo is getting to big for it's britches. Maybe they moved their events up a week to directly compete with San Angelo and steal a bit of their thunder. Whatever the reason was, nobody has come right out and said anything, but one thing I do know is that the fairgrounds just seemed empty this year. I know that we had a great turnout for all the shows, but usually there's more than just one show going on at the same time. StockShow04 StockShow02 On Wednesday I was assigned to head out to the fairgrounds to shoot some features for the upcoming special section coming out on March 4, specifically of the Ag Mechanics show held each year in the Spur Arena behind the Coliseum. This is a show where students showcase their skills in fabrication and restoration. Students build from scratch flatbed trailers, hunting blinds, barbeque pits, smokers and various types of furniture. But for me, the real stars of the show are all those beautifully restored antique tractors. Ranging in models from the '30s to the '60s, these kids bring these classic beauties to life for the judges. Amazing work!
But because the Spur Arena is filled with these inanimate objects with kids just standing around talking to judges all day, it makes for some boring shooting. I left the Spur Arena after a few hours in search of the next show in the Livestock Barn hoping to get a little more interaction. Little did I know that the Ag show was the only thing going on that day. There were a few people prepping their goats for the show on Thursday, but even then it was mostly parents, not students, doing most of the work. Another result of the conflict between the San Angelo and San Antonio shows. The students were still in San Antonio showing other animals and wouldn't be making the trip north until later that night. Oh well, guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow. StockShow03

Saturday, February 25, 2012

H.S. Playoff Basketball: Central vs. Lubbock Coronado

CHSplayoff10 Remember that back-and-forth game I eluded to in my last Central basketball post? Well, Friday's area-round playoff game in Big Spring was exactly that. I couldn't believe the speed of the game and both teams were scoring at will. At the half, the score was tied at 35-35. Coronado did have some size on their side with two players over 6'5". But it was the quickness of Central's full and half-court defense that regularly confuses their opponents into making mistakes and Coronado made several.
The story was much the same in the second half, neither team really taking a decisive led. In the last few seconds of the third quarter Central's Rey Pedersen drills a 3-pointer to give the Bobcats a 53-52 lead heading into the fourth. The atmosphere was electric, as if the whole coliseum was about to explode. The game was tied again at 57-57 with just over five minutes left to play until Keevan Coney hit a jumper to put the Bobcats in the lead for the rest of the game. Coronado pulled within three points with about two minutes left, but to no avail. Central answered back with back-to-back fast break scores followed by a Deon Morgan basket and Central wins 77-67. The place went nuts. It took Central 29 years to win their two playoff trophies from the last four days. CHSplayoff09 CHSplayoff06 CHSplayoff08 It's been really fun shooting the Central games over the last few weeks. Each game gets more exciting followed by an even sweeter victory. These guys deserve it. And I have to tell you, shooting a winning team is way more exciting than shooting one that's on it's way out. I know that I am supposed to remain objective when it comes the subjects of my assignments, but lets be honest, I'm human and I just can't help but get caught up in all the action. First of all, I can't believe that this is my job, taking photos of something this exciting. And secondly, why can't I get excited about Central's good fortune. I get to stay in the excitement as long as they continue on.
After the game the players got to cut down the net. Hunter Kinyon, the starting guard that injured his elbow and is now out for the season, got to cut down the first strands. If he was upset at all about not getting to continue playing he didn't show it at all. He kept a smile on his face the entire time and rejoiced with his team. The next game for the Bobcats will take place next Tuesday somewhere, we think, in far West Texas. Their next opponent will be El Paso Hanks, a team nobody thought Central would be playing. I, unfortunately, will not be shooting that game. I have to head to Denver Tuesday morning to participate in my step-brother's wedding. He's getting married on that Wednesday, Leap Day. The only way I'll get to shoot another game is if Central wins the regional quarterfinal against Hanks and moves on to the regional tournament in Ft. Worth. My wife and I will be back in the DFW area Thursday for another wedding, so I could easily pick up that Central game on Friday night. Man, I hope they make it to that next round. CHSplayoff07 CHSplayoff04 CHSplayoff05

Friday, February 24, 2012

H.S. Playoff Basketball: Central vs. Lamar

CHSplayoff03I'm a little behind on the most recent blogs. I should have been posting as soon as I shot these assignments, but we have been super busy around the office with all of the rodeo and stock show assignments plus the playoff basketball games. We have a tone of local and area teams still in the hunt for a chance to play in the state championship and some of them have a real chance. It seems like this year we have more teams still in the post season than usual. One such team was our very own Central Bobcats. This team has struggled over the last few years. Just two years ago the Bobcats finished the season with a 6-24 record, enough to finish last in district. But today, they are the No. 23-ranked team in the state and they look good. CHSplayoff02 Right from the beginning of the game (central was playing Arlington Lamar) it looked like it was going to be one of those back-and-forth contests with neither team taking a commanding lead. Central would score two points, Lamar would score three, then vice versa. Lamar eventually held a seven point lead (14-21) at the end of the first quarter, but the rest of the game belonged to Central. The Bobcats headed into the locker room at the half leading 43-33. When the second half started Central never looked back, leading by as much as 26 points before finishing the game with a 85-65 win to move on to the area round of the playoffs.
There was only one dark cloud hanging over the Bobcats' celebration that night and that was the loss of starting guard Hunter Kinyon, who dislocated his left elbow falling hard to the floor after being fouled on a layup. After he got up off the floor it was obvious that something was wrong. And when everyone saw that his elbow was out of whack, you could hear muffled gagging echo off the walls of the silent gym. I felt terrible for the kid, not just because of the pain he was currently going through, but because of what he had to suffer through to get to this season. Kinyon was on that team that went 6-24 and finished dead last in the district and he missed almost all of last season with a torn meniscus. Now, he is a member of the No. 23-ranked team in the state and separates his elbow in the first playoff game? That's just bad luck, plain and simple. He had to have surgery on his elbow yesterday.
But, the Bobcats are going to have to overcome adversity because tonight they face Lubbock Coronado in the area-round game held in Big Spring. From what I understand, Coronado matches up well with Central, but they have a lot more height. This should be a pretty good contest. CHSplayoff01

Sunday, February 19, 2012

2012 San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo: 2nd Performance

Rodeo13The best thing about shooting every rodeo performance after the first one is the new deadlines set for us. By that I mean I don't have to transmit photos back to the office as soon as I normally would. I get to shoot the entire performance from here on out without the added pressure of wondering if the Internet connection is going to crap out on me when I need it most.
With that weight off my shoulders, I was able to just sit and enjoy that performance just like any other fan with the added bonus of getting to take photographs in some pretty prime spots around the arena. My favorite spot to shoot from in the Coliseum is at ground level. There is a small opening on either side of the arena floor underneath the seating area that's perfect for taking photos. The first night I shot the first three events (bull riding, steer wrestling and bareback) from this spot. I was short on time to make pictures so I didn't want to move around a whole lot and risk missing something. But, for the second performance last night, time wasn't an issue so I moved around quite a bit. Rodeo12 Rodeo10 Rodeo11 I think I probably over-exerted myself last night by trying to move around too much. I guess I was just too excited about having all the time I wanted to make photos that I tried moving locations for every event. I think I'll stick to floor level for most of them in the future. Espescially when it's time for mutton bustin'. For those of you who have never been to a rodeo or county fair before, allow me to enlighten you. The great sport of mutton bustin' is when we strap our small children to barnyard animals and call it a good time. Get you heads out of the gutter people and listen up.
At every performance parents can sign their kids up to see who can hold on the longest to a sheep as they run about the arena floor. Aside from a high-scoring bull ride, mutton bustin' is just about the best thing to happen to the sport of rodeo. I'm trying to imagine how the conversation goes:
Parent: "Hey kiddo, you want be in the rodeo?"
Kid: "Yeah, that sounds like fun!"
Parent: "Great, put on this crash helmet and flak jacket."
Kid: "What's with those sheep?" Rodeo17 Rodeo16 Rodeo18 So, as you can see mutton bustin' can be quite entertaining. The kids grab as much fleece as they can and hang on for as long as possible. And to the victor go the spoils. In order for the winner, if it's a boy, to get their trophy, he has to kiss a Rodeo Ambassador on the lips. On this night, the winner was Tayte Cormier, the Ambassador was Shaylee Thomas.
After the mutton bustin' the rodeo resumed with it's normal routine with more bulls and horses. What a relief it was to have the whole rodeo to shoot. After the event, I headed out to transmit photos back to the office and to go to another assignment. I'd like to say that the last assignment was as much fun as the rodeo, but not every job we do ranks high up on the awesomeness meter.
I will be taking a break from the next few rodeo performances dues to some much needed time off, playoff basketball and an important assignment that I am working on with a fellow reporter that may have us out of town for a few days. More to come.... Rodeo20 Rodeo15 Rodeo19 Rodeo14 Rodeo09

Friday, February 17, 2012

2012 San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo: 1st Performance

Rodeo06 It never fails. Just when I think that we have all the bugs worked out for the performance of the rodeo something inevitably goes wrong. And it almost always has something to do with the Internet connection at the Coliseum. The rodeo is a big deal in this town so we always want to give it our best when the season starts. Not that we don't give it our best on every assignment, but the stock show and rodeo is super special.  So I get to the Coliseum early to check my Internet connection, like I always do, and it turns out to be just fine, like it always does. Great, now I can concentrate on the task at hand, shooting the rodeo.
The first performance of the rodeo is a crap shoot, meaning you never know what the opening ceremony is going to be like. There could be pyrotechnics, living re-enactments or an introduction of rodeo animals. It changes from year to year and will take two or three performances to get the flow of the show. This year's show opener is pretty simple, though the pyrotechnics are cool.
My deadline for the first run of the paper each day is 8:20 pm. That's almost unheard of in the industry. That deadline is super early and it's only that early because our paper is printed in Abilene, 90 miles away. With such an early deadline, I can only shoot the first three events, the bull riding, steer wrestling and bareback riding, of the rodeo before I have to start editing and sending photos back to the office. Every year is the same, I edit and start to send photos and the connection craps out on me. I try it again thinking I must have done something wrong. No go. This year, as a back up, I have a nifty little puck-looking thing that acts as a mobile wifi hotspot with me so I don't get into these kind of jams. I turn it on, but to no avail. It's closing in on 9:00 pm and I still have not sent anything back to the office. I give up and drive back to the office, missing the second half of the rodeo performance. Rodeo07 Rodeo08 Rodeo05 Rodeo04 Normally, we would use the strobes we have set up in the Coliseum to shoot the rodeo, but because we have the fancy Canon DSLRs, EOS 1D Mark IV, I can crank up the ISO and shoot just about anything I want and get away with it. The first competition, bull riding, was a let down. No one was able to hang on for the full eight seconds. Steer wrestling is always fun and the fastest time of the night was 3.7 seconds. Bareback riding, to me, just looks like hell on four hooves. If I were to choose a rodeo competition, bareback riding would be the last one I'd go for. Talk about a migraine. After I came to the realization that I was not going to be able to transmit photos back the office, I ran out to my car and headed back to the office. I was surprised how similar my experience was from last year. But I made it back to the office, submitted my photos and all is well. Hopefully covering the rodeo performance won't be as hectic tomorrow. Rodeo03 Rodeo02 Rodeo01