In the world of sports photography, this wasn’t my first rodeo, but it was Maci’s last of 2020 – and it was an honor to capture it. Over the years of photographing many models and clients, Maci has been a regular collaborator for various shoots. Because of the frequent time working together, she and her mom have become good friends of mine. Maci’s mom informed me that her daughter would be competing in the last rodeo of her high school career. After learning this, I wanted to take the opportunity to commemorate her time in the Texas High School Rodeo Association (THSRA). When photographing rodeo events, even an “imperfect shot” remains exciting, engaging, and powerful. These horses are 1,200 pounds of muscle and force, so the “good shots” are excellent. Pair these extraordinary animals with a skilled rider, and the photos that come from that combination can be pretty outstanding.
While the main event may be on the arena floor’s red dirt, there is a contagious buzz of energy behind the shoots and up the alley. It was incredible to watch Maci fly down the alley with intensity and focus. Her red horse has just as much grit as she does. With nostrils flaring and ears flicking in constant response to Maci’s cue, the pair were a fiery sight to behold. Thundering hooves commanded the atmosphere, and I was privileged to capture the action of Maci’s final run.
As I meandered through the arena with my camera, I met fellow photographer Jason Noyes, whose daughter Heather was competing in barrels as well. Usually an aviation photographer, he captured a different kind of speed at the event. Heather rode a dappled palomino with a braided tail and brought an all-or-nothing competitive spirit to her run like she did the day prior. Despite falling the day before around the third barrel, it was clear she left that moment in the past. They were quick, confident, and sure-footed.
Kylee Ruthhardt was the final competitor I watched at the THSRA finals. Her white hat and white-blonde hair contrasted brilliantly with her dark bay horse. Her mare, Miz Corona Up, is the granddaughter of one of the most successful racehorses in American Quarter Horse history, Corona Cartel – and it shows. She favored him in look and spirit. The pair cruised to the day’s top standings and offered some really proud and energetic photos for this gallery..
As something a little different than the football shots I’ve been focusing on lately, watching these athletes was a breath of fresh air. I’m incredibly grateful for the relationships I’ve built with long-time models like Maci. It affords me opportunities to watch them grow and flourish in the things they love – and shoot in some pretty fantastic arenas, too.