Friday, December 12, 2014

Unexpected Opportunities with Long-term Gains

Six rounds down and four to go in the National Finals Rodeo. This might not seem related to writing and books, but...Rodeo has been very good to me. Back in the 1990 when I lived in Tennessee, I freelanced in action photography and writing (huh, I still do). I shot saddle club shows, 4-H shows, hunter-jumper and dressage competitions. I had horses, one I was training for endurance riding. Another was a good "ranch horse," and since he seemed pretty smart, I sent him off for extra training. The trainer worked my gelding to be a header (rodeo term) and suggested I take pictures at his ranch for a charity team-roping competition. Five-time NFR All Around Cowboy Larry Mahan would be there.  
"Oh yeah!"   

Not only did I have fun meeting and chatting with Mahan, but I realized these competitors were anxious for pictures of their sport. I also realized I enjoyed the quick shooting, of fast moving team roping much more than the horse-club shows and hunter-jumper gigs I'd been doing. 

Next thing you know, I was a card carrying in-the-arena rodeo photographer. My photos and many articles were published in the rodeo magazine (International Professional Rodeo, not PRCA) and they called on me to cover the regional finals and write a few spotlight pieces. That was my weekend work. At this same time, I was an assistant editor for a national sports publication where I learned to "write on the fly" and work with Quark layouts.  

These two involvements sparked a great deal of what I do today, and it started when one of the area rodeo companies asked if I would help them produce a program for their next season. Hey, why not. I wasn't sure all that would entail, but I agreed. I didn't actually aid them, though. I did the whole dang thing! Ninety percent of the photos were mine, I shot products for advertisements, I wrote 98% of the text; I designed the cover and layout, and oversaw all the production. 

"Do a brochure, too," they requested. "A tri-fold." So I did. This in the days of four-color separation and graphics programs that contained only a smidgen of today's capabilities. The work was a real challenge, and I realized this new experience was something I enjoyed.

  The year of the rodeo publication, I relocated to Montana and although I continued to shoot action photography, rodeo wasn't a big part of it. But I bought my first dot com and published a website that's still around. It included a rodeo sub domain (that I've since abandoned). At the turn of this century, there weren't many rodeo sites, and my photos gained popularity on the Web. I enhanced the rodeo terms I'd written for the Lone Star program and put them online. 

Not did I sell photos from this site to a few international magazines, but the Idaho High School Rodeo Association bought one-time rights to my "terms" page to include in their Rodeo Queen pamphlet. I also used my rodeo knowledge to give color to sections of my contemporary novel Blood and Bond. It's not a rodeo story, but several scenes take place in that setting. All of this spurs me to make note of the NFR (and the IPRA finals in January). I like rodeo, and the unexpected opportunities that got me involved have blossomed into a many positive enterprises.

A note to writers just starting out: Don’t turn down any chance to try something different. You never know where it will lead, and if nothing more, the experience can possibly be used to enhance your writing projects.