Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On the Road Again, Chapter 5

The Running of the Photographers (Photos (c) Bonnie J. Schupp)

Five days of work, fun

as photographers take aim

on a Western way of life

SPANISH FORK, Utah – On our eighth day, and after some 2,500 miles of highway and dirt roads, we arrived in this town about an hour south of Salt Lake City for the reason underlying the adventure: An assembly of close to two dozen stock photographers from around the world gathering to shoot Western images.

They had all paid close to a thousand dollars to take part in the event, with the money benefitting a scholarship fund at Utah Valley University. Organizers had taken care of the gnarly matter of model releases from anyone who could conceivably end up in a picture – even the photographers themselves – and arranged for volunteers to ride horses, rope and brand cattle, round up wild horses and even stage a rodeo just for them during a hectic four-day schedule.

But the bonus was all the fun and comraderie, with many of the participants – and a bunch of companions who paid $150 to be “socials” – meeting for the first time, but familiar with each others’ work. They are all “exclusive” photographers at iStock, a company acquired a few years ago by Getty Images, and its massive portfolio of images has grown beyond 10 million. (A tad over 1,600 of them are Bonnie’s.)

The countries they hailed from included Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, Slovenia, Turkey and Australia.

At the opening night dinner on Tuesday, May 15, they bought raffle tickets at 10 bucks a pop to take part in small-group photo opportunities, and Bonnie won what she wanted – photographing activities at a large animal veterinary clinic. Unfortunately, the owner of a horse that had a large abscess drained opted not to allow photos to be taken. Instead, she had the tougher challenge of shooting the vet and his staff working on a bull and cows that were hemmed in by a metal enclosure during procedures.

Me, getting an earful of equine affection.
There was a morning at a couple of dairy farms, trying not to step on manure (getting that out of shoe-bottom ridges was no fun at all); an afternoon at a ranch; horse riders galloping past at a wilderness location; the penning of cattle that were roped, one at a time, by men and young women and then branded and given numerical ear tags (the young son of one of the ranchers had some on-the-job training in both procedures); and a rodeo at the arena in Nephi, a town about 35 miles south of Spanish Fork.

The final event was a party at a home on the outskirts of town, where the backyard includes a full-size rodeo ring. Even lights. Sort of a “Field of Dreams” for riding and roping. It was built by Casey Pratt, a former cop who has a landscaping business but rodeo in his heart. And every year, he has played host to a rodeo gathering whose guests include world champions.

The various events showed how family is a key element of ranch and farm life, and even rodeo. Fathers teach sons and daughters, and the lifestyle becomes a bond between generations. There’s laughter when a boy about 8 years old tries to ride a steer as it was released after branding, and gets tossed into the dirt in a split second. And he gets a pat on the back when he successfully wields the electric branding iron.

Images that stay with me as an observer were of a dozen riders rounding up a herd of wild horses and running them past the lined-up photographers. And then there was  “the running of the photographers,” in which the horsemen rode behind as a group of the shooters staged a Monty Pythonesque slow-motion gallop. Two of the comical runners collided in the chaos, and three of them ended up tumbling into dirt. But no one (and no camera) was injured. 

And everyone took pictures of everyone, sharing them in posts on the event Facebook page – including the hilarious video of the running and falling photographers.
Bonnie and "Clyde" (Photo (c) Roberto Adrian Sanchez)

And our new friend Roberto, a Cuba-born resident of Miami, took a few shots of Bonnie and me standing in the dark next to a vintage wreck of a 1930s-style sedan – inspired, he said, at thoughts of Bonnie and Clyde. (Yup, I was Clyde.) 

Late Sunday night, back at the hotel, most of the shooters and socials partied outside the headquarters motel entrance sharing their beer, liquor and wine, and stories. Friendships forged since Tuesday’s dinner were evident, and Facebook friend invites ensued before the parting. 

One of the photographers, Owen from England, sat on a bench with an old iStock beret upturned at his feet. Others began tossing coins, and then a dollar bill, into it. Peggy-Jo, one of socials, wrapped a light blanket around his shoulders. Another made an impromptu cardboard sign reading, “Will Shoot for Food.” Shutters clicked. Then they all gathered around Owen – and the sign – for a group portrait. I shot it with Bonnie’s iPhone. Turned out pretty good, just like the entire event.

The last-night party group, except for me. (Photo by David M. Ettlin, that's why!)

Next Chapter: Surviving U.S. 50 in Nevada

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