Opening image: Skeeter In The Dust 1963—Louise Serpa
The bright lights of the arena, the rattling of the chutes, the roar of the crowd, and the click of a camera. Rodeo photographers must have a vast knowledge of not only their craft, but the Western lifestyle. They have to adjust to different situations—indoor versus outdoor arenas, varying weather conditions, where to stand, and what to look for. For them, there are no second chances or re-rides.
The ladies of professional rodeo photography travel mile after mile during the year to get the perfect shot of competitors and livestock. They’ve captured world records, world champions, and world-class talent all across the country. Their efforts and expertise immortalize a moment in time forever and preserve the lifestyle we love so dearly.
With a ranching and agriculture background combined with heavy involvement at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, Kay Miller has always been immersed in the Western way of life.
She has always enjoyed photography and got more involved while hauling her daughter to high school rodeos. In 2017, she went to a rodeo photography workshop with Terri Abrahamsen, a PRCA photographer, and filled her permit the following year. “I am very honored and proud to be one of the many very talented PRCA Photographers. I love documenting the history of the sport through the lens of a camera.”
Kay has had the privilege of photographing the WNFR the last three years as a media photographer, as well as the Prairie Circuit Finals, The American, and numerous other events throughout the season. “I love seeing a contestant do good and win. Being able to capture that moment in time with a photo for them is priceless.”
While Mallory Beinborn grew up riding and showing horses with her mom in Wisconsin, her mind wandered to rodeo and the Western lifestyle. About 15 years ago, she began taking a little Sony camera with her to horse shows, capturing photos of her friends and people there.
A few years later, she began her career as a traveling horse photographer, and was introduced to the Cervi family. “I was 100% hooked. I started going to any rodeo I could. I’ve had the privilege of working for some incredible people in the 15 years I’ve been blessed to be in this industry.”
Mallory has seen a lot over the years, but some of the most cherished are from the rush of brand new experiences. “The reward for me comes from when I’m in the moment shooting. The high you get from interacting with the people and the horses to create an image that you can’t believe you actually got.”
South Dakota cowgirl Alaina Stangle grew up on her family’s ranch and competed in multiple rodeo events before shifting her sights to photography. “When I was about 14 years old, my mom encouraged my dad and me to go to local roughstock practices. My mom let me try out her camera to capture the action. I seemed to have a knack for it and I was hooked from then on.”
She finds a great reward in helping keep the Western way of life alive. “Capturing rodeo action and memories is what I love to do,” she says. “Supporting the rodeo committees, contestants, stock contractors, and the stock by capturing their best moments is my passion.”
“Be persistent, but be patient,” she advises. “You don’t always know how things will end up, but trust everything will work out even if it’s not as expected. It’s good to embrace the journey through its trials and joys.”
Hailey Rae might’ve not been born into the Western industry, but there’s no doubt in her mind it’s where she belongs. She had always held an interest in photography, but in her late teen years realized that was how she could fully immerse herself in the Western world.
“I started out shooting Western events, 4-H shows, and cattle sales but stumbled into rodeo photography in college and fell in love. When I graduated, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do, so I worked towards my PRCA card and am now a full-time Pro Rodeo Photographer.”
Knowing that she has a huge role in helping save the rodeo history that is created today is incredibly inspiring and motivating for Hailey. “It gives me chills thinking about the fact that in one hundred years guys like Stetson Wright will still be a household name and that his accomplishments will help be remembered because of the time we preserved.”
Jackie Jensen grew up on her family’s ranch and began competing when she was about 6 years old. In 2008, she began creating senior portraits and photographing western Weddings. Business took off, and she decided that opening a full-time photography studio was the logical next step.
Becoming a PRCA rodeo photographer combines Jackie’s love of travel with the sport she holds so near and dear to her heart. “I love to travel and have been to both Africa, with Doctors Without Borders, and Europe studying the great works of Western civilization. In the last 10 years, I have photographed Cheyenne, Pendleton, The American, and the National Finals Rodeo.”
“When a grandmother calls and thanks me for the memories on her wall, it is so rewarding. I am a storyteller by nature, and photography allows me to tell a complete story in a single image.”
Natalie McFarland grew up involved in 4-H, rodeo, and a wide variety of equine competition. After graduating from Oregon State University with a degree in Pre-Veterinary Medicine and getting a job in the field, she decided to take a different path. Wanting to combine her love of working with large animals with her lifelong passion for the camera and the Western lifestyle, she established McFarland Productions.
For Natalie, the most rewarding part of her career is being able to serve clients to the best of her ability and getting to see the difference her services make in their companies and individual lives.
“Helping people, companies, and organizations grow through true strategy is something that gets me out of bed in the morning,” she says. “In the part of my work that involves photography, it is my way of thinking that a photograph is not just art. We are producing images that paint our clients and the industry in an authentic way.”
Roseanna Sales grew up a farm and ranch kid, always loved rodeo, and wanted to be a part of it. She fell in love with photography and the ability to capture moments that tell a story in the industry she loves so much.
The three-time NFR photographer and PRCA Photographer of the Year advises aspiring photographers, “Learn your camera, practice your craft, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you want to do it full time, take some business classes to learn how to manage it correctly.”
“I think about sitting in the stands as a kid and wondering what it would be like to be on that arena dirt. I get a lot of messages from women telling me that I inspire them to chase their dreams and, as cheesy as it sounds, if I can make a difference in one person’s outlook of being able to believe in themselves, it’s worth it.”
Lyman, WY, cowgirl Tanya Hamner grew up raising Columbia Sheep and a small herd of cows with her family. A lifelong lover of rodeo, when she found out rodeo photography was a viable career, she was all in.
She focused her Master’s thesis project on the American Cowboy, titled, “You Don’t See Him from the Road.” She traveled across Wyoming, helping and capturing the working cowboy. She still pursues this work by creating an annual calendar and publishes a coffee table book.
While countless hours on the road may get boring for some, she gets excited to meet new people and foster new relationships. “I just love every minute being out in the arena capturing the best photos of each athlete at the rodeo. Being able to capture the animal at its most athletic moment is so rewarding to me. Sometimes I find myself just watching the animal instead of photographing it because they are just that amazing.”
Louise Serpa & Mia Larocque
The woman who started it all. Louise Serpa grew up in New York City, attended Vassar, and went West at the first opportunity. She started with a $27 camera shooting local cowboys and junior rodeos, marking the beginning of a career that would span over half a century. She was the first woman sanctioned by the RCA to photograph rodeo inside the arena, and passed that legacy on to her daughter, Mia.
Together, they became the first and only mother-daughter duo to capture the sport, Mia recalls. “When I was in my twenties, I finally asked her to show me how to use a camera. So, we went to a hunter jumper show. I used to jump horses, and I knew what the image looked like because I dried the prints all the time with mom.”
She continues, “We went back and then she had me take time off work for the Tucson Winter Classic Show. The next thing you know, she asked me to shoot the Tucson Rodeo because she double-booked herself. I think she lied to make me go because she was there the next day.”
For Mia, it was flattering to be one-half of the iconic pair. “It was the best four years where we were shooting side-by-side or comparing things. I got to where I was doing all her printing and stuff for her too. We had a blast together, an absolute blast.”
“The Tucson Rodeo General Manager, Gary Williams, always said mom was the “Ansel Adams of Rodeo.” There was a journalist I used to shoot with, and he changed it up when he wrote an article about mom’s passing, and said, “No, she’s the Serpa of Rodeo.”