In a split-second, the winner of our 13th annual photo contest ignites a vibrant vision of the West at its best.
R. Brad Stamm has one hand on his camera and one on the rail. At the Mission Mountain Rodeo in Polson, Montana, on June 23, he climbs up one of the five bucking chutes and leans over as far as he can, hoping to snap something before the gate opens.
“There are so many great images of cowboys riding inside an arena, but I wanted to try and get a different image, one before the 8-second clock starts,” Stamm says. Careful to stay safely out of the way, Stamm waited until a chute cleared, then scaled his way up the metal pipe railing to wait for his chance. “One hand on the rail and one holding the camera, it was really a blind shot,” he says. “I did not know what I captured until I could review the images later.”
Bursting off the page, there they are, three cowboys and a horse, frozen in a single flash. “Rodeo is such a traditional part of the West, but so is devotion to friends, teamwork, and the sport,” says Stamm, who named the piece Teamwork to honor every subject in the frame. Bound together in feverish dedication to the task at hand, this brotherhood behind the scenes represents to Stamm the enduring values of Western culture, even if only illuminated for an intense instant.
“What I really hoped to capture was a split-second, an in-between, an emotional moment. One where you had no idea where it was going. Not a highly composed shot,” Stamm says. “Instead, a moment that sped by so quickly that the human eye could never capture it. Only a camera could.”
“This is my favorite rodeo shot. It’s executed well, and the photographer placed the viewer in the action rather than in the bleachers.” –E. Dan Klepper, Guest Judge
From the February/March 2018 issue. Available now on newsstands (or click here to order the magazine).