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Red Lodge 4th of July[Next Page - Montana Highline]
July 4, 2024

The highlight of the year in Red Lodge, Montana is July 1-4 when the rodeo takes over town and it is capped off by fireworks. I went to the rodeo parade on the 2nd and 4th for the first group of images. The 2nd was a fairly small kid-oriented parade on a Tuesday, so there weren't a lot of people lining the streets. But on the 4th there was the usual big crowd of locals and visitors.

The rodeo events started on the 1st with the XTreme Bulls, and continued on for the next three days with all the rodeo events. We attended on the 1st and the 4th. We had a different vantage point this year, high in the south grandstand. I didn't try to get down to the arena to shoot because they've got things more fenced off and I'm not sure I wanted a repeat of last year when I fired off 2,000 images and spent weeks going through them. This year I held it to 750.

For the XTreme Bulls on the 1st, it was overcast and threatening rain, so I opted for the M100 with 70-200 zoom. I set the ISO on 1600 and hoped for the best. It is just about impossible to shoot flying birds with the M100 because it does not have a viewfinder, just a screen. However, I found it was possible to keep the bulls on the screen and get some usable images despite the conditions. And I used burst mode for the first time in the seven years I've had that camera, as one point firing off 18 images in about 4.5 seconds before the buffer filled up and I had to wait for the next rider. I used some light Photoshop DeNoise to smooth out some of the high ISO color noise. The image shown below is the XTreme Bulls winner.

On the 4th, I brought the 6D Mark II and the 100-400mm zoom. Conditions varied from minute to minute. The best shots I got probably were of the steer wrestling. Although they were a long way away, the angle was perfectly head-on. Mutton busting was fun, as usual. There's nothing better than seeing kids getting pitched head-first into the dirt by a sheep. In a blue state, they would call child protective services.

For fireworks, we didn't have anywhere else to be so I shot it from home. The view from our yard has become slightly obstructed due to construction the last couple years, so to get clear I walked about 200 yards to the southeast and set up on a vacant lot. As I was waiting for the official show, I saw fireworks going off in the neighborhood and got a few shots of those.

It was the same camera setup as the rodeo, 6D/100-400, but on a tripod of course. I started at 200mm and widened out to 150mm later on, 4-second exposures, f/11, ISO 200, focused manually using 10x magnification on the 6D's screen. I use a cable release and just fire continuously, although I did feel like I was a little out of sync, triggering after the explosions had started. I slowed down a bit and waited to trigger until just after the rockets left the ground. Most years I only shoot one fireworks show, this one, so there's not an opportunity to do a lot of experimenting. If I remember, maybe I will try six seconds at f/10 next year. I briefly considered shooting with the both the 5D and 6D using different settings, but I thought I would look like too much of a madman if I did that.

Google Maps tells me I was about 1.5 miles from the firing site. Last year I was only about a mile away and zoomed to 76mm, which in retrospect was a bit too wide.

The image shown below is what happens when you bump your camera while it is in the middle of a 4-second exposure. I wanted to bump the camera just slightly to the left, but I didn't stop firing as I did it. It would be hard to intentionally recreate that.

Rodeo Parade



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