Tackling the Monster that is the Purvis Arena’s lighting

So, if you’re not a crazy photographer, you might not notice this but the Purvis arena is DARK. I have a theory that is has to do with how dark red the dirt is and how far the lights are from the ground, but that’s rather boring to talk about and I’m sure you don’t really care that much anyways.

However, this has a lot to do with pictures at this arena. And as someone who photographed their first rodeo at the Purvis arena, I can vouch for just how challenging it is to shoot their.

Anyways, back to what this blog post is about: my journey with shooting in this arena.

Like I said before, my first attempt at rodeo photography was at this pen. And boy oh boy, that was a rough place to start. I had only owned my camera for about a couple months and I didn’t have the “eye” to really tell how the lighting situation was. I thought since it looks bright enough to my eyes, it’ll be bright on camera, right? I was wrong. So incredibly wrong. See pictures below for reference to the tragedy.

Scarily awful, right? To be honest, I thought these were amazing when I took them. I was so proud of myself. Looking back, I was clearly having some problems to think these were remotely good. I did give them away for free, so I suppose at least I don’t have the guilt of charging for these images.

Starting to figure things out…

Flash forward: it’s November 2020 now. I had successfully avoided shooting at this arena at night like it was the plague. That night in March left me mentally scarred and I just didn’t know if I was ready to try something like that again.

But, as a stubborn kid, I knew I had to defeat this monster somehow. I had recently purchased a new camera (my favorite child, the Canon 70D) and I have a new game plan. I knew the limitations of my old 4000D would never have the ISO capabilities to shoot there, so the new camera was a must.

After that rodeo in March, I had actually purchased a decent telephoto lens: the Tamron 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6. I bought it used, and honestly paid maybe $50 for it. This was my ONLY zoom lens at the time, as the only other one I had was a 50mm f/1.8. The

November 2020. Purvis, MS
Gear used: Canon 70D and Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6

Now, before we dive too deep into it, let’s appreciate how much BETTER this image is than the one in March. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But it’s such a major improvement and I was so, so proud of these images because I knew that I finally had a setup that could take decent pictures at this arena.

Now let’s critique it.

First of all, this picture is NOISYYY. If you’re not a photographer, it basically means it looks “fuzzy” and not really clear. If you zoom in it’s really hard to tell specific things apart. I no longer have the original file, so this is after edits and actually reducing some of the noise. The noise comes from being forced to use a really high ISO due to a higher shutter speed and aperture. Even now, I think I did the best I could with the gear I had for this night.

The monster that is this arena was slowly being defeated. I just need a bit better lens.

The finale (for now, at least)

Whew, only a month later and boy oh boy have we made some changes. After the weekend in November I shot that rodeo, I finally had saved up the money and courage to purchase myself the iconic 70-200 f/2.8.

And now, we’re pretty much all caught up on my little journey with taking pictures at this arena!! The new lens was a game changer for sure and I’m so happy I finally bit the bullet and bought it. There was a learning curve to figuring it out, but I am ready for my next time to shoot there even more!

There is a junior high and high school rodeo here next weekend where I will hopefully take even better photos than before!!

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