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!!

January 30 | Columbia JH/HS Rodeo

Yeah, yeah, this rodeo was over a week ago but I started this blog today so we’re rolling with it. Okay? Okay.

I was a bit nervous about going to this rodeo, as I had never been to the Columbia arena before but I’m really happy I went! Indoor pens tend to have better lighting situations than just covered arenas so the lighting was definitely on my side for these. This was my third time using my new lens and, of course, it worked beautifully!! The arena was set up less than ideal for a photographer, with the alley for the cattle on the left side of the alley. This made getting pole pictures and goat tying pictures a little bit more tricky, but I liked the challenge of being forced to be creative!! I always tell myself I stand in the same spot too often anyways haha

Below are just a FEW favorites from both rodeos.

View high school rodeo photos here.
View junior high rodeo photos here.

Welcome to the blog!

Hey, everybody!! Welcome to the NEW blog!

I’ve tried having a blog a couple times in the past, but I wasn’t consistently taking enough pictures to update it enough BUTTT 2021 is going to be a lot different than 2020 and I have so many more rodeos and events scheduled than ever before!

I suppose the normal thing to do in these things is to introduce myself, right?

Hi, there. My name is Jessica Smith. Here’s some boring facts:

  • I’m 19 (20 in March)
  • I live in Poplarville, MS.
  • I started photography in November of 2019.
  • I barrel race with my horse Spanky.
  • I’ve been apart of rodeo my entire life.
  • I’m a college student majoring in Finance.
  • I love all things western fashion.
  • I didn’t really like rodeo pictures at first. (obviously that changed though)

Despite what that last bullet says, rodeo photography is now my passion. I love the variety of events and the ability to make no two images look the exact same. I hate cookie cutter photos that pretty much make an entire event look the same.

During the week when I’m not playing in the dirt, I can normally be found glued to my laptop doing online classes at the University of Southern Mississippi (#SMTTT!!). I’m a full time student and a part time photographer, so to say.

I love getting to talk and get to know new people, so feel free to reach out to me anytime!! I have a contact form on this site, but I also check my Facebook and Instagram messages often. Looking forward to hearing from you!!