A few weeks ago I went with my family to a rodeo that came through town. I knew I wanted to go and I knew I wanted to take photos. I also knew that at every event like this I've been to that they've restricted the size of camera/lens combo they would allow into the event. Another thing I learned from attending these events before was that the lighting is always horrible...always, even if it's "good" by event standards, my camera thinks it sucks.
Going in with this knowledge, I decided to take my Canon 7D with Tamron 16-300mm Lens. I figured this combo would be compact enough not to alarm anyone from the event security and it would have the reach for sure, but would I be able to capture images with crappy light at it's F/6.3 minimum aperture?
Yes...is the short answer. The long answer is...at many times I had to shoot at extremely high ISOs for my camera. However, I've been to these kind of events before and had to jack the ISO up real high...then I decided to just put my camera away because I was a bit of a noise snob. Well, I wasn't going to let that happen this time. I wanted to make sure I came away with images, noisy or not. And, they were noisy...
The first event was the bareback bronc riding. I figured out real quick in order to get a shutter speed high enough to stop the action I had to bump the ISO high, real high, 6400 high. I was also shooting at the lens' widest aperture, F/6.3. This was giving me a shutter 1/250th second. That's not ideal for freezing action, but i managed to turn out a few keepers.
Now, let me say these were all taken from regular general admission seats. I sat there right next to my family with no special access. Also, I did run these through OnOne Perfect Enhance for noise reduction, so what you see here isn't as horrible as it was out of the camera.
I realized 1/250th wasn't going to cut it for stopping any kind of action, so up the ISO had to go...welcome 12,800, which is an expanded ISO for my camera, which means the display just says "H". I'm pretty sure that means "Howdy"...for Howdy, this is a lot of noise.
Next up was the calf roping event. This event was on "our" side of the arena, so I didn't need all of the lens here. I'll admit it ISO 12,800 scared me. So I thought I'd try 6400 again. I know 1/250th isn't ideal, but surely it will stop SOMETHING? Right? It stopped enough for this image, I guess. If you look closely, the calf is blurry and the horses legs are blurry, but I can live with that knowing both of those were hauling tail anyhow and you, the viewer needs to know that, too.
Next up, the barrel racers. Ok, these ladies come out of the gate hauling. This is going to HAVE to be ISO 12,800 speed. So, back to "H". I had several opportunities to photograph these ladies as they rounded barrels places all over the area so I didn't need all the reach this lens provided for this event either.
Lastly, the bull riding event. Everyone's favorite. You know it is because they make you wait until the end for it.
While none of these are award winning shots, I simply wanted to show you that you can use this Tamron 16-300mm lens to photograph fun events like this from your regular ol', general admission seats and capture great memories. If you have a "newer" camera that handles high ISO better than mine, you're in even better shape!
I'd also like to point out here that the only issue I had with these images was noise, which was a limitation of my camera (Sure, I could've used a lens with a larger aperture to help with that, but it would have been a larger lens and we are back to hoping security lets us in the event with it). The lens worked flawlessly and locked autofocus every time without issue.
If I could've smuggled a 70-200mm F/2.8 in I could have still captured most of these shots and I could've shot at around ISO 1600 instead, which would have been awesome. This was a family night for us and it needed to remain enjoyable. I didn't need to be grumpy all night because the man in the yellow jacket made me take my camera back to the car.