La Charreada (The Mexican Rodeo) by David Shaw
There are so many wonderful elements in this photograph that I hardly know where to begin. Do I begin with the double spiral of the moving rope? Or, should I start with the mid-air, one-legged leap? Or, should I first mention the repeating pattern of the tiny row of hats above the fence that mirror the wonderful hat of the performer? What about that subtle line of chalk in the dirt that draws our eye directly to the "Miller" sign on the fence? Or, speaking of patterns in the dirt, what about the one-legged shadow?
And then there are a few logistical questions that pop to mind — for example, how was the photographer so close to the performer, yet the performer so far away from the audience? Was it luck or incredible skill that allowed the photographer to choose exactly the right shutter speed to render the performer in sharp clarity, but the rope with slight movement?
This is a photograph that I would love dearly to examine in the photographer's original contact sheet. How many exposures do you suppose were necessary to get this exact photograph? Alternatively, I can imagine the awe and wonder I would experience if I were to find this as a solitary image in the roll of film.
More and more I find myself fascinated with the process of editing as much as with the process of photographing itself. I suppose this has to do with the volume of images we are all now making with our digital cameras. Selecting the specific exposure to use in the final project is quickly rising to become an art form all its own. It would be incredibly easy, for example, to imagine the contact sheet filled with images of this performer in mid-gesture. It's the kind of thing I think many of us would capture in several exposures, just to be sure we had a usable frame. Selecting this frame might seem obvious, but then again it might not. Imagine all the ways this image could be diminished in images that might appear on the contact sheet.
That so many elements have come together in this tiniest fraction of a second to create this marvelous photograph is, as I say, either a testament to luck or judicious editing. Either way, what a marvelous photograph!
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