Photographing Ranch Sorting in Spanish Fork

And The Challenges That Came With It

This month, the URSA (Utah Ranch Sorting Association), held a show at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds. It was cold, snowy, wet, and muddy, but we had a great day of riding and shooting. 

My family and I are a few of the folks in charge of setting up and making sure the show runs smoothly. So we’re usually at the show first and leaving last. I figured since I’m already there, why not bring the camera and shoot some images of the show and sell a few afterwards? Turns out shooting an event and riding in it at the same time is harder than it sounds. Made for a great learning experience though and led to some awesome opportunities. 

The Challenges

The main challenge was the light in the indoor arena we were in. Either your highlights were completely blown out by the windows, or you were so underexposed that there was no usable image. Keep in mind that I was also shooting moving horses and cattle. This means I’m shooting with a shutter speed of at least 1/200-1/250 making getting that exposure even more difficult. Another challenge that soon presented itself was just the sheer amount of images I was taking. By the end of the day I had over 1200 images to cull. My last challenge of the day was just overcoming some bad luck in the sorting pen… but we all have our bad days. Just hoping next months show will turn out a little better for us. 

The Solutions

The short answer to solving my lighting issue was… I didn’t. There are some scenarios that you can’t do anything about and, as a photographer, you have to learn to work around them. To make the best of it, I adjusted my shutter speed to shoot some slower scenes (i.e. portraits). I really had to push my ISO up to a level that I would never usually shoot at. In fact I lost quite a few images just because there was a little too much noise in them. The only thing that saved that shoot for me was my glass. I was shooting a fairly fast telephoto (the M. Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8) this allowed me to take in much more light and still keep most everything in focus. 

As far as shooting an excessive amount of images, my main take away from that was only shoot 2-3 images per person or per run. If you shoot an event like this you may be shooting for 8-10 hours and our association runs about 1200 teams per weekend. That’s ALOT of images. I learned that I need to be a lot more patient in my shooting, and wait for the good images to present themselves. There’s plenty of opportunities throughout the day to get a good image of every rider. Another good idea is to shoot on multiple SD cards. For every 400-500 images I took, I threw another card in. This makes it easier on your computer when you import photos, as well as ensures you have at least some images if you have a card corrupt. 

Long story short, I’m very happy with the images I was able to produce in such challenging conditions and will continue to shoot events like this one to learn more. Because I spent the day shooting the show, I got the approval to provide a sponsorship and am now the associations go to for their media content! It’s definitely a step in the right direction of where I want the business to go.

If you are interested in purchasing or viewing the images, please click HERE. If you’re interested in coming to one of Utah Ranch Sorting’s shows, you can view the calendar HERE or come to the next show in Cedar City, UT. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at

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