Yep, that's me standing in the rain waiting for something to happen at Spray, OR in May '06. My name is Alex McCreary and I am a photographer. Welcome to my About Me page!
I know if you've been to a Northwest Rodeo Association rodeo in the past couple of years you've probably seen some guy in a funny looking hat holding a camera and running around the arena taking photos. Well, it was probably me dodging the horses and the bulls and the steers and whatever else happened to try and run me over. And maybe just a few of you might have wondered "What the heck is that guy doing?"
Well I'm just out there taking photos and having fun is all. And as for how it all started we'd have to go back to the distant past when all I had was a Kodak Brownie 120 roll film camera that my Mom and Dad got for me cheap. Real cheap. Like maybe free even.
Or it might have been later on in grade school when we made pinhole cameras in class with cardboard, tape, aluminum foil and a 127 film cassette and then processed the film and printed our own pictures. Yeah, that must have been when I really caught the photography bug bad for the first time.
Watching those photos magically appear on the paper as it floated in the developer was "cool" to say the least. They weren't great photos by any means but to a 5th Grade kid they were the end all, be all. Yep, that's where I caught the bug.
By the time I hit High School in the fall of '78 I had acquired tanks, trays and an enlarger to process and print my masterful (or so I thought) works of art that I had shot with a used Petri Color 35 camera my Dad gave me. Then the summer before my sophmore year I got my first real camera. A Minolta XD-5.
Coupled with a 50mm f1.4 lens, I shot for the Yearbook the rest of my high school years. I even managed to purchase a 35-80mm zoom lens for shooting sports with as well as "borrowing" my Dad's flash to shoot the night stuff. Life was good and fun was all around as I happily snapped away at school and at home. I even took a few photos at the hometown rodeos. Outside the arena of course.
Then I went to college.
Short on funds and no room to set up a black and white darkroom,I started to shoot color film for the most part. I had pretty much stopped taking photos except for rare instances when I felt it was a special occasion that I needed to document. It was there also that I first stepped into the arena to shoot a rodeo for the rodeo club at the college. It was also that rodeo that I practically flew over the fence when a bull came back in the arena after leaving and snuck up behind me as I was waiting for the next ride. Yeah, everyone got a good laugh at that. But hey, I thought it was kinda fun!
After college I worked and lived life. Taking photos was a bit of a luxury as money was pretty tight most of the time and I had no way really to process and print my black and whites like I had when I was living at home so it was still the color gig going. More living and more life and more work and the years just kind of slipped by.
I was shooting so sporatically that I had a Halloween photo on the beginning and end of one roll of film...a year apart. Things were looking pretty dismal for the old camera even as the rest of my life was looking up.
Then about 6 years ago my daughter joined a track club. Ah! Now here's something to shoot. No-one else was taking photos of the kids out there running and jumping and throwing so I took it upon myself to become the Team Photographer. I was even selling the prints back to the parents to help defray my costs. YEE HAW! Things were looking up as I acquired better lenses, another newer camera and running myself ragged to keep up with all the kids in all the events in an attempt to take two photos of each child in each event they competed in. (I actually did manage it a couple of times even.) Then came the spring break of '03.
I was home alone while the family was off visiting for a week in Idaho when I happen to visit a local camera store. Seeing all the enlargers and tanks and trays got me longing to try my hand again with black and white. So I took the plunge, bought some film and chemicals, found my film tanks and set to work re-learning all that I had known years before. Freedom was at hand! By the time they had returned I had ordered film in 100' rolls, found my bulk film loader and was on my way back to being me.
I was still shooting the track club but now I started to throw in a roll of B&W to have something new to print at the darkroom I had set up at my Mom and Dads two hours away. Every couple of months I'd make the trek there and back and spend almost the whole time I was there printing one photo after the other. Sleep was something I didn't need. No time for it. To many photos to print. I was also acquiring more cameras. 120 roll film cameras. A 4'x5' Press camera. A couple more lenses. And shooting more B&W. And I went AutoFocus for the track photography. One body and one lens. A Maxxum 7 and a Sigma 24-135mm zoom.
I'd bought my wife a 7xi and a couple of lenses the Christmas before so it was back to "borrowing" her long lens for the track photos. Quick focusing and great exposures, the AF allowed me to think about the action more than about the camera. I was shooting 1/1 B&W to color now. But I needed an even faster lens. An 80-200mm f2.8 Minolta AF. Thats what I really needed to get. So trips to print on off weekends. Life was really good. Then it was August '04.
3rd weekend. Tygh Valley Fair and Rodeo weekend. I'm in town printing photos. I think to myself, "Let's go shoot the rodeo!" So I grabbed the best flash that I had and the best MANUAL FOCUS camera and lens I had, a Minolta X-700 and Tokina 80-200 f2.8, to go with it and headed down to the fairgounds. Not knowing any better I just stepped right out into the arena like I belonged there with my big lens and took photos the whole night. Look in the 2004 pages. There you will find my dismal first attempt at night rodeo photography. And the first rodeo I'd shot since college. Camera flash sync shutter speed way to slow. Everything is still in motion. But I heard of a rodeo in some place called Roy, Wa and I just had to go there. Had to take photos of an outdoor day rodeo. I had the bug.
So I went to Roy. Found out that I needed a card of some sort to be able to get in the arena. So I shot outside the arena for the day. Much better photos this time. And I heard about a Finals Rodeo in Klamath Falls, OR. I made plans. I went. It was indoors. And I found out that it was a NPRA card I needed to be in the arena. And this time I tried something different with the camera. I used my best MF flash and the Tokina lens with an adaptor on my Maxxum 7. Better but still not what I wanted. I knew I could do better. I knew what I had to get.
So two and half + years later and I have the 80-200 f2.8 AF lens and a matched flash for the 7. And I realize I need bigger, faster lights. Strobes for the indoor/night rodeos. And I also realize something else....
This rodeo photography thing is a real KICK IN THE PANTS!
So there you have it folks. Pretty much my entire photography history. Little bits and pieces may be missing but thats the brunt of it all. I just hope to be able to do this for many years to come. (or at least until I can no longer out run the horses, bulls, steers.....ect.)
As an after note of sorts I did go out and buy a digital SLR in February '07 and am in the process of learning how to use it. I'll use it when the situation calls for it but expect to still see me running from the animals with a film camera in my hands most of the time rather than a digital. Just something about getting done and being able to hold up the negative strips and looking at them that excites me. You sure can't do that with a compact flash card!
I can be reached by e-mail at
Borderline Photography © A. R. McCreary 2006