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SHOOTING THE RODEO

Cowboys taming wild horse at rodeo image In addition to his trips to remote and (sometimes) exotic locations, Sartore has completed several memorable shoots in Nebraska. His photographs of Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River are breathtaking, as are the remarkable varieties of scenery and people captured in his 1999 book, Nebraska: Under a Big Red Sky.

One of the home-state events he returns to most often is the Burwell Rodeo, Nebraska's "Big Rodeo."

Burwell (population just over 1,000) is located in the middle of Nebraska’s Sandhills country and is sometimes called "the place where the Wild West meets the 21st Century."

It has hosted a rodeo for 85 years and draws a large crowd of followers both locally and from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Sartore being pulled back at rodeo by a holder image Sartore says, "This is kind of like the Grand Canyon of rodeo events. It's really big. It's epic. And it's nearly impossible to get a good picture of, so I just try over and over again. The ideal picture is going to be layered chaos." He has shot the Burwell Rodeo about a half dozen times.
From a technical point of view, Sartore says, conditions for photography during this late-July rodeo are excellent: "The light's usually fabulous because of the time of year it's held -- we either have thunderstorms or just clear blue sky, so the light gets better and better and better."

Sartore says he feels more like a Nebraskan when he's at the Burwell Rodeo: "When you live in Lincoln or Omaha, you tend to think that's all there is in the state. It's hard to believe we actually have the American West just a few hours from home."

When to Watch

At Close Range with National Geographic premieres February 5, 2007
Check your local listings.