By: Kacie Albert
NEW YORK CITY – At any given PBR event, while all eyes are focused on the jaw-dropping feats of athleticism witnessed on the dirt by both riders and bulls, numerous event staff are hard at work behind the scenes working to ensure the high level of production.
In the series “Behind The Chutes,” PBRCanada.com will profile these staffers, giving fans an inside look at who is responsible for the operations of their favorite events, and how they came to the western sports industry.
In Volume 2, we catch up with PBR Canada Photographer Covy Moore.
PBRCanda.com:What made you pursue a career in photography?
Covy Moore: I never really knew that I wanted to pursue photography whatsoever until I got my first camera while studying journalism in post-secondary. I was in love with auto racing and I wanted to be able to get as close to it as possible, because becoming a racecar driver was simply off the table. That first camera took some pretty great images, maybe not from a technical standpoint, but from a formative standpoint for the rest of my life. I loved being able to walk into any event or setting and be given the duty to tell a story through a still image that would then illustrate the goings on for the masses.
PBRC: How did you come to be involved in Western sports?
CM: I have always had a soft spot for rodeo and bull riding, growing up in Airdrie, Alberta. The Airdrie Pro Rodeo was always held on the Canada Day long weekend, which made it a very festive and exciting stop on the rodeo calendar. I recall a story from when I was a very young man at that event in which I decided to venture away from my dad who was enjoying a beverage in the beer gardens towards the end of the event one day. I climbed over the chain link fence and up onto the chutes before the bull riding, as they were loading the bulls. I recall the event effectively stopping when the folks on the back of the chutes realized I didn’t belong to any of the cowboys, an announcement was made that someone’s kid was where they weren’t supposed to be, and I was handed back across that chain link to dad. Obviously being as young as I was, this story is hazy, but when I close my eyes and try to remember my earliest memory of bull riding that is what I see. Beyond that, I got my pro card in 2012 after shooting rodeos here and there for newspapers since 2007, and have been infatuated with the bull riding community ever since.
PBRC: For a PBR event, walk us through what a normal day in the life looks like for the tour’s official photographer prior to the start of action.
CM: That depends on the event, where it is and what my own expectations and client expectations are. I am lucky enough to be able to cover almost the entirety of the PBR schedule in Canada each year, but the events with the biggest to-do list are our PBR Canada Monster Energy Events. Oftentimes those are fly-away events, and will start out in a hotel room. I will likely have visited the building ahead of time to see what the setup and logistics of the building look like. Touch base with the crew, more like a family.
Day-of will consist of arriving at the venue quite a few hours before the event. Part of what we chronicle at each stop is the set-up. Blaine Fyson, one of our tour managers, and his team have the backbreaking yet well-choreographed job of fitting a bull riding arena into NHL and WHL arenas, event centers and then at some of the smaller events, simple community hockey rinks. So a set of images showing how each venue is set up, sponsor banner fulfillment are a priority. Earlier in the season, I travel with a full studio setup to each stop which will then consist of rounding up bull riders for portraits, set up and take down.
In the last hour before an event I will spend a fair amount of time in the dressing rooms shooting guys getting ready, interacting with one another. Part of my prerogative is to maintain a continuity with imaging from event to event. If we have a new rider or American rider come up, I need to ensure that we have images of more than just action shots of that rider for media, social content and my own editorial uses. In a digital age of publishing, being able to keep a curated collection of images to ensure fans have that visual element that accompanies television, RidePass and news communications is imperative.
In the final moments leading up to the event, the moments before the lights go dark, I have a tradition of heading up to the concourse level. Peter Gebraad and Geoff Bacchus put together some of the most electric pyrotechnic shows this continent has to offer, so ensuring a suitable vantage point is imperative. Not to mention the hype that is built for this game when you are in or near the seats is almost indescribable. After the opening, my job really starts moving around, different vantage points for different matchups, and bringing a variety of impactful and publishable quality of storytelling images to PBR Canada on deadline. My work doesn’t end until the story has been captured, edited and delivered to the PBR Canada PR director, web editors and social media editors.
PBRC: What goes into capturing the perfect action photo in Western sports?
CM: The perfect action photo is a tough thing to describe. Each and every ride and run is different. Whether that rider can get by a big bad ass bull like SweetPro’s Bruiser is going to be different for every guy. The images of when Alex Cerqueira got him rode a couple weeks ago versus when Sage Kimzey got him rode at NFR are going to be very different. Kimzey was well out of shape atop that bull, but Cerqueira had a bit more composure, so the images will be vastly different. I have never been a fan of the term “perfect image” in photojournalism roles and in action sports. It’s tough to dictate, but from my end I think that images that are getting to a spot where an image is of publishable quality, impactful and storytelling will be technically correct from the photographer’s standpoint. Correct exposure, edited for the platform, focused on the action, tight and bright. Things like that make it nearing perfect.
A 94-point ride on Bruiser at the NFR and 91.25-point trip on Bruiser will never look the same. But ensuring you capture the action in the technically correct way is paramount.
PBRC: What is your favorite photo you have ever taken, and why?
CM: That is the toughest question on this entire list. I have been lucky to photograph the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, the PBR World Finals, PBR Canada Finals, Irish Road Racing, IMSA Endurance Racing and Prime Ministers. I have been lucky to be doing what I do for the past 13 years, and have taken some photographs that I consider equally my favorite.
Within our community one image does come to mind. It was from back in 2016, the first year I decided to step away from motorsports and newspaper work and go at the rodeo and bull riding game full time. I got an invite from PBR bullfighter Ty Prescott to come out to his place for a practice pen. It was April of that year. I didn’t know who would be there, or what really to expect. I had shot a branding or two, but never a practice pen. We didn’t get things rolling until very late at night, certainly more the early morning. Greg “Junior” Loring, Prescott, Brock Radford, among others, were there. Most importantly, looking back though, was Ty Pozzobon. I hadn’t gotten to know Pozzobon in the years prior, but had certainly photographed some of his time in Airdrie, the Calgary Stampede and a couple shows I had been at. This was different, though. Pozzobon and Prescott gave me free reign to shoot what I wanted, invited me into their lives behind the scenes. I feel that any photographer who simply shows up to shoot action isn’t doing the sport a favor because the work hours, the practice, the hardships and victories behind the scenes that people don’t see are as important to bull riding as what happens in the arena.
My favorite image I have taken to date in our sport comes from that night, when before getting on his second bull of the night, Pozzobon was warming up near the fire. It was at least 2 or 3 in the morning. And with cool temperatures somewhere near Strathmore, Alberta at that time of night and time of year, rubbing the rosin on your glove against a rope wouldn’t be enough to get it sticky. I turned around and there was Pozzobon, hand over the fire, lit only by the fire. Standing alone in his own thoughts before getting on a bull at his friend’s house, getting ready to make a monumental run through to the PBR Canada title and a huge finish at the PBR World Finals that year.
I have that image, in large format printed and on my guest room wall. He meant a lot to so many people, and I feel blessed to have been able to capture that last year, and humbled to be able to help tell his story since.
PBRC: What is your favorite PBR event to photograph, and why?
CM: Any time we get to go out to the east coast, and Ontario region is always very special. We are bringing a level of competition that they don’t get to see out there. The best bulls and best bull riders this country, and sometimes the continent have to offer. Their excitement is genuine and very contagious. I take nothing away from the events we put on in the Western half of our nation, but there is a level of conditioning to this sport out here that isn’t present when we take to the Maritimes.
There are so many incredibly exciting and important events on the PBR Canada Touring Pro schedule as well. The Bull Bash in Elnora, Alberta is fun. The hustle and bustle around the Ranchman’s PBR in July each year is one that I have been lucky to be a part of since about 2013 in some capacity working with Ted Stovin and Everything Cowboy. But to nail one down would be to go to a little barn in Stavely, Alberta for the Glen Keeley Memorial Bull Riding.
I didn’t know Glen. But the way the Keeley family has invited me into their event, and treated me like a friend and neighbor speaks volumes about the type of people the Keeleys are. That event brings out the fiercest competition you see all year because whether you are a seasoned veteran or a fresh rookie, the title and that buckle are absolutely coveted in this country. The community shows up, packs the house and is rooting for every single bull rider like its Glen Keeley himself. Not every event brings that amount of excitement from every aspect of the show. The fans, the riders, the atmosphere is all simply electric. Every bull rider shows up to every bull riding to win; this isn’t a game where you can show up hoping to finish second. But at the Glen Keeley Memorial, you will see guys put it all on the line.
PBRC: Do you have any bulls/riders you particularly enjoy photographing?
CM: Anyone that isn’t afraid of the lens. I consider most of the bull riding fraternity to be friends first, but in the same breath, I have a job to do around them. Being trusted by them is imperative to being able to walk into their lives in both moments of victory and defeat. Individually, each of the PBR Canada bull riders have traits that are fun to photograph. Some notables are Shay Marks, who never hesitates to flip me the bird, adding to a career collection of his middle finger. Brock Radford and Dakota Buttar will always show some of their personality, and silliness. The Zane Lamberts and Jared Parsonages of the world are businessmen, and fierce competitors, but also team players who lift everyone around them up. It’s tough to choose a favorite.
As for bulls, that’s also a tough one. Nansen Vold’s Coopers Comet was an early favorite in 2016. A bull with a true connection to their family and their story. Being around for when Pound the Alarm returned to Canada, and now seeing his maternal brother Tykro Pound Sand carrying the boys to big scores and big checks has been a blast to capture. I could list names of bulls all day, but those are some standouts.
PBRC: Is there any specific matchup you haven’t seen yet that you would like to photograph?
CM: I want to see Brock Radford get Josh Barezay and the Two Bit Bucking Bulls’ Happy Camper rode. They have matched up twice before, with it going the bull’s way. Brock is a perennial favorite at each stop, and Happy Camper is a PBR Canada Bull of the Year. I think that it would be amazing to see those two dance for 88-90 points.
As for matchups I haven’t seen, that is up to the luck of the draw, really. I want to see bulls have strong, safe outs and give each guy a chance to win first. Obviously there are different calibers of bulls, but any matchup that gives our PBR Canada bull riders a chance at a win and some money is good for me.
PBRC: As the tour’s official photographer, what is your favorite moment at each event?
CM: The short go is easily the best moment at any event. It’s the event’s playoffs. When the big bad bulls take over. The “pick your poison” style short-go rounds introduced in Canada this past year make it just that much more exciting. The best bull riders taking on a select chosen few, challenging and rank bulls is what this sport is all about. The long go is about proving you belong there.
PBRC: How have you been keeping busy during the unprecedented shutdown?
CM: I have been spending a bit more time around family, at a distance. Working on some business projects and partnerships has been a priority, ensuring that when the rodeo and bull riding events return I am ready to hit the ground running. I have also been keeping in great contact with the different stakeholders of the PBR in Canada through my work with PBR Canada as a writer and member of the content team. While the shutdown is certainly a tough situation for everyone in every facet of life, I am excited for the future with the PBR. We are working hard to continue to keep the sport in the forefront of our fans and stakeholders’ minds, so that when health officials and local governments lift some of the restrictions keeping us from packing buildings and having a loud, in-your-face and high-impact event, we will be ready to start again without missing a beat.
While I love the opportunities that I have been given on the inside of the PBR in Canada, with 3D Bull Riding and Alpha Bull events, as well as many stock contractors and committees across this nation, I am humbled to be a part of the sport, but just as important, I am a huge fan of our sport. There isn’t a person within the PBR I speak to that isn’t excited to get back rolling, and I think fans of the sport are in for something they haven’t had the opportunity to see in 27 years of the PBR. Never before in history of rodeo or bull riding have the athletes, both human and animal, had the opportunity to get into game-ready shape like this.
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