Dan Hubbell has been a photographer for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association since 1990. He’s snapped more than 600,000 shots of man battling beast in arenas full of dirt. But the photo he took of cowboy Kyle Whitaker tumbling off the aptly named Dump Wagon was one of a kind.
“I have never captured something like this,” Hubbell said. “I have captured some other wild wrecks, but this one was unique in how the boot just hung in the stirrup. I got it at the right time because a second earlier or later would have been a totally different photo.”
Although it’s commonplace for a rider to eat the earth, rodeo cowboys rarely get “booted” from their wild horses.
“Rodeo assignments almost always make for strong pictures with their color and man vs. beast themes, but who hasn’t seen a picture of a cowboy getting a face full of dirt after getting dumped off a bucking horse or stomped by an angry bull?” said the judges. “Mr. Hubbell’s photo went a step further, capturing a rider getting bucked right out of his boot. … The action of the photo is unbeatable, and the boot in the stirrup makes the picture truly special.”
The picture of the bootless rider’s faceplant was picked up by Sports Illustrated for the magazine’s “Leading Off” section. In a space normally reserved for incredible images from Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Football League action, the rodeo finally rode into the limelight.
“I hope that it has brought more recognition to the sport of professional rodeo,” said Hubbell. “The photo definitely shows the ups and downs of our sport and how action-packed it can be. The sport of rodeo is a very photo-friendly sport if you know what you are doing and what to look for. You can really capture a lot of cool shots in rodeo from the picture-perfect ride to the not so picture-perfect ride.”