Westcliffe Stampede Rodeo

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They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Just by simply glancing at this picture anyone could basically understand what is happening, but there is so much more to that story. When my mom and I were looking over some of the pictures from the weekend, I realized that so many of these moments are very personal to me, and have stories behind them.

This is one.

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The bullfighter, Casey, (on the left) is married to my cousin, Morgan, and the bull rider lying on the ground is his brother, Steven. As I later told Morgan, this series of shots was particularly difficult to both shoot and edit as I was so deeply connected to the subject matter. The night before, I had been out with my cousins and friends, and had discussed with Casey a previous bull fighting incident that had left him with four broken ribs (just a couple weeks prior). Much to my surprise, he still intended to fight this weekend, and informed me that all he needed to do was ensure his ribcage was wrapped. Cut to the next night when his brother was violently thrown from his bucking bull, and was lying motionless on the ground. He did what any bull fighter (and especially brother) would do, and jumped into action. He and his fellow bull fighter, Travis, did some of their best work, but in the end both brothers were on the ground. My camera dropped as I fought back tears, and our entire family said prayers, while waiting for them to get up. Fortunately, they both walked away from the incident, but it still wasn’t an event that his wife was too upset that she, and their young daughter, had missed.

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When I compare my pictures from other rodeos to the pictures I take at the Westcliffe Stampede, I always tend to favor these because of the passion behind them. Even when the pictures are of people I don’t personally know, I still feel more connected to this place and rodeo.

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Stories have been a part of my entire life. My dad (for you Westcliffe people, it’s Jim Camper) has been telling me stories (mostly true) my entire life. My cousins and I grew up in a family full of stories. From our grandparents, to our parents, to aunts and uncles, and a variety of distant cousins, we have been told story after story for as long as we can remember. One story we all know well is that the Westcliffe rodeo was started by a small group of men that included our grandfather and great-grandfather.

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I’ve grown up watching this rodeo every year for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched various family members compete, and one year (at the age of 12), I even sang the national anthem. It has become a part of who I am. When I first started taking pictures, it was just to share with our friends and family. The following year I was asked by The Sangre de Cristo Sentinel if they could use some of my images for their paper. This year I was honored to be asked to be the official photographer for the paper.

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I have been delighted with the response to the pictures I have posted, and am so blessed to be able to share these pictures with those in them! There is a more complete album on the Facebook page, and if you ask, I would love to tell you the story behind any of the pictures!

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6 thoughts on “Westcliffe Stampede Rodeo

  1. I love that your passion for photography is so connected to your family, its history, and your affection both both. Beautiful work.

  2. Nicole..these photos are incredible! I am excited to buy one of the first copies of your book! WOW! Your grandmother is a bit proud, by the way! Hugs to you! Deborah

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