Over ten years ago I was working as the marketing coordinator for the California Rodeo Salinas, the largest professional rodeo in the state of California. The California Rodeo (pronounced Row-Day-O, like the street in Beverly Hills, an explanation of the genesis of this word will have to be explained another time), is one of the oldest and most prestigious rodeos in the country. Part of my job was to approve media credentials for reporters and photographers. Rodeo photographers, as you can imagine, are among some the most skilled and brave photographers around and part of a small, elite group of seasoned photographers who are capable of photographing one of the toughest and most dangerous sports today. I would receive dozens of photographer credentials requests each year and few, outside of those seasoned PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) photographers, were accepted. In my second year with the Rodeo I received a request letter from a Japanese nature photographer for a chance to photograph the Rodeo. I was intrigued by this request and agreed to meet this photographer when she came to Rodeo and make my decision then.
The first morning of Rodeo week, Yoko Kobayasi walked into my office and I found myself looking at a soft-spoken, middle aged Japanese woman who couldn't weigh over 110 lbs. wringing wet (I'm pretty sure the large camera hanging around her neck weighed more). At first I thought, "Oh hell no, I cannot let this tiny, sweet lady anywhere near that arena, much less a 4-ton bull!", but then I looked into her eyes and I saw what could only be described as "grit". I followed my gut and gave her limited access, VERY limited access, and instructed the Rodeo's photographer to show her around and keep an eye on her. That was the beginning of Yoko's journey. Year after year she came to the Rodeo and many other professional rodeos around California. With her quiet determination she earned the respect of the other photographers, mostly men, and her skill at photographing the sport of rodeo grew, as did her passion for it.
Over the years, Yoko and I have stayed in touch. She lives in Japan and San Francisco and continues to travel a great deal, sometimes photographing exotic flowers or those snow monkeys that sit in the hot springs, and rodeos. This morning I received this email from Yoko:
Happy Easter, Sally!
Hope you are having a peaceful Easter weekends surrounded by family and friends!
(I am in a motel on my way back to the Bay Area after revisiting the Mojave Desert and Death Valley after the Oakdale Rodeo of last weekend!)
I have a great news for you: You remember you gave me a name of a contact person in PRCA a long time ago and that no one responded to my letter?! In 2013, the late Rich Ruef sponsored me to apply for the PRCA Photographer credentials and we started the process.
Last August, one year after Rich’s passing, one of the photographers who had written a recommendation letter for me told me that soon I would receive the card.
After that nothing happened and the PRCA again went silent!
Now this year, suddenly I received an e-mail from someone in PRCA saying that he was the new photographer coordinator for PRCA and he had found an unopened packet of required prints of rodeo shots from me. He had seen them and thought them great!
He said he would help me go through the process, and thinking of the past happenings, I didn’t know what to think of it.
BUT he really did help: I don’t have the credentials yet but I am a due paying PRCA member.
Then on the weekend last, he asked me whether I would do the work for the PRCA as “options.”
I did, photographed the Oakdale rodeo in the rain just like last year, and submitted images.
One of them was used on the PRCA website.
Another one will be on the cover of their Business Journal, that will come out soon.
Then, the third one may be used in an article…
I am so glad that finally things are moving in the right direction and I have this urge to tell you this and thank you for all the encouragement you have given me. This is a great Easter story, I think!
So again, wishing you a Happy Easter and all the good,
Till we meet again,
Stay well and active!
I told you I received an Easter Blessing! Not everyone you meet is part of your destiny, sometimes you are part of theirs. Happy Easter, Dear Hearts.
P.S. Go to this link to see some of Yoko's Oakdale rodeo photos: http://www.realwestern.com/gallery/yoko/index.html