Hailey Rae, Focused on More

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By Brianna Garcia

At just 25-years-old, she’s been doing photography for the PRCA for just three years and was recently chosen to photograph her first National Finals Rodeo.

“One of my best friends actually made it to the NFR in the bronc riding for the first time this year,” Rae said. “So, that is what really drove me. I was like ‘okay, well Cade made it and we’ve always said we’re going to go together. So I at least need to try. I can’t just not apply. It would be really cool if we could go together in the first year.”

After applying for a chance to photograph at the NFR for the first time, Rae continued to photograph rodeo as well as other events like weddings, western lifestyle and livestock shows. “I applied, then I kind of forgot about it. I knew the day they were meeting but I was driving to rodeos and I’d forgotten about it,” Rae said. “I got a call from the media office and so I took an exit off the interstate, pulling my computer out because I thought they needed a picture for a web story. So, I answered the phone and it was a different woman than Terry and she told me that I had been selected and I was like ‘what?’ Like I have no idea, it didn’t even phase me that that was what they wanted.”

After applying for a chance to photograph at the NFR for the first time, Rae continued to photograph rodeo as well as other events like weddings, western lifestyle and livestock shows. “I applied, then I kind of forgot about it. I knew the day they were meeting but I was driving to rodeos and I’d forgotten about it,” Rae said. “I got a call from the media office and so I took an exit off the interstate, pulling my computer out because I thought they needed a picture for a web story. So, I answered the phone and it was a different woman than Terry and she told me that I had been selected and I was like ‘what?’ Like I have no idea, it didn’t even phase me that that was what they wanted.”

Rae started photography in High school for 4-H. “I didn’t grow up with any kind of ranching or rodeo background, like at all. But I went to my first rodeo when I was eight and I told my mom that I don’t know how, but someday I’m going to be down there with those guys and do that,” Rae said. “She was just kind of like, okay. So, I did 4-H in high school and I ended up finding a way to show cattle. I was on the livestock judging team and I realized I kind of enjoyed photography but I realized photography was my way into the Western world and to rodeo, livestock and everything.”

Many rodeo photographers like to focus on the action of the rodeo, Rae tries to focus on more.

“I really enjoy the behind the scenes stuff. The things that everyone in the crowd isn’t seeing. Like I want to tell the stories that aren’t really told. Everyone goes to rodeos, they watch the action and see what happens is really cool,” Rae said. “But I like to show the part of rodeo that no one else gets to see. Whether that’s guys traveling, getting stuff ready behind the chutes. The big thing that I really focus on is making sure that when I’m taking pictures is that I’m really capturing the rodeo in the very best way and that I’m making the contestants look the best they can. I really focus on trying to be a big advocate for rodeos.”

With this being Rae’s first year photographing the NFR, there aren’t really many expectations that Rae has.

“I think just shooting the best that I can and not getting nervous. Just remembering at the end of the day, it really is another rodeo and just treat it like another rodeo,” Rae said. “I’m very honored and I know it’s a privilege to go there. My biggest goal is just not get overwhelmed by the size of it or what it is and still keep my head on straight.”

Eventually, one of Rae’s dreams is to one day be photographer of the year.

“Definitely before I die, I want to be photographer of the year,” Rae said. That’s just one of those things to keep meeting people and making connections. Shooting photos the best I can and I would definitely love to be photographer of the year at some point.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brianna Garcia is currently obtaining a masters degree in communication. Garcia graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and has interned as a sports reporter at the Douglas Budget Newspaper in Wyoming. 

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