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INSIDER STORY: Retired Navy Captain & Rodeo Photographer

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INSIDER STORY: Retired Navy Captain & Rodeo Photograph

For thirty years, Eva Scofield served in the U.S. Navy, working her way up to the rank of Captain. “It was supposed to be four years, but it didn’t work out that way,” she says with a chuckle. When she first started, women weren’t allowed on ships, so she worked in shore command with a squadron, followed by tours overseas, including time in Germany and Turkey. The Naval War College, a stint at the Pentagon, a tour in the Middle East. Eva rattles off each one with nonchalance, but as the list keeps going, it outlines a full, impressive career.


It was while she was serving in Europe that she discovered the passion that has become her new career, after retiring from the Navy two years ago: rodeo photographer. “When I was stationed in Germany, I ended up competing in the European Rodeo Cowboys Association and I started taking pictures of my buddies, because we didn’t have a photographer. And when I left Germany, I had the opportunity to do some hometown recruiting [back in the states], and I went to Cheyenne for two days. They let me shoot some pictures, and people said, ‘You should get your license [to photograph Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association events].’ ”


For a few years, she balanced both careers, Navy and photography, but since retiring from the Navy two years ago, Eva has been on the road constantly, shooting rodeos across the American West. Her favorite events to shoot, she says, are saddle bronc riding and calf-roping (also known as tie-down roping), but she especially likes to capture the quieter moments, the human interactions. These are some of her favorite parts of the rodeo: “This sport is the closest thing that you have to the camaraderie of the military that I’ve experienced. You help each other. It’s all about cheering the other guy on,” she says. “If I’m out there trying to learn how to rope, there might be guys out there who will be competing against me but they’re giving me tips and advice. Or one year, when I tried to ride the bucking horses, these guys would be out there helping me—‘This horse really drops his head,’  things like that. That esprit de corps is part of what drew me to rodeo. You aren’t trying to do better than the other guy, you’re trying to do your best.” Scroll through Eva’s portfolio and you can see all of these moments, captured so indelibly that you can almost taste the flying dirt as broncs buck and bulls charge, and laugh along with the quiet jokes of competitors outside the spotlight.


Getting the right shot requires the right equipment. Eva takes care to set up her strobes in the arena before events start, and she’s often carrying at least two cameras. “And they ain’t light!” she adds. “I’ve given them to competitors, and they’re always amazed at how heavy the cameras are.” There’s also the challenge of staying out of the way in a fast-moving environment.


With all that activity, day after day, it’s critical to recharge, and Eva’s Sleep Number bed offers a critical assist—so much so that she has Sleep Number beds in both her house in Wyoming and in her RV, where she spends much of her time these days, as she goes from rodeo to rodeo. She purchased her first one on the recommendation of her doctor, based on its adjustability. Her Sleep Number setting varies, she says—“If my shoulder’s really bothering me, I’ll back it off a little bit and go softer. Other times my back’s bothering me, so I’ll crank it up a little bit and make it firmer.”


Rodeo photography may be Eva’s second career, but she’s put everything she has into it, with the results to prove it, including being honored as the 2012 Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Photographer of the Year and twice being selected to shoot the National Finals Rodeo, both times capturing the behind-the-scenes moments.


Does she have any dream assignments? “I’ve done all these things I never thought I’d get to do,” Eva says. “So that’s hard to top. But the best pay I can get is when a guy loves the picture I’ve taken of him, when he says, ‘Oh my, that’s awesome.’ And I’m always trying to be my best, just like the competitors.”



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