Episode 030 - Photography by Phifer,
James Phifer

Join us on this episode as we dive into the thrilling world of rodeo photography with the renowned James Phifer, the owner of Photos by Phifer and Rodeo Bum Photography. As an NFR Photographer with a portfolio that includes features in Cowboys & Indians Blogs, Breakaway Roping Journal, Barrel Horse News, Cowgirl Magazine Blogs, and many more, James Phifer shares his incredible journey behind the lens. Discover the artistry and skill required to capture the heart-pounding action of prestigious rodeos like FWSSR, NLBRA Finals, NBHA Youth World, Rodeo Austin, Cinch Timed Events Championships, UPRA Finals, and, of course, the iconic NFR. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from a true rodeo photography legend and hear some captivating stories from the rodeo arena.

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Podcast Transcript

Taylor McAdams: Hi, everybody, and welcome to the Kick Your Boots Up podcast. I'm your host, Taylor McAdams. Thank you all for listening week to week we're getting some really great feedback. We're having a lot of fun. And I figured since we're having a lot of fun, we've got to bring on another fun guest. This week's guest is a pretty well-known photographer. He's traveled all across the United States all across the world. The kids love him. The moms love him. Everyone loves him. He's a rodeo professional from Nacogdoches, Texas. He's had photos featured in cowboys and Indians blogs cowgirl magazine blogs, breakaway roping journal barrel, horse journal barrel, horse barrel, horse news, cowgirl magazines, blogs, all the things he's gotten to photograph prestigious rodeos such as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo the national little britches rodeo finals the NBA Youth World rodeo Austin cinch timed event championships The list goes on and on and on there's there's a million different things that we can say and I think what better way to get the the guests introduced into let him talk about himself and introduce him and let him explain his story. So ladies and gentlemen, none other than Jake Mr. James Pfeiffer with Pfeiffer photography, photos, photography by Pfeiffer rodeo bum photography, but some of you out there might know him. James, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today and share your story.

James Phifer: Yeah, how are you? How are you today?

Taylor McAdams: Yeah, doing good doing good. Thanks for being here. I know there's a lot you know that you have to go in on right now and the different rodeos. But I guess let's just get started. I know that your name is James K. Pfeiffer. And inquiring minds out there want to know what does the K stands for and your middle name?

James Phifer: It actually stands for Kenneth which was actually my daddy's first cousin, whose name was Kevin Pfeiffer. And he survived the Bataan Death March in World War Two.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, wow. What an incredible honor and memory for him. That's that's just awesome. And I've got to ask you, are you originally from Nacogdoches, Texas?

James Phifer: No, I'm actually originally from Rusk. My family's been from Ross, which is Cherokee County. They've been there since 1828.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, wow. A long time. Lots of history there. Then I'm gonna ask you to what was life like growing up for you?

James Phifer: Oh, it was great. We had we had all kinds of places to go hunt. We finished we hunted all the time. My daddy was a hunting guide over and rust he was he was one of the very first people who ever guide do hunting guide service in East Texas. Back in the 80s.

Taylor McAdams: Do you still love hunting today then?

James Phifer: Oh, love it, love it. We go hunting and fishing all the time. So it's like this. That's what we do. Whenever we're between going to rodeos and stuff like, like, in a few weeks, we're gonna go to Georgia, one of the girls that works for me. They've been wanting to go to Georgia and cubera for several years, and we're gonna go bare up here in a few weeks. So oh, man,

Taylor McAdams: I can't help but ask, what are some bear hunting tips? Because I've been watching that show on Netflix. That's like survival of you. It's usually you they get left out in the woods. And there's bears everywhere. And they have these sprays and these noises, what's your plan of attack, like what's going on if you actually do get attacked by a bear

James Phifer: or just going bear hunting her her husband, he they go hunting bears all the time over there. They've been wanting to go for years. But just scheduling wise couldn't ever get over there. And then I had two rodeos that went on top, top omit or one of them moved in and everything. So all of a sudden, we had an open date. And it was like, we're gonna go man.

Taylor McAdams: Oh my gosh, I am so excited to follow that you'll have to post it on your social media and update there. Because hopefully you'll go to hunt and not be hunted, right?

James Phifer: Because that sounds like sounds like

Taylor McAdams: oh my gosh, I know. And that's what I love about your social media is like in between the rodeos, whenever even when you're at rodeos in between the perfs you will see the scene going fishing and all that stuff. So I love that you get to kind of take a little bit of a break too and go bear hunting check that off your list. I hope you are super successful there. But kind of moving on a little bit to the photography aspect. Did you ever think about being a photographer when you were younger? Did you always want to be a photographer?

James Phifer: Ah, I didn't want to think about it as a living but I've been shooting photos since I was in fifth grade. And then and then I kind of when hasn't Haskell start doing it for a living choosing portraits or whatever but never would have done that. But then whenever I start shooting rodeos then that's whenever it was like this is gonna be it here because I mean, it was like okay, now know what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna literally from the very first very very, very first time I ever shot a rodeo I was like, because I'm gonna get done I'm gonna bring my camera out there was there's no book out it close to the house and I was gonna go out there Shoot it, but then my rubber fitted it was like, no idea. No, no, no, no doubt. So I was like, This is what I'm gonna do the rest of my life. And then wow, in high school whenever I did that, so And there's

Taylor McAdams: so much there too, because you said fifth grade, what were you taking pictures of in fifth grade that it started as a school assignment?

James Phifer: No, just we were we went on a vacation to Colorado. And that was when I took my very first photo and I was like, oh, like and then I was in like four H and FFA and stuff like that there. So. So that's that's kind of what got me started was in like four h Bonino, intern contest and county fair or whatever, so that there's kind of kind of got started in the photography part of it. And then I was also always around rodeo. I'm a lifelong my brother, my brother. He's, like nine years older than me. And he wrote bareback horses. So So in then my cousin, on their side of them on their daily side of the family, like, pretty much everybody reveals on that side of family. So, so I was always around rodeo. And I've been shooting photos since I was in fifth grade. So it just eventually came together. So

Taylor McAdams: Wow. And that's incredible. There's a lot there. And before we dig too deep, too much deeper into it. I'm genuinely curious. What was it like then because there's there's rodeo photography, and there's photography, and it's two different ball games. What was it like for you to finally master the action? Those Those really good action shots that are really challenging?

James Phifer: Oh, no, this was in the film days. And it was like there was no light look them in the back of your camera and one out there, you had to do it. You didn't find out for several days to what you even gotten. And for your first deal was in the daylight it was very rare thing to have done. But then I had to start trying to figure out how to do the do the ones that not and it was like that took a while and then get the right equipment that could that could lad it up. And I mean, it took a little while and it was it was difficult, you know? And then in the film days, I mean, there's like every single time you push the button, it cost you money. I mean, like if you like let's say some a top notch at a Cath, it was like and you accidentally took a picture. You just went, Oh, God, it's like, that just cost me money. Because it cost you the film. It costs you to process it. It costs you to print the photo or printer proof sheets. I mean, it was like, Oh, so you make dang sure you never wasted a single single shot. So

Taylor McAdams: Oh, wow. Yeah, that's something I didn't even think about too. And even you mentioned, but back in the film days when there were film cameras, you know, that they actually used because now people you know, photographers will do that for fun and different looks. But it's not as quick as today either. Because I feel like to get those action shots nowadays, you can just click click, click, click or click one time and it just takes a bunch of shutter shutter speed takes a bunch of photos. What was it like then because you almost had to have the patience to like wait and track the bull just to make sure it's back end was kicked up just right or when you're tracking a calf? Same thing? How long was it like just waiting patiently to get the perfect moment?

James Phifer: Well, you still have to do that nowadays because because like in Texas pretty much are pretty much probably out of the, say 195% a year I do a year nearly every single one of them maybe five purchase a year, or in the daylight, nearly every single things at that time. So I'm using strobes. So still, it doesn't matter what it is I have to be patient and shoot it because you have to wait for your flashes to go off because you can't just sit there and just push it down and let it do you have to wait for it so so it's still that way today if you're shooting was drones so but but back then though, you couldn't even like just wasting thing you couldn't sit there and go like now like say a typical camera and photo I get the traditional coming off. And then you know flanking the calf and then you know this right here, you know I'm do some extra stuff there. Well back then you shot one, because you couldn't afford to just have been wasted and film. So you know, it's like and you know, and just so much more you can do now you can just see something cool over and just shoot it now. But back then you didn't because if you didn't think you could sell it, you didn't shoot it because it was just it was it was just expensive. So and I was very poor.

Taylor McAdams: Yeah, very humble beginnings, right? Yeah, yeah.

James Phifer: They've been under truck and I mean, the before I even got a Capri camper. And I mean, whenever I got my first Capri camper, I mean, I thought I was just kind of just, I mean, I was how I roll and then you know, and then I was in a Capri for like 14 years before I before I moved up to a motorhome. And it was like, and in the Capri I had a I had a dark room in there. I could sit there and print my proof sheets off and the whole Capri camper be filled up with with proof sheets and everything smelled like developer in there and, and it was like and that's that's how you did it. I mean, that was just the way it was. So I

Taylor McAdams: love your insight because that's the stuff that people don't stop and think about when they think about the evolution of rodeo the evolution of sports they forget about the contract personnel, the ones that have to be there from start to finish before during and after the performances. They don't Get to take a break. And so I love your insight there. And I love what you said too. About You thought you had made it when you got the Capri camper. Talk about your humble beginnings there even more. I mean, you were living life you were doing it. What was I don't know in that in that phase of your life. What were some of the best memories that you remember?

James Phifer: Oh, I love I just love going to the rodeos, seeing everybody. What's even better thinking What's better is now is what happens now. Because a lot of those people that I was shooting photos of back then whenever let's say some well actually some of the people that I shot pictures of at high school rodeos back then I'm taking pictures of their kids now. You know, and it's like and and like all my friends like all they're all there. They're there. I'm shooting pictures of them now like, like, let's say, the very very first time. thing ever shot was a was a little boy ride and Rusk was where I'm from. And Luke throws to the to the young, bareback riders now and everything looked Thrash. His daddy was the stock contractor at it. So so here you are somebody who the very first thing I ever shot as far as a rodeo, his son, I'm shooting pictures of him in the varca now, and then I was shooting pictures from outside the the fence on the very first one or two. And then Jimmy Graham. He was like once you get inside, it's like you think they'll mind they'd like that anymore, man. Well, that there is convenience, green navy. So So I mean, there's two people right now I'm shooting them in who are young, bareback riders, who they had kinfolks at the very, very first thing I ever shot in my life. So so it was like, that's what's really fun is being able to see see kids or people that are shot back then

Taylor McAdams: in the full circle moment there. And I guess what you brought this up. Let's talk a little bit about that. Because I think at the nbha Youth World show World Finals. There's a picture on your social media that really jumped out to me, I loved it. You have all these kids surrounding you and your little office space setup area at the rodeo, and you named it Piper's nursery. Is that right?

James Phifer: Oh, because when you go there, it looks like a nursery. I mean, we got like three or four different deals where you put the kids in and everything there because like, I don't know what it is about in the water right now. But like everybody that worked for me has little kids right now. I mean, we got I mean, we got we got we got Megan Dillard who her husband used to ride bulls and her brother Shane hanshi. Like she she's got two and she's got one on the way right now. We got another group we're going bear hunting with. She's got one and got one on the way right now. We got Daniel bettendorf who worked from his get to I mean, that was that. Who else was I might be missing some other kids that were there. I mean, there was a whole bunch of kids there and everything so yeah, we we have a whole cute cute and it looks like a nurturer I mean there are kids ever run around this booth. So it's

Taylor McAdams: you know, honestly though, there's there's something to that because like you starting in fifth grade, there's those kids are looking up to you and being raised in rodeo being raised at those events, there's there's a lot of good that comes out of that. I'm walking testimony of that just you know, being raised and stock shows and rodeos, you get some kind of value out of that. The kids are just so much better. They have more manners. So I love what you're doing there. Keep that up. That's really encouraging. And I didn't I want to back it up just a little bit before we get too too much more into it. I should have asked him this in the very beginning and I apologize for that. But I'm genuinely curious that I know a lot of people are out there. How did photography by Pfeiffer rodeo bum photos? How did that all get started? Tell us the story there.

James Phifer: Okay, as far as the rodeo bum part. Yeah, most people don't know about that really don't understand. I just think it's just something I just pulled on top of my head and everything. Well, like I said my brother, he wrote bareback horses. whenever, whenever, whenever he was young, and Alex, I was a little bitty kid then because he's nine years older than me. And one year and my mother did not like him. Rodenbach horses did not like it. She tried everything she could do to keep me from rodeo. She really did. She didn't. She's good with it now because like everyone, I mean, we got so many people in the family now early on as she did not want me right. rodeo and and everything. But one year at Thanksgiving, this is probably 9394 Somewhere around there. We were we were all around everything in me. My brother was talking I said well liveness just kind of crazy. So I said Mama Mama didn't like you rodeo and and she tried everything she can do to keep me from rodeo and I said look to become the rodeo alone. And we all laughed and everything. Well, then for Christmas my brother he his wife was working at a cap company over in Rusk and and they made a cat for me and everything and it was like and she did and he went over and they like basically went to the scrap pile and grabbed everything they can do to get to make like the ugliest cap in the entire world and everything, literally as the ugliest cap in the world and everything. And it had rodeo Pomona. And it was right here, pull it out just like this right here is horrible. And it is like done with like some kind of plastic riding and it's got my phone number from bank on it and everything. It was horrible. But it was so funny when we laugh, we thought it was so funny. And and it was like acid wrapped in acid, acid acid as it were one of these days if I ended up becoming something big and everything I said that'll become the the mother name of all my companies or something like that they're gonna, and he got nervous tonight we're gonna, I didn't even know there was such a thing as internet there. I mean, it was like no idea that there was even internet. Well, then when everything went, this is one I got a I got a website that I checked it, I just did it as looking. And it was actually available on Oh, man. And I went through a whole bunch of different. I mean, I'm talking about I had a list or a huge list, write them down. And I would literally, like I would literally write it on a piece of paper, the different names and I would hold it up to people at this right here and go, okay, and then put it down and let you know what that said. And can you spell it? Because I know nobody can spell Pfeiffer for sure. So it could never because I've had people go like why don't you put like, like, like photos by Pfeiffer's or website and it was like, I was like, Can you spell fi for sure? No. So and that's literally want to come in? I mean, we've measured it out to where it would go home. Oh my deal and pin them up just making sure everything was like you could gang sure see it, like the length on it. And everything was like that there and then that's the one I kept just going back to Rodeo though. So it was like so that's that's actually how I got started was all because of a joke. So

Taylor McAdams: how do you say I love that? And let's take a second to appreciate that ball cap. Amazing. Thank you for showing it to us. Wow. And it's bright pink. Right? Did I see that? Oh, yeah.

James Phifer: Pink is bright pink with like a milk cow. This weird, like, wrote deal on there. Oh, it was like 70s Some kind of I don't know what you'd even call that there. I mean, some kind of rubberized like deal to make it. I mean, it was like they literally went through the deal to make it the world's ugliest cap. I mean, I don't even I mean, they didn't even they didn't even make these match or anything. Just they did. It all began. So

Taylor McAdams: I do love that because even with the kids, I know you do a lot of Youth Rodeo photography. And the kids love that something about rodeo balm. I remember hearing it as a kid myself and thinking like, Oh, that's cool. He must be really cool, you know. And now as I I've gotten older, I'm no longer a kid anymore. I still look up to you because I see you at these big prestigious professional rodeos, American NFR all these places. And I'm like, wow, to think that you started so long ago, sleeping in your truck. You've made it to these big stages, big lights, talk to us about your your timeframe, your career, there may be some highlights that have stepped out to you reach out to you in terms of rodeos that you've gotten to shoot at maybe potential readers that you'd love to talk about that.

James Phifer: Yes, this footwork, of course is my favorite rodeo areas because of my is Fort Worth. I mean, that's just a word. That is by far my most favorite there. I think I've done it for the last 17 years. And I've shot the NFR shot, steer open finals. eighth time love the Steer Ropin finals. Absolutely love the stirrup and finals, done the WP era finals, often own through the years, I think I've done the WP era like 12 or 13 times. And I've done whenever it was in Fort Worth back in the early 90s. And then later whenever it was in Tulsa and then now what some waco I've been shooting ever since for several years now then back in Waco, I think it's like 12 or 13 years that I've been accepted to the PRA finals, and just just all kinds of rodeos all across the country. I mean, I love them. I mean, I mean about a third of my rodeos are pro rodeos. About a third of them are youth rodeos. And a third of them are barrel race and some kind of got a good variety there. So it's like, I like it and like I said, I love doing the youth rodeos because they're, you know, seeing the kids you know, and then you know, and then doing the barrel races that gets me to go over East and everything that got that being able to do the NBA Chaze that there really got it to where I could go over East Coast and see a different part of the country because at the beginning I was doing so much stuff out west well then now I do a lot of stuff out east and everything because they're out there

Taylor McAdams: and your schedule is so jam packed and so busy. How do you keep it all straight?

James Phifer: As I told somebody, I'm not I'm not a photographer. I'm a logistic As managers, what if we have lat we have equipment that rolls in different directions. And it's not just me it's like, I mean, I have other photographers that they work for me, but they also have their own companies, but then sometimes adding some of their companies, some of their equipments would be able to do something like the little britches finals. I mean, we have 53 laps up, I mean, it's just a huge amount of laps at all come together at one time. And then sometimes, we need stuff in certain places. And it's like, sometimes we got we got equipment, on vehicles going in different directions we'll have one year I know that we had we had Andy Watson and I'd help Andy at the PVR finals. And he had some highlights, because he needed some real to shoot that many arenas. And then he just kept those and he had another photographer coming in from from Corpus where he came up there. And when that photographer left there, he came down the loop, I'd left I'd left there and went to Louisiana. And he brought those lands back to me. But while that was going on, Dana was shooting an nbha in Fort Worth over the stockyards. But it was my actually my last working for Andy was using my Lance over the stockyards. Dana was using my last their will and Daniel, he threw his lats ona on a truck, and they went from there to Illinois, where he needed them. And then they went to Vegas. And then they went to New York, and then I picked them up in New York. We had lattes going in every direction all over the country, because there's just so many of us, and we need so much equipment that and you don't need that much equipment all year long. But there's certain rodeos like for Andy for the PBR finals for me for little britches, finals, you know, and it's like, and other photographers, and we all let, we're good friends. And we let each other borrow our equipment, everything because we know that they need equipment all over, you know, because you can't afford to just have that meeting. We're just, we're just got equipment rolling all over the country. So

Taylor McAdams: yeah, is I'm so glad that you brought that up. Because just like in the sport of rodeo, I mean, you see cowboys traveling all across the United States, worldwide, Canada, Mexico, Brazil. And most of the time they travel together, they have, you know, travel impacts, and then they turn right around and compete against each other. And that's really the same throughout the whole entire industry. And I think a lot of people either take that for granted, or they forget about the little stuff like that. So especially for you guys being photographers, where, I guess in theory, you guys could be considered in competition of each other if you're trying to bid for the same rodeos at some point in time. And that does happen. But you guys still band together and choose to help each other for the greater good in every situation. And so I really, really love and respect and appreciate that. And that goes for rodeo announcers to sharing stats with each other that goes for time and getting, you know, making sure they have all the right rules. And they're up to date on all this stuff, score guys, judges. It's just incredible. That's my hat's off to you that that is so so awesome that you're able to do that. And I think we're almost out of time. So I want to kind of continue this conversation along a little bit. And talk about the different. I know you mentioned NFR and you're so humble. That's like the biggest rodeo. It's a Super Bowl of rodeos for anyone out there that's curious about the NFR I know most of the listeners here know what it is, but it's such a big stage such a prestigious title to even be selected to shoot anywhere near around the NFR. And so talk about that for a little bit. Talk about the logistics there what it's like your day to day schedule. love it, hate it pros cons all of it.

James Phifer: Yeah. Oh, it's great. Um, I love shooting NFR I haven't shot in the last few years and everything but it was like, but the years that I've had to shoot it Yeah, you got like, if he was behind the scenes, but harbor is just insane. You're just going in every direction all over Menil know all the different little things but what have we got to go shoot and then if you're shooting in the arena, then you have to be messing with your lats every day you got you have to hang gliding there's there's latch gotta hang you got to be adjusted on those every day. You have to shoot headshots. There's there's the big group photos there's all kinds of things going on that people don't realize that we have to shoot besides out there and then doing all that just just sitting there on the computer and getting the stuff out to different people who need things like you might get a lot the main thing would be as far as being a do like that there is somebody get injured and then Justin, sports medicine, injury report come out. And then all of a sudden you get you get a phone call from from the PRCA and go hey, we need a photo of so and so because because they're they're injured and we got to put a press release out there from Justin sports medicine so so we'll just jump on there and give them a photo real quick. So they have sort of PRCA would have a photo for a press release that somebody was injured.

Taylor McAdams: And that's a lot of stress. How do you juggle all the stress in the in the middle of the chaos of the rodeo there? I know I know. There's a lot of adrenaline but how do you juggle it all?

James Phifer: It's just what what I've always done. I mean, just it's just what you do. You just got to keep and then the good thing about me doing like youth rodeos, sometimes where the proverbial somebody would go like, how do you handle it? Whenever there's just something like just everything just changes all of a sudden, it's, there's no. There's such a sudden change in our rodeos, I see you agree with rodeos and all sudden stuff changes at the very last minute it's like you're just used to it if you're shooting user reviews, it's like nobody tells you anything you just get in there just go, oh, by the way, we're gonna shoot this big group photo over here today. And I was like, All right, well just go do it and everything you know, because things change the Youth Rodeo. So that prepares you for doing the big pro rodeos, to where when all of a sudden, just like just plop something out there. And we forgot to tell, you know, the main part of it is we're going to take a photo, but yeah, we forgot to tell the photographer, so happens all the time.

Taylor McAdams: Happens all the time. You're absolutely right. I'm just looking back and thinking about all the events that I've been a part of on the production side and everything will be set to go and someone will say okay, where's the photographer you didn't call know you didn't call. So I know that all too well. And that's, that's really funny and really cool, too, that you're able to just jump in, do it and be flexible. I mean, that's kind of what the industry is about the sport of rodeo in general. And that's really cool too. But along those same lines, in order to get to the NFR you have to do a lot you have to not only be a PRCA photographer, but then you have to be nominated. Is that correct?

James Phifer: No, actually, for the for the nominating deal. That's for the Photographer of the Year. Okay, for but then as far as being selected, you actually apply for it. And it picks up the photographer is

Taylor McAdams: okay, see, so you have to jump through so many hoops just to get there. But before that, like I mentioned, you had to apply for your car, buy your car. Talk to us about that. I know there's a lot of photographers out there that are interested in potentially maybe applying to be a professional rodeo photographer. What's your best advice there? What are the steps all of it?

James Phifer: Well, the the main thing is, is so many people think they want to just go straight to here and everything. Well, it's just like being a bull rider cat for over eight, anything like that there's like, Don't skip their own parts right here because your learning part is going to you throw vos Dolan to amateur rodeos just like you're you know, doing being a contestant. People thinking it just jumps right to that like oh, when Shatta Wale backyard Bull Run and stuff now we'll jump straight to having the PRCA car, in order to be able to handle the financial part of it and everything and just knowing the business of it really needed. And then even just honing down on photography really need to shoot a lot of youth rodeos and amateur rodeos. Because if they don't know, because I mean, there's just certain things, I mean, you gotta be in a certain place. And there's certain places you need to be just for the fact that you just to be out of the way. And then also the fact that that's the, that's the best angle that you can get the big largest percentage of shots to be in that certain spot. I mean, there's some, there's some cool low percentage shots and everything, we get some really cool photos. But if you're really, you're gonna do it for a live and you got to kind of make it in a way where you can really, really the most potential of taking taking the best shots, and then mainly just staying out of the way, because it's one thing for you to not make money, but for you to get in the way and you call somebody like a world championship because you don't understand. You can't be wrapped there. I mean, let's say you were sitting there, like one time at the national title steer rope. And I mean, we, I mean, Scott Snedeker was like he was he was in the average and the average and everything and I had a steer come. And it was just like, I just squeezed up against the wall just didn't move at all. And that steer did and he got him tripped right beside me. And it was like, but it was like I knew it was like, I can't move. And I just had to stay there in order to make sure because if I just jumped up and run, he could have it could have it could have it could have cost him in the world. I mean, so you got to know that there and you got to you got to understand that about rodeo and you got to be able to sit there and read the stock to go like, you know, are you know, am I in trouble or not, you know, because it's like, I mean, and it takes time going to the lower rodeos in order to know that stuff are pears.

Taylor McAdams: And James, I respect that so much that you know, I was a rodeo queen and that's how I got to know you. But growing up as a rodeo queen and then more specifically getting more involved with professional rodeo as a rodeo queen. There are the professional word should not be taken lightly. Everyone in the organization is professional, those rodeo competitors have paved their way worked harder, they have more just grit to them, that their professional is no longer amateur. And so that is a big pet peeve of mine. If you're out there listening, you just heard my pet peeve and James, I'm so glad that you mentioned that because yes, you do. It is so important. No matter what your position is in the rodeo arena at around near at all. You just need to be aware of your surroundings and know what's about to happen. And along those same lines. I'm sure you've had many opportunity These were a rough stock horse or a bucking bull has come a little bit too close to you or you've had some kind of rodeo wrecks for yourself. So I guess that now's your time. Tell me some stories about some times that you might have been trampled. Or maybe you've seen people get trampled. What What about that? Tell us about it all? Oh, honestly,

James Phifer: I guess about the very first really, really big kind of deal that got me was as a bull run and Baleal, Texas, and it was the second bull lap, the second one, and it was like, it was back to hook a guy and bull turn, didn't get him got me cut my finger off. They got to the fence and everything. It's hanging off to the side and everything and and then drove myself to the to the to the hospital. And then they sewed it back home. I got back out there shot the rest of the bull run and and then come find out it was it was a guy. I was living in Huntsville at the time. And the guy sent me across the campus. He said he said, Are you the photographer? And I was like, yeah, and me and him became friends for years and years and years. And like I said, I basically prevented him from getting hooked on the photo. Oh, God is just insane. Like everybody goes, Oh, he must have got it. I was like, nope, got me in and then he was he was back when we were in college. I knew that in his in his in his in his house. He had like a set of drums and everything in there, but it was like, I just thought he just played around. I didn't know it was any good and everything but uh, but anyways, name's Randy grams. And he became later on he was the drummer for Billy Joe shaver. So, so it was like that was pretty cool. So that's how me and him got to know him. Like he didn't even ever met me before that moment right there. And then of course, like the one that most people know that is whenever I got murdered by the barrel horse, it's nbha Youth World and 2015 so that broke my scapula in half my shoulder blade, broke it in half and went to the hospital. They wrapped it up whatever come back, so we never missed it. We never missed we missed two runs as all we missed. One of the girls that worked for me she was shooting in the backdrop called her over there and I was like go get my camera because my camera lens first time it was the first time in like 20 something years that anything had ever gotten gotten my equipment and everything broke in half. She ran out there and got it got a new deal while they're wrapping me up knowing I'm putting the camera together and she sits down here and she she gets big she does a test shot I got no like that just the camera and I was like okay, man go to the hospital and then went to the hospital. Come back I was on the way back and I was like I told her I said hey tell says my boy as I tell him to go get my tripod and she said What do you mean she's my gosh, she said you're gonna shoot and she was like, Well of course I am. So shot another 250 runs that day. And then the next day shot the short go. And then yeah, so did that there and then it was later on. Whenever they went to take it off. That's when they realized how bad it was and everything and then and then But then Justin sports medicine jumped in there and and sent me to Shane Barton over in Freeport and he was adjusting sports medicine doctor, and just, I mean, did it up. He did surgery on me on September 23 of 2015. And 10 weeks later, I was at the NFR shoot.

Taylor McAdams: Oh my gosh, I have no words other than mad respect. That was my very

James Phifer: first year to have the NFL that was the very first year at the NFR and I got the phone when I got the phone call to do it. I was I was still in a in a shoulder sling and I had to pull over to make sure I didn't write because I see it was a PRC has a little what does the call and I get it and everything they tell me but like I said and then they then I find out I'm gonna have surgery a few weeks later. And then I told him I said I've got to be ready and he said we will have you ready so so yeah, they put me back together and everything. Boom we're shooting so

Taylor McAdams: you truly are rodeo bomb. Yeah, I mean you've experienced the cowboy life as a true cowboy just for taking photos of the rodeo Wow James I did not know any of those stories and it's it's actually really crazy that you've had your fair share of run ins with the big mean Rebstock a that it took a barrel horse a faster crazy barrel horse

James Phifer: with a 15-year-old ridin so can it was just a fluke. It wasn't a fluke accident but yes, yes it was it was it was a barrel or setting you got to use barrel racing

Taylor McAdams: Yeah, what are the odds of that? That's so bizarre. Wow, that's yeah. I'm glad that you live to tell the tale so that's what it's all about. Right? You know.

James Phifer: And, and Mark Burt Gigi got a good video too. So there's been You know out there, you know

Taylor McAdams: you're gonna go viral again, we're gonna resurface this video. I would love to see what's out there oh my gosh, yeah. What? Wow, what a? what a what a time. What a trip What memories and that's so cool that you were able to be taught, you know, toughen up just like a cowboy would like I said, That's wow I don't even you got me there That's so incredible. It just it's just so bizarre to see the opportunities that that this career has taken you and even as a fifth grader that started taking photos on a vacation. That's so inspiring for a lot of people out there. There's there's tons of people that are so hungry, to be involved in the industry in some way. And so what would be before we go, what would be your best advice to give to anyone that wants to be a photographer in general, or a rodeo photographer in general, or you know, because you already covered the PRCA thing. But in general, like what what would you tell them? If they're let's say a hobby for photographers right now or photographer now? What would you what would advice would you give them to like make the next step to start getting clients and getting paid for those clients.

James Phifer: Main thing is, like I said, as far as rodeo go to the youth rodeos, the amateur rodeos. And then also quit or don't motor drive, really slow down and pay attention to what your actual actual animals are doing. Because it will make them so much better of a photographer, if they actually understand what the animals are about to do. Because I mean, you literally can and need to know what it's going to do. You got to have the experience in order to make sure what the animal is actually going to do before it actually does it. But that there takes slowing down shooting one photo at a time. Just really concentrate on what the actual animal and learn the animals, I mean, learn the animals and learn the events. I mean, learn and learn what the Cowboys really want is the one thing too, because, I mean, it does no good to do it if the contestants, that's not what the contestants are looking for, you know, if you're, if you're shooting it from some angle that makes it to where, you know, the cat force doesn't look as good or you know, whatever. So, you know, and stop contractors really want and then also signage to I mean, where am i You're from what I'm doing. I'm shooting for rodeo committees. And I really need to make sure that I'm shooting in a place that has good signage, sometimes I'll even move just a little bit in order to get a little bit better crowd situation in the background. Because I mean, you don't want to look like there's nobody in the crowd, you know, I mean, so it is.

Taylor McAdams: Yeah, it is an art and you've mastered it. In my opinion. I remember the Douglas County Fair and rodeo back in 2018. When I was Mr. De Oklahoma, I got to have like a small moment of your time. I think it was Debbie Mills and I we were just talking to you and the stories that you were just spitting out right then in there were incredible, I could tell your wisdom, but even now getting to follow your journey journey through the little britches, finals, get, you know, getting to watch you be one of the photographers at the NFR I am so inspired. And there's a lot of people out there too, that that agree. And because you're behind the camera, you don't get a lot of opportunities to be in the limelight. So I just wanted to say hats off to you, I commend you so much. Thank you for everything that you've done for the industry. You've gotten some historic photos that people will be able to cherish for the rest of their lives. And then they're their ancestors, but you know, leaving on their legacy, we'll get to see them as well. So what a cool opportunity you have, I wish you the best of luck in the future with your other rodeos. And if anyone out there wants to follow you on social media, or check out your website, where should we send them to?

James Phifer: It's ready to bomb.com on Facebook and then on Instagram is radio bomb.com But without the.it Just you can't put a.in in the BBS relationships Radio bomb.com. So

Taylor McAdams: yeah, if you guys want to catch up on the bear hunt, if you want to see what it's like, like what rodeo is like from the perspective of James, there's lots of fun content. His humor is hilarious. I wish we had way more time to talk about everything I loved watching. You got to go fishing with who was that? Oh goodness, you get to go fishing all the time. But you go fishing in between rodeos with all the different world champions, you just get really cool opportunities to shoot celebrities, musicians, whoever's at the rodeo. So yeah, if you guys are out there and you're curious, you want to follow along you have questions about photography, becoming a professional photographer of any sort. Don't be afraid to reach out send him messages. James is a really really high class guy and James, we just cannot say thank you so much enough for being on Team Justin and wearing the brand so proudly, you do a really good job and we appreciate it. 

James Phifer: Thank you. 

Taylor McAdams: Thanks for joining us on Kick Your Boots Up. I'm your host Taylor McAdams and we can't wait to share the next story of the West. Until then feel free to like subscribe and leave us a review. Follow us on social media at Justin boots to keep up With our next episode and we'll see you the next time you kick your boots up.