Success in the fast-paced rodeo arena is usually hard to come by without the support of a family. For the Hollenback family of Dillon, Mont., it was Tanner and his sister Jessie’s love of rodeo that helped their father, Dave, find his passion for rodeo photography.
It started out simple enough, as Tanner and Jessie were high school rodeoing, Dave Hollenback had an epiphany one day and realized he and his wife Shawnee wanted more pictures of their children’s rodeo adventures. He figured he was just the man for the job.
His first purchase was a consumer-grade Canon camera. With that in tow, Hollenback went to work taking rodeo photos, a task that is much easier said than done.
“That first camera of mine actually did very well. It didn’t have a lot of shutters per second though, so I really had to learn how to time my shots,” he explained.
When photographing rodeos, there isn’t the luxury of posing a shot, or even waiting for the right shot. Roughstock are out in the arena for eight seconds and timed event runs can be half that long. Barrel racing is about the only event that averages longer then 10 seconds. Hollenback had to be on point, making every shot count. He admits, in the beginning he didn’t always get it right and it was a long, steep learning curve at first.
“I’d get a lot of help from Shawnee and Tanner. I’d think I’d have a good shot and I’d show it to one of them and they would tell me no, it wasn’t good. But they would always explain why,” he said.
As time went on, his timing got better and he upgraded his camera set up to professional-grade Canons. Additionally, Tanner started rodeoing more and more, which gave him even more opportunities to practice.
Tanner has been rodeoing ever since he was in grade school. As a high school rodeo athlete, Tanner competed in team roping, calf roping and bull riding, with the latter being his favorite event and the one he foresaw making a career out of. Come his sophomore year, Tanner wanted to change things up and decided to switch out calf roping for saddle bronc riding.
“I got to thinking, you know, you really have to turn your toes out when you ride saddle broncs, maybe if I start riding bucking horses, I will turn my toes out better when I ride bulls,” Tanner remembered.
With that logic, Tanner bought a saddle bronc saddle and promptly got to work, getting bucked off of a lot of horses. In fact, in those beginning years, Tanner really questioned why he had even decided to try saddle bronc riding in the first place.
What Tanner lacked in ability those early years of bronc riding, he made up for with tenacity. He attended saddle bronc riding schools and never passed up an opportunity climb on a horse. Once he got to college at the University of Great Falls, Tanner found a mentor in Shane Moran, a Montana Circuit Champion saddle bronc rider.
Under Moran’s tutelage, Tanner finally started to get the hang of saddle bronc riding. At the Miles City College Rodeo, the fall of Tanner’s freshman year, he won the saddle bronc riding. As the saying goes, “success breeds success” and since that fateful rodeo, Tanner all but abandoned his dreams of being a bull rider and set his sights on being a successful bronc rider.
The 27-year-old Tanner started rodeoing professionally about five years ago, and like his dad’s photography career, it has been a battle to get to the top, but 2019 proved to be a really great year for the young bronc rider. Tanner won four pro rodeos and will be sliding into his fourth Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals sixth in the standings, which is the highest he has ever been.
His father’s career also has steadily been improving over the past few years. His career has become much more then a hobby as Hollenback has been hired to document some of rodeo’s biggest events like the World Series Team Roping Finals and the Elite Professional Bull Rider’s Finals, just to name a couple. It can be said that both Tanner and Dave experienced struggles in their respective rodeo adventures, but through hard work, practice and family support they have both found success.
To see more of Dave’s work, check out his Instagram page @davidhollenbackphotos.
To catch a glimpse of Tanner, head to Great Falls, Mont., Jan. 10-12, 2020, for the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at the Montana ExpoPark Box Office or by calling 406-727-1481. Performances begin at 7 p.m. each night at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Arena.