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Red + Bull

I’ll admit, most of my news comes from ESPN. A good chunk from NPR. Never local network news (shiver). And occasionally, when the spirit moves me, I’ll peek at the NYTimes and MSNBC web sites. Though I seem to go straight to their sports sections. Hm.

Anyway, while surfing the mainstream news, I discovered a weird sport revival. Folks outside of Phoenix planned to bring running of the bulls back to The Grand Canyon State.

Time to make a run towards the border, yo.

I’ve wanted to photograph The Granddaddy for some time – the run in Pamplona. Looks like there are some amazing photos there.

Though, I’ll be honest. It does kinda scares the shit out of me.

There are way too many people running around very narrow European streets with very angry bulls aiming in all directions. Sure, it’d be cool to get a fun wide angle photo. But after being KO’d by a loose bronco in Oklahoma, I’m not sure how I’d do with an angry horned beast chasing me down.

The run in Arizona, with its cattle fencing and onsite parking, seemed like a safe – and smart – compromise.

I had planned to be on the East Coast when this was happening in Arizona. But the stars lined up nicely when I was asked to present my work at Erika’s alma mater, Northern Arizona, by friend, colleague and teacher, Wes Pope.

Goes without say, but it’s very flattering to be flown in to ramble in person about something I’m so passionate (nutty) about.

I timed my weird lecture on a Thursday, with the bulls on display Friday evening and Saturday. I love it when a plan comes together.

The run itself was divided up into heats, one every two hours. Lots of down time. I filled some of that time shooting costumed runners.

Of course, the midday light and triple-digit heat in Arizona are a bit brutal. Since I have no control over el sol, I did the best with what I had. That involved chilling between heats across the street at a local bar or cafe.

Yep. Once again, weird sports proves it’s great for tourism dinero.

So the dilemma is this: Where’s the best place to stand for each heat?

The run, which is maybe 400 yards, lasts just a minute or two. In some places, there were more runners than bulls. In others, more bulls than runners. It was a challenge to find that sweet spot, where the masses met the mayhem.

I think there were 5 heats on Saturday. So about 10 minutes of total action pix. At 5 frames/sec and with a 12-image buffer, I found myself waiting more than once for my camera to catch up with me. And cursing.

Oh, did I mention these are rodeo bulls?

Sure, they’re big. But they’re so much tamer than their Spanish primos. Aside from a couple scrapes and bruises from folks that fell down, there was little spilled blood.

What usually happened was that the run would start. Some of the folks sprinted safely to the finish line. But where’s the fun in that? Others plodded around, waiting for the lazy bulls to catch up. Once at full gallop, they could bowl you over. But the course was pretty wide, so the threat was minimal.

The Spaniards would have laughed.

As with any successful Weird Sport adventure, I was among local, fun(ny) friends. My favorite rickshaw driver from Geekfest Denver, Nick Oza, made it a point to hang out on Saturday. I was also shooting alongside Joshua Lott and Eric ThayerAndy DeLisle arrived in time for the final heat Saturday.

Thanks to Wes & Kate for their hospitality in Flagstaff. And to Andy and his talent(ed) wife, Arielle, who already had one baby to take care of, but still offered this grown child a crib to crash in in Phoenix.

Kinda crazy trip, going from SF to PDX to NYC to AZ back to NYC all within the better part of two weeks. But I suppose I’m kinda crazy, too.

I’m not bullshitting you.

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