Saturday, July 19, 2008


Well, this isn't something I do everyday. Continuing my recent county fair kick, I headed up to Bucyrus - the bratwurst capitol of the world, in case you didn't know - for the Crawford County Fair where the night's feature was bull riding. Yep, bull riding.

I've never seen bull riding in person, only snippets on TV. So when I saw there would be bull riding at this county fair, I was actually pretty excited. My hope was that I could get down into the riders' area and shoot the story of the bull riding. Luckily, it seems that the smaller county fairs don't have as beefed (sorry!) up security as the larger fairs and I was able to do just as I'd hoped.

I got in on the action just after the children-riding-sheep intermission so I was able to tell the story from start to finish. I am very excited about the images I was able to make and hope you'll enjoy them.

The night's bull riders, waiting to start. Because of the low number of entrants, each rider was able to have two rides.

Casting a wary eye. I learned that some bulls, such as the one on the bottom, have horns that turn down and are actually floppy, like an extra set of ears.

Getting the order in which they'll ride.

There is an elaborate process of stringing up the bull in various places, which invariably makes them a little testy, but I guess that's the point.

Donning the chaps.

And practicing the moves.

Time for a prayer.

More fancy chaps.

More bull strapping, which includes a cowbell.

More praying. This bull riding stuff is serious business. The emcee told of new security measures and how the hardshell vests and helmets have saved lives. Still, for some, a little added protection is in order.

The helmet, which, actually, only a few of the riders wore. Hence the prayers, I guess.

Now, onto the action. Eventually, they all end up on the ground.

I certainly don't envy this guy's job: pull the gate open with a rope and run for your life. Makes weddings seem like a breeze.

I simultaneously love and loathe the look in the bull's eye.

The way the light is hitting this rider and bull just makes it look eerie.

Uh oh. Some bulls definitely seemed more aggressive than others, and this one wasn't fooling around.

The guy next to this bull is a bull fighter. The bull fighter's job is to distract the bull from the rider when he's down.

This guy was looking dead at me, with "dead" being the operative word, I'm sure. I shot this at 35 mm, so he was actually extremely close to me. I'm glad I was behind the fence.

Oooh, and here he comes.

I've included this shot so you can see just how close I was shooting and how close the bulls come to the fence. For most of the shots I took, my 24-70 mm lens was through the fence rails. At one point, a bull came to a screeching halt in front of me and threw a big load of dirt right in my face! They really know no boundaries. The guy to my left had been sitting on the fence just a few seconds before and jumped to safety just in time.

I love the bull's long tail standing straight up. Those white "lines", off to the right of the bull's head? Yep, that would be snot. Like I said before: best viewed from a distance.

See ya.

A small break in the action, so I walked around in the pen area for a few minutes. The bulls look so sweet here.

This guy did an amazing job riding and staying on.

Strapping up the next bull in line.

OK, keep an eye on this guy.

Oh no.

He's headed right for the fence where I'm standing.

Ooooh, ow.

Holy cow. (ugh, sorry again!)

The bull seemed satisfied that he'd put the rider in his place.

These guys dragged the bull rider from under the fence. He hit the fence pretty hard and seemed a little shook up, but he got to his feet rather quickly considering.

EMS was standing by and called in right away, although the orange board proved to not be needed. Thankfully.

Show's over, time for autographs.

Winding down yet another fun day at the Crawford County Fair.


Sergio said...

Awesome work Karen! I really love the shot of the cowboy opening the gate.

Great coverage.

Karen said...

Thanks, Sergio! That means a ton, coming from you!

jerry said...

Not only are the images amazing, but the story telling is top-notch. Really great job on this coverage.

Ray said...

Sweet stuff, Karen!