I have written about Professional Bull Riding a few times in the past, however over the next couple of posts I would like to talk about the photographers who bring you the great images from the PBR each and every week.
As you would expect I got paid a bundle to put this together. Well, Andy bought me a sandwich and a diet coke. I work for love and kisses. That, or I just really like taking photos up close at the PBR methinks.
Seeing as how it is my blog I also get to shove in a few of my shots… they won’t mind as I am sure that they have seen the odd bull riding photo or two.
I took the following photograph this past weekend in Columbus at the penultimate round of the 2011 PBR season… from here the traveling roadshow heads to Las Vegas for the World Finals, and the subsequent crowning of a new Champion. The photo was taken from the ‘Shark Cage’ in the middle of the arena, which I would have to say is my favorite place to be at these events. It is really cool.
Here’s Looking At You!
So who are the PBR photographers?
With the amount of imagery that gets created you would think that it is a large crew. In fact it is just three (3)… of the nicest people around… and very busy ones at that. Husband and wife team Andy & Jacey Watson who live in Montana, and Matt Breneman who is based in California.
They are BULL STOCK MEDIA.
Matt, Jacey & Andy at the 2010 World Finals in Las Vegas standing with the Champion’s Trophy & a couple of really big Checks!
As you would expect, after years of experience and practice they have it down to a science. Each of the three plays a part, and it goes something like this.
So what do you get when you cross a keen fisherman with a boy who grew up in a Montana National Park playing with Buffalo (I made the buffalo bit up… I think), who likes taking photos of dangerous bulls up close, and is into rebuilding old pick up trucks? That would be Andy.
For those who were surprised to hear in a prior blog that the photographers are on the actual arena with Flint and the Bull Fighters (and the Bulls), this is where Andy is located. You can see him in the below photograph taking a photo of former World Champion Mike Lee. Yep… I know what you are thinking… ‘whack-job alert’. For sure that is not a place to be if you don’t like beef up close or are a vegetarian.
Former World Champion Mike Lee in Columbus
Andy’s job is to to shoot (document) every ride that comes out of the chute, as you never know which one is going to win the actual event, or post a record score.
As the arenas’ are relatively dark for capturing good images of fast moving objects he has eight (8) high powered professional flash (strobe) units up in the rafters. He installs these at nearly every event, then they get shipped along with the rest of the PBR equipment to the next location on the PBR haulers.
Note: for those feeling sorry for Andy for having to lug these around…. he made me carry all 8 of the damn things down by myself last weekend… he had to take care of the ‘technical’ part of the diss-assembly. Yeah right… an Aussie doesn’t know how to disconnect a US extension cord?? Mind you… it seems that we are dumb enough to be a pack mule though. Still, I got to see the arena from a place that not many ever will. In case you are wondering… yes we are very high up here. That is a humpin’ big twin cab Ford pick up truck down there.
Andy ‘grizzly adams’ setting up Strobe units in Columbus
Andy uses a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera and an EF70-200 f/2.8L lens, and fires the strobes in the rafters with a Pocket Wizard MiniTT1 transmitter. He is also an accomplished fence jumper… which he is known to do on occasion to avoid the odd bull heading his way.
Time for me to squeeze in another one of my shots… taken from the Bull chutes at the Cooper Tires Invitational in Columbus with a Canon EOS-1 Mk4 camera and a Canon EF70-200 f/2.8L II lens. Focal length at 70mm as he was pretty close at the time.
Brazilian Robson Palermo
Not sure how many Bulls Matt got to hang around with in Orange County in Southern California but he seems to like getting up close and cuddly now.
Matt is the ‘everywhere’ photog. He shoots the portrait sessions (see the cowboy photos on the PBR website for example), as well as any functions and events. When he is finished with these activities he hangs out on the Bull chutes with the cowboys and gets up close and personal as the bull riders get on the bulls and exit the chutes. Having done this myself with him… you can’t be scared or allergic to bull-snot and bull-crap to be this close… and there is gobs of it to go around.
Now while this may not seem as dangerous as being on the arena, there are a lot of moving parts apart from the bull to be careful of. You share this space with the bull riders, the TV camera guys, the officials, and the stock contractors. And as you can see, Matt gets up close to the bull here, even sticking his camera through the rails as you will see in the below video, so it has its moments.
Matt on the Bull Chute in Madison Square Garden New York City
Now I have to tell you a bull crap story. Bulls seem to be factories for both crap and snot, and when they get excited in the chutes just before they try and buck the rider off… they don’t mind sharing it around. Last year in Billings Montana I was up on the Bull chutes with the TV camera guy when this bull unloaded on him and the end of the camera lens, and I mean unloaded. Being the pro that he was he simply got a big stack of napkins out of his pocket (yes he was prepared), simply wiped off the lens, and kept on trucking.
Matt runs two (2) cameras, both hooked up to WFT’s. A Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, typically with an EF70-200 f/2.8L II lens, and a Canon EOS-5D MkII with either an EF16-35 f/2.8L or EF24-70 f/2.8L lens. On the Bull chutes even a 16mm lens may not get it all in as you are so close.
Below is a short video (and a crappy one at that – a lot of crap seems to be flying here) that I took with my GoPro of Matt in action on the chutes last weekend. It is ‘as shot’ out of the GoPro with no editing so it is what it is. Turn the volume up… and check out where he is putting the camera (and himself).
And last, but by no means least… is the brains of the operation… Jacey (a.k.a. Photo Commander). To this day I have no idea how she does what she does. Maybe it is a girl thing, meaning that she seems to be able to do a hell of a lot of complicated things at the same time… with a smile on her face. I think it is the red wine myself.
To explain what Jacey does it is probably easier to simply explain how a typical event goes once the announcers say… ‘Welcome to the PB-RRRRRRR’.
The Photo Commander
Andy and Matt (and me if I go) have their cameras hooked up to Canon Wireless File Transmitters (WFT), which then in turn are connected to an FTP site (via a wireless connection/network and laptop that they have located just outside the main arena floor next to where Andy stands – he can actually lean over the fence and watch the live feed that Jacey is posting). What is really cool about how this works is that more often than not, Jacey is in Montana while the event is running… this is where the red wine comes in.
The photos hit Jacey from 3-4 separate cameras while the event is running. She selects, then crops and posts directly into the PBR.com Live Event Center ‘Live Photos’ section. Now while that is clever in itself, what is really clever (and ambidextrous) is the fact that she also carries on a conversation with all her ‘Herd’ as she calls them… which is several thousand people who log-in to the live feed, both to view the photos, and to communicate with other members of the Herd… it is a community of people who may have never met… but all like Bull Riding.
Live Photos Live Feed Chat
PBR turned on their new website this past weekend which has moved the Live Event Center, so here is the new link if you want to check it out. PBR LIVE PHOTOS. It isn’t the easiest thing to find now, so once you get there you will need to click on the drop down as per the below.
PBR Live Photos
So to close out this basic summary of Team BSM. What they do is both somewhat unique and unusual, and certainly not for the faint hearted. They make it look simple, and they try to make the PBR fans feel like they are part of the action and closer than they will likely ever get… and they are good at what they do.
Well that is enough on these yahoos for now. I will check back in after the PBR World Finals in Vegas.
See you next time. Same Place.
Me & Matt on the Chutes