In my memory of sporting events, I recall watching demolition derby. That was many years ago when TV was black and white and ABC’s Wide World of Sports would show demolition derby. More curiosity than real sport, I enjoyed the mayhem.
It was decades later that I discovered that they do this at the county fairs in Maine. The fire department is deployed. The cars struggle along trying to disable one another. The crowd cheers. Someone wins. There’s little room to maneuver so there is not too much bone jarring crashes. You just can’t rev up and have a go from a good enough distance. It does draw a big local crowd.
The county fairs in Maine had woodsman day. Excuse me, ‘women’ day also. The best group was ‘Chicks with Axes’ well at least the name. In one place they put a Coke can (full) in the bullseye for the axe to hit. Sawing, chopping and other assorted timber skills were contested. The loudest were the chainsaw events. Cut down a tree, yes, there was a contest for that as well. For the participants this was really serious stuff. The trees were erected like telephone poles. It’s the last event. The trunks are trimmed to the same diameter. Bring a sharp axe and wear a shin guard. No bleeding this time.
But it’s the chainsaw that has made all the difference. They even compete in souped up chainsaws to cut the block in the fewest seconds. It’s way too loud. They actually hand out ear plugs among the audience.
You bet?! It’s a big money maker for the organizers. The riders are coming from far and away to compete. The advantage for me is that no one seemed to know what to do with me. I just wandered all over, along the rail, in the infield, in the paddock and was never really prevented from getting up close. Everyone ignored me. Later I found out you can’t do any of this. No one from the audience is allowed in the staging area. But a big camera and looking like you belong can go a long way. I had a great time all along the rail in the infield. With all this freedom to roam, I was stuck trying to get the best action shot. You do your best. Unlike stock cars, there were no crashes, at least while I watched.
Nothing is done to intentionally hurt the bucking stock.
This includes binding of testicles (a popular lie spread by certain groups against rodeo), drugging, beating, burning, etc.
It’s written in “bold” on the website. Where did I see this? In Maine in the autumn of 2007 at a county fair… It was a serious competition for points. It was not a mega event. It occurred on a very chilly evening in the dark, a highlight of the evening’s activity.
I arrived early to ‘scope out the venue and pick the best place from which to get photographs. I brought a flash expecting to need the extra light. I was really to far away to be in an ideal position. At the earlier hour of sunset the bulls were peacefully standing in the coral, perfectly docile and crowded together. To look at the bulls you would never consider them to be a ton of angry bucking muscle.
If you look closely there are two ropes. The first is for the rider to hold dearly hoping to make 8 seconds and get a score for a ride. The rope wrapped around the bull behind the rider is (not?) attached to the testicles (remember it’s bulls not cows). Whatever the rope does it certainly gets the bull’s attention. Riders are thrown and they are injured. This means an ambulance is on standby. Some of the riders now wear flak vests and crash helmets. It’s not too western looking but it’s a bit more protective. Stomping usually doesn’t involve head injury, mostly broken bones. I make this assumption because, by my estimation, access to a competent neurosurgeon is not high on the priority list. But please keep in mind no animals were hurt in the making of these images.
Here’s a dragon boat. They are long and thin and carry no outriggers. And in the foreground, here’s a dragon boat that just sank. There was no particular mistake on the part of the crew. I think it does take some team discipline to sit calmly lined up in the boat as other teams pass you by. It’s good that the lake is very shallow. Everyone had their life vest. Oh, and notice the dragon at the prow of every boat. It’s why they call them dragon boats.
Annually in Flushing Meadow Park, the Dragon boat races occur. There is a linear boat course marked out for teams of paddlers. The dragon boat teams are quite spirited and everyone has good time. This group had a lot of energy. Dragons are good luck. And the noise is to ward off or scare away bad spirits. It was very noisy. It works.
This shot was taken in the days before digital. Now it’s hard to miss. (See post for 9/13/11.) You have auto ISO and VR and ability to instantly know you have an image. In the old days, I would shoot with my best guess. The meter couldn’t really help. You would get some ambient light and the lights of the ride. But how to balance the two light sources? Bracket your shots. I’m glad I wasn’t a professional. I took this one shot. Just one. If it came out – ok. And the blur, who could have predicted it until the film came back from developing? Yes, there are better and easier ways to insure that a good shot was taken. I’m just amazed that I got shots like this and took such a casual joy in succeeding with so little film and effort.
I have many shots of hot air balloons now. Someday I hope to visit the Albuquerque balloon fest, which I understand is a granddaddy show of them all. One of the most exciting shots is when they begin to inflate the balloons. Propane tanks, intense heat, and a flammable material make for a tense moment until the balloon starts to expand.
Here’s a historically interesting photo from an era similar to the times as in the previous post. It is a street fair from the ‘80’s with a rock band performing. The background is interesting in the political posters for Mario Cuomo, the father to present New York governor, Andrew. Who knew how history would repeat? Everything old is new again.
I respond in this post to a comment about dangers of flying in a helicopter. The story expands in the gallery of my other blog. The primary slide in this sequence is the early preparation. Balloons have to be filled with some very hot gas. Fortunately I have not seen any accidents. Then you go up into the air with no way to steer except by the direction and whim of the prevailing winds. The launch is determined by the winds, which really can’t be much more than a breeze, less than 10mph. Otherwise there is danger in flight control and landing problems. What comes to mind in the second photo is Dorothy in the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ After the balloon goes up….
The craft fairs provide so much material for photographing. I start by saying that I have no interest in stealing design or artistic ideas. Someone recently objected saying that many of the ideas were copied in China and shipped back cheaply. That’s unfortunate. Camden, Maine – summer 2006 – I was visiting again and this glassware was just a grab shot. Great lighting, good blur of the background, and nice composition make this shot a favorite still life. One might ask whether I planned or did anything special to set this shot up. I didn’t. I don’t. The image was just there and I took the picture. Instinct and experience play an unconscious role. You can walk around all day and miss shots like this. So in the end it’s just walking around with the camera ready to go and visualizing as you march along. I’m not a big planner.
This is my first shot at hot air ballooning. Lisa gets the credit for taking us to the Long Island air show at Brookhaven airport. She had acquired a vicious case of poison ivy. How bad? She was dipping her affected arms in the barrels of iced sodas. Balloon launches are in the evening and early morning when the winds are more favorably calm. The blast of flaming hot gas is necessary to fill the balloons. It is all the more impressive that everything nearby is so flammable.
There’s a lot of action in this shot. I attended a bull riding competition and wasn’t disappointed. Once again this was an advertised county fair event in Maine. A small high fenced ring is set up and a group of very docile appearing bulls were standing and munching on bales of hay. I looked around and didn’t see any fearsome bad tempered bulls waiting to throw their riders. If you’ll notice there is a strap hanging from the bull’s hind quarters. As the gate is opened and the rider and bull are released into the ring, the strap is tugged painfully. This will draw a reaction of surprise and rage every time. I won’t say what part of the bull the strap is attached but you can easily guess. It’s why they call it bull riding. Is it better than bull fighting?
Lewiston, Maine. A balloon festival occurred one summer weekend in Maine 2007. Since I lived close by, I was able to attend frequently. There were scheduled events during the weekend, but the balloon launches were weather dependent. In order to be favorable, the winds had to be calm, which was usually in the very early morning and evening. Aside from the pageantry, the balloon owners made money and expenses from giving balloon rides. Each launch period the balloon pilots would meet to discuss weather conditions. The winds were not great over the five-day period so that many times the launch was canceled at the very last second. As a result launches were extended past the weekend. When launching balloons was a go, there was always a frenzy of activity. I was fortunate to be there to watch several launches close up. There were photo ops everywhere you looked. Too many great shots were there everywhere you turned the camera. Here, I have to summarize in just one image.
I have had the fortunate luck to make friends with a now retired American Airlines pilot Charlie. He flies a Bell 47, “Mash,” helicopter as a hobby. I get to fly with him. Yeah! So, there’s a weekend event in Rhinebeck, New York. It’s an old-fashioned air show complete with a damsel in distress. The pilots, many of whom, fly their own biplanes, put on a show and it’s very entertaining. Charlie would give helicopter rides. And, I got to wander around, backstage as it were, and shoot to my heart’s content. Then we would have a greasy hamburger and call it a day. The biplanes are antique but serviceable. The airfield is grass. The winds can be tricky. I have never seen a crash although they tell me it has happened. On this day and in this photo, it was what I would consider to be a pretty close call. And the saying, “Any landing you walk away from is a good one.” It was never more true.
This shot is one of a series taken in Maine at the local county fairs. There are scheduled events like this during the fair that usually runs for a week in different locations throughout the summer. This day was woodsman day. It provided an opportunity to show off lumber skills. Groups like Chicks with Axes showed up. While many women had tattoos, this particular group was fit and attractive. Well, for axe throwers anyway, they were ok. Yes, some of the gals threw axes at a beer can set in the bulls eye of a target log. Just stay out of the way. This photo was admired by Lisa because of its detail and storytelling without the whole picture of the axe man. The idea is to chop the beam in half. The marks are to guide the cutting to minimize time and maximize efficiency. And, yes some folks wear steel toe boots and shin guards. The brave will hazard an ugly injury.