There are 3 themes that continue to reappear inside my weird sports bubble: costumes, horses and mud. Hey, I go where the pictures tell me.
And so that’s how I ended up in New England, photographing the annual World Championship Mud Bowl in Conway, New Hampshire.
There’s a great feeling when, after self-funding a cross-country trip, you arrive at the scene and it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than you can imagine. Welcome to Hog Coliseum!
The mud pit rests at the bottom of a hill, with fans and family members scattered along the hillside. It’s a 3 or 4 day-long event. Of course, I cherry-picked the final day.
Naturally, the weather was sunny and bright the day before. I heard there was a ton of people watching the tournament. This day, it was drizzly and blah.
I found out later that one of the big reasons why turnout was low for the championship day was that it was going head-to-head with the Patriots game. The local sports bar was apparently PACKED. What, people can’t record the game?
At events like this, I find myself reexamining how I shoot, and what I’m drawn to. There was a time when I would have been wading in the mud with these cats, being a de facto defensive back, taking pictures smothered in grime and goodness. But the pictures I really want now, they include the environment and the mood. Yeah, a sweet, tight mud pic is cool. But the time and place mean just as much, if not more.
I’m also trying to let go of some of the bad habits I learned from working at newspapers, that a photo is bad if it’s out of focus.When editing these photos, I really tried to include images that made me feel, well, dirty… so-called technical issues be damned.
As with all these tournaments, there’s a passion and love and sense of history, local history. And pride. It’s why sports is pure goodness.
Many times, I’d have walked away during the trophy ceremony (Yes, I’m talking about you, The El Paso Sun Bowl formerly sponsored by Brut).
But this one made me smile. Temporarily, at least, the trophy was the cleanest item within 100 yards.
Thanks to the players and organizers of the Mud Bowl (unofficially sponsored by Primus) for hosting a visually awesome event.
And for the kind family that carefully watched over my Nikes, keeping them clean and safe.