I used to attend San Fermin since I was young and it's really one of the craziest festivals in the world. I ran with the bulls twice, the first time I didn't even see them and, on the second try, I saw them too close after being pushed by a falling runner.
From 1997 until 2006 I shoot pictures of the festival for Reuters and I can say without a doubt, that this is the most exhausting but exhilarating assignment I ever had. It's ten days of little sleep, junk food and very loud music!
As a photographer your days begin very early in the morning, around 5AM. That's the time you must wake up if you want to have a position at Estafeta corner, the best spot of the course. There are only good 10 positions for photographers there and you don't want to miss one. Once you have reserved your spot wait until 8AM, the time of the running.
For a few years we used to lay down in the floor, using cardboard to avoid getting soaked in the ever constant urine smell, and shot the run from low angles. It gave more control than using remote cameras and the adrenaline rush was incomparable to anything else I have ever experienced! You go on your position in the floor at around 7:58AM when runners are already packing the street. All you can see is legs, hundreds of legs of people walking up and down, waiting for the rocket that announces the pack of bulls has been released, around 300 meters from where you are. Then runners start to get nervous, jump to warm up muscles and things start to get faster and faster. You can't see much from such low angle but you can guess bulls must be getting closer when revelers are running and sprinting. Suddenly there is no more legs, no more runners, all you have in front of you is a pack of six bulls, each weighting up to 650 kg, sprinting towards you and realizing they have to slow down because there is a corner in front of them. But the floor is slippery and all they do is slide and fall, towards you! After a couple of photographers got injured trying this angle not many more tried it...
Covering San Fermin means meeting a lot of colleagues, old and new. It was in Pamplona that I had the chance to meet some of the most brilliant photographers I've ever met. Jim Hollander, one of the most veteran guys in town, has been covering the festival for decades, only missing the event for big breaking news happening in the Middle East. Working along Desmond Boylan, Santiago Lyon, Jerry Lampen, Damir Sagolj, Suhaib Salem, Susana Vera, Paul Hanna, Eloy Alonso, Ami Vitale or the great Vincent West is worth all the dirt, the exhaustion and the madness!
I must admit I miss covering San Fermin.
Gora San Fermin!