Fast paced action, no marked routes, only some control points and a timelimit. This makes for a great challenge for both racer and photographer. Here is what I learned.
Preparation. It is a good idea to prep a little before arriving on the race day. Race organizers provided me with a map and a control point description a few days before the race. I sat down and chose which points I thought would be interesting to visit and planned my route. After that I looked up some of the locations on Google to see how the area looked and got some inspiration for photo opportunities.
Be mobile. On race day I arrived at the start/finish in good time to get a briefing from the race organizers and prep my gear. It was an urban sprint adventure race so the infrastructure was good and the area wasn’t too big, around 6 km from the two furthest points. As a good Copenhagener I chose to ride my bicycle to keep me mobile. This meant I could use the same paths as the racers and in the city a bicycle is more or less as fast as a car. Of course this means you have to be in shape yourself - adventure racers are fast!
Adapt. My bicycle took me from control point to control point which was where the action was happening. Some were just simple control points others included action sports like climbing and kayaking. Arriving at a new point I quickly scanned for different angles and adjusted my camera settings to the new environment. The environment was very dynamic - from an dark old indoor shipyard to a light beach. So be adaptable and know your camera.
Make the call. The first point I arrived at I learned quickly that if there is no action you have to move on. 10 minutes of wasted time is a lot when a race is only 3 hours. So get the shots you need and move on.
Tell a story. I think it is important is to tell a story. The theme of the race was urban so I thought of how I could tell that through my photography. Every control point had a story as well and I thought of how I could tell a story within a story so when you see the total series of finished photos you have a feeling of the race.
One shot. Another challenge is that racers won’t wait for you. “Can you do that again?” is not a possibility. One shot is all you got. This of course means that you can’t fumble with camera settings or other gear, it just have to be spot on when the action is happening.
So prepare before the, come early on race day, be mobile, make the calls if there is no action and be ready when there is action, and be aware of the changing environment.
On an end note I think that everyone who like to shoot sports or other fast paced action should try shooting an adventure race. It is action sport without boundaries in a totally uncontrollable environment which really demands a lot of the photographer.
See you out there!