An annual highlight of my year is shooting the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. This past weekend was the third year running. The event has got bigger and bigger, offering distances for all, from those who just want to give it a try to those who love a serious long course. For me, contrary to previous years when I was shooting from a helicopter, it was great to taste the actual atmosphere on the ground. This blog post takes a slightly different take from the norm, recording my day in chronological order.
02.00: The alarm goes off, or rather, I find myself waking one minute before the alarm goes off. With only 2.5 hours of sleep, shall I name the day a graveyard shift or one that follows a red eye flight? A giant yawn and a long shower follow and I’m into gear. Fast-forward half an hour and the Landy is packed and ready to go! I stopped en route for a quick bite on the go, sharing the menu and checkout with a party ready to crash after a big night out; a cheerful bunch needless to add!
04.00: A bonus for arriving early is finding a sweet parking spot right opposite the race venue … perfect for accessing extra kit during the race and setting me up for a fast exit when done. I walked over, in the pitch black, to the Abu Dhabi corniche to find a few dozen event crew still around and hard at work. There is something mystical about the race grounds before the race starts; so peaceful, so quiet. I like to walk the course and transition area, envisioning shots, considering nice angles, thinking about movement and any hurdles to be solved. I caught up with Ryan who heads the media team and walked though a shooting sequence and logistics. How peaceful it is early morning and how crazy, frantic and manic it will be in just a couple of hours.
05.30: It is time to prepare, time to sort out my kit and think through what I’ll need and when. 5.41am … click … the first shot of the day taking in a quiet transition tent. From that moment onwards, the pace picked up, athletes began streaming in and the atmosphere started to build.
06.40: I am introduced to Gerrit who will be taking me around the bike course on the back of his awesome BMW 1200GS motorbike. Little does he know that once upon a time I nearly bought one of these monsters. Riding a motorbike fits hand in hand with the spirit of adventure. It turns out, Gerrit is a legend on wheels. Original from South Africa, he’s extensively toured African land on his adventure bike. I’m in good hands.
07.10 “Five … four … three … two … one!” and the race is off with the elite male athletes starting their 3km swim. The elite females take to the sea two minutes later and the game is on! I began shooting from a boat, capturing the start and then some tight swim action back to the beach to catch the athletes as they exited their first lap. Now the long course age groupers are getting ready for their start. Bang and go! The elites start to emerge from the water, ready to transition to their 200km bike ride. I stand ready to shoot some great transition action with these first pro’s.
08.00 The helmet is on and the camera secured. “Gerrit, let’s catch up with the leaders.” We speed off from the Abu Dhabi corniche towards the Khalifa Bridge. I get a few good shots of the long climb onto the bridge where on good days, there lies a great view of the Abu Dhabi skyline. Today however, the skies lie foggy. We make our way to the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit; this event brings a rare and brilliant opportunity to ride the Formula One Track which means Gerrit is all smiles! It’s show time … time for quick action and fast movement … made easier by my knowing the track pretty well by now. It remains however, a beasty adrenaline rush.
a-Productions-ADIT-10.jpg” alt=”Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. Sports. Yas Marina Circuit. Swim. Bike. Run. Ironman. Extreme sports. Nuun. Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. Professional Sports Group. Wouter Kingma. Commercial Photography. sports photography. life style photography. dubai based photographer. ” width=”700″ height=”337″ />
09.40 We’re exiting the Yas Marina Circuit and returning to normal road. A few photo-stops later and we’re back at race start. I give a quick thanks to Gerrit and crack on at my working station to start on the first downloads. With lots of gigabytes to transfer, I take the opportunity to hydrate and grab some food. Peace and harmony always prevails when I find a Grande Latte!
12.00 Back on the course to shoot the short course athletes crossing the finish line. Big spectator crowds and a live commentary make for a buzzing atmosphere and a welcome backdrop for the finishers receiving their big shiny medals. I love this … love the buzz, love the positive energy.
13.33 Rasmus Henning takes home victory on the long course with a great performance and a new course record. Wow! It was a tight finish with Faris el Sultan only 27 seconds behind; 27 painful seconds I should add when it meant missing out on US$ 50,000 prize money. That must hurt. Mum Nikki Butterfield, won the ladies race by crossing with her baby girl in her arms. Although the competitive race is now over, the trophies handed to their glowing recipients, there are still hundreds of athletes out on the course bringing home their own victories. Triathlon is such a great sport that regardless of age, background or ability, everyone walks home a winner. Many more downloads are to follow to be shared with the global media.
14.50 I am back out on the course for the final round of tri action. The wind has picked up dramatically making it hard on the runners. For me these are the true heroes, those still battling the elements and suffering for sure. Even after eight hours of racing, they continue to move forward. It’s that old adage again … relentless forward motion! I’m at an aid station on the running course, watching the crew cheering everyone on and enjoying every minute. I click my last picture of the day at 16.47.
17.30 Wrapped, packed, downloaded, uploaded and handed over … my work is done! I head for home, tunes blaring in the car to keep me awake.
19.00: There are few things more enticing than coming home to find a lovely home cooked family dinner and a glass of red wine. I then crashed out pretty much the same time as our 2 year old son.
The 2012 edition of the Abu Dhabi Triathlon has been a glorious day and despite the challenging weather, it’s been a huge success. My warmest congrats go to all the winners, finisher and non-finishers alike. A big thanks too to all the crew and volunteers for pulling off a great gig. Next years date has already been set; sign up, I dare you!