Photographer Kelvin Trautman recently covered athletes Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s record-breaking run in South Africa’s Drakensberg mountain range, notorious for its tough terrain and changeable weather. Red Bull Illume asked Kelvin a few questions about covering the Drakensberg Grand Traverse:
How tough was it to set everything up?
It took three months of route recce’s, team meetings, hours poring over maps, back and forth with permit offices, to collate a 45 page production booklet that mapped out, in theory, how we (the film crew and myself) were to cover the event. I say ‘theory’ because as with any shoot in the mountains, mother nature often throws a seemingly faultless shoot plan out the window within a couple hours of starting.
How did you keep up with the athletes?
By helicopter and on foot. When on the ground I ran with Ryan and Ryno anywhere between 2 and 25km at a time (night and day). The remoteness of the area meant getting images out to the world posed a problem so we planned two helicopter ferries back to our mobile base camp during the attempt so that I could quickly download, tag and upload images for media.
What kind of shots were you after?
When in the air I looked to shoot images that put into perspective the remote, raw landscape. The time spent in close quarters with the athletes gave me a chance to shoot the more emotive, detailed images – I planned on shooting most of these images towards the end where Ryan and Ryno’s mental and physical exhaustion had no filter!
What difficulties did you face?
Since the Drakensberg mountain range is incredibly inaccessible, everyone had to be mountain savvy and vigilant about safety at all times. To be safe, we set aside a weather window of 10 days as to reduce the chances of running into any major weather nuances during the record attempt.
Finding the athletes was a major hassle as Ryan and Ryno could course their way along the escarpment wherever it suited. To avoid flying around aimlessly, the mobile base camp sent us GPS co-ords of the runners’ position every 20 minutes.
How did you gear up?
I divvied my gear into two bags. A helicopter bag and a running bag. The heli bag obviously contained a much wider array of gear when compared to the much lighter, slimmed down running pack.
The helicopter bag included the following:
Lowerpro Rover Pro 45L backpack
Nikon D4, D800 camera bodies
Nikon 400mm, 70-20mm, 105mm macro, 24-70mm, 50mm, 14-24mm, 16mm fisheye lenses
A Manfrotto monopod
Two spare camera batteries per body
Four 32G x800 Lexar CF and four Lexar 32G SD memory cards
A couple Hoya filters, namely a 77mm ND4, and variable density
A MicroPro LED LITEPANEL
The running bag included the following:
Lowerpro Rover Pro 35L backpack
Nikon D610 camera body
Nikon 70-200mm, 24-70mm, 14-24mm
A couple spare camera batteries
A Nikon SB-900 Speedlight plus a Pocket Wizard mini TT1 and Flex TT5 transmitter and transceiver
Two 32G x800 Lexar CF and two Lexar 32G SD memory cards