My experience of the Ironman Cozumel 2011 – taking photos of this international sport event.
After having studied photography with Tati for five months within my summer internship at Cactus TV, I was allowed to take pictures during the Ironman in Cozumel on 27th November 2011.
One day beforehand, we received the press accreditation and a T-shirt identifying us as members of the media group for this important sports event.
With those, we could pass most of the fences that separate the spectators from the athletes and the racetrack.
The best places for taking photos and videos are reserved for the media group, which means that I have been really close to the athletes during the race.
I agreed with Tati and and Chris on certain spots and times, when and where each one of us could probably get the best shots.
My special task was to take pictures for an upcoming photo contest that deals with emotions in sports events.
Additionally, for the first time I would be allowed to take pictures right next to professional photographers and cameramen and I would be responsible for choosing the best viewpoint,
always paying attention and being on time. So, 45 minutes before the starting signal I have already positioned myself in the transition zone taking some pictures that underline the atmosphere ranging from relaxed to tense.
Thanks to what I have already learned from Tati, I did take some nice pictures in this low-light situation early in the morning, in this way recording how the athletes prepare their bikes and themselves. Now the bikes are almost ready, most of the athletes are just arriving. At 6.30 a.m.
I’m walking over to the starting point of the 3,8km swim with a dozen other photographers and as many other cameramen.
I was quite afraid beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to take good photos because I’m not good at struggling through the crowd and fighting my way to the front.
Fortunately, I am smaller than most of the other media employees and own a camera that allows me to move almost unrestrictedly – I’ve immediately found a place in the first row where I disturbed nobody else while taking some unique pictures of the swimmers.
Then, the starting signal at 6.45 a.m.: With a fast shutter speed and several changes of the ISO sensitivity during the sunrise and different times of the day I got beautiful sports pictures.
The first elite athletes left the water again after 45 minutes, sprinting to the changing rooms, heading to their bicycles through the rows of altogether 2300 racing bikes.
I’ve found myself right in between, again careful not to disturb anyone, neither photographers nor athletes.
After having taken enough photos in the hectic, exciting transition area, I headed off to the other side of the island.
Tati and I made the arrangement that I would try to pass the cordons for tourists so that I could take pictures of the competitors on the other side of the island while she would stay close to the city and the finish line.
On the other side, I had the sunlight in the back and the Caribbean Sea or tropical forest in the background which helped to get convey a beautiful tropical atmosphere during the sports event. Usually it is possible to sign up for a motorcycle transportation, taking the media employees to certain places next to the track. I didn’t sign up for a motorbike but accompanied the athletes a few kilometers by bike instead – my old, small mountain bike. This seemed to quite surprise some of the cyclists and made them wave and smile honestly into my camera. In the end, this helped a lot to get a great picture for the photo contest!
The race is a big challenge for the participants, not only because of the total distance of 226km they have to cover but also because of the heat, humidity and upcoming winds.
I also took short breaks to take photos at the stands with volunteers providing the sportsmen and –women with food and drinks.
As soon as I got all the pictures we thought of beforehand, I headed back to the city and met Tati again just before the first Ironman crossed the finish line.
After 8 hours 24 minutes, Michael Lovato from the United States has finished the triathlon after the marathon of 42,2km just after it had started to rain heavily.
Again, I have been lucky to find a good place next to the other photographers on the press gallery, just in front of the finish line – unfortunately it started to rain heavily and took my camera too late out of the rain protection so that I missed to take a picture of the winner.
Most of the athletes finished the Ironman a few hours later until the event officially ended around midnight, 17 hours after the starting signal. By then, 1770 participants have been lucky to hear a voice, calling their names and announcing, “You are an Ironman!”
Summing up, I enjoyed to taking photos during the Ironman Cozumel: the members of the media group respected each other; thanks to thousands of spectators and supporters the atmosphere was awesome; the athletes have been smiling honestly into the camera when noticing me “working” right next to them. After more than nine exciting hours of work,
I’ve been exhausted but more than happy with the photos I have been able to take.
Thus, participating in the Ironman in this way has been an awesome experience for me and I’d love to be part of it one day again.