Photographers' Blog

It’s a dirty job

By Jessica Rinaldi

Imagine a mountain, the type of thing that you might go skiing on in the winter. Now picture yourself running up and down said mountain for nine miles and just for kicks why don’t you throw in some really sadistic obstacles? Things like fire and mud and just to make it more fun why not throw in some live wires? Yeah, live wires. You know just string them over that mud pit there so that you’ll get zapped as you’re trying to get across to the other side. We’ll call it the electric eel. What’s that you say? You’d like a dumpster full of ice cubes to jump into as well? Done. Congratulations you’ve just entered the world of the Tough Mudder, an event so intense that in order to compete you must sign a waiver releasing the planners from liability should you happen to die somewhere along the course.

SLIDESHOW: ONE TOUGH MUDDER

Let me be clear, this event is a sports photographer’s paradise. The mud alone would be enough to combat every extra inning baseball game you’ve ever shot (what’s that you say, 17 innings and not a single good picture?) but then throw in the ice cubes, the fire, the electrified wires, and a bunch of contestants so focused on getting through the thing that they have no idea you’re even there and well… you get the point.

You might assume that a photographer on her way to cover such an event would think to bring some sort of suitable covering for her equipment. I would love to tell you that I busted out the expensive rain covers for my cameras and wrapped them up lovingly, keeping a microfiber cleaning cloth in my pocket to quickly wipe away any debris that got on my lens. But that would be a lie. I carried three cameras with me and threw caution to the muddy, muddy wind.

The first obstacle is the one the Tough Mudder calls the “Arctic Enema” the competitors run straight up the mountain and then come back down to jump into dumpsters filled with ice cubes. Since there were no PR people to stop me from doing so (did I mention that there are no PR people telling you what not to do in photographic paradise?) I climbed up on the edge of the dumpster to shoot the competitors as they jumped in and swam towards me to get out. The reactions ranged from those who screamed to those who laughed and of course those who swore. It goes without saying that I got soaked, but I managed to keep one patch of my t-shirt dry so that I could wipe water off the lens every few minutes.

Since the race went off in three heats it was hard to decide where to go next. When I arrived to get my credentials in the morning I was given a trail map of the mountain marked with each obstacle and told that I could walk anywhere I wanted to on the course. It was obvious that there were some obstacles on the nine mile course that I was going to have to give up on seeing because they were just too far out of the way. I picked out the ones that sounded good and tried to make a rough plan of attack figuring on when the heats might end up at each obstacle.

Be messy and be healthy

Crowds flounder and scream in the gray mud. Crazed people struggle with each other, fighting fiercely to throw others into the mud. The streets of a small coastal village are messy with mud. Mud-covered pedestrians, some already tipsy, wander along the beachside streets. But this is not a battlefield or a disaster area. It’s typical scenery during the Boryeong Mud Festival.

The festival, which runs from July 16-24 this year, is one of South Korea’s most popular summer events. Around 2-3 million domestic and international festival-goers visit the beach during the event each year to enjoy mud-related activities such as mud slides, mud wrestling, a mud king contest and mud massages.

The presence of lots of foreign visitors, many of them members of the U.S. Forces Korea and their families, make this festival an exotic event for locals. It feels like I’m staying at Miami Beach. The mud puts everyone in a good mood. Visitors can enjoy the festival regardless of age, sex, or nationality. And there’s no need to play in the mud – you can just spray it and tackle the people around you! Somehow everyone can be friends after a few minutes of mud fighting.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures 26 June 2011

Last week a series of unconnected bomb attacks across Asia left dozens dead and many more injured.  Thirty-five people were killed in a suicide bombing next to a hospital in Afghanistan's Logar province south of Kabul, at least four police officers were wounded in blast in eastern Pakistan, and suspected Taliban militants stormed a police station in a town in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least five policemen. Four explosions rocked Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw.  In Thailand a triple bombing by suspected insurgents kills at least two people and wounded nine others in Thailand's deep south.

A victim of a suicide bomb attack yells as medics apply burn cream to his torso after he was brought to the Lady Reading hospital for treatment in Peshawar June 20, 2011. A suicide bomber blew himself up in a market area on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least two people and wounded three, police and hospital officials said. This image has been rotated 180 degrees.  REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

Covering violence and the suffering it causes is a daily diet for the team in Pakaistan so when I saw Fayaz's up-side-down picture on the wire  I asked Adrees Latif, chief photographer Pakistan, why it had been rotated. Visually I was uncomfortable with it.  Adrees' answer made me stop and think about the way I look at these pictures so I thought that I'd share his reply.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures

Rarely do so many big stories of global interest happen at the same time from one region but last week in Asia its been incredible.

Soldiers and aid workers struggled to reach at least a million people cut off by landslides that have complicated relief efforts after the worst floods in Pakistan in 80 years. Poor weather has grounded relief helicopters and more rain was expected to compound the misery of more than 13 million people . The floods have killed more than 1,600 people. 

PAKISTAN-FLOODS/

Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 7, 2010. Pakistanis desperate to get out of flooded villages threw themselves at helicopters on Saturday as more heavy rain was expected to intensify both suffering and anger with the government. The disaster killed more than 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of 12 million.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif