By Denis Balibouse

serendipity
noun; the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: a fortunate stroke of serendipity

Going back to a previously covered event is a challenge in creativity in order not to produce the same pictures over and over again. I wondered how to achieve this before traveling to the Haute Maurienne Valley in the West of France to cover the last five stages of La Grande Odyssee sled dog race in the same location as last year.

I had taken with me what I thought would be enough equipment; 3 cameras bodies, 4 lenses, 3 tripods, remotes and their cables, all this packed in a robust backpack. I also took some mountain equipment (I don’t have the same fur as the dogs and the wait can be long).

An obvious way to be different is to change angles. I was lucky that the organizers were able to give us a few minutes in a helicopter every day. This helped to produce some interesting complimentary images. The key part of the 3 stages over 5 days is the polar base at the Mont-Cenis Path, a road that links France to Italy. Mushers and their dogs start the stage in the valley for about 60 to 70 kilometers and then ascend the 10 kilometer long road to the Path at 2081 m (6827 ft) where they sleep.

Last year I photographed the mushers running up the Mont-Cenis road twice during those night stages. This year I had planned to do the same. How could I be creative in complete darkness when the use of the flash would destroy all the atmosphere of the image? Last year I had noticed a giant cross about one kilometer from the summit and headed straight to it this year once we were allowed to take the chairlift up to the summit. I carefully set up two bodies and a remote flash behind the standing cross and proceeded to shoot a few test pictures in order to include the headlight for the longest time possible. I knew the mushers would arrive soon and with 13 still left in the competition I would not have many attempts before getting my desired shot.