Photographing the world’s longest cycling road-race takes almost as much stamina as those taking part in it.
The Trans-Siberian Extreme is a 14-stage, 24-day bicycle race of over 9000km from chilly Moscow to super-fricken-cold Vladivostok, taking in some of the most remote areas on Earth.
But it’s not only the riders that make this journey. Following them are support crews, mechanics and race officials – and three photographers charged with documenting the event.
Yes, by ‘snapper’ we meant ‘photographer’, not the beaut Aussie fish with the bump on its noggin.
Anyway, one of the photographers who’s banked the Red Bull bucks and shot the event is Denis Klero. Den’s photographed the race a couple of times, and along with his colleagues has tried to find the action which can often be spread out across astonishing distances.
“At the start of a stage the riders ride like a peloton,” said Den, hanging off a tree with 10kg of camera and lens gripped in his tenacious little paws. “But after a few hundred kilometres they start to separate and can be up to 200km apart by the end of the stage. That makes it very hard to catch the interesting moments.”
Geez. That Sounds A Bit Rough, Eh?
“The name of the race is the Trans- Siberian Extreme, but the extreme element is not speed or strength, it’s stamina, and that’s really hard to show in pictures. I tended to shoot close-ups of the riders’ faces or show them in the surroundings of the vast landscapes that they pass through.
It’s not easy to stop Den once he starts talking about himself.
“You can also get the ‘extreme’ message across with lifestyle shots,” he explained, as though we were interested, “showing the riders eating, resting and doing maintenance on their bikes. It’s more like photojournalism than sports photography.”
Geez. Photogermalism. That sounded serious. Maybe he could shoot the bastard Corolla virus that killed off Holden in Australia.
As photography gigs go, the Red Bull Trans- Siberian Extreme is a tough one. Being on the go all the time is physically demanding, and tiredness can sap the creativity out of even the most dedicated photographer.
With cars and hotel rooms at his disposal, Denis didn’t really see the need to travel light. “I took fives bags of equipment with me,” he laughed. “Cameras, lenses, lights, stands…it gave me lots of options for different pictures.”
We saw a crew at the local Woolies doing pics of kids with Santa last Christmas. They had all that gear and they looked pretty buggered, too. The whole photography gig must be a lot tougher than it looks.
Denis covered every stage of the race. When he wasn’t sticking with the peloton he’d drive ahead to find a spot to shoot from.
“On the longest stages, when I was working all night, I really missed the hotel and an opportunity to get a good night’s sleep,” he droned. “After those I really needed to rest, when I hadn’t had any sleep for 30 hours.”
Denis said the longest part of the race covered some 2200km. “On lots of that stage there is just nothing there – no villages, no towns, nothing. That was a very hard thing to photograph.”
We can see that. Photographing nothing would be quite a challenge.
Considering the distances involved, and the hours Denis put in to photograph them, it’s easy to imagine the first thing he did when he got home: “I went straight to sleep. And I didn’t get up for 18 hours straight!”
Oh. That wasn’t what we thought.
While he’s working like a Panda on a can of bamboo, his mates seem to have time to take plenty of pics him. If they shot a few bikes here and there things might be a lot easier for Den.
In any case, he gets some good photos.
Good On Ya, Den!.