Rules Of Engagement

PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais

Unbeknownst to most athletes, there is a strict Code of Conduct to adhere to when it comes to interacting with your common or garden variety adventure photographer. I’ve been called a number of things on the trial, mostly innocuous asides along the lines of Tog or Shooter, sometimes ‘That Toppie with the Camera’, but most often it is just ‘Hey, You’!

Now, I don’t mind that, but let’s get a few things out in the open …

PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais
PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais

1)      Ballie Status
I’ve been doing this for a while.  When I started taking photos, I had my own Darkroom, which dates way back to even before the first STAR WARS Movie.  So yes, I am a Ballie and proud of it.  Being a Ballie means you can be grumpy whenever you feel like it, and you don’t give a toss what people think.  So call me Oom, and know that I can probably still give most of you a damn good go on the trail 

2)      Spot the Tog
This may not be a straight-forward as you think, because often I lurk under a bush or behind a rock, poised to fire a flash in your face.  This may lead to runners just about soiling their tights, clearing bushes in super-human bounds, or muttering obscenities as they clutch their heart.  Understand this: I’m not doing it to get a laugh, but just a different angle for my shot.

3)      Making Contact
I usually try to attract your attention if at all possible, but have to deal with that well-documented medical condition known as ‘Runners’ Daze’.  Which means I am usually only noticed once the flashes fire, thus forcing me to revert back to Point 2 above …

PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais
PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais

4)      Loss of Marbles
Another medical condition closely linked to ‘Runners’ Daze’ is ‘LOM’, and this is directly related to making contact with the Shooter along the trail.  Runners arch their eyebrows once they eventually spot you, lock eyeballs and immediately proceed to lose focus.  Briefing and directions are completely forgotten, and they start climbing up a vertical cliff to get to where you abseiled to get your shot.

Occasionally you have to wrestle runners back onto the trail, while the more obstinate ones will quick-fire questions at you: “How far to the finish from here?; Why are there no water tables?; Are there more hills coming up?; Does my butt look huge in these tights?” …  Let me share a secret with you … like Manuel said in FAWLTY TOWERS:, “I know nooothing”.  If you ask, expect a mildly sarcastic retort, or at best a sharp stab of the mono-pod to the short-rib.

5)      No Posing
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but most good photographers are there to capture you looking like an athlete, and not looking like one of the Three Stooges.  I’m sure your nephew enjoys your ‘Reach for the Stars’ impression, but generally I’d prefer you to get on with the job of running, and I’ll grab the shot.  I’ll make exceptions for real-time wipe-outs and face plants, so make sure you do these in spectacular slow motion.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais
PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais

6)      Your Ass
When I’m running behind you with my camera and you see a flash going off repeatedly, it doesn’t mean I am taking pix of your ass.  In fact, that’s the last thing I’m interest in (okay, if you can double for Scarlett Johannsen or are really, really hot, I may sneak a peek).  What I am doing is shooting on a fish–eye lens and trying to get close-up, dynamic shots of your shoes moving along the trail. Clench and run, girls, clench and run.

7)      Coming Through
So you saw the flash go off a dozen times, and 2 kays down the trail I’m still on your tail … this does not mean I am looking for a cuddle in the fynbos, but I’ve probably been hinting to pass you for the last 10 minutes.  This is NOT a race … I’m carrying 12kgs of camera stuff and am knackered beyond belief, so please let me through if that’s okay.  The bonus is that I’ll be lurking up ahead somewhere so you’ll get more pix of you looking pretty (and NOT posing)!

PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais
PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais

8)      Free Pix
Erm, please don’t ask. You’re one of 49 athletes who contacted me the day after the event to ask if I could go through the 4 682 images from the event, select the ones showing your good side, and email them through to you as a quick favour. I’d love to have the time to do this, but bottom line is that I have to supply the media and the organiser, and then move on to the next deadline lurking in my in-drawer. Generally, either the organiser or photographer will offer a DVD or images for sale, so work through the channels.

9)      Howzit Boet!
If I greet you like this, it probably means (a) you’re Male and (b) I have no cooking clue who the hell you are. You see, when I’m sprawled on the trail composing a shot I’m not looking at your face, but at a multitude of focus points and horizon lines and reams of in-camera info.

Also, there’s one of me (and I’ve always got a camera or six strapped to my body), and 650 of you guys. To further confuse my recognition factoring, you go and clean up after the run, so I end up wondering who the hell you are. I’ve come a long way with some guys and girls, though, so that’s different, but do me a favour … if I look blank, give me a bit of a nudge.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais
PHOTO CREDIT: Jacques Marais

10)   Of Mooning and Middle-Fingers
Some of my mates have taken to ‘finding my contact lens’ along the trail, or in the case of a few nut jobs, hauling down their trousers in an effort to share their peculiar brand of love. I apologise if any innocent bystanders are irreparably damaged during this process, but the key thing to remember is to have fun while you’re out there.

If the run is not fun, think why you are there in the first place … Fresh air, camaraderie, being at one with nature, a healthy lifestyle choice, beating the rats at their own game, personal bests – you CHOSE to do the run, and you are the ONE deciding whether or not to have fun along the way. Smile – it makes for a way better photo!

So ja, feel free to come and chat to me before the race if you’re keen on a specific shot or just to introduce yourself …  Always happy to oblige, and to put a name to a few new faces!

Cheers – JM