Nordic Race: A mudfest for my camera

My first Nordic Race photography experience

I don’t know about you, but personally I like to be warm, dry and clean at this time of year. It’s the reason I wear nice thick gloves, waterproof trousers and jackets, and a pair of boots every time I leave the house.

On Saturday I got to witness several hundred people living their lives on the opposite side of the fence, as they battled it out along the Nordic Race obstacle course at Copenhagen’s Motorcross dirt track. It was my first time photographing the event, and I actually had no idea what was in store for me or my camera.

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Covered in shit

At 9am the first competitors crossed the start line and got straight in to action. Each obstacle had its own discipline: strength, speed, technique… and each appeared to be a lot harder than it looked. People were scrambling across scaffolding, carrying sandbags up hills, clambering up ropes, and my personal favourite; crawling through shit. “That’s the shot, right there,” I said to myself as I carefully made my way down the steep enbankment leading to the muddy challenges below.

Now at this point barely an hour had gone by, and there were still six more to go. But I was dressed sensibly and had nothing to fear as I dropped to my knees in the mud and started shooting happily away. Oddly, the participants looked happy to see me as their heads appeared from under the tyres. Maybe they just realised that smiling was the only thing they could do whilst crawling through puddles of brown sticky mess!

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A working photographer

Nevertheless I got my own taste of medicine a few moments later whilst attempting to navigate one particularly tricky part of the course. Foot number one sank deeply in to the goo, followed by foot number two, and then hand number one. Like a dodgy game of Twister I was forced in to a compromising position that anyone could have taken advantage of. I was all too aware, that if this had been Britian some little scally would’ve rushed over to give me one final shove in the right direction. But luckily no-one was paying any attention to me and I managed to save my own ass and more importantly, my camera.

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For the rest of the day I was rather cold and feeling quite sorry for myself. I have to admit that falling over was the last thing I had hoped would happen, but nevertheless I still had a job to do. Ironically, five minutes before the start of the race my colleague / boss Camilla commented on how shiny and new my Nikon D5 looked. That was no longer the case, of course, but at least I now felt like a working photographer who was truly earning his crust (unlike today where my client cancelled but I still got paid – more on that some other day, maybe).

Large burning metal containers

For the next few hours I found a balance between taking pictures and standing by large burning metal containers to stay warm. “Oh shit, I’ve dropped my nice warm gloves in the mud again whilst holding my hands over the flames.” It was poetic irony at its finest.

Needless to say the pictures were looking great. By 1pm the weather was starting to brighten up a little, and my socks were actually starting to feel a bit drier. Knowing where the best action was around the course now made it easier to choose which locations to focus on, and which (muddy) areas to avoid.

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Cries of pain and warm showers

But as the sun started to fade, and the paramedics wheeled out their 29th screaming patient, it was evident that the majority of people had crossed the line and were already back home under a nice warm shower. I felt a bit sorry for Camilla when it became apparent that I would be occupying her passenger seat in her nice new Audi. I at least had the decency to take off my boots and socks before getting in.

Plans to edit the images straight after were scrapped once I got my tired, dirty ass through the door. It’s quite common to have to deliver the files ASAP for sports events such as these, because people want to see themselves and share the images. Luckily our deadline was much more sensible and as a result I was able to enjoy the feast laid out before me with my family. Did somebody say beer?

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For those of you who have an ounce of sportyness inside of you then I highly recommend signing up to the next Nordic Race in May 2018. One of the biggest thrills for me (after watching people fall) was the teamwork between friends, colleagues and total strangers. I saw one guy helping a different team to climb up a wall whilst he waited for his chance. His girlfriend, already safely sitting atop of the wall, kept shouting down to him, “Just help him, would you darling?” The look on his face said it all: I’d rather die. But help he did, and it almost brought a tear to my extremely dry eyes. Did I mention they were also cold?

For more info regarding the Nordic Race events go to nordicrace.dk

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This blog post originally appeared on www.photographybymatthewjames.com