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Digital gear survives Eco-Challenge  
Monday, October 29, 2001 | by
This is not the way to kick off photo coverage of 12 days of adventure racing.

As Blue Pixel photographer Jeff Lawrence picked his way past 140 horses and their riders assembling at the start of Eco-Challenge 2001 New Zealand, an SB-28DX popped out of his bag and landed square in the middle of a fresh mound of horse dung. With only moments before race start, Lawrence wiped off what he could onto his hiking boots, slid the strobe into the hot shoe of one of his Nikon D1X cameras, held his breath and continued working. Playing on the slogan of a Kiwi tourism campaign, Lawrence quipped that the "strobe will be coming back to the States with a smell of Pure New Zealand."

That's the most colourful mishap experienced by Blue Pixel's 7 photographers, including myself, as we enter day 9 on site near Queenstown on New Zealand's picturesque and rugged South Island. A large chunk out of the corner of Kevin Gilbert's Powerbook G4/400, courtesy of one too many quick helicopter exits, means it no longer plays his treasured Austin Powers DVD, among other problems. Corey Rich, a former gymnast, performed an unexpected backflip off an ATV. And assistant Jen Arron, piloting a manual transmission vehicle for the first time, shredded a tire.

Jen Arron

Jeff Lawrence

Otherwise, the equipment has performed flawlessly. The D1X cameras and extensive Nikon glass have chugged along without incident, recording over 21,000 frames totaling about 90GB of data, with four days still to go. And the photos have looked great; over the 4 months I've been shooting with Nikon's high resolution camera I've become addicted to its colour.

The Digital Camera Battery has absolutely saved a couple of photographers helicoptered to remote locations for 2-3 days, and served as the power source of a four-strobe blob I constructed to deliver f/22 light for end of race portraits.

And the ease with which Photo Mechanic Pro has handled the renaming and captioning of entire days worth of photos has meant that editing has nearly kept pace with shooting, a first for this group of photographers at an Eco-Challenge. Reed Hoffmann has led the captioning crusade, chastising Blue Pixel members for falling more than a couple of days behind in their editing duties. This has earned him the moniker Captain Caption, complete with the embroidered t-shirt shown below.

Reed Hoffmann, aka Captain Caption

Special mention needs to be made of the Think Fire-n-Ice mobile drives. A mix of 30GB and 48GB drives have formed the basis of the lightning-quick Sneakernet network in the camps, roadside stops and diesel stations that have served as the meeting places for Blue Pixel thus far. Speed, ease of use and good looks - these drives have it all.

Porter Binks edits on an iBook, importing pictures via a Lexar FireWire CompactFlash
card reader, then backing them up to a Think Fire-n-Ice 30GB FireWire drive

Corey "Richie" Rich enjoys a topside view of New Zealand

Kevin Gilbert

Assistant Bryan Linden

Assistant Bridget Fleming

But enough about the gear. Eco-Challenge is about people, both the competitors and the folks behind the scenes. A cast of colourful characters make up the teams trekking, rafting, horseback riding and mountain biking their way through the course. Two marriage proposals took place during the course of the race. Team GO, locked securely in last place, is expected to cross the finish line in the Halloween costumes they have tucked into their packs.

There's no shortage of characters making Eco-Challenge run too. Poo Man Pete, the gentleman charged with emptying camper van waste, is worthy of mention, if only for his colourful name. Poo Man Pete took a liking to Arron, which has meant priority waste removal service for Blue Pixel. Photographing Kelly Wiglesworth, of Survivor fame and now with E! TV's Celebrity Adventures, was an eye-opener for me, as she shows no hint of the celebrity personality that often infects such folk. Not only is she sweet, charming and seemingly unaffected by her notoriety, she is also wild. Case in point: the shoot culminated with Wiglesworth baring her butt for crew members to sign.

Rob Galbraith keeps an eye out, sort of, for passing teams during the mountain biking leg

Blue Pixel's Eco-Challenge 2001 Gallery

Here's a sampling of Blue Pixel's coverage of 2001 Eco-Challenge New Zealand so far.

Plotting the course (Zoom)

Riding the zip line (Zoom)

Rafting on Lake Pukaki (Zoom)

Racing downhill (Zoom)

Pain face (Zoom)

Uphill climb (Zoom)

Before the race (Zoom)

Horses on the ridge line (Zoom)

Rafting the Tasman River (Zoom)

Pulling for the Tasman River (Zoom)

Alpine trekking (Zoom)

Rafting through the braided streams
of the Tasman River (Zoom)

Sore feet (Zoom)

Crossing Temple Stream (Zoom)

Hiking along New Zealand's
Southern Alps (Zoom)

Fording the Lindis River, one of 16 river
crossings in the mountain bike leg (Zoom)

Taking a break (Zoom)

Fording as a team (Zoom)

Maori greeting for Team (Zoom)

Finish line fun (Zoom)

For more coverage of 2001 Eco-Challenge New Zealand, see Eco-Challenge's own web site, as well as Nikon.Net/Photo District News.

Parting Shot

Tim Wimborne edits during a break between teams

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