RETTO 2012 - The Perfect Race

Words & Photos: Jacques Marais

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On Saturday 13 October 2012, an impressive field of international and local trail runners gathered on the beach at Natures Valley to tackle the Otter African Trail Run, presented by HI-TEC and GU, in reverse. Running the route in the ‘wrong’ direction, from west to east, meant it was this year known as the RETTO (or OTTER spelt backwards).

RETTO 2012 - The Perfect Race

Man versus The Elements

The Shot: A low-angle shot shows an OTTER African Trail Run competitor dwarfed by the towering Garden Route NP cliffs.
The Technique: An off-camera NIKON SB-910 flash on Commander Mode provides directional lighting; driven by an easy-to-carry NIKON D600 body that does not compromise on full-frame quality.
The Specifications: 1/320th sec @ f8; Nikon D600 + 16 mm fish-eye lens; ISO 100; WB Setting (Auto); 1x Remote SB-910 flash;
AE Setting (-1).
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Taking the Plunge

The Shot: Andre ‘The Ginger Ninja’ Calitz takes the plunge during the Bloukrans River crossing, a compulsory 50-60 m swim section buffted by tides and freak waves.
The Technique: A low angle and long lens offers a narrow depth of field, thus snapping your subject into sharp focus.
The Specifications: 1/800th sec @ f5.6; Nikon D800 + 80-400 mm zoom lens; ISO 400; WB Setting (Cloudy); no flash; AE Setting (0).
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If ever a runner ran a perfect race, this had to be it! Iain Don-Wauchope, one of KwaZulu-Natal's top duathletes, set out with no expectations at this year's RETTO, and absolutely obliterated the course. He ran near the front of the field for most of the race to set a new record time of 4:23:24. Andre Joubert Calitz dug deep to grab a second place (4:29:19) on his first OTTER African Trail Run, but just wasn't strong enough to stick with Wauchope towards the end. Both runners came in under the course record of 4:40:15, previously held by Ryan Sandes. Greg Goodall breezed in to take the last podium position (4:42:18).

A strong contingent of ladies also slugged it out along the 42 km route, and it was legendary US trail runner Krissy Moehl who eventually prevailed in 5:24:59. Her time was not far off the course record of 5:17:12 currently held by Jeannie Dreyer. Jacqueline Haasbroek came in second (5:27:14) and Landie Visser Greyling (5:37:03) took third place.

It was incredibly humbling to watch some of the trail running world's top athletes do battle on another beautiful day here at the southern tip of Mother Africa, and respect goes to every competitor who finished The Otter. Whether you did it in 6 hours or 11hours is totally irrelevant, what counts is whether you loved every step of the way. I know I did.

The Moehl Factor

The Shot: Krissy Moehl, legendary American trail runner and female record holder of the Ultra-Trail de Mont Blanc, charges through Bloukrans in hot pursuit of the front runners.
The Technique: The beauty of a super zoom such as the NIKON 80-400 mm means you can go wide enough to shoot relatively close to the action when necessary.
The Specifications: 1/1200th sec @ f3.5; Nikon D800 + 80-400 mm zoom lens; ISO 400; WB Setting (Cloudy); SB-910 on-camera flash; AE Setting (-1).
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“The OTTER African Trail Run is traditionally followed by the less serious (but no less gruelling) Challenge Event. This gives amateur athletes a chance to compete on South Africa’s forbidden trail, and this year saw them doing so under leaden skies that bucketed down on occasion during the race”.

RETTO 2012 - The Perfect Race

Rock Running

The Shot: The approach onto the Bloukrans is along a treacherous section of ledges and rock scrambles, and serious concentration is required to ensure you don’t do damage to your body here.
The Technique: An on-camera NIKON SB-910 flash provides fill-in lighting, again pairing perfectly with the super-portable, full-frame NIKON D600 body.
The Specifications: 1/250th sec @ f11; Nikon D600 + 16 mm fish-eye lens; ISO L1.0; WB Setting (Sun); 1x SB-910 flash set to 200 mm Zoom; AE Setting (-1).
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View From The Edge

The Shot: ‘Wet work’ delivers great shots, but somehow your equipment needs to be protected. This plunge into the icy Bloukrans was shot from inside a zip-lock bag, the light-weight alternative when you do not want to carry a water housing.
The Technique: There’s a massive chance of water damage to your equipment here, so the best option is to shoot off the cuff and with your flash unit firmly on the camera – it just means you can duck and dive when you need to.
The Specifications: 1/320th sec @ f8; Nikon D600 + 16 mm fish-eye lens; ISO 100; WB Setting (Auto); SB-910 flash on Bounce/Diffuse; AE Setting (-1).
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View From The Edge

The Shot: More ‘wet work’, this time near the waterfall on the rugged section of the route just before you reach Storms River Mouth. I was up to my chest in a freezing pool to get a low enough angle for this shot.
The Technique: Gun-metal grey skies and squalling rain meant shooting through a misted up zip-lock bag. Fortunately I could pre-focus and programme my NIKON D800 to do the thinking for me … I just had to hit the button at the right moment.
The Specifications: 1/180th sec @ f5.6; Nikon D800 +
24-120 mm lens; ISO 200; WB Setting (Shade); SB-910 flash
on Bounce/Diffuse; AE Setting (-1).
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Rocks and Hard Places

The Shot: The gathering storm made for fantastic skies, but the light ended up quite flat in places. I knew some Lightroom post-processing would bring out the drama of this amazing race.
The Technique: The shot is relatively straightforward; fish-eye lens with SB-910 flash unit zoomed to spotlight the runner coming around the rock, and a low angle to accentuate the loom of the craggy rock face.
The Specifications: 1/500th sec @ f2.8; Nikon D800 + 16 mm fish-eye lens; ISO 250; WB Setting (Auto); SB-910 flash on Zoom; AE Setting (-1).
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