SHOOT! An Adventure Festival

Words & Photos: Jacques Marais |


Photographing an adventure festival is a little bit like being a kid in a candy store … so many pix and so little time. Here’s how to make sure you don’t miss anything!

The 2012 Gravity Adventure Festival, presented by leading outdoor apparel brand MERRELL, once again rocked the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve near Kleinmond, in the Western Cape. And with new organisers Tatum Prins and Graham Bird at the helm, this endorphin fest has gone big ... nearly as huge as Judgement Day rapid on the Palmiet after the winter floods.

The question is how do you get around to shoot the popular trail run series, Black Diamond Rock Rally, and the MERRELL Adventure Race, as well as a night run, river swim, SUP Race plus a whack of other events spread far and wide around the massive event centre? Easy - you need another shooter to assist.

If you can't do this, then careful planning is required. Find out times for key events, decide what the main images for these would be, and focus on grabbing high-impact photos that capture the crux of specific disciplines. The good news is that with hundreds of kids, weekend warriors, and racing snakes (not to mention party animals!) on the loose, you will have no end of subjects waiting to be snapped.

According to Bird, South Africa's ‘original adventure festival’ will again take place during early August. As the Kogelberg Reserve is situated just outside Kleinmond, this gathering is a must for adventure junkies and outdoor enthusiasts. If you need more info, dial into the fun on

Image 1: Cross Training

The Action: Runners negotiate the coastal section of the amazing trail run route that winds along the Kogelberg and Kleinmond and back to the GRAV FEST event centre on the Palmiet estuary.
The Shot: When shooting trail running, it is easy enough to find breathtaking scenery, but these crosses offered the opportunity to take a trail run pic with a difference.
The Technique: I used remote flash firing off Pocket Wizards, with one SB-910 behind the cross, and another diagonally in front of the racer. Exposure was taken on the sky.
The Specifications: 1/320th sec @ f8; Nikon D800 +
16 mm fisheye lens; ISO 100; WB Setting (Auto); AE Setting (-1 EV).
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Image 2: Wild, Wild Run

The Action: Massive winter downpours in the weeks leading up to Gravity Adventure Festival meant the Palmiet was in full flow, much to the delight of the white-water junkies.
The Shot: I was actually running (well, wheezing!) up to the peak to shoot the rock rally, when this long-lens view of the river popped into focus.
The Technique: Breathe in, lock your elbows, and squeeze the shutter ... easy enough.
The Specifications: 1/1,600th sec @ f5.6; Nikon D800 + 80-400 mm lens; ISO 100; WB Setting (Sunlight); no flash; AE Setting (0EV).
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Image 3: Rocked and Rolling

The Action: The Rock Rally, sponsored by Black Diamond, rates as one of the most visual events to shoot at the GRAV FEST, but you had better be ready for a solid hike up the mountain.
The Shot: With so much happening on the various faces, I tried to capture an overview of the action with one of my wide-angle NIKON lenses.
The Technique: A low angle and deeper depth of field allowed me to capture a whole host of points of interest in this image.
The Specifications: 1/160th sec @ f11; Nikon D800 +
16-35 mm wide-angle zoom; ISO 100; WB Setting (Sunlight); AE Setting (-1 EV); on-camera fill-in from SB-910 flash unit.
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Image 4: The River Wild

The Action: Swimmers take on the River Mile Swim down the Palmiet, negotiating a couple of white-water rapids along the way.
The Shot: I had quite a good idea where the action would take place, but to get there I had to do some rock hopping into midstream … make sure your camera DOESN’T go for a swim!
The Technique: Don’t trust your auto-focus in the swirling rapids; too many reflections may make you miss the shot, so pre-focus on the area where you expect the action to happen.
The Specifications: 1/1,000th sec @ f5.6; Nikon D800 +
80-400 mm telephoto; ISO 100; WB Setting (Auto); AE Setting (0 EV); no flash.
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