I have not missed that rally since 2010, so this was for 7 consecutive time I went there. all together it was for the 8 time as I went there back in 2005 as well, but more less just as a spectator. As for organization and for shooting is probably the best rally of the whole world cup and it was not different this year.
One bivouac, enormous amount of demanding and colorful dunes, quite a good entry list, not that hot this year and luck with picking up the right places to get the best photos, thats what I like about Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.But to get the best photos, you need to sacrifice the comfort of getting up late as we needed to get up every day around 5 o`clock, grabbed quick breakfast and kicked off to the stage. If it was on me I would prefer the stages to start even earlier as the difference with the light in the morning and later on around 9-10 is really huge. Around 7, you have all the nice, long shadows, you see the nice shapes of the dunes, there is much more contrast and the other advantage is that it is not so hot. The problem is the sun goes up extremely fast so you have the very best light only for the first few bikes and then it is getting really flat with the lighting as the sun is up high. The great advantage of the shooting during the ADDC is that there is always enough light. No matter if it is sunny or cloudy it allows you to shoot on any settings you want with fast shutter speed up to 1/2000 or so. With that settings you can easily get the details of the sand spraying out though the wheels of the car. Sometimes, while I was shootings some portraits, shooting it at F1.4 (with the Sigma 50mm ART), having iso set down to 100, having shutter speed even up to 1/8000, the images went out too bright (I left the ND filters at home ), so I often needed to go for a higher F number. As I wrote above, I was quite lucky with choosing the right spots this year. Thats another thing I really do like about the desert challenge - it is so easy to travel around the stages. You have plenty of tarmac roads that lead to the stages, you either jump out and walk a bit or just simply drive a few hundreds meters, kilometers deeper to the dunes and you get to a perfect spot. Being just 5 minutes from the highway, you do not need to wait till the last car to past and you can “easily” (you need to know how to drive in the sand) move forward and backwards as the desert is wide enough, there is almost no dust, so you are not in anyone`s way and you can move around as you wish. Thats a huge advantage compare to some other Baja events, where you have just one road the competitors use and you cant drive on it, so you either need to find another road that is connected with the racing one, could there way in advance and get stuck on the track until the last competitor passes or walk a lot to get to a good spot. Unfortunately the desert brings some disadvantages for the photography as well. As written above the stage goes throughout the desert where you have certain waypoints the competitors need to pass through, but they can get from one to another in any way they wish to, so if you are not nearby the waypoint you can easily miss them by few hundred meters and you are never sure where they go. You do not have 100% chance to catch them even when you are at the waypoint as it is usually a circle of few tens of meters up to 200m around the point. So the rider/driver catches the point before arriving to it and might change the direction. No matter what it is still the event I like the most out of the whole World Cup and hope I will make it there next year for my 9th edition.
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