As usual I will try to sum up the Rally Dakar as it was for photographers in 2019. When they first announced the route, showing it was only in Peru, I had some mixed feelings about that. On one hand it was quite good as it seemed we did not need to travel that much, on the other hand being only in one country for 10 days and looping around could be little bit too much of the same for the photos. At the end I was not too far from the reality.Even though the Dakar itself started only on 6th January we flew to Lima on the 1st in the morning arriving there the same day in the evening. We had 2nd as a free day to get used to the weather and time difference. Definitely better than to travel at the very last moment and being tired even before it starts. The first thing after the arrival was buying local simcards. The good thing about having the race in Peru was, that the mobile signal was really good, usually 4G or 3G, so it made our life much easier. No more useless satellite for 8000 USD, but unlimited Claro simcard for two weeks for around 120 USD each. We picked up the car on the 3rd in the morning, went to do a bit of accreditation and to the pre event bivouac to shoot some first ambience while the competitors and the teams were unloading and setting up everything.
From 4th in the morning it all started for us as we needed to take photos at most of the team’s shakedown before the event even started. All of the teams more less at the same place, but doing different routes, so still like 4 different places to cover. We took photos X-raid, Gazoo Racing, Overdrive, MP Sports, HRC, Canam, Buggyra, PH Sport, etc. We split into 4 groups (it was 5 of us there) and everyone should have covered something. The plan was to switch afterwards, do a bit of action, lifestyle, etc, but it does not always work in the way you plan it.Just as I was walking up to the huge down at the test place of X-raid I got a message from my brother who was at another place, that our car got broken. It was no longer 4x4, but only rear wheel drive, which was not ideal for 10 days full of sand and we were not sure what was going on. What a start to the rally! Suddenly any photos from the shakedown were not so important and we needed to solve this out. I was still shooting but was all the time on the phone, trying to find a solution and to be in touch with my brother. It happened in the dunes, so he got stuck as well. After he got out, he drove down to the test base of Overdrive and as our car is fortunately Toyota as well he tried to find the solution. The guys from Toyota Peru did not seem to have many 1995 LC 80 in stock so could not really help, but at least my brother got some contact to someone with a workshop in Lima who could help. Meanwhile he realized what the problem was the homokinetic joint on the front wheel, which got broken and as the car is solid axel, the front wheel drive just stop working. So we “only” need to find that part in Lima and change it. So Viktor got to the workshop to solve that out with the local mechanics. Luckily we had Pavel with us who could speak Spanish (as neither I or my brother do) so he could talk to the guys. They put the car up, got the part out, confirming what was wrong and started to find the new part, somewhere in Lima. bJust when the guys decided to close to workshop and go home, they got message that they found the part so the car could be fixed. As it was 6 pm it was all moved to “manana”, but at least it looked that it was on the good way. It was not fixed, but we were told it would be done next day in the morning. 5th in the morning I went to bivouac and shot some portraits that I still needed to do, Jiri went with another Uber to the admin and technical checks to shoot some stuff there and my brother went to the workshop to see if the car can get fixed. All scheduled to 9:30 and by 11:30, when they said they were closing at 12 as it was Saturday they were still waiting for the new part. At this point it did not look very good, but then they got the parts, they repaired it and at around 2-3 my brother arrived with the car for the technical checks and all seemed to be ok.The next day there were still some checks to shoot, plus the podium afterwards. There we just split so that I was not even taking photos, just getting the cards from the guys who spread around the podium taking photos from different angles, downloading them, editing them and sending them right from the podium. So by the time the podium was over I was almost done, just maybe one more hour and all the photos were sent and we could get ready for the first day of action. Then it was just one big ride for next 11 days. The problem is that some people (competitors) start to think about the photos as the very last thing that hey need to arrange so even though I asked them some months before the Dakar, they did not answer and then they would write me (thats still good) few days before the Dakar or even when they meet me there that they want to have some photos from us. So it is super difficult to calculate anything and to plan it properly as I need to fill the accreditation in till the end of October, send the car in the middle of November, pay for everything but still not being really sure about what I am getting from the photos as I do not have everyone’s feedback. So you try to contact as many people as possible as you do not count with someone and then these you did not count with come that they need something. So we got a bit too many clients this year, more than last year and more than I planned it for :) But how can you say no to a good client who you cooperate with and you know they would appear at other races where you would not have some many of the others, so you take them anyway.
All the days were pretty similar. Each day actually started the day before in the evening/night. When I was done with sending the photos I went to collect the road book and some GPS points (photo points and route how to get them) for the next day. Unfortunately not every day these points were really useful. What you wan to do if you need to shoot bikes, quads, cars, SSVs, truck is that if the stage has like 300 - 400 km is to be as close as possible to the start. You do not really want to be at its finish waiting for everyone, but you want to be somewhere closer to the start as A) everyone is more less in time (keep the 3,2,1 minutes distances that they start with) so you do not want to wait too long B) they are still more less in the order they started so you know when to move around the spot - you find a place to shoot but do not want to shoot every single competitor the same way, especially like 5 guys from the same time (as HRC Honda for example), so if you know the order you can plan it and you know you stay for 2 there, for 1 somewhere else, then move again for the next and have some variety. C) you have better light in the morning D) you are “ahead” of them in time as they still need to do like 3 - 4 hours until the end but once they pass you, you are finished with them for the day (at least with the action), so you still have time to stay on the spot, shoot other people and then start to download it, sort it, edit and send it and they just only finished the stage. E) You are finished with the shooting quite early so you can get in time to the next bivouac if it is a long drive F) Bonus one - if it was a loop stage, you could catch them near the start and near the finish. So and the problem with the points we were getting was the thing that these points were usually at km 280, 300, etc. I did not get why, but it was happening a lot and as written above you do not really want to be further than 100 or so. Therefore it is fair enough to say that if you wanted to you could have gone to the organizers and you could have met the guy who knew the stages who showed you a google earth map of the next day on his screen and would go through the stage with you. So I obviously went to see him every day and talked to him even for like 30 minutes. I usually went through the road book before seeing him and then discussed places that I was interested in. Then he just showed me the coordinates, routes how to get there, if possible even a photo of the landscape around so the planning for the next day was quite good. The only problem with all of that is that it just took too much time (up to an extra hour per day ) that you usually do not have at the Dakar.
So that was the planning. If I did not eat before that I went to eat, then have a shower, maybe finish some more photos to edit (just like non clients for FB, or some who asked me during the Dakar), answered some emails and go to sleep. Usually would say around 12 - 1 or so. Then usually woke up at 4-5, jumped to the car and drove to the spot. This year my brother was the only one to drive all the time, if I did like 50 kms this year it was only in the stage while he was not in the car because I dropped him somewhere (yes and thats when I got stuck in fesh fesh :D When we got to the spot, we split , I usually tried to walk a bit from the car (because usually we met someone else in the stage as well, some other photographers), so I ended up around 3 times to walk like 6 km (as the next dune always look better :D. It is ok in the morning when it is not so hot, you are motivated, you wait for the first guys to come, but after like 4-5 hours of being in the desert and shooting, it is quite difficult to find the power to get back :) Some other days I just stayed closer to the car and would collect the cards from the guys after the first bikes, went to edit them, got back shoot most of the cars, got the cards again, left the guys there for the rest and start to work. I was basically editing photos from 7 cameras each day, which was like 8000 raw files a day to go through. Edited like 200+ photos and obviously sent them. It is easier to go through your own photos as you more less know which photos were good, which not. Which one from the sequence should be the best one, but if you edit someone’s else photos you have no clue what they shot, so you basically go one by one. The worst is when you are too far from each other so the competitors mix up and you need to find some in between of the photos of the next ones. So editing was either in the stage before we left, or in the car while driving or we stopped few times in some restaurant to have some lunch and to work a bit as the kms to do were not so bad as the years before so there was quite a lot of time for some short stops. The car that I was in went only into the stages and I did not shoot that much of an ambience and bivouac (only like 3 times) so we were not so much in the hurry and I just focused on the action photos to be sent, as Jiri was in another car that went just bivouac, bivouac, to start, finish of the stage and few times a little bit into the stage where the track was crossing a road. So I knew he would shoot the lifestyle, edit it and send it so I did not need to care about shooting it. After reaching the bivouac, I was still working, editing and sending photos. As I said, that was one of the best parts of having the rally only in Peru, as the signal was really good, so we sent all the 5000 photos we edited only through our phones, not using satellite or the internet in the media centre. My brother meanwhile checked the car, clean the filters, got some batteries recharged and that was it. For 10 days + 1 rest day where the guys where shooting the bivouac, I was putting together the photos from the first half, shooting a bit as well and my brother working on the car (why is it even called a rest day? :D So that was basically our Dakar 2019. Sounds quite simple, right? Honestly it was probably the easiest Dakar I have done so far as I did not feel so tired, slept a bit more than usual, had some good spots (even though it was getting too similar), had some good connection, so all the package you need to have a good rally. And what is next for the Dakar? The director has changed, which could only help Dakar to be better, as David Castera is definitely the right person for that and the only but most important question is where the next Dakar will be? Most likely it will be Saudi Arabia (it was not confirmed by ASO yet). I have been there few times for Hail Baja and Jeddah Rally and gotta say in terms of terrain Saudi has a lot to offer and they could set up some really nice stages there. I cant only imagine how much freedom we could get in terms of moving around as sometimes we struggled a bit with the police closing the stages a bit too much, following us from the hotel up to the stages, etc. That is my only concern, otherwise stages will be nice, it will be even easier for logistics (even though getting the cars int o Saudi might take a bit of papework), it is few hours ahead of Europe, so it is better for the communication, good roads, good mobile signal and cheap fuel :) Lets wait a bit and see where the Dakar goes but seems the South American saga has got to its end.Back to blog