Red Bull Robin Hood Orienteering Event
Following a very speculative email, I was privileged to join the Red Bull photography team at today’s Red Bull Robin Hood event within Sherwood Pines just outside of Nottingham. So, following an equipment check and an early night, I was up at 4.00am, loaded the car and headed up the A1.
It was dark and spitting with rain as I left home and the drizzle increased as I headed north. Hmmm, not looking good for a day shooting in the forest. However, as I headed toward my exit from the A1, the sun rose above the horizon, the rain cleared and the weather looked to be set fair for the day. By the time I reached Sherwood Pines, the sun was out and lighting up the forest beautifully. Maybe today would be a good day after all.
As always, I arrived early, found the venue and settled down to wait until the other guys arrived at sometime around 8.00. However, I caught up with Jonny (our coordinator) pretty quickly and he ran through a short briefing with me. We then caught up with Ritchie and Leo and headed out to check-out the course.
A competitor makes their way through the forest.
The Red Bull Robin Hood is a new orienteering event that was to be run in cooperation with British Orienteering. Following registration and a short briefing, participants would head off to the starting area and receive their course maps. When Robin Hood blew the horn to begin (yes, the event had around 40 amazing re-enactment actors on site throughout the day), the orienteers would scatter in different directions to one of six activities and scatter they did – very quickly.
Anyway, back to earlier in the day. Jumping into Leo’s jeep we headed off to take a look at the activities we were to cover. These would include the Balance, Rope Climb, Archery, Catapult, Portcullis, and a Picture Challenge. I’d be covering the archery briefly and then the balance.
Competitor on the Rope Climb
We checked out the Balance first and then headed over to the Rope Climb. The early morning sunshine was now warming the air and casting some amazing light through the dense forest and turning the bracken a crisp golden colour.
We then jumped in the car and checked out the other challenges before heading back for a comfort break and a bite to eat before the real work would begin.
The main area where people would meet was the Village area. This had a practice archery range where novice archers could learn the art of shooting a modern recurve bow. There was also the British Orienteering area where participants who were new to orienteering could get some tuition in the art of map reading with the use of a compass. This insight would be invaluable later in the day around the course.
At registration the participants received a really nice green top with a subtle Red Bull Robin Hood logo on the front and larger logo on the back. The 150 entrants were going to be easily identifiable and I looked forward to capturing some really nice shots of people in the forest, on the challenges and around the village.
Competitors socialising in the Red Bull registration village waiting for the start of the event.
The organisers then brought everyone together for the initial briefing following which we all headed off to the start.
The starting area was situated in a clearing in the very centre of the course and it was easily identifiable by the familiar Red Bull pyramid.
All of the competitors gathered around Robin Hood to receive their course maps (in the form of a scroll and in keeping with the whole tone of the event) and a little bit of motivation. Robin was brilliant and he got everyone into the spirit of the event.
Robin Hood gets the event underway.
On Robin Hood’s command, everyone had a minute to open their scrolls (maps) and to study the map, before he blew the horn to begin the main event.
With orienteers disappearing in all directions, we ran for our cars and headed off to the archery range. I could not believe it when I pulled up to find orienteers already over at the archery range, they really did not hang around. I quickly grabbed my gear and ran through the forest to capture some shots on the range. With the task completed it was time to run back through the forest to the car and head over to the balance.
The time limit for the event was 75 minutes and with a speed limit on the course, bikes and people to watch out for, it took time getting around. I was therefore very thankful for the clear map that had been provided to me and the time in the morning to familiarise myself with the course and the location of the challenges that I would cover.
The balance challenge was closest to the finish line and thankfully, my decision to leave this to come back to later in the event proved correct because only four people had gone through early.
Two competitors take on the balance challenge.
However, I arrived at the balance to find that the wonderful golden light from the low sun in the morning had disappeared, as had the beautiful deep blue sky. The sun was much higher now and the clearing between the trees was now pretty dull and overcast. I only had 15 minutes to capture my shots before needing to head off to the finish, so it was an anxious wait before a couple of orienteers appeared through the trees.
The Balance was an obstacle made up of a zig zagged balance beam mounted a few inches off of the floor. The challenge was to hold an 8 foot (roughly) wooden pole behind your head and navigate the beam. Half way along, there was an arch at about shoulder height for most people and they had to get through the arch holding the pole without falling off or touching the woodwork with any part of their body or the pole. It proved to be a lot harder than it looked at first sight.
Competitor on the balance challenge
I captured a few tight shots, but the busy obstacle shot that I had hoped for never happened. I don’t know whether it was because the obstacle was so close to the finish, but I only had a trickle of people coming through whilst I was there. The rush that I had hoped for never materialised, despite waiting longer than the 15 minutes that was planned for the shots of this challenge. Anyway, I got a handful of good shots and headed over to the finish.
Now, these orienteers don’t hang around. Knowing time was short, I ran back to the car and headed off to the finish as fast as 10mph will allow. To my surprise, there was already a large crowd of participants who had finished and thankfully Ritchie and Leo were there already taking shots. I quickly joined in to secure some shots of people recalling their trials and tribulations on the course. One of the great things was to hear how many people had really enjoyed the whole event.
Female Winner of the Red Bull Robin Hood Orienteering Event
The last job on the task list were to get the male and female winners in some action shots. Leo and Ritchie had spied a nice area of the forest which thankfully still had some sunlight falling through it. I bagged a few shots and quickly headed off for the prize ceremony. The winners were based on (I think) getting back within the time limit and by visiting the challenges (10 points) and completing them successfully (another 10 points). This then left fifteen minutes or so to get some more candid shots before heading back down the motorway to process and email the shots to Leo.
So, 17 hours later and the chosen files are finally uploading into my email system. Hopefully, Red Bull will be able to use one or two of them.
I only had one disappointment from the day. One of the images that looked superb on the back of the camera wound up to have the trees pin sharp but the fast moving athlete blurred. Strangely, the shot still seems to work though and, after deleting and restoring it three times, it now resides on my machine – I’ll decide to delete it ‘tomorrow’, after all that is the only thing to do with a blurry image.
Male Winner of the Red Bull Robin Hood Orienteering Event
I thoroughly enjoyed today. It was a very long day and pretty tiring, but I would not have passed up the opportunity for anything. The whole event was amazing, extremely well organised and run. The two professional photographers produced some excellent work and it was interesting to see how they approached the day, how they worked together and how they worked with their subjects.
So, it just leaves me to say thank you to Jonny for the opportunity to shoot with the Red Bull team and to Leo and Ritchie for accommodating me and to you, for taking the time to read this far.
So now it’s time for bed and to look forward to a repeat of this great event next year.
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