Campionato Italiano Assoluto de Sled-Dog 2012

21st Jan 2012

Saturday just happened to be a rest day from our Ice climbing trip to Cogne in Italy and as luck would have it, it was also the day the Campionato Italiano Assoluto de Sled-Dog 2012 rolled in to town. It's been a personal ambition of mine for a long time to photograph Dog Sledding. I first saw the sport in the San Juan mountains of Colorado on a cold January morning. I just caught a passing glimpse of the dogs flying by as I drove in the opposite direction. It was another 5 years before the Fabulous Malamute's crossed my path again, this time in France, but sadly for me I was busy working on another assignment and didn't have the spare time to devote to taking pictures. Those of you who know me, know how much I love dogs, any dogs, even little ones, although I have to admit I do prefere big dogs (I've got a Staffordshire Bull Terrier X called Kodo and a Mastiff X called Buis) and I especially love Malamutes, I'd have one tomorrow but just don't have the time to devote to exercising them that they need, my two have at least 2hrs a day and if I'm out climbing they come too and spend all day out on the hill, but thats not enough for a Malamute.

While we were checking in to our Hotel in Lillaz a poster on the wall caught my eye, Dog Sledding. The date was for the following saturday and the venue was right here in town about 200m's away, so this time there was absolutely no way I was going to miss it and walking back from climbing on the Friday past the field where the dogs were arriving just re-enforced how I felt.

For me the only slightly disappointing thing was the fact that I'd only brought a limited array of camera gear with me, mainly wide angles and short telephoto zooms, all the "Big guns" the 200mm f/2's, the 300mm f/2.8's were back at home neatly tidied away in boxes and to throw out of focus the messy backgrounds that lay all around the course they were the lenses I would have ideally brought with me, ah well I wasn't going to complain too much all things considered, just go with the flow and make the best of what I had with me, in fact looking on the bright side for once I didn't have to worry too much about lugging a huge bacp-pack about, or book a physio appointment for when I got back!

The following morning was perfect conditions for the event (not perfect conditions for tomorrows ice climbing) Sunshine and Blue skies smiled down on the competitors. After breakfast I headed over and milled around with all the other spectators, I didn't need any kind of press accreditation to access "alll areas" which was very refreshing. I concentrated on shooting the dogs (pardon the pun) and all the paraphinalia that goes into racing, the Sled itself, the harnesses, the leashes, and at the same time trying to familiarise myself with just "How" things work, until finally it was time for some action, first up where the larger teams of dogs, the biggest are 10 dogs strong.

The smallest teams are 2 dogs strong, although there is a catorgory for just one dog, but they don't pull a Sled, they attach to a waist harness and pull along a person on ski's. It took a bit of working out just where to shoot from, so for the first 30mins went for the easy option and just walked up the hill 400m from the start and positioned myself next to the first righthand bend. After shooting with one of the short tele zooms I soon realised I couldn't throw the cluttered background out of focus with the  f5.6 maximumn aperture of my lens, time for a change. I quite liked the position I was in so I opted to change the lens for a very wide 14mm-24mm f/2.8 and poke it through the mesh and fire away as the dogs come past 12 inches away, I really hoped these guys could drive otherwise I would end up with one big headache.

As the day wore on I moved around and changed my position, trying to shoot different angles and perspectives, some worked and some frustratingly didn't, you can't win em all I guess. Long after the racing had finished I carried on wandering around taking more photos of the dogs, the dogs resting, the dogs being fed, the dogs doing things that dogs do. Tomorrow is another race day in Lillaz, unfortunately I'm off Ice climbing so I won't get my Canine fix, but to be honest I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, for once. I'm hooked I'm already reserching where I can see our four legged friends again. I'll leave you with the star's of the show, a couple of pooches and a shot of Lillaz, hope you enjoy them and until next time, CHOW.