This past weekend Daniel and I got to attend the ceremonial start and the re-start in Willow of Iditarod 2011. This year was extra special as I was able to secure a press pass and go behind the scenes a bit! Saturday was the ceremonial start and began rather early! We stayed at the Howard Johnson downtown which is right on 4th ave. so that we wouldn't have to fight with traffic. Our day started at 6 a.m. to get ourselves and camera gear ready. Four layers of clothing later, we were out the door by 8:30 or 9 a.m. Walking out onto 4th ave, the streets were already packed with excitement as fans from Alaska and around the world gathered to see 62 mushers make their way down 4th ave and through the streets of Anchorage only to finish at Campbell airstrip. This is the traditional route the mushers take for the ceremonial start. There were 10 Iditariders this year, individuals that spent quite a bit of money (or through charitable contributions) who got to ride with various mushers on Saturday. This year the Iditarod Committee put up a special wheelchair section or platform right near the start for those with disabilities who were invited to sit there so that we would have a better viewing of the start. While we had great seats and got some amazing pictures, it wasn't exactly what I had in mind for my press pass! It was a new learning experience and next year I think we will be better prepared to be where the rest of the press will be.....right down next to the snow berms! I guess people volunteering with the Iditarod don't realize that just because someone is in a wheelchair doesn't mean that they are a professional photographer and there to take amazing pictures! Oh well, next year! I've got it all mapped out already!
Dan and I decided to only stay at the start till after seeing Lance Mackey. He is the superstar of the Iditarod so pictures of him are a must of course. Shortly after he left the start line we gathered our stuff and headed toward Campbell airstrip. This is where the fun begins! We got to park in the press area finally and got to get up close to lots of the dogs and made our way over to the trail that they were coming down. Now...for those who have taken sled dog pictures you will understand this next bit of insanity! Shooting the dogs coming down the trail is somewhat tricky in a wheelchair. Sometimes they turn out well, sometimes...most times they can turn out a bit lopsided and/or I miss the shot! Well, after about 20 or 30 minutes of trying to shoot from the chair, I begged Dan to spread the blanket down and lower me to the ground. My wonderful husband, not wanting me to get cold and or hurt at first refused...drat. What next? Okay, continue shooting from the chair....okay, if I must. Nope, still not getting the shots I want. I take matters somewhat into my own hands and put the blanket on the ground. Ha! Dan now has no choice but to help lower me to the ground :) Success! Now, one would think I would be freezing, but it was actually quite comfortable and I was able to use the snow berm as a stablizer almost like a tripod! From then on I was able to get some pretty good shots!
After we finished in Anchorage, we shifted gears and headed to Wasilla to spend the night there since we were attending the Alaska Dog and Puppy Bow Wow Ball and doing the photography for that event. After a really long day, we ended up back at the hotel we were staying at and I pretty much fell into bed and asleep at midnight! Early Sunday morning we got up and started getting ready to head to Willow for the official start of Iditarod 2011. Not knowing exactly what the weather was going to be like, I decided to add one more layer today, turned out to be a slight mistake. I was roasting! When we got to Willow our friends Rhonda and Julia made it possible for Dan to park down on the ice where the mushers got to park. The whole day was absolutely wonderful and would not have been possible without these two ladies helping us out! Thank you to both Rhonda and Julia!
While down where the mushers were getting ready we got to meet and see many of the mushers. Lance Mackey was already there and giving interviews so getting to chat with him was impossible. Newton Marshall was next to Mackey as he is using some of Mackey's dogs. Newton is the musher from Jamaica and you can tell he really loves his dogs and loves racing the Iditarod. We also got to meet Wattie McDonald, the musher from Scotland and his buddy Dean who have invited us to come to Homer to see the dogs in the off-season and take a sled dog ride! That was offer #2 as G.b Jones also made us an offer as well. G.b Jones is a good friend with our friend Mimi so we got to meet him on Saturday and spend some time photographing (or trying to at least) his dogs. He's got one dog, Mick, who was very friendly and curious of the chair so we played more than photographed! After seeing most of the mushers, we made our way to the press area to watch the start. It was great getting to be right next to the start and seeing all the mushers head out of the start chute and onto complete the 1,000 mile race to Nome! Mush on!
I've begun work on the pictures and they can be found on my website at kristielentphotography.com it may still take me a day or two to get them all up so keep checking the website and facebook to see when they are posted.