Everest Trail Race 2018 Monkey Temple and Patan #ETR2018

Today, the calm of the Monkey Temple and historical Patan. It’s a day of noise, colour and amazing people as the ETR runners relax and soak in the beauty of this magical area.

The Monkey Temple *’Swayambhunath’  is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’ for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. For the Buddhist Newars, in whose mythological history and origin myth as well as day-to-day religious practice Swayambhunath occupies a central position, it is probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it is second only to Boudha.

Patan *Lalitpur Metropolitan City is the third largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu and Pokhara and it is located in the south-central part of Kathmandu Valley which is a new metropolitan city of Nepal. Lalitpur is also known as Manigal. It is best known for its rich cultural heritage, particularly its tradition of arts and crafts. It is called city of festival and feast, fine ancient art, making of metallic and stone carving statue.

Each year I am constantly surprised and blown away by my experiences as I meet the locals in their environment, some I now have seen for several years on my trips to these magical places.

Tomorrow the runner’s leave early morning for Jiri and camp 1, the race starts the following day at 0900, Thursday 8th November.

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Everest Trail Race 2018 #ETR2018

EVEREST TRAIL RACE, Nepal

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didnt do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (Sherpa Tenzing) are the stuff of legends; real comic book heroes for this modern era. They had the RIGHT STUFF! You know what I mean, stiff upper lip and the ability to take it on the chin.

Think back, 50+ years ago clad in wool and leather boots they departed Kathmandu on what is now considered one of the most iconic journeys everon the planet. A journey that would take the duo and a British expedition step-by-step, stride-by-stride from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp; a journey to climb the highest mountain in the world, Everest.

To follow in the footsteps of these pioneers, to follow in the footsteps of Hilary and Tenzing and retrace the ‘53’ journey is beyond running. Its a life affirming and life changing experience and one that the Everest Trail Race provides.

Kathmandu is just the most incredible place. Its a cacophony of noise, colour, people, cars and dust. Nothing can really prepare you for the assault on your senses. A dichotomy for the mind; I embrace the poverty around me and I make it look amazing with stunning photos. Am I a fake? Its a question I often ask. Do I prostitute the locals for my own gain? I think the answer is yes! But with each photograph captured I receive a smile, an acknowledgement that I have made them happy.

Departing Kathmandu, the road to Jiri is a twisting and gut-wrenching series of bends and miles. At 1905m altitude base camp 1 is warmed by the glow of yellow tents. As the sun lowers behind the surrounding mountains, anticipation of the journey ahead is high. Sherpas and porters prepare dinner and we spend a first night under canvas. Suddenly, the journey ahead feels very real.

The Everest Trail Race (ETR) follows the route of Hilary and Tenzing from Jiri all the way to Tengboche and then turns around and heads back to Lukla, thus facilitating an easy and manageable exit point to fly back to Kathmandu.

At 100-miles in distance an experienced ultra-runner may well think the race to be easy. Think again. The combination of relentless climbing, long descents, technical terrain and high altitude makes the ETR, mile-for-mile one of the toughest races of its type.

Broken down into manageable chunks, the race is divided into 6-stages with daily distances of approximately 22, 28, 30, 31, 20 and 22km. Altitude gain starts at 3000m and builds to 6000m. The ETR is a journey to widen one’s eyes and lungs. The visual splendor of the Himalayas is beyond words. The mountains, trails and people arguably provide one of the most stunning backdrops to any race on the planet. It’s easy to become stuck in the moment; the moment of relentless forward motion, then something stirs, you look up and as your jaw hits the floor, the visual splendor takes what little breath remains away; you are left gasping, breathless at the beauty.

Large eyes, dried dirt, runny noses and wide-open welcoming smiles; the Nepalese people really are the salt of the earth. Living in a harsh, demanding and remote environment they have adapted to the surroundings and have found a peace and humility that we can all learn from.

The trekking route, on which we travel, is the motorway of Nepal. We are the tourists, a constant stream of heavy goods vehicles surround us: porters, mules or yaks. Porters transport goods and services up and down this trail motorway daily, an important lifeline to the whole community. For £10 a day they will carry 30kgs on their backs covering high altitude and long distances with the ease of mountain goats. Experienced porters have been known to carry up to 120kg per day. It is beyond belief or comprehension. It is easy to look on from the outside and nod disapprovingly. However, this is normal. No roads exist here, the only method of transporting any goods along the trail are by porter, yak or mule.

Day 1 to Bhandar eases runners into the race with 3700m+/- of vertical gain and descentand approximately 21km in distance. The mind is released, and the legs and lungs try to follow. The sound of horns from local villagers announce the race is underway.

Bhandar to Jase Bhanjyang is a beast and arguably day 2 is considered one of the toughest of the race. It’s a brute! A brute of epic proportions; it leaves every runner questioning the journey ahead and the possibility of completion. Deviating from Hilary and Tenzing’s route, the ETR does not circumnavigate Pikey Peak at just over 4000m but goes over it! As one runner said, ‘It would certainly appear that day 1 really had been just a hors d’oeuvre and the race would miss the entrée and go straight into the main course, ready or not!’

Like any good meal, you can sometimes be a little over faced with the plate in front of you. Pikey Peak was such an indulgence. It was a climbing journey that made a vertical kilometer look like a small hill-rep. Front-runners can anticipate 2-hours plus of relentless climbing, the remainder of the field can spend 4, 5, 6 and maybe longer negotiating the steep slopes of these Himalayan foothills. From the summit; each step of pain is rewarded with a wonderful vista of the Himalayan range. In the distance Everest, Lohtse and Ama Dablam making this 4000m-peak dwarf with their 7000m plus splendor.

Kharikhola provides an incredible end to day-3. A monastery perched atop a mountain. I have often heard how runners have discussed and explained out of body experiences while running. Its not something one can pinpoint, like a mirage they come and go leaving one to question ones sanity. Kharikhola may well have provided such stimulus. Is that real?one may ask and as the final steps arrive and the ETR finish banner awaits.

Travel is the discovery of truth; an affirmation of the promise that human kind is far more beautiful than it is flawed. With each trip comes a new optimism that where there is despair and hardship, there are ideas and people just waiting to be energized, to be empowered, to make a difference for good.” – Dan Thompson, Following Whispers: Walking on the Rooftop of the World in Nepal’s Himalayas.

The trail changes and suddenly more trekkers, more porters, more mules and yaks populate the trail to Lukla and beyond. Dropping down and climbing up, the trail switches and twists and as you turn a bend at Kari La, the mountains hit you through the mist. They are no longer distant peaks but massive snow-covered monsters that make you realise how completely insignificant you are.

I see a woman carrying wood to her home. I stop her and ask for a photograph. Without hesitation she stops, looks me in the eye and patiently waits while I work my craft. Her face is leathered, full of lines and adorned with gold jewelry. She is beautiful. I cant even remotely pinpoint her age, but her face tells me a multitude of stories. Each line an experience. A story of laughter, a story of childhood and I am sure many stories of hardship.

Tengboche, the finish line of day-5 offers a panorama to bring a tear to the eye. Everest, Lohtse and Ama Dablam are close and the finish line of the ETR frames them beautifully like a classic painting. Relief, emotions and an outpouring of tears make the journey worthwhile. So tough the journey, many a runner needs to be reminded to turn around, look, and see what is behind them. The reaction always the same, a huge intake of air, a hand to the face and then a lowering of the head.

Hillary and Tenzing carried on from Tengboche. In the process they created a new world, a world where anything is possible. They climbed to the top and looked down and in doing so they paved the way for all of us to set new horizons, new goals and they have made us all ask the question, what if?

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

Edmund Hillary

Passing through Sagarmatha National Park, crossing Hilary Bridge, navigating through Namche Bazaar the final calling of Lukla confirms the end of the ETR.

Nepal and the Everest Trail Race provides more than a race experience, they provide a spiritual journey that transcends running. Running may be the vehicle but the trails of Nepal provide the highway, a highway to a new experience, to something magical and to something special.

Words taken from the book RUNNING BEYOND HERE

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Morocco 2018 – Street Photography

For the first time in a long, long time. I had a holiday! Those who follow what I do would arguably say, that I am always on holiday as I am constantly travelling to photograph running races all over the world. However, I can honestly say that in the last six years, I have not been away without working. Admittedly, on one or two trips, work has maybe only been 20-30% of the actual trip. It’s still a holiday but the work element is there.

This August I booked a trip to Morocco, I put my email on auto-reply, I downloaded a couple of books on my Kindle app and I went way with the pure intention to do no work for a good 14-days. 

As a photographer, you may be thinking or asking, but did you take a camera?

The answer is quite simply, yes!

When you do what I do in, day-in and day-out, it’s almost impossible to travel without a camera. I often consider a camera just an ‘essential’ item for what I do every day, be that a holiday or not.

The key thing with taking a camera on holiday is that I can take images for the pleasure of it. No brief, no deadlines, no clients – I can shoot what I want and when I want.

I started to post 10-12 B&W images a day whilst travelling, normally on my Instagram and on Facebook. What was interesting was the amount of feedback and direct messages I received. I guess most people know me as a sports/ running photographer, so, suddenly a series of gritty B&W street photographs appear, and it makes people curios.

So, I decided to write a brief post to answer the questions that was asked. 

Street and people photography are something that I love. It’s raw, visceral, gritty and when done well should transport the viewer to the place and immerse them.

Travelling, one accepts everything; indignation stays at home. One looks, one listens, one is roused by enthusiasm by the most dreadful things…– Elias Canetti

Now there are many forms of street photography. And just to draw a comparison, I photographed in Nepal for many years, the street shots I have done there are very different to what I did in Morocco.

To clarify, I could photograph in Nepal the way I photographed in Morocco but not vice versa. The reason being, the people and the culture. The Nepali people love having their photographs taken, you can walk up to them, stick a camera in their face and take a shot. You can even ask them to move or look into a certain place. So, although it’s real, there can be an ‘element’ of set-up, however, I rarely go down that route.

In Morocco, the people are very different. They do not like having their photograph taken. Don’t agree with me? Take a camera in to the Souk in Marrakech and start pointing your camera at people – you will soon realise that it is not an option. Now of course, there are exceptions. Occasionally it is possible to do a ‘posed’ shot and I have found that my experience with 30-year’s in the business lets me know when that is an option.

Below, there are over 300-images captured in Marrakech and the coastal resort of Essaouira, I would say that approximately 10-12 images were taken with the subject knowing I was taking the photo and they didn’t mind.

The remainder of the images were taken with the subject not knowing that I was taking photographs.

THE EQUIPMEMT

Sony A7RIII with Sony/Zeiss T Sonnar* 35mm F2.8

If you look like a photographer, you will stick out and the people will already be wary of you. For street work and when travelling this way, I carry one camera and one lens.

I use a Sony A7RIII (approx £3200) which is a full-frame digital camera which produces a whopping image size of 42.4MP, when shooting in RAW, that file is over 80MP. I have found a large file allows me options to crop in to the image and still retain a high quality/ high resolution file. The camera is mirrorless and therefore considerably smaller than a DSLR, it also has Image Stabilization built into the body; super handy in low-light. The camera can also shoot at 10fps, at times, this can be super important for capturing that all-important moment.

I use a prime lens, the 35mm F2.8 – The Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 which is a Sony/ Zeiss lens. The optics are incredible, focus is fast and superb and F2.8 it is pin-sharp. There are several reasons why this lens is perfect for street work:

At 35mm, it is wide, but no so wide that you can’t take portraits. I would say that for most Pro photographers, a 35mm prime has replaced the traditional 50mm prime.

The lens has a lens hood which is flush to the front element keeping the lens neat.

Its size is extremely small.

Quality is off the scale, but it is not cheap, approx £850.

That is, it. I don’t use anything else. I don’t carry a camera bag and I have no accessories. The only two additional items I carry is a spare battery and spare SD cards.

SHOOTING

This camera set up is also my favourite set up when running and photographing. The main reason being is that the camera and lens are light, the quality is the best you can get, and I can carry the camera in my hand while running. I broke up my time in Marrakech and Essaouira with a 2-day trip to climb Toubkal, the highest mountain in the Atlas range. Here are some of the shots from that trip:

Back to the streets…

I have learnt over time to view the scene with a 35mm eye. Basically, I can look at a scene/ scenario and view the scene with the viewpoint and angle of the camera. This is essential in Morocco.

Many of the shots I took, I would say 80% (with the exception of the Toubkal shots) were taken with me NOT looking into the camera. The moment you raise your camera to your eye, people stop, look, put their hands up and on many occasions will say, ‘no photo, no photo!’

The below is a classic example of the subject posing for the shot.

This shot I was looking through the camera, but the subject didn’t know I was taking the photo.

This shot I was looking through the camera.

This shot was composed and planned but the subject didn’t know.

This is why Nepal and Morocco are so different.

To shoot, I would survey a scene, view the angles and decide on the shot and then walk past with my camera at mid-chest height. With experience, I understand the field of view the camera sees and I capture the scene.

Now of course, this sounds easy.

It’s not.

  1. One has to consider focus and how one gets the ‘key’ element in the frame in focus.
  2. One also has to consider exposure.
  3. One has to consider if it is possible to make one or two attempts at a shot.

The above is actually what brings adrenaline into shooting in this way. One also has to accept that you will have a high failure rate, certainly early on. Failure rate becomes less with more experience.

SUMMARY

There are no hard rules in capturing images when working a scene. The place, the people and the location will often decide what approach you need to take. The comparisons between Nepal and Morocco provide a perfect example.

The key is to enjoy the process, have fun and learn by taking many, many shots.

All images ©iancorless.com

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Web – www.iancorless.com

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Everest Trail Race by The Elements Pure Coconut Water #ETR2017 – Monkey Temple and Patan

Today, the calm of the Monkey Temple and historical Patan. It’s a day of noise, colour and amazing people as the ETR runners relax and soak in the beauty of this magical area.

The Monkey Temple *’Swayambhunath’  is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’ for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. For the Buddhist Newars, in whose mythological history and origin myth as well as day-to-day religious practice Swayambhunath occupies a central position, it is probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it is second only to Boudha.

Patan *Lalitpur Metropolitan City is the third largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu and Pokhara and it is located in the south-central part of Kathmandu Valley which is a new metropolitan city of Nepal. Lalitpur is also known as Manigal. It is best known for its rich cultural heritage, particularly its tradition of arts and crafts. It is called city of festival and feast, fine ancient art, making of metallic and stone carving statue.

This is Nepal – the people.

Each year I am constantly surprised and blown away by my experiences as I meet the locals in their environment, some I now have seen for several years on my trips to these magical places.

*content reference ©wikipedia