Athletes aren’t the only ones to hike through day and night, but it’s all worth it, says veteran race photographer Harald Tauderer.
“Taking pictures is my passion,” says the 34-year-old photographer Harald Tauderer. “And the most interesting job out there is the Red Bull X-Alps. I love it. Every year I look forward to doing it again.”
Tauderer was one of the team of photographers covering last year’s race, the others being Vitek Ludvik, Honza Zak, Felix Wölk and Leo Rosas. The team works unbelievably hard to bring back incredible images from the race, day after day on little sleep.
Some, like Felix are aerial specialists. (He’s one of the few photographers who is able to take photos while flying solo – something that requires a lot of skill and experience.) Then there are others like Honza, a competitive mountain runner himself who specialises in being able to keep up with the teams.
“It helps to build a relationship with the guys.”
Harald has a mix of both skills. He flies himself and sometimes shoots from the air but he’s mostly on the ground, hiking with the athletes. Photographers often climb as much vertical as the athletes themselves.
“I hiked about 14,800m the last race,” he says. “But the race before was more like 16,400m.” That is more than double the typical elevation you’d find in an ultra.
But there’s no place Harald would rather be than the Red Bull X-Alps, he says. He’s covered it four times as a photographer and once as a supporter.
“For me it’s pretty special. It’s unique to have this spontaneous stuff happening all the time. You wake up in the morning not knowing how the day will turn out; I don’t know where the guys are going; you visit places you didn’t know – that’s what makes it interesting. There are some great experiences in the mountains.”
He adds that after covering the race for so many editions many of the athletes are now friends – and that actually helps to get a better shot.
“It helps to build a relationship with the guys. If I show up, they know me and we can do some pictures together and work like a team.”
Quite often they’ll help each other out and share something to eat on a summit. “Those are the special moments for me,” adds Harald.
“I’m like a surfer hunting for the right wave.”
There are some tough times of course. Last year he had a bit of an epic getting off the Zermatt glacier. “It was pretty warm, the snow had melted, you could see all the crevasses. I had to go down by rope – it was pretty tricky.”
Then there’s the work in-between getting shots. That means downloading and processing shots as soon as he’s back at the car and driving several hundred kilometers to get to the next location.
“It’s sometimes hard to get up. It may be raining and cold but you have to hike again.”
Fortunately, Harald’s helped by his dad, who does the driving and cooking. “He likes the race too, loves nature and enjoys hiking, he collects nice berries for me.”
Then there are other issues, like dropping a €2,000 lens. “That was bad. Not only have you lost a valuable lens but you no longer have the right equipment any more.”
But it’s worth it he says. “I’m always hunting for the perfect shot. I’m like a surfer hunting for the right wave – you never stop. Sometimes it can be pretty hard but it’s that good you have to keep doing it – and if I’m not taking pictures I’m not happy.”
For more of Harald's photography stay tuned on our Instagram page! He's gonna take over the @redbullxalps channel from tomorrow on to tell some amazing background stories from the X-Alps road!
Photos © zooom / Harald Tauderer