How Kelvin Trautman trains to be one of the best action photographers
If you’re a trail runner, paddler or mountain biker, there’s a good chance Kelvin Trautman silently snapped you – he’s one of the best.
If you’re talented enough to make the top spots at these events, then he’s probably running alongside you for a large portion of the race – hefting his equipment on his back and cradling his camera in this arms for his quick-fire shots.
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Unlike many of his photographer peers, Trautman doesn’t get ferried around to easy shooting locations – he has to run, paddle, climb or cycle to the next best vantage spot. And to do this, he needs to be seriously fit.
And just to drive home how fit he is, I interview him the day before he does the Non Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon, a race which you paddle the Dusi river in a day. That’s 108km, which entails 35km of portage. It took him and his partner in a K2 just two hours, coming third overall.
Cross training kills monotony
“Unfortunately due to my shooting schedule, I don’t have a structured training plan but I’ve learnt how to squeeze in the right kind of training whenever I can. I’ve learnt the benefits of cross training, so I mix it up by doing open water swimming, free weights, core work, paddling, mountain biking and trail running,” says Trautman.
His favourite cross training sport is swimming, but not the traditional type, he says. “I often do long sea (or dam) swims. I do five ‘ins and outs’ (where you swim out to the backline, catch a wave, run back up the beach, around the life guard tower and then swim back out). In the pool, I often try mixing up my sessions by doing 50m intervals (25m underwater and a 25m sprint).
“I also try to tread water between intervals instead of hanging on the wall for dear life. I sometimes swim with a T-shirt on and I use a kick board. I find that swimming has the best overall benefits and can help you with almost any kind of race goals. I get the most out of my training where the aim is to have fun and be as challenging as possible at the same time.”
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There are crap days
“I have days where I spend hours cold, wet and shivering in mud. But then I look at the race I’m covering, see how the athletes are suffering in the same conditions and it makes me feel better.
“Yes, it does sound sadistic, but there is something to be said for shared suffering. And best of all, when the conditions are rubbish, there’s more to photograph. The human spirit is much more noticeable and there is so much more to capture.”
There are no chain emails in the outdoors
“After sitting with your eyes glued to electronic spreadsheets and emails, running in nature provides a sensory overload that can reset your brain. No gossip, traffic or cellphones.
“It seems crazy to both work and train indoors. What’s even more crazy is that it doesn’t take much to change this. The hardest part is just to start and once you’ve made the decision to tie your running shoes or pack your canoe, it’s all downhill from there.”
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The deep end is the most rewarding
“People don’t enjoy being challenged. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s where you grow the most. Going on a new adventure can be daunting, no matter if you’re hurling your parachute-clad body off a cliff with your camera in hand, or simply exploring your local park for the first time. It’s scary but it’s bloody addictive. You’ll learn more about yourself when you’re in the deep end than any other place in the world.”
Fitness is a job requirement
“I need to see and know the whole race course that I’m covering, and get to places that other people wouldn’t physically. I need to be able to stick with the front runners to be able to shoot them. As much as it is important to get to the perfect location for the right shot, it is also about being creative on the spot. Keep your eyes open for the right photographic opportunity.”