the dan milner photography blog: tales of an adventuring photo chimp

June 24, 2011

Sleep is overrated: 24 hours of shooting the Mayhem

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 8:46 am

I’m a morning person. I’ve worked that out over the years. While I am a sprightly (some say annoying) ball of energy first thing, my energy peters out by the evenings, usually, leaving me sullen, a grumpy participant of dinner parties and snowcamping escapades alike, moody and wanting to go home and to bed. Last Saturday the mould was broken though, when I had to opportunity to stay up way beyond my accustomed bedtime to shoot the now legendary Mountain Mayhem 24 hour MTB race for one of its sponsors, The North Face.

My boy scout year wasn't wasted: knowing where the sun sets (thats West) means getting a heads up on where might be a good place to backlight riders at dusk. Silhouettes mean you can't see the grimace of pain though. 9 hours in and 15 to go. Nikon D3s, 24-700 2.8.

I’m no stranger to bike-orientated masochism, but wanting to ride for 24 hours straight is another deal altogether. A ten mile hilly lap means by midday the second day, the top soloists will have ridden 210 miles, and the top team 270 miles. Madness? Perhaps, but many don’t see it that way. Now in its 15th year, the Mayhem is going strong, and luckily for me, its 1500 amassed solo and team entrants (including the TNF’s own ‘factory’ team and soloist Rob Dean who I was assigned to shoot) together generate the kind of electric atmosphere that will keep a sleep derived photographer focussed for the duration of the event, long enough to capture what he thinks is the essence of a 24 hour endurance event like this. on a Saturday night is the best time for curry, even in a Worcestershire field.. Nikon D3s,14-24 2.8

And so armed with my now trusty Nikon armory, a dual flash-and-slave set up and an impressive rustle of waterproofs (hey it is England in June after all) I strode purposefully from the start line and paced the 10 mile course with the 13.5 Kg (29.5lb) monkey that is my photo pack on my back. To and fro, up and down and back up the same hillsides, working every angle of late and early light I could calculate, while being blinded by the 4,000,000 lumen LED ‘s of today’s headlamps (I retaliated by firing my flashes back into the riders faces of course, hey fair’s fair) I was driven onward by the unbridled energies of the riders themselves. Rain, wind and sunburn. Sleep deprivation, blisters and dehydration. And a heady mix of exhaustion and endorphins. I might not have been actually on a bike, but I think I got to share some of the rider’s experience.

Gratuitous tree shot. Riders thrown in for free. Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 VRII.

So thanks Mountain Mayhem riders. Thanks for keeping the energy going all night long. Thanks for helping a photographer stay up a little later than his bedtime, for a change.

Down in the innertube station at midnight. Nikon D3s, 50 1.4.



  1. Eastnor is in Herefordshire, The Malvern Hills are the boarder between Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Glocestershire. My friend did her first M.M and solo too this year. 8 laps for a 22year old girl. PROPS!

    born and bred cider drinking Herefordian here. Came by your blog to see if you had any new Chamonix photos as just got the latest singletrack and am here for summer. Is that photo from near mer de glace?

    Comment by Oli C — July 7, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  2. my mistake, sorry, battling tiredness on my shift, forgot you’d perviously said the singletrack photo was st gervais way.

    Comment by Oli C — July 7, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

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