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|| News Item: Posted 2011-06-14

Lesson Learned Covering Tough Mudder

By Jonathan Moore

Photo by Jonathon Moore

Photo by Jonathon Moore

Electroshock Therapy obstacle, final stretch before the finish!
Tough Mudder is an extreme obstacle course, but this is really just an understatement.

The course, which is designed by British Special Forces, is designed to intentionally mess with your head. Huge buckets of ice are poured into the water in an obstacle known as "Chernobyl Crossing", the monkey bars in the "Funky Monkey" obstacle in the are either loose or randomly lined with grease, overall elevation gain is about 1,200' (starting at 6,800') and the wires in the final stretch are randomly electrified by 10,000 volts in an obstacle that is appropriately entitled, "electroshock therapy."

There are even signs posted throughout the staging area that say "remember, you signed a death waiver." Everyone had to sign, including myself, to get access to this course. The event is worth observing just for the reaction of the participants alone. Everyone, including the toughest, strongest looking military officers were shouting things like, "oh GOD it hurts" or "SH*T this water is cold" or "WHY did I do this to myself??" and many, many others, accompanied with Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" blaring in the background.

Very entertaining atmosphere indeed!

Planning to shoot an event like this was a challenge because I had no visual reference of what any of this was going to look like, aside from a course map on a website, a few images and video clips.

All I knew was that the event started at 9 AM and that ultimately I would be racing against time for the good light, so I wanted to at least have some sort of schedule. I arrived early (around 7 AM) to check out the closest obstacles and to plan exactly what I wanted to shoot. Sure enough, by around 11am, everything was backlit.

So the second lesson (as many of you know) is to arrive early to plan your ideal shoot. Find the cleanest compositions and the best light ahead of time so you're not overwhelmed while the event is happening.

Familiarize yourself with the light and plan accordingly. My goal in this shoot was to focus on capturing peak action (and reaction) more than anything.

Photo by Jonathon Moore

Photo by Jonathon Moore

A participant reacts to the cold icy water just after the "Chernobyl Crossing" obstacle. I love her reaction!
One great thing about Tough Mudder is that the action is very repetitive. If you miss a shot, just wait for the next guy and try again. Unfortunately, because of the light, I felt this constant need to keep moving. Some of the obstacles were only accessible by taking the "long route" with everyone else, so I had to make the most of my time.

After reviewing the images, there were definitely a few instances where I wish I'd stayed a bit longer to really make a perfect shot. So the third lesson, which in many ways is tied to the second, is to BE PATIENT. Confirm you have the shot you want to make to capture BEFORE proceeding.

What is the point of making the effort to wake up a the crack of dawn if you're not going to make the images YOU want to make? Now the decision on what gear to bring.

The tendency for most people (including myself) is to just bring everything. This simply is not possible. I must have changed my mind a dozen times on whether or not I should bring my 200-400 f/4 up on the muddy and rocky terrain and, to be honest, I'm glad I didn't. I knew that I wouldn't be able to move around the course fast enough with long glass, plus access was unlimited.

I was also able to walk up to each obstacle with no problem, so long glass wasn't a necessity. The fourth lesson in covering an event like this is to bring ONLY what you need. Don't weigh yourself down with gear just for the sake of having it. This isn't Golf or Baseball, you can get close to the athletes and action without anyone caring.

Always consider your environment and the risk involved to your gear (and your body).

I found out about Tough Mudder on a Facebook ad of all places! Clicked on the ad, found the event in Southern California and marked my calendar. That was it! So I guess the final lesson is to always keep your eyes open on the Internet for anything different.

Photo by Jonathon Moore

Photo by Jonathon Moore

A participant at the end of the "Kiss the Mud" challenge.
Cool stuff is out there, it's just a matter of finding, or in this case, "clicking" on it. This particular event took place at Snow Summit in the San Bernardino Mountains about 90 miles east of Los Angeles, though they are currently having events around the country (and eventually around the world for anyone who is interested).

Website is, click on "events" for a schedule. ((Obtaining a media credential is easy and necessary for close access to the obstacles, particularly the finish (which is crowded with spectators). Just contact the media coordinator and they will give you directions. That's about it! Thanks for reading!

Jonathan Moore is a freelance photographer based in Southern California. You can see his work at: .

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