Mush! The Race to Nome

69 Dog Teams Leave the Start Line Traveling through Downtown Anchorage

Mush! The Race to Nome

The 2014 Iditarod was my 34th year covering the race as the official photographer. The ceremonial start in Anchorage was like any other year. With 69 dog teams leaving the start line at 2-minute intervals and traveling the 12 miles of spectator-lined streets and bike/ski trails in downtown Anchorage, there was plenty of action to photograph.

After the official re-start the next day, the teams became more spread out throughout the night and by early Monday morning, at the Finger Lake checkpoint, 112 miles into the 1,000 mile race, the teams came and went at unpredictable intervals.

I was out shooting by 6:00 am with one of my Canon cameras mounted on a tripod to make long exposures of the mushers and volunteers using their headlamps under stars.

I traveled by small bush (4-seat) airplane that first day to the Rainy Pass checkpoint. Just a few hours after being there I was aboard a snowmobile guided by Steve Perrins II of Rainy Pass Lodge for a 35 mile trip up and over the Alaska Range.

We took our time as we travelled over the range and photographed several dog teams in this magnificent area.

Once on the other side of the Range, the trail deteriorated substantially. It went from snow to rock, dirt, roots and ice. It was by far the worst stretch of trail the dog mushers and I had ever seen. Steering the snowmobile was quite difficult and oftentimes I walked to make it easier for Steve to navigate. I set up to photograph a team in this snowless area to show the dirt trail and when a team ran by I was totally surprised to see no musher on the sled which was lying on its side. This was the first time I’d ever photographed a musher-less team. Steve stopped the team and tied it off for the musher.

We continued on to the next checkpoint, Rohn, as it got dark. I photographed several teams using slow exposures and fill flash with the stars and moon in the dark, using my headlamp to pre-focus before they arrived. 

Over the next 7 days I would travel by the same bush plane and snowmobiles from checkpoint to checkpoint, sometimes landing in-between to capture life on the Iditarod for the mushers, locals and volunteers. I slept on the floor of a local school or village community center. Several times a day, my assistant would upload images to the web at www.iditarod.com and www.iditarodsphoto.com

Finally in Nome, I spent 5 days photographing both the winning and last place finish and many teams in between.  Having top-rate gear that I can trust, especially fast and large SanDisk Extreme SD cards is crucial for a successful remote shoot like this.

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Jeff Schultz

From the Bay Area to Alaska, Jeff Schultz specializes in photographing the Alaskan outdoors
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