I haven’t been doing much this week because of being ill, but my first excursion in four days (on painkillers) was to Canungra, a good hour’s drive away, for the Avanti 6-hour Endurance cycle. A day of endurance – and not just for the riders.

It’s a cross-country cycling race open to ‘4-man’ teams right through to solo riders, in the men’s, women’s, and mixed divisions. Each team does as many laps as they can in six hours.

My team was a 4-man, and I was there to fill a variety of non-cycling roles – team promoter, sports journalist, water-girl, and photographer. I was most apprehensive about the latter role.

It really wouldn’t have been hard for anyone else to make the boys look good on camera. They looked good in the new shop jerseys (I had a matching shirt!), but from past experience, I doubted my ability. As a journo-in-training, I am extremely self-conscious about this limitation of mine.

The main point of the last minute team was to promote the new shop as sponsor. The boys weren’t even cross-country riders but they thought they would do okay, and some fun race-action photos to break in the jerseys were called for. So the job landed on me. Uh oh…

Arriving at about 7am after a drive through the picturesque countryside, we set up camp and I took in the scenery. The air was still crisp, and I could smell dew on fresh cut grass, mud, and cow shit.

There were plenty of rolling hills around, which I trekked across to scope out accessible points on the track. Some parts were grassy; others were sandy, rocky, or muddy. A healthy smattering of cow shit ended up on my shoes. I talked to cyclists, girlfriends, wives, and hardcore lean old(ish) men with shaved legs – and found out there was a 40+ division. Respect to them!

The coffee stall attracted a queue early for weary ones in my boat, as did the jumping castle for hyperactive kids. I grabbed a coffee and soaked in the atmosphere, and then… a flashy SLR contraption was thrust in my hands.

9am and the countdown had begun, as did my job as photographer. It took me a while to figure out how to get onto sport mode, and I missed the first lap. Well, I thought, there’s 6 hours to get this right.

And so for the next 6 hours I hiked up and down hills, crouched into thorns, kneeled in more cow shit, scratched my legs raw, slipped on rocks, and tried to angle the camera toward the wheels spraying dust and dirt on me. The time passed surprisingly fast. But after every ‘click-click’, I looked back at the image with dismay.

Well, there were some good shots purely out of probability. I finally got over my point-and-shoot shyness and got snap-happy, hoping to score some flukes. I know I got at least one good shot of the team – on the podium, when they were finally still!
When it was over I was glad to get the thing off my neck but I actually did appreciate the endurance photography session. It was like uncomfortable therapy for a phobia. I wouldn’t be averse to picking a good camera up and ‘working on my problem’ now.

It could take quite a few more sessions before I produce a photo worthy to appear with an article! Maybe I should get a camera…