5th of Jan, 2014. 

After two hours sleep (alarm at 3.50am), nightmares about sleeping in, I rub the eyes, try to focus, get to a taxi with all my bags, share the cab with Filipe who works for another picture agency to get to our meeting point for Dakar Travel. 

All on autopilot!

Four photographers (me included) are part of the Dakar Media crew and will be sharing two 4x4 cars kitted out in the full race and safety equipment to shoot from various points of the course. 

Our 4x4 with three seats, two in the front and one in the back, is mainly a roll cage inside and the seats are race chairs with harnesses, so we are safe but comfort wise, it's not great.  It looks like it will be a lot of early starts and late finishes when we arrive back to the new daily camp site of Bivouac. 

As we head out of Rosario to our first photo point, 5 hours drive away, the amount of people lining the streets to wave the drivers and riders off is amazing. Thousands of people are cheering, waving and dancing. It's quite a sight!

I have already mentioned my surprise on many points, as we hit the freeway with a speed limit of 120km, the sides are covered with people, I am surprised again!

Families on deck chairs, people on roofs of trucks, people standing on the edge of the road, pickup trucks with fold out chairs all sitting back and watching the Dakar show as we leave town. Growing up in Australia, having lived in the UK and now in the Netherlands, this is something i don't think would happen in these places, or more importantly, it would not be allowed. 

The 4x4 we are in is covered in Dakar stickers and kitted out like many of the competitors cars so to most people looking on - they think we are racers and just a beep of the horn or wave from the window sends the crowds into a joyous delight. Thinking this would end soon, I waved to a lot of people. I soon realised that the crowds didn’t stop. I gave up after a while as I needed to catch up on some sleep. 

We make it to our photo point and there are already a few hundred people there. It's a stretch of river with a submerged bridge which the competitors will go through. 

People swim, sun bathe and cook BBQ’s on the riverside. It's like a summers holiday point that just happens to have a rally running through it.  

The bikes, then quads, then cars come through and I move around to different points to take my photos and after about three hours we head off, missing the trucks, as our next campsite is four hours away.

It's 9pm when we arrive. I am covered in dust and dirt. I need to clean my kit and myself, eat and edit my images. 

First we have a meeting with our drivers and other photographers to make a plan for the next day. We are in agreement pretty quickly but with not an ideal conclusion - a 3.30am leave to make the next photo spot in the morning. 

So with all things done at about 12.30am, I pitch my tent on some grass next to the media centre, blow up my mattress and set my alarm for two hours time.

View Dean's coverage of the Dakar Rally 2014 on Getty Images

  • SANTA ROSA DE CALAMUCHITA, ARGENTINA - JANUARY 05: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) (#301) Nasser Al-Attiyah and Lucas Cruz of Qatar for MINI compete on Day 1 of the Dakar Rally 2014 on January 5, 2014 in Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, Argentina. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • ROSARIO, ARGENTINA - JANUARY 05: (#250) Marcos Patronelli of Argentina and Yamaha Racing Argentina competes on Day 1 of the Dakar Rally 2014 on January 5, 2014 in Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, Argentina. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • ROSARIO, ARGENTINA - JANUARY 05: (#310) Guilherme Spinelli and Youssef Haddad of Brazil for Mitsubishi Petrobras compete on Day 1 of the Dakar Rally 2014 on January 5, 2014 in Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, Argentina. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • SANTA ROSA DE CALAMUCHITA, ARGENTINA - JANUARY 05: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) A young fan plays in the water while waitng to see the competitors on Day 1 of the Dakar Rally 2014 on January 5, 2014 in Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, Argentina. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • Dean Mouhtaropoulos is a Sports Photographer for Getty Images. Follow him on Twitter at @AllSportSnapper
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Editors Note: The 2014 Dakar Rally will be the 35th running of the event and the sixth successive year that the event is held in South America. The event starts in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina on January 5 and finishes in Valparaíso, Chile on January 18 after thirteen stages of competition. To find out more visit the official Dakar Rally 2014 website.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos is a Sports Photographer for Getty Images. Follow him on Twitter at @AllSportSnapper

About Deal Mouhtaropoulos

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Mouhtaropoulos' love for photography began when his godfather bought him a camera for his 12th birthday.

"My journey to become a photographer had started and led me to the Big Smoke as I always knew London would provide a good platform to start my career in the photography business.

Working full time in various non-photo related roles and shooting for magazines and newspapers on weekends, it was then that I discovered Getty Images. When visiting the Getty Gallery, which was in Chelsea at the time, and looking at all those amazing pictures I had an epiphany and knew this was the company I wanted to work for.

I started hounding Getty’s Human Resources department to give me a role, any role, in the company. A few months and hundreds of phone calls later a role came up doing coffees, spreadsheets and filing.

Thanks to my boss, who saw some potential in me, I became a Field Editor for Getty which is like the modern version of working in the Dark Room. I got to work with the best photographers around the world at events like the MTV Awards, Cannes Film Festival, both Football and Rugby World Cups, the Olympics, Champions League football, World Championships in Swimming, Diving, Hockey, Athletics and so on.

This has taught me more than I could ever imagine and after 7 years of absorbing information and applying it to my own photography, I earned the opportunity to become a staff photographer for Getty.

10 years in London came to an end at the start of 2012 and I am now based in the Netherlands covering sports and news in the Benelux, France and Germany. My knowledge of photography has progressed but my passion is as strong as it was when I picked up my first roll of Fuji film as a 12 year old."

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