Rallying-The Dakar, a world of sand and solitude

LIMA, Jan 17 (Reuters) - The Dakar Rally is a race like no other, a two-week long endurance challenge across Peru and some of the harshest terrain and conditions on Earth.

This year’s event, finishing in Lima on Thursday, spanned thousands of kilometers with motorcycles, cars and trucks racing across vast deserts and towering dunes, from the Andes to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

As a photographer, I have had really good access with the helicopter and used one for most of the stages of the race. I’ve been wearing a harness attached to the helicopter, with the door open in order to shoot.

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A look at the Dakar Rally from above
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A look at the Dakar Rally from above
Track marks are seen on the sand during Stage 2 from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Tracks are seen on the Monquegua landscape during Stage 4 (Bike/Quad) from Arequipa to Moquegua, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Cracked mud is seen in the desert during Stage 3 from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Dust from a participant is seen during Stage 4 (Bike/Quad) from Arequipa to Moquegua, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A road-sign stands in the Monquegua landscape during Stage 4 (Bike/Quad) from Arequipa to Moquegua, or the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Sand dunes are seen during Stage 5 (Truck/Car) from Tacna to Arequipa of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 11, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The shadow of a helicopter moves across the sand during Stage 2 from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Smoke from a participants car is seen next to track marks during the Dakar Rally, Stage 9 Pisco in Peru, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man rest during Stage 8 from San Juan de Marcona to Pisco, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ripples of sand are seen during Stage 9 Pisco, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Tracks are seen in the sand during Stage 9 Pisco, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A helicopter propeller (top) is seen as a participant races below during Stage 9 Pisco, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Nazca Lines are seen after Stage 2 from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A rider crosses sand dunes during Stage 5 (Truck/Car) from Tacna to Arequipa, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 11, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Sand is blown by a motorcycle during Stage 9 Pisco, of the Dakar Rally in Peru, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso SEARCH "JASSO LANDSCAPES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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I like the abstract images best -- the detail created by a motorcycle accelerating, the sand thrown up and combined with beautiful light so that it looks almost like a wave.

You have to have the camera exposures pre-set to be ready for the action but the light is constantly shifting as clouds move across the sky.

You point the camera and expose for the highlights and hope the vehicle comes into the frame and drives between the shadows of the clouds.

You start reading the dunes ahead of reaching them. "Now it’s beautiful golden light, I’m going to shoot a landscape." Or "Now there are great shadows, I’m going to play with that."

You can feel like a grain of sand in these massive dunes, and everything can change so quickly. Every choice you make is a gamble -- the exposure you set, the dune you choose to climb.

You have to make a decision of where to go based on the route coordinates that the organizers give you, but that is not a guarantee, as there is not a set track.

When the car or helicopter drops you off you have to read the track marks in the sand, and predict where you will get the shot you want.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Alison Williams)

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