It’s one of the toughest adventure races: the Red Bull X-Alps. Competitors start in Salzburg, and make their way by foot and paraglider to Monaco, navigating 1138 kilometres of treacherous alpine terrain. The constantly changing weather conditions make the race highly unpredictable. This is also true for photographer Philipp Reiter, a trail runner himself, who followed athlete Paul Guschlbauer to document his race. Philipp took the LUMIX S1R camera with him. ‘It’s not the lightest camera, but seeing the results afterwards I know it was the right choice. The details in the photos are insane. You can see everything – the sweat, the dirt, the fatigue in Paul’s eyes.’
As a child his parents often took him and his sister to the mountains. They wanted to pass their love for nature and the mountains on to their children. Philipp wasn’t always eager about these trips. ‘But looking back, I can’t really remember the computer games I played as a child but I do remember the time we made a fire on top of a mountain.’ He started competing in skiing competitions as a teenager, and not without success: he won several prizes. At first he only did this in wintertime, but soon realised that the only way to keep on improving was to train during the summer as well. That’s when he learned about trail running, and it’s been one of his favourite sports ever since. The adrenaline, the stunning views – it’s an addiction. He’s still competing, but not as often as before, because he found a new passion: photography.
Next to mountain skiing and running, mountains are also his favourite subject to photograph, combined with athletes delivering a top performance. Being a trail runner himself, he is not only fit, but he also knows what to expect. That’s why Paul Guschlbauer asked him to document his race. For this project, Philipp took the LUMIX S1R and an assortment of lenses. ‘It’s not the lightest camera, but the quality of the images is fantastic. You see so much detail. Another important reason to use this camera is it’s low-light performance. Even at a high ISO the quality is great.’ He used the 50 mm lens for most of the photos. ‘There’s not a lot of time to switch lenses.’ The Red Bull X-Alps is one of the world’s toughest paragliding races. ‘The athletes are allowed to start racing at 5 am. They begin on foot. From 6 am they’re allowed to fly. They must land before 9 pm.
Then they’re allowed to race until 10.30 pm. The athletes want to paraglide for as long as possible, to cover the greatest distance. But they depend on the weather conditions.’ That made it hard for Philipp to predict where Paul would land. ‘I followed Paul with a GPS tracker. Photographing him during his flight was difficult, so I focused on the race on foot.’ They were long days, not only for Paul but also for Philipp. And he also had to work under changing conditions. ‘The LUMIX S1R is weatherproof. That came in handy, because it rained. It’s a very sturdy camera.
I had to climb and run to catch up with Paul, and kept the camera around my neck. Nothing happened to it, though. When it was raining, I tucked the camera under my jacked to protect it.’ A ski mountaineer, mountain runner and photographer: all very different disciplines with their own unique challenges. They all provide a rush, when successful. Philipp always strives for the best results. Being able to do that in his beloved mountains is a bonus. ‘The calmness, the beautiful locations and views: there’s just nothing like it.’
Philipp Reiter (born 20 July 1991) is a German ski mountaineer and mountain runner. He was selected for the German national ski mountaineering team. Reiter was born in Munich. He started ski mountaineering in 2001, and competed for the first time in 2006. He currently lives in Bad Reichenhall and is studying mathematics and biology at the University of Salzburg. He started photographing while recovering from an injury. He loves to capture moments, to catch emotions. He photographs sport events as a ‘running cameraman’ (all-terrain, fast, flexible), accompanies expeditions, and does outdoor shoots. Philipp is LUMIX ambassador.