CALUMET - Ever since its 2010 inception, the CopperDog 150 has benefited from from a cadre of talented photographers and videographers who've brought the event to life for those that couldn't be there, and preserved the memories for those that were.
In some cases, such as CopperDog's Director of Public Relations and Marketing Todd Brassard, camera work has been a gateway to greater involvement in the race. Or, in the case of Mark Riutta, home video recording of the race became a springboard into a career as a video producer and his own company, Defined Visuals.
"The first race, as a spectator, I captured a few minutes of footage on a point and shoot camera," Riutta remembered in an e-mail to the Gazette. "It wasn't great footage, but it made me realize how powerful video can be. I remember thinking at the time, 'It would be cool to film a race like this some day.' So I guess I actually made that happen."
Video screen shot courtesy Defined Visuals
Volunteers keep dogs on course during the 2012 CopperDog 150, in a scene from the Defined Visuals documentary “The Volunteers.”
Last year, Riutta spent over 100 hours producing "The Volunteer," a 35-minute video documenting the race and the massive volunteer effort it takes to pull it off.
To celebrate and promote this year's race, he's releasing "The Volunteer" for free online. Previously, the documentary was available only on DVD or through paid digital download.
"The Volunteer" premiers today on the CopperDog web site, www.copperdog150.com, and can also be seen at Defined Visuals' site, definedvisuals.com, along with several shorter CopperDog videos and a variety of Riutta's other work.
Brassard runs Brassard Media with his wife Jessie Brassard in his spare time from his job as Chief Operating Officer of Calumet Electronics. He's primarily a videographer while she handles web site and graphic design duties.
He first became involved in the dog-sled world, he said, when he produced a promotional video for local musher Truman Obermeyer in 2007.
Brassard liked what he saw, and volunteered his help when the 2010 CopperDog was germinating. Todd and Jesse took charge of the race's web site and branding, and established the year-round promotional look of the race that still draws mushers and fans today.
"One of the most important elements in transforming a simple idea into a world-class event is visuals," Brassard wrote in an email. "CopperDog is not a brick and mortar organization, we live and die by our branding."
Brassard wrote that his curiosity in this role helped him learn about all facets of running the race, and when the 2010 race director moved to Alaska he'd fallen in love with the event enough to add that job the following year. He remained race director through the 2013 event before turning the role over to Meredith LaBeau, who'd gained experience as his assistant the past two years.
Last year, Brassard wore the executive director's hat as well, before easing off just a tad in returning to his PR/marketing role.
Bill Fink is a member of the CopperDog photo and video team who focuses on the human interest and background elements of the race - pre- and post-race meetings, racer preparation, spectator reaction, volunteers in action and more.
He wrote in an e-mail that CopperDog's wintry environs present unique challenges for the folks with the cameras, such as "keeping your equipment relatively warm and dry, dealing with extreme low light and fast action, variable light, and depth of field limits on long subjects coming right at you."
The last challenge, he clarified, means figuring out where to set your focus to film a team of dogs coming right at you from a distance.
To check out Fink's work, go to galleryondaline.com.
Brassard said a handful of other photographers led by Adam Johnson of Brockit, Inc., as well as Ray Bosley and Dan Cunningham, have also played large roles in popularizing and documenting the race.
This year's three-stage CopperDog 150 runs Feb. 28 - March 2, and will also include a 40-mile, six-dog team race. To learn more, go to www.copperdog150.com.