Damiano Benedetto is an action, outdoor, and sport photographer, but he doesn’t like labels. He just tries to see how people’s emotions are expressed. He says this is not easy but, when it happens, it is an unforgettable moment for both the person in front of and the person behind the camera. He started taking pictures when he was a child with his uncle. He did not shoot that much because rolls of film were expensive, so he would carefully compose each photo. From those days on, he has continued to admire the world and try to get the best of it in each shot.
Words and images by Damiano Benedetto
#5summits1record, what is it about?
Well known vertical runner and MIGU VK World Circuit, and Dynafit-sponsored, athlete, Simone “Simo” Eydallin, challenged himself to set a new personal record in his home valley, Val di Susa, located in the northwestern Italian Alps. The goal was to run five peaks in under five hours over five consecutive days, from July 29 to August 2, 2019 (total of 7000mt D+ on only 26km). The aim of this project was to crowdfund for Ugi Onlus (Union of Italian Parents against children’s cancer).
My goal was to try to document each moment of Simo’s adventure. Every moment of his life in those days had to be illustrated like a sort of diary, not just the vertical run of the day. The first photo session started in June, about one month before the challenge took place. We had some portraits shot both in a studio and outside. I used one f-stop Tilopa with a Pro ICU - XL and one Loka UL with a Shallow ICU - Medium to carry all my gear, included Elinchrom light heads. These kinds of shots are really useful to brands and athletes to launch the events on social media.
We wanted to chronicle the event in real-time. So, the action shots had to be taken live during each single run, not at a later time, like a posing shot.
Due to logistical problems, it was not easy to walk to the right spot on the mountain side in time to take some shots of the run. Therefore, we had to plan our days very rigorously. We also wanted to document the challenge landscape area, preferably during outstanding moments of the day, as around sunset time.
There were two teams involved:
The support team, for Simo’s first needs, was composed of Simo’s wife, Emily; his father, Renato; Mario (Dynafit supervisor); and Simo’s friends, Nicholas and Davide, who played the role of pacemakers to keep the rhythm on the final or the steepest parts of the trails.
The media crew consisted of Alberto, the “drone boy”, who covered aerial film shoots and me as a photographer.
Though areas of the mountain were difficult to access, Simo had a lot of supporters along the way, including friends, children of his hometown kindergarten, local authorities, and just people who didn’t know about his project but who met him during their excursions.
My assignment lasted all day long on different situations, for example starting from Simo’s breakfast, following him during the run on the mountain and then the Crio Room Recovery at the medical lab.
To cover all the different moments of this project I have mainly used a Loka UL, with a Shallow ICU - Medium and one large f-stop packing cell.
Inside the ICU I carried:
- two bodies: NIKON D4 and D4s
- lenses: 35mm f/1.4, 20mm f/1.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8
- flash: Nikon SB 800
Inside the packing cell:
- dressing layers
- sun cream
- food bars
- one wind/rain jacket
- light gloves and one Buff
Inside the main compartment of the backpack I put my Black Diamond Distance Z sticks, water bottle, and backpack rain cover. In the top zippered pocket, I had ID documents, mobile phone, phone power bank, and spare mobile cable.
The challenge ended up with a great final result of 4h58’43”. Here are Simo’s times for each mountain:
Oulx - Seguret 1h21’50” 6km 1800D+
Claviere - Chaberton 57’49” 6,2km 1300D+
Sauze d’Oulx - Faro 37’34” 3,2km 1000dD+
Grange della Valle - Niblè 1h04’23” 4,3km 1500D+
Sestiere - Rognosa 57’09” 5,3km 1200D+
In this project, we documented not only the big challenge of an athlete, mountain lover, and man racing against time, nature, and human resistance, but also some of the most beautiful landscapes of our home valley, the Val di Susa, in northwestern Piedmont.
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