Photography probably isn’t the fist thing that enters your mind when you think of energetic and tiring activities. Gym work, running races or cycling maybe, but Photography? Surely all that exercises is your finger as you click the shutter button?
I’m typing this blog update with aching thighs, a sore back and creaking joints after a weekend zipping up and down the country, (and up and down a couple of small fells), and jogging backwards and forth around 2 Trail race meetings, covering 5 separate races between them. Crouching, bending, twisting and contorting myself into various yoga like postures to capture over 3000 pictures of approximately 2000 runners across 2 different counties.
The weekend began with an early morning trip up the M6 to photograph the runners at the Stavely Lakeland Trails event in Cumbria. Master snapper James Kirby had given me a roving role across the local fells to try to find some different angles for this years races. “Roving” turned out to mean getting slightly lost on a fell I know better than my own face, and clambering across dry stone walls carting a ton of photo equipment in order to get back on the track!
We usually carefully plan all of our shooting spots in advance, (or rather, James does), taking account of the position of the sun, direction of the runners, and the background that gives us. Today was a break from that routine with James covering the tried and tested spots and me wandering about on the hillside making it up as I went! We hoped that this would produce some new angles and give a wider view of the whole race. There was an obvious danger that I would just end up with a card full of badly composed rubbish! No pressure then….
Whilst staggering up the hill I was making mental notes of various spots I could fall back to as the race progressed to create a variety of images. The problem with this in practice was it meant waiting for a lull in the flow of runners, and running like a mad man with all my gear across the fell to the next spot before the runners re-appeared. The pictures seemed to have turned out well, but thankfully you cant see the red faced sweating mess on the other side of the lens!
With the first couple of races through, I headed back to Staveley to capture as many runners in their moment of glory at the finish line. With an evening engagement in Liverpool I didnt get the chance to enjoy the post event fun and it was back on the motorway for me and another hundred or so miles to cover.
I dragged myself out of bed next day feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. Neck sore from holding the same pose on the finish line for all those runners, and legs reminding me that I am no longer the endurance runner I used to be! There was no time to pick over my wounds though as I was on duty at the Wigan Harriers trail 10k at 9am.
Breaking with professional procedure, this was another event that I hadn’t had time to recce before hand, and I was relying on my past knowledge of the race for my shooting spots. I settled in and took a few test shots on a corner near the start and readied myself for the runners – only to be told with moment to go that the course had altered slightly and I was in the wrong spot… So once again I was running full pelt in my fell boots carting camera kit and seat to a hastily selected spot to photograph the fast approaching hordes!
With the first wave safely through I moved on to a position I had actually managed to scout which would give a nice background of the Amberswood lake as the racers came through. To my horror, I suddenly realized as the leaders arrived that the sun had shifted enough to pretty much back-light my subjects. A cardinal sin when trying to photograph people unless you have the opportunity to use fill in flash. This would probably mean silhouetted shots of little value.
I quickly tweaked the camera settings, upped the dynamic range and edged round as far as I could to improve the lighting and hoped for the best. The resulting images aren’t as bad as I feared, but still took rather more post processing than I would have liked. a lessons learned….
Thankfully, my final spot was as good as I remembered and I think I managed a decent set of pictures with the sun at the right angle to end the day.
So if you are one of the lovely people who take part in trail runs, marathons and all those challenging athletic events, spare a thought for the bloke with the easy job sat on his backside snapping pics… he might be working harder than you think!