It is impossible to overstate how challenging fog, rain and darkness can be to capturing a solid trail running photo. Cold hands and wet feet conspire with less than watertight outerwear to make waiting for the next runner to appear on trail truly an endeavour. Yesterday morning on Mount Seymour, on Vancouver’s North Shore runners were hammered by aforementioned rain and fog while I stood waiting and wondering if this is the shoot that exceeds the weather proofing of my camera gear.
I did my best, and though the response has been supper positive as photos have hit the social media feeds, I scroll through the images in lightroom and see more examples of where I can improve than not.
Evey shoot is an opportunity to learn something, how to better prepare, to try new techniques to deal with challenging shooting environments and to think of new uses for zip lock freezer bags. Which I was wishing for as my speed light took a drenching even under the thick canopy of trees. I will stash a few in my still damp camera bag when I am hone again in about ten days.
I’m at an airport this morning, thousands of kilometres away from where my day started yesterday on Mt Seymour’s Old Buck trail for the Coast Mountain Trail Series event Buckin’ Hell and I am trying, for the first time, to publish a post from my phone. Fingers Crossed.
A huge thanks to Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford for inviting me along on their inaugural CMTS season as race photographer, to the scores of volunteers who make events like this possible and to our runners who make challenge look easy and inspire the rest of us.
It’s been a few days since I last made any photos. I would never describe what I do as glamorous, few photographers I know would, though I have been to some cool places. The less glamorous side of photography, however, are the hours of desk sitting, of editing through hundreds or even thousands of event photos, or hours spent spot correcting dust, dandruff or out of place hairs. There are hours of email inquiries, of research, of looking for inspiring content to refresh the batteries. I monitor social media feeds, twitter, facebook, linkedin and flickr and consume my self with site visits, views, retweets and likes. When the weather turns and I have to spend a few more days at my desk than I like, this gets worse and I start to grow restless, anxious and uncomfortable with my own company. It is in the days between shoots that I snack too much, drink too much coffee and tend to forget household chores and leave email unresponded.
These are just a few of the images I shot for Salomon 5 Peaks Trail series last weekend at Golden Ears Park in BC. It was a great way to get the season started in BC for 5 Peaks, new kid’s events, sunshine, and the support of an enthusiastic community of trail runners. I’ve now only been to Golden Ears Park twice, once last year for the same event and again last Saturday. I would like to think that I am more of an outdoors person than I am, so I appreciate that it’s photography that gets me out to places I wouldn’t necessarily consider going just because. Golden Ears Park is gorgeous and is worth a visit.
What’s awesome is that this work doesn’t feel so much like work, especially as I have become friends with so many people involved with the event. I don’t always see everyone on course, but I often hear people yell “Rob!” as they approach me on the trail hoping to get caught in a frame by my camera and a quick hand. We are getting to know one another and I look forward to spending time each weekend in this community even though I am not a runner myself. The impact of social media on events and photography can not be over stated, but for most of us this is a self evident abstraction, but for me, it is a way to generate interest and buzz for my photos. Social media is an instant feedback machine, and I know pretty quickly whether I’ve done well or I botched it, especially with clients who use content driven social media to engage with their communities. Likes, Retweets, views and visits have taken on a cruel meaning in my life and the lives of other photographers producing work destined for the web.
I’m getting ready for another weekend event and look forward to getting back into the trees. I look forward to seeing some of the same faces this Saturday that I saw last Saturday and I look forward to another opportunity to photograph people engaged in something they love.
Check out what a couple of friends have said in their race reports:
You can see the complete set at the 5 Peaks Flickr page here: 5 Peaks Photos
Summer seemed to arrive on the South West Coast of BC over night. I feel like one day I was trying to figure out what jacket I would need to fend off the weather and the next I was in shorts and short of sunscreen as evidenced by the impressive sun burn received a week ago. With the sun and summer-like weather event season landed with the intensity of a crashing car and I couldn’t be happier. At some level I will be involved with nearly 100 events this year and I am pretty excited because I love working in the event community. A week ago I was back at the start/finish line and event village of the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation’s Wheel2Heal cycling fundraiser with close to 500 riders taking on one of three distances and raising an impressive amount of money for the local hospital foundation.
This is a short post to share a few images from last weekend and a good break for me while I work my way through images shot yesterday at BC’s Golden Ears Provincial Park of the first 5 Peaks Trail Running event of the season. I should probably write a little about event photography in general, but for now I will keep it short and sweet.
Last weekend I was back on the North Shore with trail runners James Marshall and Tom Craik. Saturday and Sunday couldn’t have been more different. Saturday was dark and wet and by Sunday morning the spring sun was overhead creating an ethereal feel on the forest floor. Tom and James are experienced and active members of the local trail running community and seem quite at home at the feet of towering trees. It is as a surprise to me, as it must be to anyone who knows me, that I am finding a home in the running community, at least as a photographer. I’m not much of a runner, or really at all for that matter but it has been a gratifying and exciting experience getting to work with trail runners and their events.
Through the duration of each shoot we spoke about favourite trails, and the experience of being on these mountains. Tom described trail running in a way that suggested an experience akin to meditation, an experience I think shared by the mountain bikers we saw on the trails on Sunday. I’ve been hearing a term in radio ads for the past couple of months, Biophilia; it is the idea that humans are instinctively connected to their living environments. Tom said something about trail running on Sunday morning which resonated with my experience as a photographer. While I am paraphrasing here, he suggested that trail running was a way to interact with this environment, a way to experience this forest and geography so identified with the south west coast of British Columbia. When people ask me about photography, I sometimes describe it as the way I interact with the world, it is the conduit through which I can create unique experiences for myself and others.
It’s been a heavy news week. So much happening in the world and with this week’s news in North America focused on Boston I was happy to come across this piece via Rob Haggart. While I seek to be topical, the macabre doesn’t always need the contribution of my two cents. There has been an amazing volume of photography out of Boston in the past week, and if you are keen to get a sense of what it might feel like to be the most wanted man in America, check out Alan Taylor’s In Focus Gallery at the Atlantic. Like many of my friends and colleagues I have been glued to the news out of Boston because so much of my life is spent in and around running events. In fact, one of my colleagues and his wife, were at the finish line in Boston about an hour before the event and for what felt like hours I was among many waiting for a text message or status update to let us know they were OK.
Today I hope you’ll make time to have a look at something a little lighter. When I try to remember the first photography that captivated my interest I think back to a number of icons of the medium. I was drawn to the drama and adventure of conflict photography, the outstanding work produced by the staff and contributing photographers of Powder Magazine who took crazy risks sharing the world of big mountain skiing, and the body of work shot by Annie Leibovitz from her time at Rolling Stone. I used to keep and hoard magazines for the content, retrospectives, anniversary issues and photo issues in piles on any flat surface in my room. Leibovitz wasn’t the only photographer shooting Rock and Roll, there were dozens, maybe hundreds, even thousands of photographers who have made iconic contributions to this archive of popular culture. Who Shot Rock And Roll is an exhibit featuring work from this medium. Produced by guest Curator Gail Buckland for the the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2009, the exhibit has made a four year tour around the United States and a stop at the Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand.
Who Shot Rock And Roll started off as a book project for Buckland and later spawned the Exhibit featuring nearly 200 works by 100 different photographers from 1955 onward and has since been made into a short documentary film produced by the Anneberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles released in 2012. Above is the trailer for the film and what was my initial point of interest. This is really an examination of how photography contributed to the our understanding of Rock and Roll. In it there is a wiff of suggestion that these photographers, much less well known than their subjects, were legend makers. Listen for Henry Rollins as he suggests that “The right photograph can say so much, as much as maybe as the band’s best record.”
I’ve always wanted to go on tour with a band, at least for a few weeks, to document that experience. With time my collection of magazines have become a library of books, and until I get the chance to go on tour, I will have to content myself in these pages.
I sometimes get nostalgic for places that I’ve traveled to or worked in, even places that I didn’t particularly like or connect with. I find myself nostalgic for work that I used to do because time and memory have conspired to help me forget the challenges, the disappointments, the mental, emotional or physical costs of doing the work I once did. At some point time has kind and I have been able to let go of less favourable memories and experiences instead remembering the explorations or the absurdity of certain experiences. Even though there is a body of work behind me that I can’t imagine I would ever go back to, I sometimes catch my self wondering how I could have done things better, or differently, or thinking about that time I found the coolest coffee house Las Vegas, New Mexico.
I had the chance to hear Ian Ruhter speak at two events in Vancouver last week, even getting the opportunity to shoot a few frames of him myself and it was with this in mind that I asked Ian if he ever missed shooting Snowboarding. Ian was quick to answer and it without hesitation, he said no. There was no contemplation and he went on to explain how heavily invested he is in what he is doing now. I connected with the first video he and his team produced a year ago, but their new video, When Dreams Collide, feels so much more.
When Dreams Collide is a very personal document and very revealing of it’s subjects, not only Ian, but of Photographer Chase Jarvis, Snowboarder Peter Line and Hip Hop artist Ishmael Butler. One thing I found so compelling was the sharing of such intimate details of each of their struggles to pursue their individual passions. Somehow in describing how he had to rely on his wife’s tip money to process film humanized Jarvis in a way that was truly refreshing. Struggle is humanizing, it’s humbling and I believe that it makes us stronger. Ian was asked a question at one of the discussions last week by a young photographer, just out of school, about how to make it work when you feel like you can’t afford to move forward. He was very pragmatic in his response and while others on the panel reached for pretentious answers, he talked about shooting by moon light when he first started in photography, because that’s what was available to him. Be creative, his message read to the audience, persevere, work with what you have and have access to.
The above is an image from Ian’s presentation at CreativeMornings/Vancouver.
Watch When Dreams Collide: