Personal Work – North Shore Trail Portraits: Run Shanny Run!

2013 MTN Portraits Penway-2

I have a pretty clear memory of the morning I met trail runner Shannon Penway, it was as if her giant smile bounced up to me and said “Hi! I’m Shannon, did you get some good pictures?” Or so that’s how I remember meeting Shannon following the first 5 Peaks event of the year last May at Golden Ears Park, BC.  Since then I’ve photographed Shannon a few times, at 5 Peaks Alice Lake in Squamish, BC, last weekend at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon, and a few weeks ago in the Lynn Headwaters region above North Vancouver. Shannon is relatively new to competitive trail running, but comes to it with the grace and athleticism of an experienced athlete. When Shannon runs, it is often with a grin stretched ear to ear and although I think that smile is a way to unsettle and intimidate her competition, Shannon says she smiles because running makes her happy. Since meeting her, Shannon has made the podium of a number of events and distances including placing 3rd in the National Mountain Running Championships recently held in Quebec where she ran despite a fall on a training run the day before.

Learning a lesson as a photographer is often humbling and can sometimes be quite expensive, especially humbling when things stop working the way they are supposed to while a subject waits patiently and with good humour for instructions to re run the same 15 meters of trail for 5th time. During our shoot my camera’s display took a nap, I don’t know how else to describe it. At one point I exclaimed, ‘I guess we’ll do this the old fashioned way’ and continued shooting without the digital play back and instant gratification (or horror) that comes from having instant access to review. What happens in situations like these? Well if you’re prepared, you pull your back up camera from your bag and keep shooting. If you are not, you turn the camera off and on for a bit, take out the batteries, groan under your breath and look to the tree tops for answers. After a few unsettling minutes everything was working as it should and we continued. In the end I think we got a few good pics and these are among my favourite.

You can read more about Shannon at her running blog Run Shanny Run, and if you’re a sponsor, you should reach out before someone else does first!

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Recent Work – 5 Peaks Trail Run at Golden Ears Park

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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.

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Check out what a couple of friends have said in their race reports:

Mike Murphy

Solana Klassen

Shannon Penway

You can see the complete set at the 5 Peaks Flickr page here: 5 Peaks Photos