Race Day Portraiture | Hills Creek Challenge

I love photographing running events and races. One aspect of what I like is that when I photograph a trail running event I can use the photography of runners to show off part of the amazing natural areas we are privileged to share. But, on the other side of the coin, I really like to showcase the human aspects of running and racing.

I don’t usually consider myself a photographer who photographs people. I especially would not call myself a portrait photographer. But, the more I think about it and the more I look at the work I do and the work I enjoy doing I am actually both of those things. Only I practice those types of photography under very specific circumstances.

My human photography and my portraiture centers around running. I like to photograph what running brings out in people. Especially trail and ultra-running.

Having an opportunity to photograph the Hills Creek Challenge again this year gave me the opportunity to create more of this style of photography. I love the loop course style of running for my photography. Seeing the runners over and over again on the course.

I see the runners on different parts of the course. In different environments. I see the runner sin different physical and emotional states.

I try to capture all of those different aspects of a race in my photography.

Crazy Photogrpaher

Sometimes I think the runners at an event like this might think I am crazier than they are for staying out on the course all day with them when I am not even running the race. But getting to spend a day out on the course with all the runners is exactly why I am there and it is exactly what I love about photographing this event.

Some people might think that it would be boring to photograph the same 3 mile loop for 12 hours. And then to photograph that race the same way the next year. And hopefully year after year into the future.

But, the more often I spend time at Hills Creek and the more often I photograph this event the more I find to love. I am starting to find just the right spots for certain types of photography. Especially for more portrait style photography.

Always learning

Learning where the perfect spots are. Locations on the course where I know the runners are moving through and I can have the space and time to watch the runners pass by. I can take the time to zoom in and frame the image. Focusing on the human and less on the scenery. But also provide a nice background for the image. And some areas get better for this during different times of the day. Especially later in the day.

I am not sure that the runners always like this style of photography as much as I do. I often hear comments from my fellow runners that they do not like the way they look in race photos. And I would probably say the same about myself. But I think that a lot of that is societal and we are constantly judging ourselves and expect ourselves to look perfect at all times.

I think what people other than ourselves see in race photos of us is completely different than what we see in our race photos. What others see and what I hope to portray in race photography is this story:

It’s about doing our best

A race is a race for a reason. And often we participate in them for that same reason. These events exist to push us outside our comfort zone. We participate in these events to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

We are probably not going to look our best when we are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone physically, mentally, or emotionally. But what is happening to us can be translated in the photograph.

People will see the photographs of a person running a race and they will see a person who is working their ass off. A person who is out there doing their best. Giving the best they have on that day.

People will see that photograph of a person who is pushing themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally and they will be inspired to do the same. The faces that show grit and determination are the faces that inspire others.

I hope those are the kinds of stories I am telling with my photographs. I hope all the runners see that and appreciate that. Hopefully, everyone who views my running photography can see all the hard work each and every one of you is putting in, not just on race day but on every other day getting ready for the event. And I hope to use your determination and will to light a little fire under someone else out there.

If you enjoyed this article you can click the link below to support the work I do here or subscribe to my email so you don’t miss out in anything I share.

Success! You're on the list.

Leave a Reply