6 Tips To Get Better Running Photos of Yourself

When I shoot running events I always strive to create unique high quality images.  Runners spend hours conditioning and researching tips, techniques and products to help them perform their best.  Who would want to show off that hard work with photos that were taken with any less effort? I’ve decided to provide six tips I think will help you get better running photos of yourself.

First off let me explain to you what I think is a good running photo in a way that a runner can impact. A photo should show action, I should be able to see your face and your eyes and often emotion(are you having fun? Pushing yourself and have that determined face?)

 

Climbing up on a conex box at the 2013 Dirty Dozen race in Albany, Oregon
Climbing up on a conex box at the 2013 Dirty Dozen race in Albany, Oregon

1. Obstacles and Course Unique Features

One of the things I always look for when shooting photos is to have something unique to that race in the photo. Example would be at Silver Falls would be to get one of the falls in the photo, or perhaps its a creek crossing at Monument Peak, or just a really awesome spot on the trail. Being that most the runs I shoot are in Oregon, its pretty hard not to find a great scene.

If there is an obstacle, like a creek crossing, cross it with enthusiasm, just run behind/past a waterfall? Be ready for a photos, there may just be a photographer there to capture the moment.

2. Finish Line

Finish line photos are tough, they all look very similar. A runner with “Finish” banner over the top and a clock above or next to the finish line.  I will often use a tripod at the finish as this allows me to have consistent framing on images and allows me to process the photos much quicker and in turn around get them online and available to purchase sooner.

In addition to the tripod sometimes I use lights to add a unique characteristic to these photos. When setting up the lights I set them up to try to take photos of all the runners.  To be consistent as possible I set up the lighting as if the runner crosses in the center. Some runners will run across the finish line off to the side. This will make them appear really bright on one side and even possibly blown out. This is where the light is so powerful the runner will lose details and appear as a white form, often losing details in the face. If using lights and it also makes the  person appear at the edge of the photo rather than in the middle creating an unbalanced photo as one side of the runner will be lit much stronger than the other.

The finish line is also a great time to celebrate your accomplishment, as tired as you are, jumping, cartwheels may seem like a lot of effort, something as simple as just a big smile will improve the look of your photo.

A runner crosses the finish line at a race thats runs in a drained lake bed and finishes downtown Detroit, Oregon
A runner crosses the finish line at a race that runs in a drained lake bed and finishes downtown Detroit, Oregon

3. Look up

Running is tough, trail running is even tougher as there are rocks, roots and other obstacles on the trail that any time that can cause an injury.  As a photographer shooting from a lower angle can help this, however as you look down, often it appears as if your eyes are closed. Try to keep that head up and look down the trail if you see the photographer.

4. Bib placement

This one is not so much to make a better photo, but helps in “getting” the better photo. Photos are uploaded to my website and searched  based off your bib number provided by the race directors.  This is also how I attach your names to the images as well. That allows you to search for photos of you across multiple races where your bib number may change. Recommended placing is front and center of your torso.

5. Clothing

The color of clothing is one thing many people do not think about when taking photos. Choosing the right color helps you stand out from what is behind you and running in the North West means lots of greens and maybe occasional white backgrounds, and if the race is on the other side of the Cascades browns are colors to avoid. I must admit not many runners wear browns unless they are covered in mud. Colors that contrast will allow you to stand out for a better photograph.

A runner crosses a small creek at Run Wild Adventure's Monument Peak race outside Gates, Oregon
A runner crosses a small creek at Run Wild Adventure’s Monument Peak race outside Gates, Oregon

6. Repeat

I attempt to get at least two photos of everyone (finish and trail), often there is just one frame of each location. That means, if you blink, have one leg bent as so it appears missing, the only way to get another shot is to run another event. Another option is if there is a break in the runners, you may ask us to do over if you really want to make sure we get that great shot. Speaking of breaks in runners, if you are traveling in a pack chances are that the runners in front will get photos, and those closely behind will not.  So have some distance between you and the next runner.

 

Remember, as a photographer we want to get a good picture of you, we aren’t trying to embarrass you. It’s okay to fake it to get a good photo, we won’t tell anyone! I hope these tips help you get a photo that shows off all your hard work.

Willamette Mission Trail Challenge 10k/5k

The last race of the Run Wild Adventure’s series season is always a bittersweet time for me. I love shooting photography and committed a weekend a month for most of the past eight months to shooting for Run Wild Adventures. Being the last trail running race means I’m not out shooting a race, talking with friends like my 2nd shooter Chris on the drive out to the event, or Gary the race director. However, there is good news about the end of this season, next seasons starts with a new race!

Gary’s brother Ryan is stepping up to the Race Director role and is hosting a new Run Wild Adventures race, The South Santiam Half Marathon outside Lebanon, Oregon. The event takes place in September, you can check out more details here.

Run Wild Adventures - Willamette Mission Trail Challenge

 

Back to this race, my normal second shooter, Chris from People Photos, was in Georgia for a conference, so I brought on Johan who also shot the finish line photos at Shellburg this season. He took up the start/finish line duties again and I was able to get out on the trail again for photos. I really like taking photos on the trail, but it’s always a challenge to know if you are in a good position on the trail, get the gear set up, and constantly thinking maybe the next corner or stretch is better all while against time as runners run towards you. I like to choose a spot on the trail towards the end if possible, that way the runners have had time to spread out. This allows for usually a single shot of everyone, and gives time for my flash to recycle between runners.

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The race day was great, perfect weather and it seemed like everyone had a great time. I love Willamette Mission State Park, I feel it is one of those hidden gem parks. Sure you may go there for the civil war reenactment on 4th of July weekend, but taking your time to explore the park you will find great trails and even paved paths for riding bikes. I highly encourage you to check it out, race or not. Here is the direct link to the parks website.

 

 

 

 

 

Monument Peak 10 Mile – Trail Running Event Photography

1.05 inches of rain, that’s how much rain fell the day before the race –in Salem.  The race takes place at Santiam Horse camp outside the city of Gates which is about is about 1700 feet elevation up into the Cascade Range. When compared to Salem’s 214 feet, that means that orographic lift will play a part in impacting the rain fall. What is Orographic lift? It’s the effect that as air moves from the Willamette Valley towards Eastern Oregon, it cools and condenses as goes over the Cascades. The cooling and condensing of the air creates rain. This is why the west side of the mountains is very wet , and as soon as you get over the pass it quickly drys out. This dry side of mountains is called the rain shadow. This factor and knowing that Saturday’s forecast called for rain in Salem, I knew one thing about this race, it was going to be wet.

I was loading up my car around 6:20 am and took a moment just take in the morning. It seemed oddly calm,  it wasn’t raining, just quiet. I finished loading up and made the quick drive across town to pick up Chris. A pit stop to get coffee and breakfast burritos at Joe Mocha and we were on highway 22 heading towards Gates.

On the way up we hit a patch of blue sky, how nice would that have been to not have to deal with the rain, but we knew that wouldn’t happen. We always come prepared with OP/Tech Rain Sleeves and ziplock bags for remote flashes for we do trail running event photography.

Once we arrived and set up the booth, I sent Chris out to the creek crossing we shot at back in 2012. Those shots came out great and with the rains we had yesterday I figured the water would be high and be an excellent photo opportunity. With Chris heading out to his spot on the trail I took some quick photos of the prizes and awards, and some of the set up stuff. I noticed a new sponsor which happens to be one of my favorite local business, Salem Summit Company.  I haven’t been there in a while but my daughter is getting bigger and I plan to head in soon for this years camping and backpacking season, I recommend you check them out. If you seen the owner Al Tandy, at the running events shake the guy’s hand for finally bringing a great outdoor store to Salem.

I stuck around the start to catch some runners as they did a quick loop out and back through the start/finish area. This allowed me to get some more shots and thus more chances for a photo of a runner who is looking to purchase. The out and back route of the race that one spot gave me two different photos as well, one of the starting group and then individuals as they thin out for on the way back.

Once that was done it was time for me to set up the for the finish line. Finish line photos are tough because they pretty much all look the same.  Since the Run Wild Adventures races are off-season races when there is always a chance of some element of weather. I like to highlight the elements as much as possible. This allows my trail running event photography to have a unique aspect to it that turns out a better photo that is more desirable to someone who often runs multiple events a month. Photographing rain and a 150+ runners consistently is tough, but due to the low amount of runners and overcast/cloudy day I can use flashes and not have to worry about battery changes. I set up two edge lights on either side of the finish light to hopefully show the rain in as it fell and to stop the motion of the runner as they crossed the finish line. Shooting flash means I’m limited to 1/250th shutter speed which is slow for moving subjects. I  have to rely on the flash to freeze the action to create sharp images. Another factor that I have to consider is the sun, if it comes out and is very bright I’ll have to make adjustments, including stop using the flash. I added an on camera flash as well to add some fill even though I knew it could make some really nasty “spots”.The spots are created as the rain that fell near the camera gets lit up by the flash. I took a few test shots and it seem to  be manageable.

The next step is composition for me, with the start/finish clock underneath the tent for cover from the rain I shot the finish photos without the clock, something I always try to include. I decided the leave the flashes in the photos as I like the way they look the few times I’ve done this technique before. Check out the photos a run at Detroit Lake where I use this setup HERE. A few shots test shots of a bystander and I was set for the first runner. Overall, I think the photos turned out pretty well.

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 Official Event Page

Gallery of Event Photos

Trail Running Photography – Buck Mountain Mudslinger

The Buck Mountain Mudslinger has been one of the best locations for trail running photography. Runners dress up in Cowboy themed outfits and the weather always seems to be great for photos. The race usually takes place sometime in February or March. That means the weather is usually muddy or snowy or a mix between the two. This year was muddy and in the temperature was in the upper 40s, although it seemed colder. The Run Wild Adventures group always likes to have a good time and this event is no different, at sign up they had shots of Fireball Whiskey for those 21 and over to warmed up for the race. It was finished off pretty quickly. There was also coffee and water for those looking for other forms of hydration.

My trail photographer Chris chose an awesome spot this year. It was just around a bend in the trail, this allows him to take a photo of just one runner and not have other runners get in the way. The location Chris picked had the morning mist filling in the mossy woods behind the runner. He also some fill light via a flash bungeed to a tree.  One of the biggest things about trail running photography for an event is you always have to adapt for the sun and cloud cover.  That’s just what happened, the sun came out in full force, just like it did at Shellburg Falls back in December, and it burnt off all the nice morning fog that created the nice, even light. It was replaced with hard shadows and dappled light, not the best for photography.  Thankfully, the fill flash lit in the runners and the sun was behind the runner for great rim light. This allowed Chris to get some great shots.

The finish line photos I shot landscape orientation as I like to mix it up so not all the finish line shots are shot portrait.  I had more glare on the timing clock than I would like but I couldn’t use my circular polarizer as I use a step up ring to 77mm and then the lens hood wouldn’t fit. The awards started before the all the runners came in as I always try to get the last runners in got a few more runners before I switched over to the awards ceremony where it was just prizes at this point. Everyone was gathered around Gary enjoying the now sunny and warm weather while enjoying their beer from event sponsor, Seven Brides Brewing out of Silverton, Oregon.

 

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2014 = New and Better Blogging

Time has come again to change things up. I started out years ago with Squarespace and the used Smugmug to host my client image ordering. In the summer of 2013 Smugmug made huge improvements to the looks of their website platform and that left me using Squarespace only for the blog. I felt that I could get a Blogger blog to work well on the new Smugmug website. However after months of frustrations, I threw in the towel of trying to use RSS to integrate a blog onto my Smugmug website and now on a the most popular blogging platform, WordPress. Please bear with me while I move my blog post over and dial in my new blog.

 

Sports, portrait and music photography from Salem, Oregon