The Shellburg Falls race is one of my favorite Run Wild Adventure’s races and one of my favorites for trail running photography! The park is an amazing little hidden gem that not many people beside locals and mountain bikers seem to know about. The weather was cold, high teens and we had recently had a couple inches of snow so I left out early to pick up my 2nd photographer. This race I brought Johan, who shot the marathon loop at Silver Falls in November. We met at the park in ride at the Stayton exit where there was a good amount of snow that I thought that the road up to Shellburg might be an issue. Johan was concerned and asked I had chains just in case. I didn’t but I’ve driven my car in snow and it had done really well, ice is what gets you, and although it was well below freezing, it had never warmed up enough to get some snow melt turned into ice. I had planned in the roads being much worse so we were doing great on time.
As I approached the turn to go onto the gravel road that leads up to the Shellburg falls I could tell that there was not going to be any issues. We arrived super early, just after 7 and I think it was only Gary that was there at that time. Shortly after we arrived everyone started pulling in, however, only about half of the runners that were signed up ventured out, which is a bummer as the roads were not bad and they missed a beautiful run.
Johan picked start/finish line duty and I headed off to take photos. I decided to return to the spot I’ve shot at years prior, I knew that it’s tough spot because once the race starts the sun comes out filling the canyon with light and puts dappled light all over the trail and this the runners, not good. I brought with me a light stand and a light to fill out the shadows. Walking towards the falls from the road, I realized how much I under estimated the room of the trail for a light stand. I wasn’t too worried as I had some other gadget that I figured I could make something work. I continued to think about it until I reached the falls and I saw everything covered inches of ice from the mist from the falls. I do mean EVERYTHING, the trail was a sheet of ice, and there hung huge icicles off the cliffs surrounding the falls. Just off the trail towards the bottom of the falls was like a big ice funnel, and there are no handrails on trial behind the falls to prevent you from going over the edge.
Once I reached the other side, I realized there was no room to put up the light stand, so I pulled out of my camera bag a Justin Clamp, my Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 with a SB800 on that and ball bungeed it to the tree. (See a quick cellphone image Here). The worked surprisingly well and got the images I wanted however I framed the shot loose and there was too much of the surroundings and not enough runner. It is a hard balance between trying to show the environment and the runner, this time, the environment won. Just as I expected the sun came out and filled the canyon with bright light. The sun was so bright that the ice started melting even though the temperature was still below freezing. I was just about to pack up when I saw two more runners on the other side of the canyon; they were maybe 15-20 yards apart. As the first runner went under the overhang to go under the falls, a big chuck of ice, detached and landed about five feet right behind her and shattered on the trail into a million pieces. Pretty scary for her, I even got a little scared. The runner behind her was her friend and sprinted up to see her as they were out of view of each other, I’m sure she was relieved to see her friend was safe. About 10 more yards down the trails behind the falls I see the same lady, slipped and fall on the ice to where her feet are dangling off the edge of the trail, almost falling into the funnel of ice that would take her to the bottom of the falls. Somehow she pulled her way up and was safely made it to the other side.
Now that the last runners passed, I had to head back, across the slippery trail back to my car to drive back up to the finish line. One of the best things about the Race’s that Gary and the Run Wild Adventures race put on is that they always have some warm food for you at the finish line. Also I really like the little shelter they have up at Shellburg as well as the big fire pit everyone gathers around. If you haven’t been up to Shellburg definitely recommend checking it out.