The week was filled with anticipation as I prepared to take race photos at the McCall Trailrunning Classic. Running events are always challenging, but having been at this event the previous year, I knew the location would be spectacular. Jug Mountain Ranch, host of the event, is surrounded by great scenery and the runners can camp overnight before the morning run.
During the briefing, I was reminded that each event is like a family reunion. Invitations go out. Guests send back their rsvp while considering what to bring to the event. And on the scheduled date, guests arrive to share some good times.
Along with all of the chit chat, there was some business to be discussed: stay on course, don’t go out too fast, beware the wild animals, etc. Not your usual family reunion topics, but with this type of gathering, everyone listened attentively. Family members sat back quietly and took in the scene.
While visiting with runners at the campsite, I was able to meet new people, hear their stories, and share in their evening of relaxation or last minute race preparations. Each new face gave me an opportunity for an impromptu portrait or two.
On race morning, I got an early start and took some photos of the runners during their check-in and race start then drove to the aid station closest to where I was to set up for the first part of the day. Because much of the course is run on single track, there was some hiking involved; but once there, it was all worth it when I saw this view as I walked into the clearing.
I knew right away that I wanted to keep some focus in the background along with the runners, so I set up the camera with extra depth of field. That meant a flash would be needed to add enough light to the runners as they passed by. After some test shots, I got the results that I wanted.
Eventually it was time to move to a new location. I returned to the aid station and found out that the runners would go through the aid station and quickly move through a creek crossing, so I set out to that location. When I reached the crossing, I had to find a good location to shoot from and had to get my camera setting dialed in again. With dappled light coming through the trees and onto the crossing, it created a new challenge.
For the final stop, I returned to the finish area to photograph the remaining runners that were finishing up their race. The miles were long and difficult but seeing the finish line brought a smile to some faces, while others stayed focused until they crossed.
The runners were cheered on by the friends, family, and fellow runners as they sat and share more good times together. As before, there were opportunities for an impromptu portrait or two between finishers.
In the end, the runners were greeted to something better than the finish line or a finisher’s award. They were greeted to a loving hug from their friends and family. What could be a better way to finish the challenge of a hard run?