The mud returned to Wilson Creek in 2015. All volunteers, aid station supplies, and anything else that might be needed for the runners had to be transported by ATV. As I waited to be transported to my shooting location, I walked around a bit and took a few photos of runners and volunteers as they prepared for the start of the race.
When my ATV driver arrived I loaded up my things and off we went. The ground was frozen, but it was clear that it was going to be muddy day. Good thing I had decided on winter boots instead of street shoes.
When we arrived at the aid station, I scanned the area then asked about start times and the direction that runners would be arriving from. With this new information, I set out to find a spot to set up. It was still dark and I had to break out a flash head to try to bring more light into the scene. No sooner had I gotten into position when the runners began arriving at the aid station. It was early in the race and most runners moved quickly through the aid station.
I began firing off some quick shots and quickly realized a few things: 1)the layer of fog that was in the air was interfering with my light being able to get to the runners; 2) because it was so ark, I had increase my ISO setting, but that created a lot of noise n the pictures; and3) my flash was overheating and shutting down. Talk about a rough start to the morning.
Here's an example of a before and after. Admittedly, the edited image on the right isn't perfect, but shows the editing that I had to do in order to remove the noise from the image.
When the first wave of runners had passed, I returned to the aid station to wait for the next group to start. I walked around as the morning light began to fill the sky. Eventually it became light enough that I was able to take in some of the scenery. Even though the fog still hadn’t lifted it made the scenery even better. Some of the runners later posted photos from above the fog and it gave a whole new perspective on the morning.
As the next wave of runners neared, their conversations began to fill the air. The sound of the cowbell from the aid station brought smiles to their faces.
In addition to the many smiles there were even a few leaps, jumps, and arms raised in excitement. One runner even combined them all in one.
I moved on to a new location to try to capture more of the scenery along with the next group of runners. I packed my bag, threw it over my shoulder and began my hike. It was only about a mile of walking when I started to see some great opportunities. I had already seen a couple of the lead runners, so I knew the rest wouldn’t be too far behind. I tried to find a location that balanced the wonderful backgrounds with the excitement of the runners.
As the runners each passed by, we exchanged some quick conversation, and they were gone as quickly as they had arrived. The runners were in good spirits, and continued to show their excitement. I even managed to get Derek Call’s signature heel click. His running companion took a moment to watch, then shook his head in amazement and asked how he had the energy to do that.
The day continued to roll on as other runners made their way through the course. I began my return trip and got caught in the rain (another change in the weather). The afternoon sun turned colder, and the trail quickly became a muddy mess. The footing became slippery and the weight of the mud slowed the runners. Each seemed undeterred, though some just seemed to enjoy the conditions even more.
Even the sweeps came prepared to deal with the rain. Any experienced runner will tell you that a plain ol’ trash bag is a great addition to a runner’s gear.
As soon as the sweeps left the aid station, the tear down was underway. The volunteers worked quickly and before long the site was empty and the calm of the Owyhees was restored.
I was transported back to the start/finish area and things seemed to be winding down. I waited in the warming tent and took a few more photos while the remaining runners shared their experiences of the day. Even in their tired states, the runners were in good spirits and still basking in the glow of their accomplishments.
I didn’t stay long after that. I had a couple of days of editing to do, but the important task of documenting the race and its runners would help to keep the memories of the event fresh and new. In my mind, that’s what photography about: capturing a moment in time and the emotion of the day. And on this day, I had over 1000 memories to review.