HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH Trail running
How to shoot runners and what to bring on the run!
For over a decade now I've been a professional photographer, I've also been a surfer, a footballer and a runner - the last three, albeit on an amateur scale. Back in late 2018, I was commissioned to shoot a trail running retreat in Scotland, happening in March 2019. Fitness wise it was great timing, I had been training for a trail marathon and I was definitely marathon ready.
Trail running is massive. Having run road races for the past 10-15 years I personally find running the trails hugely enjoyable, definitely challenging and very rewarding. Living in Cornwall my routes are simple, I join the South West Coastal Path 10 minutes from home and keep running, following the coastline until I've run my set distance.
Running and shooting commercially was something new.
I left Cornwall to make the short drive to Bristol before catching a flight to Edinburgh where I met up with five other runners - all here for one reason; To join Lochran & Light on their Scotland Trail Running Retreat. It was hardcore, it was brilliant and it was challenging. Here's my advice on how to shoot a running event in
It goes without saying you have to be physically fit and ready to take this on, there is no way you want to be the weakest link in a strong group, especially as you are the one there to capture all of the magic. If you know you are taking on a shoot with big distances, train for it and be ready, your’e subjects will thank you for it.
During the run this means lots of stopping and catching up so train hard on your sprints.
Running in the mountains, we are going to go through all the seasons on a single run so pack appropriately. This means trail shoes with a decent grip, long pants, base layers, top layers, gloves and hat plus a lightweight jacket, ideally one that can be scrunched up into a ball and finally a runners backpack with essentials such as phone, map, first aid etc...
Bottom line here is we don't all have the luxury of buying specific cameras for our shoots, myself included. I'm a Canon 5D series guy so that was my starting point. My first and foremost thought about running distance over trails with a camera was 'I need to do this as lightweight as possible' However, there isn't a single 5D out there that anyone would call light so the lens choice was essential. To shoot a trail run in the picturesque mountains of Scotland meant I needed a 'Jack of all trades' lens, a lens that can handle landscapes, close-ups and be able to nail those fast shutter speeds - running is all about freezing the action to nail that hero shot. Ideally I would have opted for a 24mm F1.4 prime with the 5D III body but Instead, I went with the 24-70mm F.28. The extra weight was noticeable but there were multiple times I was grateful for the zoom and I don't think we could have got the shots we did without it. I also brought an ND filter and a Polarizer filter plus spare batteries and two extra
HOW TO RUN
Day one I ran with the camera on my *Peak Design strap, holding the camera at all times in my right hand, I found this super easy and I was able to capture the images as and when I saw fit without any delay. The beauty of the Peak Design strap is the way it can quickly be released, stretched, retracted etc. Day two I need to bring more essentials so I ran with my camera bag and the camera attached to my backpack strap using the brilliant Peak Design attachment. This proved to be the least effective of the two and I much preferred Day one's method of having instant access to my gear. Neither of these options affected my running or the way I run, I can't say the weight of the gear bothered me either, but as I mentioned above, I ran with the best gear I had. I can imagine running with say a Sony A7III and prime or a 16-35mm is almost the perfect option as you offset weight to achieve the best results.
*I am not affiliated in any way with Peak Design, I am simply a big fan of their equipment.
Make sure you take waterproof sealed gear! We went through, sunshine, rain, sleet and then full snow as we climbed 3000 feet and the camera went through all of that with me. Plan ahead, I rely on the weather apps whenever I am on a shoot. My goto apps on Apple are Sun Seeker, Golden Hour, Dark Sky and TPE. Each of these apps allows me to plot the weather patterns and where and when the best light is going to hit.
We were consecutively running 15-20K each of the 3 days which means recovery was an absolute must. This meant eating well and sleeping solidly to give your body the time to repair. The guys at Lochran & Light brought their own stamp on things which aided recovery considerably. Simply put, post-run we submerged in an ice barrel before a hot tub followed up with an hour of Yoga led by the brilliantly calming Louise Boyd, stretching out all the key muscles used during the daytime running.
I was fed well, rested and thanks to Yoga, my running muscles tweaked to perform over and over again. The most important thing for me as a photographer is to now do my part and deliver a killer set of images.
Every photographer will have their own ways of post-production, mine begins with a download and back up of everything after a days shoot. I will back up onto my laptop, an external drive and a USB drive (Cloud also if the connection is good) this is essential if you are a travel shooter, I always want a copy in different locations
when I'm on the move.
Once I'm back on flat ground I will spend time going through each image using a brilliant application called Photo Mechanic, selecting the best ones and making sure we have everything needed to deliver a killer
shoot to the client.
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