The Interval, 8/2/17

Runners at Reveille Peak Ranch. Photo by Josh Baker of AzulOx Visuals.

I’m starting today with an interview of Josh Baker, founder of AzulOx Visuals.  Josh and his team provide photography services for several Hill Country race providers.  Their photos are consistently excellent.  Josh answered a few questions by email:

Armadillo Running:  Your race photos seem to be more vivid than I’ve seen from other race photographers, with deep, rich colors and sharp focus.  What tips can you provide to amateurs like me?

Josh Baker:  Photo shooting tips can be varied and all over the place. I will suggest things that I think most photographers with a modern camera can achieve. The first would be patience. Wait until the runner is close to get more of a feel of the action. A small runner in the distance doesn’t evoke the same emotions. Second would be to find angular light coming from the side or front of the runner and then expose for just the highlights of the sun to give the photos more drama. Cameras want to expose for middle grey so use your exposure compensation to get the look you want. Third and lastly, lots of shutter speed. A blurry runner doesn’t look like a hero. Get shutter speeds above 1/500th of a second and aim for 1/2000 to 1/8000th of a second.

AR:  What do you look for when selecting a position to shoot race photos?

Josh Baker:   For positioning during a race I like to find bends and curves in the course. That way runners are coming towards me and then peel off revealing the next runners behind them. I also use curves to get runners bending and leaning into the course. Makes the scene feel a bit faster. I always try to show the runners as the hero in the story.

AR:  AzulOx does lots of work in addition to races.  What do you like / dislike about working a race compared to other projects?

Josh Baker:  Ha! Yes, AzulOx does running, lifestyle, weddings (azulox.com) and commercial photography (azuloxcommercial.com). Running photography was really the place where I cut my teeth on getting the camera set up in short amounts of time, with lots of repetitions and muscle memory. Learning the patience to wait for just the right moment to get the shot in the right sequence of the stride. Those skills definitely carry over into the other types of photography that we pursue. We use the runner as a hero metaphor in other client work showcasing a bride or an executive as the hero of their moment.

The difficult part of race photography is staying alert at all times, being on the course for longer than most runners are on the course. It’s an endeavor that takes stamina and preparation. Bringing snacks, water and sun protection along with your camera gear and sometimes hiking into tough terrain for trail races. We study trail maps and sunrise/sunset times and angles to place our selves on certain parts of the course that will yield the best chance for success.

AR:  Runners can be a bit strange.  Do you have any interesting stories about dealing with us?

Josh Baker:  Being a runner myself, I agree that we are a strange lot. It’s always amazing to me to watch people stop running a race to get their picture taken.  But the worst experience was shooting Bay to Breakers in Corpus Christi one hot and humid spring day. The organizers had a new drink sponsor and something in the mix made peoples stomach turn. The finish line became more like a splash zone with blue and red sports drink vomit all over the place. We had to keep backing up to avoid the sick.  Definitely one I won’t forget.

The second craziest but most inspiring was watching an active duty marine finish the third leg of the Hawaiian Ultraman carrying an American Flag on his 53.2 mile run. The finish line erupted in tears and awe as he crossed with a Hoorah! I get goosebumps every time I see that photo.

Many thanks to Josh.  Here are some other examples of his work:

Andy Bitner “swam” the 6 inch “river” and then passed me and a bunch of people, finishing the men’s 2015 edition of the Rogue Trail Series Maze 10K in fifth.  Photos by AzulOx.
Sam LaBrie in the 2016 edition of Spectrum’s Sky Island 25K.  Photo by AzulOx.

Running news

The track and field world championships start this weekend in London.  I’m excited about the US distance runners, particularly our steeplechasers Emma Coburn and Evan Jager, who are contending for gold medals.  Listen to the always excellent Running Rogue podcast for a preview.  LetsRun has details on all the events and a schedule for TV viewing.

It didn’t take Jim Walmsley long to get over his DNF at WS100.  Last week he won and set a course record at the Kendall Mountain Run, a 12 mile race in Silverton CO with nearly 4000 feet of vertical gain.  This week he won and set a course record at the Speedgoat 50K at Snowbird UT.  Coverage from iRunFar.  Neither course record was soft.  At Kendall, Walmsley bettered Joseph Gray’s 2014 record of 1:34 by over 3 minutes.  At Speedgoat, he finished in 5:04, 8 minutes ahead of Sage Canaday’s 2014 record.  Walmsley is training for UTMB, should be exciting…

Speaking of Joseph Gray, he was on the US team for the World Mountain Running Championships held this past weekend in Premana, Italy.  Team USA did well, with three team and 2 solo medals.  The senior women won the gold medal, led by fifth place Allie McLaughlin.  Joseph Gray was fourth in the senior men’s race, leading the US team to a bronze medal.  The top 3 men’s places were swept by Ugandan runners, who, obviously, took the gold.  Full coverage from Trail Runner.  

Interesting articles

If you read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, you must read Ryan Goldberg’s new article, The Drug Runners, in Texas Monthly.  From Born to Run, I was in awe of the Tarahumara, the isolated people from Mexico’s Copper Canyon, who could run forever in the heat.  Reading the new article from Goldberg, I’m saddened, but not surprised at what has happened to the Tarahumara since Born to Run was published in 2009.

LetsRun has a great article about Alan Webb and his incredible summer of 2007.  Webb set an American record in the mile that summer that still stands 10 years later and he appeared to be on the verge of a long, record-breaking career.

Megan Hicks of iRunFar posted an excellent report on her completion of the Bob Graham Round.  This route hits the peaks of 42 mountains in northern England’s Lake District and must be finished in 24 hours.  I’ve run in that area and it’s beautiful.  I wonder if I could complete the Round…

Another place I’d like to run:  the Italian Alps.  But maybe not a Triple Vertical Kilometer race.  Still, a good read from Run the Alps.

Check out this new site for runners:  Motiv Running.  Lots of interesting content:  stories, training tips, gear reviews, and a race directory of sorts.  I enjoyed this article on running in the Grand Canyon at night in the summer.

A running article in Esquire?  The title is The Masochist’s Marathon, the subject is the Barkley Marathons and it’s pretty good.

Upcoming races

The third of four Cap’n Karl’s events is this Saturday and Sunday at Colorado Bend State Park.  10K, 30K, and 60K races on some of the best single-track in central Texas.