I had this blog ready to go on Monday, but before I started to post I happened to see the news out of Boston. As a runner I have never experienced the ripples of terror at a closer distance. I had about a dozen friends running, or attending this years race. Thankfully all my friends escaped injury, but I feel awful for those that did not. Qualifying for Boston has always been and still remains a personal goal. To wear the blue and yellow is an honor and I know the race will continue to run on.
Last week was the type of week I dream about. The subject matter varied from restauranteurs to underground runners. I shot portraits, sportraits, events, and even exteriors. This blog post should really be 3 separate posts but I don’t like writing so I will share photos instead. My week started with shooting Scott Schuman, or “The Sartorialist” a wildly popular fashion blogger on the streets of NYC. The week ended running and photographing a NIKE #RUNFREE event. In between was a great trip to Indiana. I owe a deep debt to my assistants: CJ, Max, Tom, and Helene. Without them the images we created would not be as striking. I can’t overstress their importance. I’ll start with the last shoot, the NIKE #RUNFREE event.
Where do I start with this shoot? My goal in moving to New York was to do more of the work I love. I love capturing athletes and sharing their stories. Simply, cool subjects = cool photos. I’ve done some cool runs before, but this was on a different level. #RUNFREE was a run organized by NIKE that was designed to release runners from typical boundaries. The run was about enjoying the sport where ever and whenever we want. The run started at a club called Le Bain in Chelsea (one of the coolest clubs in NYC). Everyone was dancing and having a good time while dressed in their finest Nike gear when suddenly Knox took the DJ mic and commanded everyone to follow him. The run that followed was unlike anything I’ve ever dreamed about. We started by running through the streets of NY only guided by our headlamps. After darting through a parking garage we emerged outside a noodle place in Chinatown. We sprinted through the kitchen and proceeded to eat for about 3 minutes. Next, we ran to a high school, climbed the stairs to the roof, and found ourselves in a graffiti garden. After descending the stairs we raced across the Manhattan bridge and “broke into” the Brooklyn Naval Yard. We jogged around for a bit then again “broke into” a warehouse where we were greeted by a contortionist dancer who danced as Knox moved his NIKE FREE shoe. Then a buzzer sounded, a garage door lifted and everyone ran towards the bright light. Outside waiting for us was party buses. The buses took us to Herald Square where we watched images tagged of us during the run being displayed on a giant digital billboard…. Yeah it was like that.
The challenge of photographing the event was monumental. First it was dark, hard to focus, hard to light. Second the group was running…. this wasn’t a fake photo op. The 75 runners took breaks during the 6 mile run, but we ran alongside the group every step of the way. I wanted to light the event in a way that was unique. I didn’t want to shoot available light, or use a plain on camera flash, other people could do that with Instagram. Instead I chose to light it with AC strobes, similar to how I do sportraits. So while I ran with the camera, Helene (the only person I know who could and was willing and crazy enough to help) ran with a strobe, a battery pack, and a receiver. The two of us would sprint to the front of the group, shoot photos until we saw the last person, then sprint back to the front. It was like doing 6 miles of 300 meter repeats. I loved it! The few times I beat Helene to the front ended in happy accidents, shots lit from behind mixed with available light. By the end of the run we were pretty wiped, but I think we made an interesting and compelling photo story… all while on the run.
While back in Indiana I was privileged enough to photograph Olympic Bronze Medalist and IU Track phenom Derek Drouin. When I first started hanging around the track team at IU Derek was injured. Before injuring his foot in 2011 he had won multiple NCAA titles in the high jump, but I didn’t really get to see him jump until last year. I didn’t know what I was missing. Watching Derek jump is art, there is no other explanation. He simply glides and floats. Last summer I was privileged enough to travel with the IU team to nationals where he competed and placed a very close second. He went on in August to win a Bronze medal for Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games. The only thing more pleasing than watching Derek jump is watching him compete. He is total class. While other athletes turn into showmen, dawning crowns or partaking in other ridiculous antics, Derek is steadfast and calm. He politely refuses the audiences claps (something jumpers do to get hyped), and simply competes. He does not fist pump or show emotion. Though do not mistake his demeanor for a lack of competitiveness. Trust me, I’ve seen him play euchre.
The shoot was pretty simple, great athlete+ great sky = photos. I did very simple lighting, with only two lights. I also shot wide angle which I’ve never done, and was very pleased with the results. Special thanks to Tom Chorny for helping me with timing. It helps tremendously to have someone else call out when an athlete reaches a spot. Reacting is simply relying on luck. Going on a voice command is the way to go.
The majority of my week in Indiana was spent working for some old friends and clients. I was privileged to work for UITS, IUPUI Law School, The College of Arts and Sciences, and IU Alumni Magazine. The portraits were some of the results. My assistant Max was a very busy man, helping set up all the lighting for these shots. For the portraits I tried to be simple, yet add a little bit of rim light to separate the subjects from their backgrounds.
This blog has gone on for far to long. If you have any questions I’m at Zach@zachhetrick.com . Thanks for taking the time to read/ look at the photos.