A Season Recap

Across the US track season is officially over. The 5th Ave Mile in NYC marked the last event of the season. While I am no athlete, I do primarily photograph runners. Therefore, I will attempt to use this time hook as a weak excuse for not blogging since December (Yes I know that’s really weak). Anyway, here’s my season recap:

For the first few months of the year I spent my time shooting Nike Events surrounding the Superbowl, a few portrait jobs for Indiana University, and a couple athlete profiles for the new Nike NYC Instagram account.

selasi_091The real running photography started around the Boston Marathon. I was asked to come up to Boston to capture images of Nike Boston’s relaunched run club. Over the course of a few weeks I got to see the city on the run, meet some great people, and attend my first Red Sox game.

selectsbw003bostonnycigproofs_014selectsbw010I again shipped up to Boston for the Marathon. It was a special year in an already special race. In addition to group shakeouts and runs and events leading up to the race I was honored to attend a dinner for survivors. It was a powerful event. That night is what I will remember most about “this season’s” events.

On race day we captured the race at heartbreak hill. That’s the notorious hill around mile 20, known for its steep ascent and brutal placement in the race. It was here that I got to watch American superstars past and present, as well as many friends finish off this special race. I attempted, and failed, to get pictures of Shalane twice on the hill.  Her pace, and my inability to find an opening in the crowd made that virtually impossible. But I was thrilled to get the shot I did of her very special effort.

assets_010Post Boston I have worked on evolving my photographic style. When I moved here I was into “strobing” the hell out of everything that moved. Although I still love nothing more than a cool lighting setup, I decided it was time to experiment with a new style. A slightly desaturated, grainy, gritty style. With this goal in mind I contacted some friends from NJNY Track Club and organized some test shoots with two awesome runners. I shot steepler Rebeka on the Williamsburg Bridge, and 800-meter runner Katie on Roosevelt Island. I can’t thank them enough for helping me out.

stowe_002stowe_004stowe_003stowe_006katie_007katie_065katie_047katie_009A few weeks ago I had the privilege of photographing the Indiana University Women’s Cross Country team. It was good to be back in Bloomington and be back on the course. I can’t wait to see what these very special ladies do this year.

iuxc14teamRecently I have been tasked with taking photos for Nike NYC’s new run club. They have great coaches and runs everyday of the week. It has been great to watch the participants grow in the sport with every experience. The job has been a lot of running, which for me means sprinting, stopping, shooting, and then repeating. So far I’ve been able to avoid my running cryptonite, stress fractures, but I’ve been very diligent about recovery and icing.

nycliveI hope you enjoyed this little recap, in this upcoming season I hope to be better at staying on the blog. However, I make no promises. Thanks for reading. (P.S. to complete the weak time hook here is a shot from this weekend’s 5th Ave Mile. The event was won by 3 time champ Jenny Simpson, and by Jordan McNamara on the men’s side.)

5thave_019

 

 

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Frank Gagliano – A Picture Story

Today I had the privilege of photographing a “Godfather” of Track and Field, Frank Gagliano. He’s truly a legend in the sport and now is leading NJ-NY TC. For the shoot I was tasked with creating a few portraits. However, while in Jersey I took the time to capture one of his team’s workouts as well. It was fun to get back to the basics and shoot a little photo story. Technical details below. Enjoy!

All images were shot with a 5DM3 with either a 50 1.2 or 70-200 aperture ranged from 1.8 to f/9 though all non portraits were 2.8 or below. A texture was over-layed in post.

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NJ-NY Track Club Calendars

The calendars are designed and on their way to the printer. Here’s a sneak peak at the cover. Order one below!


Calendars




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A Year with the Ladies of NJNY Track Club

In Hollywood, movie buffs play the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” a game where one tries to connect any arbitrary actor to Kevin Bacon in the fewest amount of steps.  It’s based on a concept that any two people on earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. That’s a “big world” with 7 billion people.

By comparison the running world is extremely small. Further, the professional running world is microscopic. In that microscopic world my favorite game to play is “Two degrees of Stephen HAAS”. Simply, every running job I have ever photographed, every pro runner I have ever met is a direct result of my very first encounter with World Wide HAAS. So my first thank you of this project goes to him for introducing me to Ashley Higginson and New Jersey New York Track Club (NJNYTC).

Past readers will remember Ashley as the brave professional who ran in a race kit through freezing rain for a set of photos from earlier this year. Since that shoot Ashley made Team USA for the world championships in Moscow.  For some mysterious reason, despite making her battle the elements, Ashley doesn’t hate me.

A few months ago she asked if I would be interested in photographing the wonderful women on her team for a fundraising calendar. Occasionally I get requests where I hesitate, this was not one of them.

Over the past few weekends I have made pilgrimages to the Enchanted Land of Jersey to photograph the lovely ladies of NJNYTC.  Below are some of the images that resulted.

Ashley deserves all the credit on these images.  Despite being a full time runner and law student she organized every location, detail, and schedule. This project doesn’t exist without her work.

In addition, I can’t thank Chris and Pat enough for their contributions to the club and the calendar. They somehow make a brand feel like family.  Thanks also go out to the brave men who sacrificed their arms to hold strobes. Liam, Eddie, I hope the soreness was worth it.

The calendar was a joy to shoot. It was a pleasure to get to know each of the women and I look forward to working with them all in the future. You can find out more about NJNYTC at their website www.njnytc.com . If you are interested in purchasing a calendar there is a link at the bottom of the page.

Enjoy. (Tech Details below photos)

All images were shot with a 5D Mark III.  Images used 1 or 2 strobes, all Einstein Lights. Most shots were shot using HyperSync allowing me to photograph at up to 1/2000 while still maintaining strobe power. It’s changed the way I shoot and is a fantastic tool to create drama.


Calendars




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Montauk Project – A life changing experience

Montauk Project was supposed to be a promotional event that highlighted the release of Nike’s Flyknit Free, it ended up being a life-changing journey.

For the past three weekends 13 strangers met at a running store in the heart of New York City.  After a small run they departed via Seaplane to a luxurious Nike running camp on the eastern tip of long island. This was not your high school’s summer running camp. Every detail was thought out, every second planned, and everything centered on the total experience.

The athletes received the newest Nike gear, access and coaching from Elite runners, nutritionist planned meals, and the best accommodations in Montauk.  They met and picked the brains of master trainers, Olympians, and Gold Medalists. They trained like they never had before. Each day had multiple workouts, workouts that got progressively harder.  They ran on trails, tracks, roads, and beaches. They worked out with Beyonce’s trainer, WNBA players, and Yoga masters.

Each weekend changed peoples’ lives. If you think I’m being dramatic look up #MontaukProject on Instagram and witness the athletes from week two who had the coordinates of the lighthouse in Montauk tattooed permanently on their bodies.

Most of the athletes came in with an amateur knowledge of training and the sport, they left inspired and armed with the knowledge and confidence to take their running to the next level.

I was tasked with capturing it all. I spent my past four weekends in a beach paradise in the Hamptons, so life has been pretty rough. I got to run alongside these runners as their lives were changing.  I got to witness people being introduced to Pre for the first time. I watched as the campers met Sanya Richards-Ross, and ran beside Abdi Abdirahman. The job of my dreams was never this good.

I can’t thank Nike and specifically the creators of this camp enough for tasking me with capturing these weekends.  I’m grateful to the people I met, the miles ran, and the constant disbelieving smiles. Photographing Montauk Project was a privilege not a job.

Below are some of the images I created. On the first weekend we did a promotional photo shoot for the event. On the subsequent weekends I captured the events as a photojournalist. I was along for the runs, along for the pain, and along for the smiles. Enjoy:

For more details and photos of the camp, checkout one of the athletes recap, Robin did a great job sharing the experience from a runner’s viewpoint: http://tmblr.co/ZNgBMyrfwY6z

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Tough Mudder- Cause Life’s just better with strobe

Last weekend I was asked to cover a Tough Mudder in Chicago for ADWEEK Magazine. Like everyone else I’ve seen the plethora of Facebook Ads for Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, and others like it but, until Saturday, I had never witnessed or raced in such an event.

Before the race I wasn’t sure how I felt about the hybrid running event. It was kind of like a running event, just more “bro-ey” and “cross-fit” infused.  The course was about two hours from Chicago in Seneca, Illinois. It featured 22 military-inspired obstacles including 10,000-volt charged wires that hilariously shocked people into face planting in the mud (hey, they signed up for it). The whole course was 11 miles long and played host to 17,000 runners over two days.

As a runner I wasn’t used to the “leave no buddy behind” race mentality.  When people would complete obstacles faster than their friends they would wait and cheer them on or help them up before continuing on together. A more sentimental competitor might have been touched, but being a cynical running purist, I was appalled. I would’ve seized those precious seconds and thrown down the hammer while my friend was still in the mud. I’d also expect them to do the same to me.  That being said, after observing this Survivor-style race, I may have to team up with some people and try it out.

Now on to the photography part (WARNING: its gonna get nerdy, I won’t be offended if you just look at the muddy people)

During my research about the event I scoured the Internet for photos and material about the race. For a race made with photo ops in mind, most of the photos were pretty tame. Most were shot with available light relying on the drama of the event to make the shots look cool.  Of course the midday sun wasn’t helping with the drama either.

With that in mind I decided to strobe away. Someone once said that personal style is just self-plagiarism, who am I to argue? Strobes just make life better. Some people like bacon, I prefer 640-Watt Seconds released in 1/256,000 of a second.  I can’t explain it beyond that.

To change it up I decided to try a new lighting setup. The MENSA-level geniuses at Pocket Wizard released a new product called HYPERsync. This technology lets you control the output of the flash attached to a receiver. It also, and most importantly, lets you “sync” up to 1/1000. Now this is a game changer for me. I normally can only shoot during the “magic hour” to get my desired dark background.  Overpowering the sun during other times takes too much “light power,” and requires crazy f-stops. Usually I am limited to shooting at 1/200th of a second. That doesn’t stop much motion (if available light is present). However, by shooting at 1/1000 I can get the sky a few stops darker, and the aperture value won’t change, meaning my strobes can now overpower the sun during normal hours.  It also stops motion in its tracks.

Shooting with a high-speed synced strobe was amazing. It allowed me to make 11 a.m. look dramatic. Adding that ability to a mud fest, made for some pretty cool shots. Droplets of mud coupled with dramatic lighting was a dream come true. During the shoot I had an assistant hold an Einstein light with a magnum sports reflector.  The light was powered by an external battery, which was in a backpack. If HYPERsync has a negative its that in order to sync, the light must be at full power. That means the strobe is putting out a lot of light. It also chews up a lot of battery, so I knew we would have to make the shots count. My assistant was great, and held the steaming hot light and heavy backpack for three hours. I hope you agree that it was worth it. Let me know if you have any questions.

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Mass Transit Racers

When I moved to NYC I knew the subway would be a big part of my life. But I had no clue  the system would soon become my biggest running foe…..

I stumbled upon the Mass Transit Racers by chance when I was searching for elite athletes to photograph for some personal work. The concept was mind bogglingly awesome. Runners, in the city I now call home, were challenging subway trains and taxis to epic showdowns in the streets and tunnels of NYC. As a photographer I had to shoot this, as a runner I had to be a part of it.

I contacted the two creators and my NYC experience instantly changed. Soon I found myself photographing their events and working to spread the word on the amazing concept that is MTR.  I’ve been shooting MTR events for a few months now so I figured it was time to share some of the results.

But first let me try to explain the concept of MTR. Their website explains it best:

Everyone is a Mass Transit Racer. The concept of beating public transportation is easy, it’s the execution that’s the hard part:

  • Step 1: Find an opponent. This can be a cab, bus, or train. Have a race official get on that vessel.
  • Step 2: Set the start and finish line. You’ll be an MTR winner if you can beat the race official, who will stay in the vehicle to the finish line.
  • Step 3: Race. As soon as the cab, bus, or train gets going, you do too. Run as fast as you can because transit doesn’t sleep. Knowledge of the city, its streets and shortcuts is crucial.
  • Step 4: Win. If you beat the race official to the finish line, then you’re a winner. Celebrate and get ready to do it again.

I’ve now raced multiple cabs and subway trains. My favorite race was taking on the 4/5 train from City Hall in Manhattan to Borough Hall in Brooklyn. The races are usually only about a half mile, but this race was almost 1.8 miles or 3k. To start we warmed up by running the course, which includes crossing the over populated and touristy Brooklyn Bridge. Once we finished the warmup we got on the train and took it to a stop before our start line. We then got on a train going the right direction, in a car that we had determined to be closest to the subway exit at our starting point. When the doors opened another racer and I sprinted out and embarked on our odyssey. A third racer acted as an official and stayed on the train. When the train completed its journey he would sprint up the stairs. Whoever got to the top of the stairs first would be the victor.

During the race its always good to not “Terry Tate” anyone to the ground. It’s like racing on a track filled with hundreds of tourists taking cell phone pics.  The bridge was almost as big a foe as the train. It’s a hill, and a large one at that. I tried not to push too hard on the half mile uphill, and instead hoped that I would have enough in the tank to crush the remainder of the course. After dodging my share of bike commuters and Instagrammers I arrived at the finish line. The other racer had beat me by 15 seconds, but we had both beat the train. It’s a pretty cool feeling to beat public transportation. I definitely suggest trying it. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the photos.

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The week that was: 8 shoots, a Fashion Blogger, a Bronze Medalist, and an Epic NIKE Run

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.

#RUNFREE

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.

Derek Drouin

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.

IU Portraits

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.

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Peak Performance NYC

When I moved to NYC friend and gym owner Wil Fleming put me in contact with Peak Performance. He said their gym would be a great place to shoot, and he was spot on. Peak Performance is a wonderful facility located in Manhattan’s Flat Iron district. Its on the 9th floor and features views of the Empire State Building. The only thing greater than the location was the people. Founder and CEO Joe Dowdell’s staff were extremely welcoming and great to work with. The gym’s GM Kindra Hanson went to great lengths to ensure the success of the shoot. She even arranged for some of the trainers to act as talent. The shoots results are testament to the gym, its staff, and the models: Ngo Okafor, Kyle Fields, and Antonio Valverde.

The shoot went great and I am thrilled with the results. I owe a debt of gratitude to the models for lending their fitness expertise. I know my split times, and running lingo pretty well, but my knowledge is lacking when it comes to the gym.

Technical Info:

For this shoot I wanted to try having some bright backgrounds for once. Most of my work has dark dramatic backgrounds, but I have learned from observing Alan Cresto that the bright, airie backgrounds can be equally as cool.

Most shots were done with 2 lights, with an occasional third light added for an additional rim. All shots featured a back rim light boomed in behind the subject. It often provided a  the flare featured in the darker shots.

Let me know if you have any questions and I hope you enjoyed the photos.

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Ashley

This shoot was a lot of fun. It was challenging logistically and weather wise, but the results were a testament to Ashley’s willingness to go with the flow.

When I asked my friend Stephen HAAS from Team Indiana Elite for the name of runners on the East Coast he suggested I contact Ashley. Ashley runs professionally for Saucony and specializes in the steeplechase. Last season she finished 4th at the U.S Olympic trials in the 3000 Meter Steeplechase and then went on to run a 9:34 at a Diamond League meet in London (that’s the big league in the track world).

We had originally planned on doing the shoot at Brooklyn Bridge Park, but due to expensive permits ($500-$2000) we decided to head to McCarren Park in Williamsburg.  Doing photoshoots in NYC is slightly more complicated than ones in Indiana. In NYC one does not simply show up and set up their lights. Instead permits are required for most shoots. On top of film permits from the city, one must also obtain a “park film permit”. However, there is a way to avoid the permit issue. If the cameras and lights are handled, and not on stands then seeking a permit and permission from the park is unnecessary. So with that in mind I bribed my roommates and turned them into voice activated light stands. They would stand and hold the lights as I instructed and then move every time we changed positions.  This would be a chore on most days, but it became a big favor when it started raining.

Shooting in the rain is not a lot of fun. It presents a lot of challenges and puts the equipment at risk. Cameras, lenses, and lights don’t play well with moisture. Rain also has to be backlit or all the droplets will obscure your subjects. As tough as it was to shoot in the rain it was nothing compared to modeling in it.

You wouldn’t know it from the photos but in addition to raining it was also 36 degrees outside. Ashley had no qualms and never complained about the cold or rain. She explained that her race it is always wet.  While true, all of us on the other side of the camera were impressed with her attitude and ability to smile despite the elements.

The shoot only lasted about 15 minutes but we were able to get through quite a few poses. The rain added a flare and drama that I have never tried. I‘m thrilled with the results and look forward to working with Ashley again, but probably in a warmer, drier environment.

Enjoy.

Tech Details:

• 2 or 3 lights.

• Einstein with beauty dish as front fill.

• Gridded Alienbee 800 on the side

• Occasionally a Canon 580 EXII as a second rim light.

• Shots were done around ISO 1000 at 1/125 and f/5

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