Photographing Myself Running

We all have our own little idiosyncrasies. Sometimes we don’t really know why we do the things we do. Other times it’s pretty obvious why we do them. I know exactly why I do some of the things I do.

The things that really move us, the things that are important a to us, the things we love. This is what causes us to do some of the strange things we do as humans. As a photographer, something I love, I carry around enough gear that my car tells me the passenger needs to put on their seatbelt when I set my bag on the passenger seat. I often have these multiple heavy cameras dangling from my neck while I look ridiculous. I can be found laying on the ground or just staring at something just waiting for the perfect moment to take the photograph. Most non photographers would think these behaviors are a bit odd but to me they are the things that allow me to do what I love.

Over the past several years I have also become a fairly avid runner as improving my health has become important. Avid, not good or fast just avid. I get up at 5:00 am on my day off to make sure I get my run in before it gets too hot. I run for over an hour at one time. I run in the rain. I plan my days around trying to make sure I can get a run in. These are not things that very many non runners would typically do.

Over the years both my photography and running have grown in importance to me. Each becoming an increasingly significant part of my life.

When you live for photography and live for a healthy lifestyle you do increasing odd things. On Sunday 10/4/2015 I ran my fist ever half marathon. And my enthusiasm for running crashed headlong into my passion for photography and they merged. I decided the best way to make the most out of this situation would be to find a way to photograph the half marathon as I ran it. In years past I never though this would be possible because A. I could never have run a half marathon and B. I would have had no idea how to go running with a Nikon D300 around my neck. But thanks to my relatively recent decision to begin experimenting with a Nikon 1 system in my photography I was able to find a way to make it happen. I was able to find a small snug fitting elastic belt pouch that stretched and was marketed to be used to carry ones phone and keys while running. As luck would have it the pouch would also fit a Nikon 1. I was able to tuck the Nikon 1 into the pouch and wear it to the starting line with my regular running gear no problem. It was hardly noticeable. I got it out and took a few pre-race photos.

I considered getting the camera out at different times during the race. But in the first six miles I was maintaining a pretty good pace for myself and I didn’t want to risk getting off my pace and slowing down to monkey with the pouch and get the camera out and then try to put it away again. I hadn’t had time to practice with it before the race. That was a big mistake.

In the last four miles I was too tired and spent to consider using any energy work a camera. All my mental energy was going to focusing on running and making sure I finished the race. I was getting very tired and very sore. It was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Then as I neared the finish line probably inside of a mile I knew I was definitely going to finish. I had slowed considerably so my pace wasn’t an issue. I wouldn’t have to worry about putting the camera away I would just carry it to the end. So I decided now was the time to see what I could do with this little camera I carried all the way for 13 miles.

I was able to unzip my pouch and get the camera out without impacting my running or dropping the camera. Now that’s a small victory in itself. I kept the camera strap on the camera even though it could make it more difficult to put away on the run, which I ended up not doing, and in glad I did. This freed me from worrying about dropping the camera while trying to looks round for something interesting to photograph and running. I could just simply throw the strap around my neck and that was that.

Now it was time to try to figure out how to actually take some photos while running. I decided to try to experiment and try a few different things. Having the camera strap on allowed me to try something similar to having a GoPro strapped to my chest. I allowed the camera to essentially dangle from my neck and just tried to keep it straight. I thought I’d be able to get a photo as if directly from the runners perspective this way. I think it was difficult to make sure the camera was oriented properly to capture a decent image of what was in front of me. I am not sure any of these images turned any good. I think I often ended up with too much road in the photo and not enough subjects due to how low the camera strap hung and a wide-angle lens and not angling the camera up at all.

I tried glancing over my shoulder to see what was going on behind me. I was able to get quick looks at my fellow runners as they usually approached and passed me. I then tried to position the camera over my shoulder facing the runners behind me so I could get a view of runners approaching me. It was a challenge to get the camera aligned right to be pointing straight and at the runners while also running however slowly I may have been going.

I also attempted two other ways of taking photos of what I was seeing as I ran. I experimented with alternatingly holding the camera up in front of my face in a more traditional position to view the image and at other times just holding the camera out in front of me arms fully extended towards my intended subjects.

This is where having the live view LCD screen of the Nikon 1 was invaluable. I don’t think I could have gotten decent photos of I had to try to look through a viewfinder. I was able to quickly select a subject and compose the image using the LCD and click the shutter all without compromising my safety by blocking most of my vision with a bulky camera that I had to hold up to my face to see through the viewfinder.

I was even able to take a selfie style photo one-handed and I crossed the finish line, which was announced to the crowd as I crossed. I certainly couldn’t have done that with my Nikon D300.

Overall this was a fun experience on all fronts. I challenged myself in many ways physically, mentally, and technically in both my running and photography. Trying something new is always an opportunity to learn and grow and I think I did.

I also think I captured some nice images if I do say so myself. I think I will try this photography experiment in other running events and other experiences.

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Originally published at krnaturalphoto.com on October 16, 2015.