This weekend I was able to connect with a photographer who’s work has inspired my own for a while now. Philipp Reiter has a way of photographing ultra races and its’ participants in a way that transports you to the location as if you took the photo yourself. I think the only thing Reiter can’t convey in his photography is smell.
Reiter started his career with photography as an athlete before he ever picked up a camera. After racing for a number of years, he succumbed to injury and instead of leaving the sport to turn over a new rock, he started running again, a little bit more casually than prior to his injury, but now he was running with a little point and shoot camera in-hand. Not long after he started taking photos of his friends, Salomon offered him a position on their photography team, where he is seemingly constantly photographing epic ultra races all over Europe and even the USA this year.
How Do You Approach Photographing Ultra Races?
I’m still a runner. I’m able to keep up with the runners and take photos of them from close proximity. I do my best to be there when the moment happens. A lot of photographers will be set up in a spot where the runners will see them and then the runners will put on their “tough face” and walk upright consciously posing for the photographers, it makes for good photos but not the ones I’m looking for. I’ll run alongside the runners so that I’m there to capture spontaneous moments.
Because I run with the runners, I’m kind of considered an “insider”. The participants don’t really have to worry about having their photo taken by a stranger or someone they might not trust. I also understand when a moment might be too much, not every photo you capture of an athlete should be shared, because the runners are my friends, I know when enough is enough, and that’s where the trust is built.
What are some tips you Might Share with Someone just Getting into Photographing Ultra Races?
Don’t bring too much gear. Focus on basic things, if you’re just getting into photographing Ultra events, it’s important to experiment. Once you’ve experimented a bit though, don’t take 5 cameras and 5 different lenses in your backpack. I use one camera and one lens for photographing races. Sometimes I also bring a drone and a cellphone because I do video and social media management as well. Gear can get in the way of getting the shot, instead of helping you.
You need to understand your camera and get experience shooting in difficult lighting situations in fast pace environments. Try shooting in aperture priority mode so you can still have control over your camera, but also have the ability to quickly shoot a runner that’s back lit by the sun and then quickly transition to a low light, front lit photo when they quickly pass you in the other direction.
What are some Elements of a Great Photograph?
I love close up shots, the face showing the raw emotion of how the athlete feels and what he’s been through. I enjoy incorporating black and white into my work as well.
Another element I enjoy is having a huge sweeping landscape with very small runners in them. Now a days we think human beings are superheroes that can manage anything, and thats not true. We’re small people in a huge world and I want to convey that through my images. When I’m able to shoot like that at sunrise or sunset to also show the true beauty of a place, that’s my favourite.