Beauty is everywhere – you just have to keep your eyes open. I knew this was true. I just needed to prove it.
It was one of those sticky, dog days of summer when I went on my first Picture Run. The temperature was in the 90s and my 4pm run had gotten rescheduled to 6:30pm in the hopes of better running conditions. The babysitter was on her way as I agonized over how I should run with my camera. I had selected a backpack and placed the camera in, wrapped in a towel. Hmm, that seemed like a bad idea. I tried it with my cushioned camera bag inside the backpack. It was bulky. I put the camera in the towel again and went to my computer. What did other people suggest? Google Search—running-with-DSLR-camera— Found a photography forum where someone asked a similar question. Several people wrote in expressing what a terrible idea this was: How it was awful for the lens; How you would damage the camera; and Why in the world do you need to run with it? I started to feel a little gun-shy. Were they right? No, no, there must be people who run with their cameras. How do they get those shots in National Geographic if people aren’t doing stuff with their cameras besides Weddings and Newborn Portraits? I knew the babysitter would be here any minute. I put the camera in my camera bag, put that inside my backpack and decided I would just deal with the bulkiness. If this works, I’ll figure out something better later.
I drove to my usual running spot. Where we lived at the time, there weren’t a lot of great places to run and I wasn’t even sure I’d find something worthy of a photograph. But I was determined and convinced that location had nothing to do with it. Beauty is everywhere – you just have to keep your eyes open.
I got out of my car, called up my running app, and threw my keys and phone in the backpack. Wow, this is great. For once, I’m not concerned about carrying my phone or losing my keys. I was already carrying a pack, so what’s a few extra ounces? With phone and keys stowed, I set off. I knew I was losing sunlight and I was anxious to get to something, anything.
Now since sharing my picture running idea with a few people, it has occurred to me that it sounds like I’m taking a picture While running. That’s not the case at all. I run, observe, stop, get out the camera, take a picture, return the camera, and continue running. I would equate it to a walk break. In fact, I discovered that since I stopped a couple of times to take pictures, I ran faster for the portions I did run. I tried to take pictures quickly, so as to still have a good workout, while maintaining good composition and proper camera settings. I found it was more challenging to take pictures for two reasons: 1. My face was very sweaty. It was a hot, humid evening and the camera felt slippery on my face. 2. Camera shake. Since I had been running, my muscles were fatigued and my arms shook more than usual. I decided this was just something I would have to deal with if I was going to continue picture running.
As I ran down the paved trail, I kept my eyes open for anything inspiring. Based on my “rules” I only needed one decent picture per run. I just needed One on this run to prove the concept was worth pursuing. The backpack was uncomfortable. There was no waist strap so it bounced on my back and I had to hold onto the shoulder straps to keep it from swaying side to side on my back. My keys danced in the pocket making an incessant jingle that nearly drove me mad. And on top of it, I was on a shaded trail, losing sunlight and confidence with each step. I tried to think outside the box. I noticed the leaves on the trail. I laid on the ground and snapped a picture of them. That could count if I needed it to. About a 1-1.5 miles into my run, I came up some yellow wildflowers. They were in a slight clearing with back-lighting from the sunset. I love wildflowers and I rejoiced over my find.
I took several shots just to make sure I really had gotten my one. They weren’t my best work. The white balance was off, but the composition was decent and I decided it would do for this first time. I was elated. I put my camera back in my pack and sped off down the trail. As I was coming to the end, I took a few more pictures, this time of the sunset on the lake. With this last picture stop, I had enough of a recovery to charge up the last hill and all the way to my car. I had done it! My back was soaked from the backpack, but I rested in the fact that my camera was safe inside its cushioned bag.
A three-miler in what felt like 100% humidity normally would have been chalked up as a gross-just-trying-to-get-it-done sort of run, but with the camera and the added challenge of finding a picture, it was the best run I had gone on in a long time. In fact, my first thought was I’m going to do this again.
I came home and spent the evening making notes, editing/reviewing my pictures, and researching a real camera pack. We were living in Alabama, my husband was in Korea and my running was extremely limited because of always needing a babysitter. At the age of six, our daughter is too old for the running stroller and not quite at the point to bike with me while I run. I knew I’d have to hold on to this idea until my husband came home, until we moved to Kansas, until Now.
So, welcome to The Picture Runner.