Breaking the Norm with Two Ironman Champions

Sometimes you get a phone call, text message, or Facebook ping that can really change the course of your week. That was definitely the case when a friend of ours asked if we’d like to sit down and talk to not one but TWO Ironman Champions (One of which is now 1 for 1 on races and wins!) about taking some killer shots while they’re in town training for Kona. Not your everyday text message…

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I immediately jumped at the chance to sit down with Patrick and Boris and learn more about what they were thinking, and I essentially stayed up extremely late the night before because I couldn’t get my brain to stop trying to figure out some cool shots that would be a little different from the norm. I knew I wanted to capture just a simple portrait of each of them and from there it was trying to figure out something completely different for the bike and run shots compared to what I have done in the past as well as what is already out there in the market. The key words there being “stand out”.

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I emphasize this for today’s blog because that has really been something I’ve been considering a lot lately. We look at the photography market and everybody with an entry level DSLR is now a “professional photographer” and everybody with an iPhone and an Instagram account with more than 10k followers is now a successful advertising photographer. The market is more saturated with photos than it has ever been, and if you don’t believe me, ask Google, Apple, or Amazon because they can’t built data centers fast enough to keep up with the growing trend of everybody taking 40 selfies a day and storing them all on the cloud. But, I digress… The point of this diatribe was to get back to the main reason that the market is extremely saturated so the only way you’re going to get noticed is to STAND OUT. Shoot something that is different from any way a person has been shot before. I again refer back to one of my idols, Tim Tadder, for this little tidbit of information.

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In a CreativeLive he was gave, he mentioned photographing Tom Brady. There have probably not been more photos of any other football player in history. He’s the GOAT and he is essentially built like a model in terms of stature and looks so he’s the perfect face for basically any product that can afford him. Tim had to shoot him for a major brand, but before he did so he Googled Brady and did an image search. What came back was an endless stream of shots of Brady in action, on the field, or in some type of Gameday outfit. Tim decided to create just an extremely simple portrait of him in black and white with a white background in the middle of the shoot. It wasn’t the shot that the brand wanted from him, but after he canned the shots he needed to get, he grabbed Tom for a few quick moments, got the shot he wanted, and they were done. That shot of Tom Brady still stands out on any Google search of him because it is so different from anything else that has been shot. THAT is standing out and THAT is what we should all strive to do every time we pick up a camera.

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So, with that thought process whirling through my head constantly for the past few weeks, I did the exact same thing for Patrick Lange and Boris Stein. There were tons of photos of both athletes in the aero position on the bike on race day or running by crowds at the end of the races they had won. A few candid shots here or there, but nothing that I would have qualified as just an “epic” portrait. As for the bike and run shots, I looked again and there were tons of race shots of pro Ironman athletes and a few odd shot here or there of a rider by themselves on the Queen K or some other desolate and unforgettable stretch of road. What there really wasn’t, was a shot of multiple Ironman Champions training or riding together. Which, as it happened to work out, was exactly the story that Boris and Patrick wanted to tell as well. It’s very odd that two athletes of their caliber would be training together for a major block leading up to Kona. Most athletes either train with a team under a coach or they train individually. Patrick and Boris were a bit different because they liked the company on the bike rides and they liked the challenge of pushing each other day in and day out, constantly focused on the same end goal.

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THOSE were my shots and THAT was the story I wanted to tell. So, I came up with my shot list, met with Patrick and Boris and we set about getting some great stuff for them to use as they headed in to Kona this week. First up, as you might have guessed from the teaser above, was a series of portraits of the two of them using the same exact setup I’ve fallen in love with recently to create a simple portrait that would stand out if you googled either of these elite athletes. We decided to incorporate their swim gear into the shots as well and even added a little element of water using a mister in my living room for some water droplets that the Mamiya picked up and displayed beautifully with its crisp amount of detail. (Seriously, if you don’t believe me, reach out to Digital Transitions and demo one from these guys, you won’t regret it… Your pocketbook might, but you won’t ;) )

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Beyond that it was really just having fun and getting some different looks that allowed me to try a few different things and capture some different stuff as well. The whole shoot was a blast and a great way to kick off working with these guys on their more fast-paced running and cycling shots later on.

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Anyway, those photos are another blog post for another time, but the one thing I want to emphasize again is STAND OUT. Think through who you’re shooting, what your motivation is, what their motivation is, and how you can create images that are different or challenging to the norm that is the plethora of photos out there. If you can do that, you’re one step closer to being successful as a professional photographer.

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