Trail Running Photography

December 17, 2015

Many of you probably know that I am not only a trail runner (known to do a few ultras as well as run around barefoot in the woods) – I am also an outdoor photographer. I occasionally shoot trail races – usually ultras – and even pull all-nighters myself trying to capture the action.

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Running under the Milky Way at Superior 100, 2014

Lots of time and energy goes into this: scouting locations before the races, lugging all my gear out to the location(s), shooting for HOURS, lugging everything back to the car, then transferring files from camera to computer, editing thousands of files, and uploading them to social media and/or my proofing gallery so runners can see, share, and buy their photos if they want to. A local 50K required 2 hours of scouting the day before the race, even though I knew that race course like the back of my hand. I needed to figure out the best spots to not only capture the action, but consider the background scenery, where to stand, which lenses to use, lighting for photography during different times of day when the runners will be going through a certain section, etc. which is a completely different game than just running the trail. On race day I spent another 9 hours of standing and shooting the race from a few different locations, about 5 miles of hiking and lugging a backpack, 2 cameras, a tripod and other gear, and 4 days of editing afterwards. For a 100 mile race later in the year, it was a 5 hour drive to get to the race, then an all day, all night, all day shoot (I was up for 42 hours straight), another 5 hours driving home, and several days of editing.

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Running under the Aurora Borealis aka Northern Lights

Western States, Hardrock, Hurt 100, Badwater – they can’t do this.

We’re lucky here in the Upper Midwest. We have some amazing trails and scenery with lots of amazing races to choose from. The people who participate in our game are warm, welcoming, and humble. Many outsiders underestimate our terrain; just because we aren’t at high altitude doesn’t mean it’s flat.


“The Drainpipe” at Superior 100

Pictures don’t do it justice – it’s steep enough that I was hanging on to a tree with one arm and shooting uphill with the other to capture the racers coming down.

The Superior 100 Mile in northeastern Minnesota has 41,000+ vertical feet of elevation gain/loss – more than Leadville. With drop dead gorgeous vistas that include waterfalls, lakes of all sizes (including the Great Lakes), northern forests, and some pretty interesting wildlife.

If you’d like to see some of the amazing places I’m referring to, feel free to stop by my North Woods Photos website and gallery. You can enter the gallery to view images or purchase prints from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, including the two night shots shown here 🙂

Need a photographer for a local trail race? Get in touch with me and we’ll see what we can work out.

Thanks for stopping by Upper Midwest Trail Races – Run On!


Don’t Mess With Mama

June 25, 2012

Since the flooding caused by 10 inches of overnight rain in northeastern Minnesota last week made the national news, you’re probably already aware that Mother Nature – aka “Mama” – paid a recent visit to Duluth. MN and the North Shore of Lake Superior.

You’ve probably already heard about the dozen or so animals that drowned at the Lake Superior Zoo, the polar bear that escaped it’s enclosure, and the harbor seal that was found in the middle of a city street. You’ve heard about the evacuations of small towns and neighborhoods, seen pictures of road washouts and the sink holes that swallowed automobiles, and learned that the water level in Lake Superior rose 3 inches in one day.  But you probably haven’t heard about what happened to the local trails and what it means to some of our races that take place upon them.

Here’s the current skinny:

The Superior Hiking Trail northeast of Gooseberry State Park (start of the Superior Sawtooth 100 Mile), only has a few nicks and should bounce back fairly quick, so the fall Superior races and other events in that part of the state shouldn’t be affected.

Southwest of Gooseberry is a different story. The entire Duluth section of the SHT is currently closed, as are a few other sections. Several bridges have been damaged or destroyed, and at least one bridge is completely missing. Check current conditions here. The fast and furious flood waters have stripped trees of their bark and punched a hole through the earth such that Forbay’s Lake was completely drained of it’s water. How fast were the flood waters? The Fond du Lac station on the St. Louis River typically measures water volume at 2,000 to 5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Last Thursday it was running at 47,000 cfs.

The Superior Hiking Trail Association estimates that it will cost approximately $10,000 (which is not in the budget) and many, many man hours of volunteer labor to restore the bridges. They have established a special fund to help raise money for this project if you’d like to donate money, or there will be plenty of opportunities to donate time and muscle if you’d like to volunteer your labor over the coming weeks and months.

A more pressing concern at the moment is the fate of the Voyageur and Half Voyageur races, which are set to take place next month. The course runs from the town of Carlton to the Lake Superior Zoo, through Jay Cooke State Park and over the historic swinging bridge. This entire area took a beat down: Carlton was evacuated, you’ve already heard about some of the happenings at the zoo, Jay Cooke is closed until further notice, Hwy 210 has several mud slides and wash outs and is closed until further notice, and part of the swinging bridge was swept away. Check out the video from last week:

The Voyageur race directors and local runners are working their tails off trying to come up with a safe and viable solution – it’s just too early to tell what’s going to happen. Right now, we’re thinking about showing up no matter what – either for a race on a re-routed course, or for a trail maintenance day. Either way, it will be epic!


Updates seem to be coming in faster on Facebook that on official websites right now, so here’s a list of Facebook links:

Superior Hiking Trail

Minnesota State Parks

Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultra

Duluth Trail Runners

North Country Trail in MN

Upper Midwest Trail Runners

Superior Fall Races

How you can help:

Join the SHTA and/or add your name to the volunteer list.

Donate $ to the SHTA bridge fund.

Show up to help rebuild bridges, trails, clear brush, relocate mud, etc.

If you can’t afford to give money and northeastern Minnesota is too far away for you to come and help with the grunt work, then volunteer at one of your local trails. It’s only a matter of time ’til Mama comes to visit your neck of the woods, too.