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Parcour Runner in the Forest

The other week I had a parcour runner contact me asking if I was available to do a photoshoot with him. He was visiting Rotorua from Europe and on a year trip traveling around the world participating in various races that he wanted to participate in. I agreed to fit in the shoot into my busy schedule since I had never shot a parcour runner and it sounded like a cool project.

For those of you who don’t know what parcour running is, it is also sometimes called “free running”. It is a sport where athletes use obstacles in their path to help them run creatively. It usually involves things like steps, poles, gaps between buildings, railings, pylons and the athletes jump, swing and flip their way through, around and over the various obstacles.

Going into the shoot, I had visions of shooting the runner doing a flip off a redwood tree and other crazy stuff, unfortunately my per-visualized image didn’t happen since the athlete who I was shooting was not actually very confident with his flips and we could not find a suitable place for him to do a forward flip off of in the forest.

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Instead of packing up my bag in defeat, I had to quickly re-adjust my vision and come up with a new plan based on what the athlete was comfortable doing. We first tried a few shots of handstands on the bridges over the streams, but they were just not quite wide enough for him to feel comfortable doing long handstands. Here is the one attempt he made at doing a handstand on the widest bridge we found.

Since this was supposed to be a quick shoot and I had other meetings to get to, I didn’t have a lot of time to go to a different location but because I am very familiar with the forest and trail network, from all the shoots I have done here and also all the time I spend running and riding in the forest, I knew where we could go to get some better shots once he described what he needed to do some of his actual parcour running moves.

For him, he wanted something that was iconic of his visit to Rotorua and New Zealand. That is why he wanted to do a shoot in the woods. So we were able to find a spot that was safe enough for him to perform one of his tricks while still showing off the New Zealand landscape. It took a bit of work experimenting with different camera angles and just watching him practice his moves before I found the best location to shoot him from but after a few tries to find the right angle and for him to get his timing right on the run-up, we got a shot that works. Not the shot I had planned, but sometimes the spontaneous shots like this turn out better than the planed shots… It is why it is important to always look around while shooting even when you think you have the shot in the can.

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