As a fitness photographer (AudraOden) I am always looking for inspiration from my photog peers who also shoot fitness and athletes. It seems that everyone has that one great “running shot” in their book. I shoot a lot of my work in studio, and thought “I need to get out, go on location and get myself a running shot.”

I had just met a track athlete named Deborah John at a fitness expo in Dallas a few weeks prior and thought what a great person to photograph for this particular shoot. She was currently training for the Olympic trials and in incredible shape. So I planned a trip to return back to Dallas for a weekend and loaded up on gym sessions with various fitness competitors. After a full day of gym photoshoots, I headed to the track to meet Deborah because I really wanted to shoot in the late afternoon to sunset. I hired a stylist to dress her, and had an assistant to help me with lights. I really wanted these shots to turn out well so that I could have work to show commercial clients.

We started shooting around 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening. It was during the summer so the days were long! I shot natural light shots of her running the bleachers, and stretching. Typical athlete shots. She changed outfits and we shot some down on the track. I used strobes for these, and tried out some panning shots on the tripod. Then the sun started setting, and to this day I swear it was the best Texas sunset I have ever seen!
Here is a shot from the back of the camera of the sunset! No filters, nothing added! That’s just how amazing it was.

As it continued to set I knew that once it was dark I could rely on my strobes, and the background would go black which would make for a really cool shot as well. I always like the night time look with athletes because it’s something you don’t often see in real life.
Deborah is a hurdler, so we wanted to get some shots of her jumping the hurdles. This so happened to be the track she trained on, so she was able to unlock the shed where the hurdles were stored. I thought it would be really cool to have one single hurdle and her in mid-jump shot from a side view, especially against the dark background where the entire focus was her in action with no other distractions.
I set up 3 lights, 2 for kicker/rim lighting one camera right, and one camera left pointed at her and then one main light to my left where I was positioned. My main light was a softbox, and kicker lights had 9-inch reflectors. (Paul C. Buff Alien Bees and lighting modifiers.) I used my Nikon D810 with a 24-70mm 2.8 lens. The shot was captured at a 6.3 aperture and 1/250 sec. For this particular shot I was handholding the camera. I pre-focused on where she would be when I pressed the shutter and turned off the auto focus. Since it was dark I didn’t want to risk missing the shot if the camera had a hard time focusing. All I had to do was stay still and time it perfectly.

I was positioned really low to make her look strong and powerful, which is how I usually like to shoot when working with athletes. She ran and jumped the hurdle about 10-15 times, (she was working!) and I timed it when she was just above with her front leg stretched out. I knew we got the shot after I looked through the images and saw this shot! I showed her the back of the camera and she was so excited. However, she did note that she didn’t like the veins in her legs, but I ensured her I would soften them! (See raw image below.)

In post-production I didn’t have too much to do. I softened her veins of course per her request, and added some contrast, sharpness, and saturation. I then wanted to get a little crazy and added a special effect to make it a little more fun and eye catching.

All in all, I left the track with some awesome running shots like I wanted, and even came away with some unexpected and unplanned shots! I didn’t originally set out to get a jumping shot, but was so grateful that we had access to the hurdles and I was able to capture Deborah in her element. I absolutely love how her muscles and physique look, and the story that the picture tells. It can be used in so many ways! Going in to this shoot I was really looking to try some new things, test lighting with movement and see what I could learn from it; which is always my main focus with projects like these. And hopefully inspire and help other photographers who want to give this a shot too!

Photographer: Audra Oden @audraodenphotography
Athlete: Deborah John @debjohn2
Stylist: Tye West-Potts @therunwayrebel
Assistant: Antoinette Cheek
Location: Greenhill School in Dallas, TX