When people ask me how much of my business is made up of architectural photography and things surrounding the real estate market, my typical reply is, “about 85%.” I guess I just really love to take pictures of empty buildings and I found my niche there, but naturally the next question I’m asked is about the other fifteen percent of my business. That other portion isn’t corporate events, senior proms, bar mitzvahs, quinceaneras, sweet sixteens, family reunions, and especially not weddings. The other 15% is mostly made up of outdoor sports coverage, specifically adventure racing. What is adventure racing? That story actually starts with seafood, so buckle up.
Lobsters for Asia-Pacific
In the summer of 2015, I was contacted by an Australian representative of a pan-Asian seafood market website - essentially the Amazon.com of the seafood trade for all of Asia-Pacific. They hired me initially to photograph the facilities of a few of their Maine lobster suppliers, which in and of itself was a pretty cool gig. I got to hang out and watch the whole process at each facility - it was essentially a private tour.
That’s how I met Annie Tselikis, who was working in marketing at a seafood distribution company out of York, Maine at the time. She liked my pictures and ended up introducing me to some other folks in the seafood industry, and that led to a lot of different work for seafood companies. It also led me to meet Cliff White, the editor at SeafoodSource, a trade publication and resource.
While we were all at an event that Annie’s company was hosting, Cliff asked if I would be interested in photographing a “unique” outdoor event that he and his wife Kate were hosting. I consider myself an outdoorsy kind of guy, and I thought it would be a neat opportunity to work on something other than houses once in a while, so I signed up, not totally knowing what I was in for. As it turned out, the sport was adventure racing, and the event was the 2016 Maine Summer Adventure Race. For the uninitiated, adventure racing is kind of like running an IronMan triathlon on a 100 mile Tough Mudder course. It’s a super long, multi-stage race held in just straight wilderness in many places, and if you want to win, it’s non-stop, pedal to the metal for the whole time - 24 hours.
The 2016 Maine Summer Adventure Race was the first race hosted by Cliff and Kate who run Strong Machine Adventure Racing out of Portland, Maine. It was my first outdoor race of any kind, so we were all kind of new to it, but it turned out to be an amazing experience that left me wanting to do more of it. Working with paper maps and limited cell service, I crammed all of my gear into my 2009 Honda Civic and followed the racers through the enormous course. That first race was a bit hectic, but it gave us a lot of ideas for improvement. And apparently I was good enough that they invited me back for the 2017 race.
The next year I photographed the race, I brought even more cameras with the intention of making a short promo video. We ran through a timeline of highlights on the course - where to catch the best photos of racers, access points to some of the more remote areas, etc., and I started to get an idea of what might be possible for a short subject documentary.
Like most of the people who are involved in Adventure Racing as participants, I recall watching an extremely compelling documentary series in the 1990’s on something called the Eco-Challenge. Unlike many of the athletes who saw the films and wanted to get in the race, I saw them and thought, “how do I get behind the camera?” As it turns out, photographing the Maine Summer Adventure Race would be an opportunity to do just that.
After gaining some additional experience working on covering another 12 hour race in Pennsylvania, I returned to the 2018 Maine race with the seed of an idea for a short film. Adventure racing is not a huge deal in America, and without the Eco-Challenge (for now,) there’s not much coverage of it at all. It’s a super demanding endurance sport, and the top athletes are serious competitors. Since my interviews with them in May 2018, I wanted to tell the story of the Maine race through the lens of my experience with the 2017 US National Championship winning team, Rootstock Racing. Rootstock is Brent Freedland and Abby Perkiss who are based near Philadelphia, PA, and they eat sleep and breathe adventure racing. They were also very good sports about me doing this film and hanging around with a camera all the time!
With a lot more planning, and a few more on-course cameras, I rode alongside the 2018 race for all 24 hours, taking stills and video while trying to navigate and cover as much of the course as possible. The result of all that footage is this short film, “The Hardest Day in Maine.” I hope you like it.