By Doug Gritzmacher
Still + Motion Photographer
In the spring of last year my friend Carey emailed me from her home in Maryland. “Denise and I signed up for a half marathon in Joshua Tree in November,” she wrote. “Do you want to come?”
My response: “Do they have an eighth?”
I was not adverse to running. I’d run track and cross country in high school, but the max distance for any one of those races was 3.1 miles. In my adulthood, I prefer to run when it is chasing things, like soccer balls. Otherwise …
But I hadn’t seen Carey and Denise for several years. They are old friends from when I used to live in Washington, DC. I met Carey in grad school and Denise when I worked at National Geographic. They happened to meet independent of me and we eventually found out we all knew each other. The three of us shared a love of the outdoors and camping. Eventually, we started doing backpacking trips together, first to the Dolly Sods in West Virginia and then to the Grand Canyon. Since I moved to Denver we hadn’t had a chance to meet for anything. We were overdue.
The race itself also intrigued me. Not for running, of course, but because it would be at night. There is a National Park marathon series and the one that takes place at Joshua Tree is the only one at night. I love photographing sporting events so there was that, but more importantly I anticipated that there might be some really interesting lighting. I love playing in the shadows and working with found artificial light.
So I told Carey to count me in. In late October I drove out from Denver to meet them at Joshua Tree. As they ran, I covered the event like I might an editorial assignment, capturing the prep, start, run, and aftermath. In addition to interesting light, the event offered an environment of chaos, which I embrace. With so much going on it can be a challenge to find things to focus on, but I relish being able to still find good design in crowded environments.
Below are some of the images I came away with. The beauty of photographing an event like this is everyone thinks you are just a staff photographer so I could go pretty much anywhere I wanted, including in the middle of the runner pack as they walked out to the starting line. I love positioning myself in the middle of the action to get shots that make my viewers feel like they are there in the moment.
The final image is of Carey and Denise on our last night at Jumbo Rocks campground in Joshua Tree. Can’t wait for our next adventure!