I have been lucky, I have had a great relationship with the folks at Triathlon Plus magazine in the UK since its inception in May 2009. I am privileged to have seven of their covers.
The pro field at the 2011 Ironman Arizona (IMAZ) was just too good to pass up. Six weeks after Kona, IMAZ is becoming the last race of the year for pros to validate their next year’s slot at Kona. It is also become a race of redemption for those athletes who have not done well or finished at the World Championship.
I emailed a copy of the pro start list to Editors at Triathlon Plus and they said they wanted a swim exit shot of Eneko Llanos! Eneko, in addition to being a great guy has had some great performances; unfortunately the 2011 Kona World Championship was not one of them. Eneko had pulled out on the bike course at Kona, but came back two weeks later for a podium at the Xterra World Championship in Maui.
I was thrilled with the opportunity to shoot the cover, however the reality of the course set in quickly. Since the swim is in Tempe Town Lake and the athletes must exit the lake using a set of aluminum stairs, make a sharp turn and then a long run into transition, the chances of even getting into position for the shot I wanted were remote and the morning light was going to be iffy at best.
The solution is simple, do the shot in advance. Through a series of email, Eneko and I planned the shoot for Friday morning. The catch is that Eneko while willing, certainly doesn’t want to impact his race prep! I promised him, I would make it convenient, easy and we would be done in 20 minutes.
Once again, this sounds easier that it sounds. The swim exit area of the race wasn’t suitable, so I went looking for pools in the area. The Arizona State University pool is a great facility, but the morning light, which was critical for our planned Friday morning shoot, was poor. As unlikely as it seemed, I was able to get early access to the pool at the Mission Palms Hotel, which was hosting the race. The background was not perfect, but my guess was that the morning light would be good.
We had planned to meet at 9:00 on Friday right after Eneko had a breakfast reception to attend. On the way to the pool, I stopped by the reception to do a final check in with Eneko and then I headed to the pool. I cleared pool furniture out of the way, set up an off-camera fill flash and was even able find someone up by the pool so I can do a couple test shots, so I could identify my ‘sweet spot’ for the shot.
When Eneko arrived just after 9:00, he put on his race kit and wetsuit, we chatted for a minute and then he would jump in the water, get out and run directly toward me for about 5 yards and I would get off a few shots. After repeating this a few times, I downloaded the low res images to my iPad to check what we had (I never just trust the back of the camera). We made a few adjustments and did three more series of shots.
Here is what we ended up with! A nice clean shot with the magic of great Photoshop /graphic arts, we have a cover!
Here are a few more shots of Eneko you might enjoy!