Right about now, all over the world, there are young men and women training hard. Running miles and miles around in a loop, to gain a second, half a second, or even a tenth of a second - to be the fastest. I have had the pleasure of photographing one such individual over a few years as he has sweat, pushed and worked hard to inch closer to this goal.
Athlete Leon Reid has returned from Australia after a dramatic 200 metre final in which he won a commonwealth bronze medal. Feeling confident and, best of all, fast, he is already preparing for the next challenge. It is this repetition of seasons that all sportspeople deal with. A contest battle with opposition, time, and themselves.
The series of portrait photographs I captured with Leon were commissioned to use in his own promotion and to spark interest in his ongoing development to run for his country, a story that has been all-consuming in his career. I photographed him at his training ground at Bath University, where he and a team of other fellow athletes and coaches work.
The pressure of the sport of sprinting does not show when meeting Leon, he is a very calm and fun individual. Always looking for a laugh and dancing around to his music in the small breaks he gets between heart-pounding interval training. Many people don’t get to see the day-to-day life of an athlete or sportsperson, only those somewhat fleeting moments of televised activity. For sprinters, this could be mere seconds - in Leon’s case running the 200 metres, just twenty seconds.
I loved the time spent shooting with him, the only issue is missing The Moment. The speed at which Leon runs is something that I have to use every technological weapon in my camera arsenal to keep up with. We have shot both filmed and still images with Leon, and have found that capturing his starts is the real challenge, as he bolts to breakneck speeds in a fraction of a second. Sprinters can have faster acceleration than any car or motorbike, which means photographic timing is everything!
Capturing fast movement requires a fast shutter speed. The shutter speed is the time the film or digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to light, so the faster it is the less time there is for something to move within your frame, but the less light enters. For the movement in the starting blocks image I used a shutter speed of 1/640 to make sure there was no motion blur and I captured the force and tension put into the start effort, even though it was only a fraction of a second.
In this portrait series I set a goal to capture a moment of calm realism within both the intense pace of training and life of a professional athlete. I am forever inspired by the individuals who dedicate themselves to any goal - to be the fastest, to push the boundaries, beat the competition. It is hard to gauge their focus until you see it for yourself.
For more images in this series please visit www.heffersphotography.com or find us on social media @heffersphoto .