The Hero Challenge

Have you ever felt compelled to run through mud and climb through obstacles for 3 miles? Various types of mud obstacle course races have become more popular in Ohio, including the Hero Challenge at Snow Trails in Mansfield. If running this race you should expect: tire climbs, pools of mud, and loads of fun with friends. It also helps that at the finish line, there’s a burger and beer waiting for you.

Michael and I had the opportunity to be event photographers during the Hero Challenge, and I’ve got to say, it may have been the most interesting event I’ve shot. Although it was an early wake up call, I was glad we were able to take part in this event.  We also had a few employees of Midwest including our President, Moishe Appelbaum, running the race.


My station was at the top of the hill, which included two mud pits, a climbing wall, and a tarp with mud that participants had to crawl under. With the help of another photographer, I was able to climb the wall to the top with my Nikon D610 and Tamron 70-200mm.  My thought was to get the runners as they trudged through the mud and an above shot as they climbed the wall and capture their faces as they reached the top of the wall.  Thankfully, I had a rainsleeve to keep the mud away from the camera as the muddy participants climbed up, often splattering me.  It was challenging carrying around the 70-200mm lens running in between the obstacles in my section but without it, I wouldn’t have been able to get most of the shots I did.  I wanted to get as many participants running through as possible.

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It was interesting to see the look of excitement and determination on the participants’ faces. Some were there to compete while the others were just having a good time with a group of friends.  I was focused on capturing their reactions as well as motion, especially the mud as participants ran through.  I had to compensate with a higher ISO as the trees cut out a lot of the natural sunlight.  I was not expecting to have as much fun as I did interacting with the participants as they ran by.  Because of these interactions, I was able to get some great shots of them.

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While a fun and enjoyable race for participants, it was also demanding. While sitting at the top of the climbing wall, the other volunteers and I helped encourage a lady with a fear of heights to climb the wall. It was awesome to be able to encourage her and other participants while photographing the event.  I found that my position at the top of the wall was perfect to capture faces and reactions.  Had I been on the ground, I wouldn’t have gotten these shots.

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My other favorite spot to shoot was at the end of the tarp mud pit.  This was a perfect position for me as participants, soaked in mud, crawled out from underneath the tarp.  It was difficult getting the correct exposure on aperture priority because of the light on top of the tarp and darkness of the pit they were crawling out of so I switched to manual mode for this section.

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Having never shot with the Nikon D610 before this event, I was pleasantly surprised.  Not only was I able to get some great quality shots on this full-frame camera, but also its durability was perfect for the muddy conditions.  I highly recommend this camera if you’re looking to upgrade to a full-frame system and take some great professional pictures this summer!


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