Imagine getting to your 40’s before taking part in your first triathlon, winning it and then going on to represent Team GB in the age group triathlon. That’s what happened to Thalia Hessey, who Surrey Life Magazine commissioned me to create an environmental portrait of for their feature on her and her achievements.
I met Thalia and the editor on location at Buckland Park Lake where Thalia arrived with her Team GB kit already on. We were shooting in the middle of the day and the sun was out and high, so not ideal lighting conditions for a portrait. I also had to photograph her by the lake where there was no cover to mask her from the sun, but luckily my Elinchrom Ranger battery powered lights had enough power to open up the shadows and reduce their harshness.
I sent two options for the main portrait to the editor who ran the smiley version (it is a life style magazine after all) but I have used the more serious version here as it feels a bit more sporty to me, and you’ll have to get the magazine to see the smiley version.
Thalia also brought along her triathlon bike so it made sense to take advantage and try and grab some more shots of her with her bike. The straight portrait was easy enough and we managed to get out of the direct sun for that shot which gave me much more control and I was able to darken down the background to keep the focus on Thalia. I did try a version with her visor on but it was a wrap around visor and everything reflected in it, including my feet!
I wanted to get more than just a portrait so asked her if she would ride down the hill and round the curve in the road whilst I tried to capture her at speed – and at speed it was! She adopted the aero position which involves grasping the front handlebars which don’t have any brake levers so she couldn’t slow down and came whizzing by. There was no way I was going to be able to capture her at that speed and whilst we were trying to work out a way to get the shot of her coming down the hill some fishermen arrived and parked their cars right where I needed to be, so that idea was completely scuppered as they “always park here”.
We then decided to do the reverse and photograph her going up the hill – much more my pace! I asked Thalia if she would be okay doing several rides up the hill and she replied: “No problem, I could do this all day!” I managed to get the shot below and even with Thalia going up the hill you can see some motion blur in the wheels.
Satisfied with the shots I set about packing away my gear and got an unexpected visit from some of the local inhabitants! Unfortunately they “ducked” out of helping me pack up!