Over seven days, 1,500 of staff and personal trainers from PureGym took part in an epic journey. A baton relay from Aberdeen to Plymouth taking in all 235+ gyms, around the clock by any means of human power. Celebrating Puregym’s 10th anniversary and raising £320,000 and counting for Mental Health UK on the way. (from @mhealthuk)

So… what was my role in the event… well, I was part of a two photographer team set the challenge to capture the essence and arrival of the PureGym National Relay into its’ final destination of Plymouth.

I was excited! I thrive on the freedom to document real-time action, where moments of emotion and energy are gone in an instant and I have to be ready and in the right place to make the images that share the story. The fact Sir Chris Hoy would be riding into Plymouth as PureGym ambassador was also an exciting prospect for me as a photographer.

This was certainly a two photographer job and working alongside fellow professional Trevor Burrows would give both of us the best shot to capture the events as they unfolded. Two photographers can sometimes be a challenge as styles vary as does the way we work individually.

Connecting beforehand we divided the roles and Trevor was happy to control the bigger group shots and I would shoot a series of portraits of those involved in the action. Around the more staged moments, I shot with a longer lens and Trevor shot wide, immediately we would have a rounded perspective of this event. There would be 3 locations for shooting, PureGym Plymouth, The Mayflower Steps and the final location, Smeatons Tower on the Hoe.

TipTop * If you work as part of a team make sure you work to both your strengths discuss how you shoot and where and what you would like to shoot, then stick to it to complete the brief, Photographers and commercial photography are inherently individual but working together you can cover a lot more angles.

I wanted to capture as many portraits as possible of the people involved in the event, I set up in a parking space behind the massage table and began calling in anyone who was wearing the event t-shirt. These portraits would add something to the day being able to share the individual perspective and stories of those involved.

The crew tracking the riders gave us the nod, and I made my way up the road to get the long shots of the team arriving. Using the Canon 6D and a 70-200mm lens my range was good, I shot the riders all the way past my position,  a quick thumbs up from Sir Chris Hoy and I ran across the road to get the shots as they rounded the corner into the gym. Careful not to get floored as I ran to an fro across the road I found my way through the blue smoke flares to get the welcome celebrations.

TipTop * Expose for the riders/subject, not the scene, a bit of blown out sky doesn’t matter, a face to deep in shadows does. I shot manual ISO800 - 1/800th @ F5.6 overexposing by 1 stop and firing continuous focus multi shots.

Former Royal Marine, Richard Tilley played some fanfares on the trumpet as the team arrived, earlier I had seen him practicing and created some creative shots using the contrasting wall of PureGym Plymouth to frame him.

TipTop * Keep looking for the opportunity to create strong images, events move quickly and adhering to the brief is a priority, but there’s always time to make some images which stir your Photographic creativity and imagination along the way. My grandad was a boy bugler in the Royal Marines so these images were as much a personal project as they were a relevant personal approach to the brief.

Soon after the group shots, speeches and handing over of the humongous cheque was over, it was time for the final 3 mile run and Trevor and I to take off to the next locations, he would head to the Hoe and I would catch the now runners 2 miles away at Plymouth Mayflower Steps. I knew these were covered in scaffolding so my initial concern was where to make the best picture, it soon became apparent and I waited at the far end of Plymouth Barbican to shoot the runners on the cobbled street.

Luckily I was in my trainers as I sprinted back to the car, drove halfway towards the lighthouse, parked up and paid for a ticket all before the runners and riders made it to me. I then jogged ahead making images along the way before switching my perspective as Plymouth Hoe and Smeaton's tower came into view.

TipTop * Perspective is everything, especially documenting an event in such an iconic location as Plymouth Hoe. Move around your subjects, always looking at the background first then into the foreground whilst framing your images.

The final stretch saw the runners and riders up on Plymouth Hoe making their way through the PureGym arch with Smeaton’s Tower Lighthouse in the background, whilst Trevor climbed his ladder to make the group shots, I got low and long framing up the lighthouse in the background the best I could. Closing in on celebrations and solid handshakes as Sir Chris Hoy and PureGym CEO Humphrey Cobbold celebrated an almighty team achievement.

I wasn’t content yet and asked Sir Chris Hoy if he would make his way towards the lighthouse then cycle his way towards the camera. For me, the shot as he walks away from the camera and towards the lighthouse creates not only a very iconic location image but also a contrast in scale between Sir Chris Hoy and the lighthouse representing the mammoth effort of the team over the previous 7 days. The image also depicts the silence of the lone rider which connects the mental health awareness theme of the whole PureGym National Relay raising money for Mental Health Uk and the event hash-tag - #SHARETHEWEIGHT.

TipTop * If you have a great idea for an image or creative vision then stand up, get whoever, however, wherever you need them so you can execute your vision. These will be your best images.

It was coming up to 12.45pm, this meant I had just 1hr 15 minutes to get home and my first 20 images processed and into a drop box shared with the marketing agency for the event. My car was 5 minutes run, the drive home would take me 10 minutes, uploading would take 15 selecting and processing the first images would take 30 this left me with around 15 minutes to organise and execute my final creative image for the day.

The light was perfect and I wasn't leaving without this one, I gave the nod to one of the PureGym team and off I shot up to the top of the lighthouse. Waiting with my fingers crossed I saw Pure Gym CEO Humphrey Cobbold call his tired team together for one last image, I knew I would have it now and I Holla'd down to the group gathering on the grass to just fall down in a heap...Sir Chris Hoy rolled down on his bike and completed the image. A creative team image shot wide and tight to maximise my framing options, making sure to position Sir Chris Hoy and Humphrey Cobbold strongly in the frame.

I made it down from the lighthouse and ran to the car, the first images were uploaded by 2 pm as promised. I’d been working on the project for only 4 hours and I was feeling it, some of this team have been on the road for 7 days. Such an amazing feat for everyone concerned and the wider audiences of Mental Health UK [@mhealthuk) and of course PureGym. For me personally, the project was about bringing all of my skills together not just photographically but also creatively, logistically and as always leading the way as a human. #thinkpeoplethinkstory

Enjoy more images from the Pure Gym National Relay as they roll through the screen, use the links below to find out more from both PureGym and Mental Health UK and hit up the donate buttons to drop a little love their way.

As usual, any questions drop them in the comments below, hit the social sharing or the new Pinterest Pin on any of the images is appreciated.

Have Fun,



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