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Former runner turns experience into new hobby


Published on June 18, 2017

Bob MacEachern of Westville had developed a knack for photographing races.

©Rosalie MacEachern photo

It’s been years since Westville’s Bob MacEachern has run a race, but he can always be found at the finish line.

Whether it’s the Joe Earle road races, a Y fun run, the Miss Miles Run or this past weekend’s Johnny Miles Marathon, MacEachern is there snapping photo after photo, capturing split seconds of sports and recreation social history.

A marathon is a six-hour day of shooting for him and he estimates, based on past practices, he takes 10,000 photos by day’s end.

“The camera starts to get a little heavy, but it is my hobby and I love doing it,” he said.

By the time he stops snapping, he considers his job half done. After that he spends hours and hours going through his photos and frequently using a computer program to adjust exposures and crop and size his photos. Once that’s done, he posts them to event sites or his own Facebook page, encouraging people to share them.

“People are welcome to them. I always hope they get to the people in the photos. I know folks want to see them soon after the event, so I try to get them out in as timely a fashion as I can.”

Fortunately, he pointed out, his wife Barb, a nurse, accepts that photography is time consuming.

“Pictou County has a tremendous running community, a really inclusive community and photographing events is a way for me to stay in touch with the community, now that I don’t run any more.”

He suspects the fact that he already knows many runners has helped his photography.

“I know the difference in intensity between various races, so I know when it is appropriate to try to get someone to look my way. I can call to them, engage them for a second to get a better shot.”

Even those he doesn’t know personally are used to seeing him along the course and at the finish line.

“I try to be respectful of the organizers and they and the crowd are usually very good about giving me space to grab my shots.”

MacEachern got serious about photography about 10 years ago.

“My sister, Sue Siri, is a professional photographer in Halifax and I started with some of her hand-me-down gear. It was all totally manual and it was slow learning. When digital became available, the learning really sped up and my interest increased. With digital you see your mistakes right away and correct the next shot.”

He started with a digital point and shoot, but quickly moved up to a DSLR model.

“I wanted to be able to do more, to experiment a little and it has become much more satisfying.”

MacEachern, who grew up in a family of eight boys and three girls, credits his photographer sister and on-line tutorials with his own development.

“Sue has been my mentor, my go-to person when I have a question or a challenge, but I’m amazed at what has become available on the Internet through the years. If you can take the time to learn, there is lots of information available.”

He is also a member of SNAPS, a local photography group where all skill levels are welcome.

One of his favourite photographs came at the finish line of the 2015 Johnny Miles marathon when the two fastest runners ended in a dramatic tie.

“It was such an exciting finish and to catch that in a really good shot was definitely a highlight for me. Someday I’m going to get those two runners to autograph that shot for me.”

Recently, he got some lively group and individual shots at the Miss Miles Run.

“There are serious runners and people just out for the day, but there is great spirit, and that is always what I want to show in my photos.”

One of the best things about photographing running is that the action is always coming toward the photographer, he pointed out.

“I just did my first rugby game, a match between NNEC and NRHS, and I was running end to end. To me a rugby shot has to have the ball in it so, as a photographer, you are always chasing the ball.”

Insufficient lighting is always an issue in hockey rinks and basketball courts, he noted.  

“To photograph a runner on a sunny day and have his or her shadow beside him, that’s a photo I love to get. I like feet in the air, a shot that illustrates the sport.”

MacEachern thinks of his photography as a contribution to his community.

“If I can catch that important moment for people, at least on a semi-regular basis, I’m happy.”

While sports has become a bit of a specialty, he is happy to branch out, as he did recently for a Pictou County Pop Classics concert.

“Totally different kind of event, but I use the same principles. I try to get everyone but if I only get a bad shot, I’m not going to post it.”

 

Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer who seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love. To make a suggestion for an upcoming article, contact r.maceachern@ns.sympatico.ca.