Dave Re has a demanding job. He heads the photography team within the media department of one of the fastest growing sports in the history of sports. CrossFit (CF), a topic that I wrote about last month, is a fitness regimen that has gained extreme popularity in just a short time. Although Re never planned going to work every day as head staff photographer for CF Media, he has embraced it with open arms.
I had the chance to attend the California Super Regional CF Competition a few weeks ago in Del Mar, California. After some correspondence with Re, we connected in between heats during the last day of the event and he made it very clear that anything I wanted to know he’d be happy to answer to the best of his ability. And why wouldn’t he, he’s one of our subscribers and was happy to give back. Re has a warm demeanor, prefers the Beatles to the Stones, and shoots incredibly beautiful images. His grandfather showed him how to use a 4x5 film camera. He won a competition, and eventually bought a 35mm and learned the mechanics to photography.
To give you a little back story on how Re ended up working for a such a forward-thinking company, you need to know a few things. CrossFit was started in 2001 in Santa Cruz, California. It has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Early on, the founders decided that it would be a good idea to have a competition. An event where all the CrossFitters around the world could come together and crown fittest person on earth. Fast forward a few years to 2009, the CrossFit games were being held at the now famous Castro Ranch in Aramos, Calif. Re, after being involved in his local CF affiliate in Texas, was asked to join a small media team to cover the event consisting of 4,000 fans and a small number of participants. “The long hours I’d spent at my affiliate learning how to time and shoot all the staple CrossFit movements immediately paid off in that environment, and I quickly became one of the go-to photographers on the team to provide coverage of crucial moments," said Re. “One of my favorite moments was shooting eventual two-time Games winner Annie Thorisdottir achieving her first muscle-up during the last event of the competition.”
CrossFit Media is interesting for many reasons. Most importantly because they are completely self-contained. The business acts as its own media outlet. If you were to go to a professional tennis event, you would see photographers in the pit from many different wire services like Getty, AP, or Reuters. You won’t find any of those shooters at these CF events.
How does one get a job as a CF photographer? Well this falls under the umbrella of Re's job description. Because they are self-contained, they hire from within the community. People that CrossFit and shoot CrossFit photography generally get the gig. Re explains, “Before I’ll consider someone for those events, I need to see in their work that they get the timing of the movements, and that they know how to compose effectively in multiple ways. I also need to see that their images are well exposed and sharp, and don’t need a large amount of post-processing to make them 'cool.' Photographers that we work with on an ongoing basis are folks that can reliably deliver an assignment, and are easy to work with.” Other jobs that lie with Re include editor and archivist.
Because the sport of fitness is fast-paced and involves a lot of complex movements, gear and speed play a crucial part. For gear, Re uses a pair of Canon 1DX bodies. “[It's] such a great camera!” said Re. “I still shoot the same non-IS 70-200/2.8 that I bought in the early 2000s. That lens is a war horse. The other go-to lens is my 24-70mm f/2.8 Mk II. In the past six months, I’ve also shot the 15mm fish, 11-24mm f/4, the 16-35mm f/2.8 Mk II, and the 300mm f/2.8. It just depends on the event and the venue it’s being held in. For the CrossFit Games specifically, I add some longer super telephoto stuff to that mix for the large field events.”
On any given day at a CF event, photographer numbers can range from few to many. This means that getting those images uploaded and onto media outlets tends to move slower than desired. I had noticed that his shooters were using wireless technology. The media team has adopted wireless shooting methods used at the Sochi Olympics and the results have been great.
“Because of the nature of the CrossFit Games, we don’t have the luxury of knowing exactly where on the field we’ll be shooting from like many other sports do. Running Ethernet cables to our photographers becomes very difficult when they’ll also have to manage dragging those cables around over 100 yards of field space with a scrum of other people in the way. So, during our Open and Regional events that comprise the lead up to the CrossFit Games this year, we’ve been running a larger scale test using Canon and Nikon’s Wi-Fi transmitters for the 1DX, 5D MkIII, and Nikon D4(S) cameras,” said Re.
The testing has gone very well, and Re is looking forward to rolling it out across the whole staff at the CrossFit Games this year. With this system in place, they are able to post high-quality imagery to various outlets less than five minutes after it’s been shot with the camera. It’s a powerful tool in their arsenal for reporting on the events as they occur this year.
It’s hard to say where CF will be in five years. Re's images will undoubtedly get better, his team will get sharper, and the content to cover will get more exciting. You can follow the CrossFit photography feed on their website.