Behind The Scenes Of Inov-8's Photoshoot

© The Case4 / Alex Telfer
© The Case4 / Alex Telfer
© The Case4 / Alex Telfer
The photoshoot for Inov-8's new advertising campaign was an elusive experience in many ways.

First of all, I had no idea about the exact procedure. When Florian of Inov-8 Germany approached me all he knew was that the shoot would take place at very short notice and that I'd have to come Geneva and Chamonix in the French Alps. As you might gather, I'm always in for an adventure and thought it impossible to discard such an opportunity.

About a week or two prior to the shoot I received a detailed plan/time schedule from Shane of Inov-8 Great Britain explaining further details about the exact agenda:

Meet the photographer Alex, his assistant Ryan, Dan, the main man (below) responsible for the advertising campaign and also location scout and in addition the man responsible for everyone's well-being during the stay in the mountains and in Geneva. There were no stylists or make-up artists involved at all, all I had at hand was a small hairbrush and my basic make-up - mascara, eye-liner and face powder. Items I admittedly can't do without!So back to Day 1 of the shoot where I met the crew by the lake front in Geneva. It was beautiful weather, almost hot, blue skies - simply perfect to say the least. Shane brought along a huge trolley full of clothes and shoes to wear and minutes later, I found myself getting changed in the middle of a small underpass from summerwear into the real stuff – Inov-8 shoes, running shorts and top.

The idea was to run through the underpass out into the light as if the runner finally approaches the light at the end of a tunnel simulating the emotions that arise after hours into a race.

At the beginning, the scene seemed surreal. I wasn't sure whether to look serious or put on a smile but Alex, the photographer, simply said to just run naturally and try and look determined, but not too serious and fierce while focusing on the horizon. His assistant Ryan was processing each picture straight away so I knew how I needed to adjust my facial expressions or hold my arms more upright. We must have shot the same scene fifteen to twenty times in a row.

We shot at five different locations throughout the afternoon, mainly in the old quaint town of Geneva. As the sun was about to set, Alex had me run on a long stair tread right in front of a church that featured huge pillars right in front. People came to watch during this scene and a young boy eventually walked up to me asking for an autograph. Well, I'm not famous by any means but he must have thought the opposite. This was definitely a funny moment to remember.

I had noticed right from the start that the whole team was smitten and determined to get the desired results.

Here's some background information to add before moving on to Day 2 of the shoot: Inov-8's intention for this campaign is to think out of the box and expand further into the European market. The images are supposed to transport that extra punch, vibrance and energy that the runner feels when running off-road. That is the reason why the look and feel must be authentic.

Everything you'll see on the image is real.

The image you see below was taken in the early morning hours up on 3000 metres above altitude whilst I was running over a ridge. There was a sense of stillness and mystic in the air right before the fog made way for the first rays of sunshine.

It is far more easier to place images of a runner taken in a studio and stitch them into photographs of a stunning landscape that was taken independently. But does the running style look natural when you have to pretend? The facial expressions will never look 100% real, the muscle tone is different compared to running freely outside. It will always be visible through the eyes of even non-professionals what's real and what's been faked.

Any runner who will see the pictures later in ads and brochures is likely going to be inspired by the empowering look and feel of the images.

Another intention to choose such specific and extraordinary locations was to make the bond between human being and nature visible. The runner can deal with any terrain whether it be the cobblestones in the streets of the old part of Geneva, the rocky and rugged trails surrounding the Mont Blanc and glacier or having a great day out running on softer trails in the valley.

I have now been living in Switzerland for eight years and in that time moved to Berlin for eighteen months, then returned to Switzerland over three years ago. As far as cities are concerned I like to breathe different air from time to time and Geneva definitely has that French 'laisse-faire' feel to it.

While we were shooting, there were large groups of people walking past and we had to wait for the right moment to sprint through narrow cobblestoned streets past interesting small shops, cafés and restaurants. Dan who had carefully selected the locations guided us through Geneva.

Later that evening, we arrived in Chamonix, checked into a nice chalet and finished the day off with a late meal at an Italian restaurant chatting about life, races, sports and yes, about finding the ideal pair of running shoes.

The weather looked perfect the next day after arising to the beautiful morning sun catching a glimpse of the mountains we were planning to get up to. By 9.30 am we stood up on 9840ft. above sea level as Alex was ready to capture that early morning atmosphere. It was such a contrast up there compared to buzzing around in Geneva the day before and not by any means less exciting. If anything, the tranquility and serenity up on the mountain was amazing. First, I was running over a ridge and soon after that Alex had me run up and down a trail against the Mont-Blanc backdrop.

This was the first time for me to be as high up above sea level and surprisingly I felt out of breath from running backwards and forwards. By mid-day I was fine, maybe somewhat adjusted and enjoying the fresh air while observing the fast-moving cloud against the blue sky and the snow-covered mountains peaks all around.

Shane, who's worked for Inov-8 for a few years still had a double-marathon race – which he came 2nd in - in his legs and we admired him jumping over rocks in such great fashion as he was reminiscing about his foretime as a professional climber. No doubt he felt homely cruising along the Mt. Blanc trails. The interesting part Shane mentioned about his approach to his running training and which also took me by surprise was that he only ever trains by feeling. Every morning he measures his resting heart rate and if it's up by more than 5 beats he either won't train at all or only go out for an easy run.

Whenever Shane prepares for a longer distance race, he'll hardly ever run more than 50 miles per week, on average a lot less than that. His results prove that listening to your body is worth it. Less really is more!
After Alex had taken the last shots we hiked back to the station from which our journey had started that day. It took us best part of thirty minutes to get back up and catch the last train back down into the valley, all in all I felt I'd had a good workout.

But there was more fun 'work' to come. Shane suggested to catch the runner in a more leisurely fashion in an almost relaxing pose. The trails in the local woods around Chamonix were the perfect location for such a shot so I changed into another outfit one last time before heading to a restaurant nearby and catch the early-evening atmosphere. We're sat in front of a wooden hut holding a glass of juice, more precisely a sundowner. Alex had about four minutes to get the perfect shot before the sun would disappear behind the mountain peaks, and got it! After a delicious meal, a well-deserved glass of wine and great insightful chats I fell into bed feeling fulfilled and energised from the intensity and a little exhausted, too, but in a good way. How do these professional models do this on a daily basis for a living?

I woke up the next day feeling as if I'd been on holiday for a week. And there was yet another highlight to come. A train took us up to a station from where it was only a short walk to get near the impressive glacier. The trails were a bit softer, there was also more greenery alongside, basically a complete change of a setting. We stopped at various points en route, unpacking all the stuff, changing outfits, shooting, repeating each scene over and over before packing up again to proceed to the next location.

The weather seemed stable if not sunny, though. What amazed me and this is also what I experienced in the desert during the Marathon des Sables is that everything turned into a routine so quickly. Each of us knew about their tasks and just got on with whatever was necessary. There was a lot of joking around, an interesting teamspirit had certainly developed in those days. Everyone became more open and relaxed sharing some personal stories about life.

The time that morning up on the trails near the glacier went by fast. There were groups of hikers coming past so we had to be patient and wait. People were curious asking who we're taking pictures for. Just before mid-day the last shot was taken on a big rock where I sat equipped with Inov-8's Race Pro 12 sipping water out of the valve enjoying the views. I could make out tiny black spots moving up the glacier. One of those breathtaking moments realising that the human being is only a tiny particle on this planet and powerless against the forces of nature.
After arriving back in the valley it was time to say good-bye. Alex gave me a tight hug mentioning again how easy it was to work with us and how pleased he was with the logistics and the weather, too, which was a blessing. The team then had to head off to the airport to further shoot in Scotland for a day. I hope I can find my way back to Chamonix in soon future much before I plan on putting that crazy dream of mine to race the UTMB next year, into reality. I've got the qualifying points and need to focus on my health for now. Chamonix is only a three-hour drive away!

I can definitely say that this is one of those experiences I will always think back to as one that was extraordinary for the opportunity itself but more so to meet such empowering special people.

Special thanks to Florian from Inov-8 Germany in the first place who got in touch with me straight after he was notified to find an athlete that would fulfil the criteria for the photoshoot. Next, I thank Alex and Ryan for their ease, guidance, patience and calmness, Shane for his valuable input and precision in composing the outfits and making sure all the pockets on the jackets were zipped up during some sequences – attention to detail - , Dan for showing a real interest in my sport asking questions that really made me think and for finding all those amazing locations – each of them was special and unique and finally Hutch for organising the nice big chalet to stay at, a big van to drive us around in and making out the best French patissieres en route so we wouln't need to starve from hunger up on the mountain – the rich biscuits and quiches were delicious!

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