Interview with James Carnegie | Photographer and Ultra Runner Extraordinaire

Interview with James Carnegie | Photographer and Ultra Runner Extraordinaire
I’d like to introduce you to the brilliant James Carnegie, Photographer and Ultra Runner. Hailing from the island of Jersey, he has a passion for the outdoors and is always open to adventure. He has almost two decades of experience behind the lens and I’ve been fortunate to work with him a couple of times this year. A veteran of the extreme Marathon Des Sables and photographer of high esteem, James has the legs to go places and artistic eye to capture moments many can only dream of. I first met him on assignment in the heart of London, but it is James’s work in the mountains and forests of the world that got my imagination reeling. Here is my recent interview with this
About You
Q –What came first, running or photography?
A –Definitely photography! I only picked up running in my late twenties, jumping straight into long distance. Photography since 2000: 18 years now!


Q – How did you first get into photography?
A – I studied for a diploma in professional photography at a college in Pretoria, South Africa. It was cheaper and hotter than the UK and I’d just become redundant selling Christmas trees.
Q – What camera(s) are you currently shooting with?
A – Predominantly Nikon but also Sony. I rent the right camera for each job often.
Q – What’s the secret to capturing fast moving athletes and getting that sense of motion/action all at the same time?
A – Tough one. There’s a number of techniques but I find moving with the athletes where possible and getting right in the scene is the best way to capture the essence of it.
Q – You must have to travel light on the run. What are your absolute photography essentials when shooting on the run?
A – Minimum, one camera body and one lens. Ideal scenario, one body with a wider lens and another with a zoom/telephoto.
Q – What’s the most memorable work assignment you’ve had?
A – Each year seems to bring a new high to be honest! In terms of emotion and memories, chasing James Poole the length of Mallorca for 30 hrs straight in 2017 is up there. I was spent but the pictures reflect how much we put into that assignment. In terms of ‘luxury wow’, last November we spent a week in the cayman islands with an Olympic athlete seeking out adventure each day. Stood in the Caribbean Sea on a Monday morning shooting didn’t feel like work…
Q – Where is your ultimate place/race that you would like to photograph?
A – I’m dying to visit the far east: Tokyo is high up there but I’ve just been commissioned to shoot in the Gobi Desert for Red Bull this autumn so that will suffice (for now)!
Q – Is there an athlete, past or present (or both) that you’d love to capture?
A – Kilian Jornet – he’s the Messi of the running world.
Q – What are your top tips for budding sports photographers?
A – Just shoot and keep on shooting. Not every shot has to be killer but every time you go out with the purpose of making images you develop as a photographer, but it takes time (and I mean years). There aren’t any shortcuts in this industry, despite the growth of instagram sensations etc.

Photo Credit: James Carnegie 2018

Q – Whats your earliest running memory?
A – Hating running around the streets of London, feeling like I was going to die. I never enjoyed road running so when I discovered trails I found my happy place.
Q – Music or no music when running?
A – Bit of both, some runs you need it, others you just want to hear every squelch, crunch and foot strike. The seasons in the UK make running an ever changing experience and it’s a shame to miss it.
Q –Poles or no poles when running in the mountains?
A – I go for poles: I don’t have mountains to train amongst so need all the help I can get!
Q – Do you most like to run in a group or solo?
A – I spend 90% of my time running solo just because that’s my easiest option, but when the chance arises to run with a friend I grab it because it’s a totally different experience.
Q – Why ultra running?
A – I’m not sure: I suppose I’m built for longer distance over short. Although I’d never done a marathon, when a friend suggested (after several beers) we run London to Brighton it just seemed like an attractive proposition and after that, I was hooked. The hours spent with only your thoughts, the only competition being yourself and how far you can go.
Q – Do you have a favourite trail shoe, old or new?
A – The inov8 system has never let me down. I’ve run deserts, mountains, muddy trails and they’ve clung to every surface. Never had a blister in them either. I have several pairs to suit different conditions.
Q – You recently ran the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc (UTMB) 90km trail race. Following your exploits on social media was very exciting, inspiring and a bit mental. What three words best sum up your experience?
A – Enthralling. Brutal. Humbling.
Q – How do you prepare for something like UTMB whilst working, shooting amazing photos all over the place and raising a family?
A – You just have to put the miles in, simple as. Whenever, wherever. I only recently had a training plan for my last race and having that motivation to meet weekly targets was such a bonus, albeit hard work. A very understanding wife helps.
Q – Where is your ultimate place/race that you have yet to run?
A – Gosh. There’s so much still to see and run. China and Russia’s sheer scale means some of the best trail running is surely yet to be discovered: in fact I came up with a series recently called ‘The Perfect Trail’ where I travel around the world (like surfers do) in search of the ultimate trail experience!
Q – Do you have a favourite place to run in the British Isles?
A – I love the lake district but it’s seldom kind to me with the weather. My home of Jersey has a 10 mile stretch along the North Coast, undulating cliff paths with stunning ocean scenery, puffin colonies and woodland and I yearn to be back there.

Photo Credit:


Q – Do you have any advice for someone who can spend a few hours running in the mountains who wants to take on a trail marathon / ultra marathon?
A –Work on your stamina: mountains are unforgiving in their brutal terrain. The one thing you know is that every descent will be followed by another ascent. Ultimately, enjoy the experience because it’s a real privilege to be amongst such grandeur.
Q – If, heaven forbid, your run didn’t record, ie. you couldn’t put it on Strava, would you
a) Shrug and say, “Oh well.”
b) Be upset you can’t pour over your data for the next hour.
c) Cry like a baby, if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen!
A – Ha! a). You don’t have to record/share everything and that goes for pictures as well. sometimes you need to just run for the sake of it.
Q – If you were only allowed three pieces of running kit, what would you pic? (I’m talking birthday suit plus three items).
A – Salomon race vest, my inov8 roclites and a cap: I feel naked running without one!
Q – What’s next for you in Photography and Running?
A – I want to explore running photography from a deeper perspective. From the viewpoint of children who run completely free and un-hindered, to the benefits it brings to individuals and communities. In terms of my running, I want to carry on doing this for as long as my body says I can! I’m drawn back to the mountains (specifically Alps) time and time again despite the battering I take every time I race so no doubt there’ll be another mountain ultra to sign up for next season.

Thank you James, it has been a lot of fun interviewing you and getting the inside scoop. We check out more of James’s work on Instagram @jamescarnegiephotography and a future project about The Perfect Trail which I am incredibly excited to see.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog interview as much I enjoyed it. Keep your eyes peeled for fresh blog posts coming soon and be sure to click onto my Instagram @elevatesport. In the mean time, catch up on the best of the blog including my Top Recovery Tips and Downhill Running Techniques. See you there.

Photo Credit: James Carnegie 2018

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