Capturing the Moment: An Interview with a Race-Day Photographer
April 26, 2021

Smile, you’re on race-day camera! In this episode, host Andrew Harley and coach John Mayfield are joined by sports photographer, Scott Flathouse. Scott shares his journey from an active competitor to getting behind the lens on course. Listen in as Scott, who has shot hundreds of race events from destination IRONMAN’s to neighborhood 5k’s, describes race day from the perspective of a photographer. Hear his tips for taking your best action shots on a day when there are no re-takes!


Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together.

Andrew Harley:  Thanks so much for joining us today!  Hey, would love it if you would take a quick second and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and leave us a rating and a review.  That just helps our show find its way to the ears of new athletes.  Fun show today, I’m excited to have a super, super talented artist with us to talk about Race Day Photography.  

Scott Flathouse is the founder and principal shooter/editor of Scott Flathouse Photography.  He has been shooting race events since 2011, initially working for race media companies like MarathonPhoto and FinisherPix before launching his own brand.  He has had the pleasure to shoot for the name brand industry tri leaders like Quintana Roo, On Running, Rudy Project, and more.  And over the years he has become a local legend in the triathlon media scene so we are thrilled to talk with him today.

Scott, welcome to the show!

Scott Flathouse:  Well thanks very much for having me.  You’re much too kind with your words, but I appreciate it and I’m absolutely thrilled to be here.  

Andrew:  Also joining us today is Coach John Mayfield.  John is a USAT Level II and Ironman U certified Coach who leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs.  He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from 1st timers to Kona Qualifiers and professional triathletes.  John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012.

John thanks for joining us.

John Mayfield:  Yeah, so this is exciting.  I think this is the first time that we’ve ever had a guest whose name is actually like a verb.  People talk about getting “Flathoused” and they get out on the racecourse, everybody wants to get “Flathoused.”  It’s a first.  So we’ve got a big time celebrity here.  

Andrew:  Are you aware of this Scott?  Scott is from Texas like John and I are from Texas, and he’s really a local legend in terms of like--every athlete here if you’re running running events, if you’re a triathlete, everybody knows if you get a Scott Flathouse photo of yourself…

John: “Flathoused.”

Andrew:  If you get “Flathoused” it’s a big deal.  The quality of his work is too that that we all follow Scott on Instagram.  We all follow Scott on social media.  And if he captures you on course and posts it to his account, like people flip out over it!

John:  You’re going to have a new profile picture on your page.  

Andrew:  Exactly!  Yep, that’s exactly right!

Well, I'm Andrew the Average Triathlete, Voice of the People and Captain of the Middle of the Pack. As always we'll roll through our warm up question, settle in for our main set topic of race photography, and then wind things down with our cool down. Lots of good stuff, let's get to it!

Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.

Andrew:  Scott, John…all three of us have done several triathlons and running events in our athletic journeys and with those events comes the post-race event pictures that were captured by the on-course photographers.  So for our warm up question today...From your race career, what race day photo of yourself is your all time favorite?  Scott, it’s your first time on the show so we’ll start with you.  

Scott: Okay, great thanks!  I sent you a copy of the photo that’s my favorite.

Andrew:  Yes you did.  

Scott: It was back when I was doing triathlons.  I can’t remember if that was my first or second triathlon that I ever did, but it’s from the Tri to Make a Difference sprint triathlon that they hold every year in Amarillo, Lake Tanglewood, just outside of Amarillo.  I think we’ll get into a little bit about some of my background and how I got into triathlon, but that was one of the first triathlons--that was the first triathlon I ever did up in Lake Tanglewood there.  I was a lot more fit then than I am now, but I also elected to do the bike segment without a shirt.  So just tri shorts and…

Andrew:  Yeah, that’s the first thing I noticed.  

Scott:  My wife Kara was fortunate enough to be there just outside of transition and I was up off the seat and getting going.  So that’s my favorite picture.  I look at that and think, “Wow!”  You know, I was pretty fit at the time.  

Andrew:  Very cool!  Coach John Mayfield, what is your favorite race day photograph of yourself?

John:  So actually what comes to mind are two misses that could have been great photos.  One was two years ago in Ironman Louisville.  I was very excited to learn that Scott Flathouse was going to be in Louisville and I was going to get “Flathoused!”

Andrew:  So you were hoping to get “Flathoused.”  

John:  I did not get “Flathoused” somehow!  I even saw him on the course.  There he was, I’m sure I looked awesome.  You know, it was pretty early in the race, I zipped up, I went aero, and was looking all good and then somehow I got missed.  Then tragically, a couple months ago when you and I had the pleasure of crossing the finish line together, I was so looking forward to seeing this great moment captured where Andrew and I crossed the finish line at Challenge Daytona together.  They had two photographers.  Neither one of them thought, “Hey these guys are wearing the same kit crossing the finish line at the same time.”  

Andrew:  They clearly know each other!

John:  Right!  And we got individual photos.  I think there’s like a hand and a foot or something like that.  

Andrew:  And it wasn’t even framed where I could PhotoShop it together and make it look like it was remotely taken.  It was just both of us in totally different places.

John:  We were holding hands down the finish chute and no one’s ever going to see that.

Andrew:  Yep, it’s true.  It was precious.  

John:  But I have a great one from years ago.  It was a really bad race.  It was the middle of summer, extremely hot, totally blown up, totally toast, turned into a nice long walk, and I was with a buddy of mine.  Same thing.  It was just an awful day.  It’s almost like this paparazzi style photo where I was putting my hands up and it was in gest, but you know like, “Don’t take my picture.” because here we are walking and dying and looking horrible.  But that turned out to be a great photo.  So not the celebratory hands in the air crossing the finish line.  This was much more of a “Don’t take my picture right now,” but now it’s a fun one.  

Andrew:  Yep!  I get it.  The one I’ll give a shoutout to...it’s called the Texasman Tri.  My dad from Florida was in town and my dad and I went out and he got a real kick being a Florida guy doing the Texasman Triathlon.  The race day photographer that day just got a dope shot of me coming out of the lake in my wetsuit--like I’d just taken the goggles off, but my swim cap was still on, the wetsuit was still on, I’m like in mid stride looking super athletic like running out of the water.  It was just a great profile shot.  It was a tight shot, perfectly in focus.  The sun was...It was just beautifully framed!  Usually if there’s a photo of yourself coming out of the swim you look like a soggy, drunken toddler.  You’re awkwardly stumbling out of the lake like you don’t really know where you’re at because you’ve just been swimming for 30 minutes and so just to have a good wetsuit shot post swim where you looked athletic and coordinated...That’s such a rarity.  It’s my Strava profile picture to this day over all of my Ironman race pictures.  John’s pulling up his phone looking at it right now.  

Guys, we’re going to throw this question out on social media.  Make sure you are a part of the I Am TriDot Facebook Group.  We put these questions out every single Monday to the group because we want to hear from you and see what you have to say.  And in this case, I would love to see you post to the group your favorite race day photograph of yourself.  Let’s see what you’ve got.

Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…

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Andrew:   So Scott, oddly enough it might seem counterintuitive, but oddly enough you were in a hospital bed when you decided to try your first triathlon.  

Scott:  I was.  

Andrew:   Take us back to that moment and just share how it led to your first sprint tri.  

Scott:  Okay.  Well, let me backup a little bit and just…

Andrew:  Please do, yes.  

Scott:  I think I was kind of in my late 30s.  I had been out of school and been working so my fitness level had lapsed.  

Andrew:  It happens to most of us, yep.

Scott: At a certain point I decided that I needed to lose some weight and get in shape and start living healthier, so I did.  I was a runner in high school so I kind of knew how to run.  I loved biking in high school.  I still had my old steel Gitane bike.

Andrew:  Nice!

Scott:  Yeah!  It was great from high school.  So I started riding that some more.  Over the course of several months I had lost 30 or 40 pounds or so.

Andrew:  That's great!

Scott:  I had achieved a certain level of fitness I was happy with and was really just doing it all on my own.  I was eating right.  

Andrew: Because that’s most of it unfortunately!

Scott:  That is most of it!  At one point--and again we were living in Amarillo, Texas at the time--at one point I was out in the yard running around with my dogs and I felt a catch in my knee.  I didn’t really think too much of it at the time, but the next morning when I jumped out of bed and that leg hit the ground then I was like, “Ooh, this doesn’t feel right.”  

Andrew: “That’s not right.”  Yeah.  

Scott:  So long story short.  I went to the orthopedic surgeon.  He said I had torn my meniscus and I needed to…

Andrew:  Playing in the yard with a dog.

Scott:  Playing in the yard with the dogs...turned my knee or did something.  So I needed surgery to fix it.  It was outpatient surgery.  I get in there in the morning.  There was this common room where they line up all the anesthesia patients for the day.  I was laying there on the gurney and they were doing all their pre-work and everything, and there was a lady lying next to me and a bunch of other people in the room.  The doctor and the nurses would come in and ask for my name and date of birth as they do to make sure I’m the right person.  The lady in the gurney next to me overheard me and she said, “Are you Emma’s dad?”  Emma is my daughter and she was in grade school at the time.  And I was like, “Yes, I am.”  So Flathouse is a somewhat uncommon name.  She explained that her daughter was in the same class as my daughter, Emma, in school and I guess her daughter had talked about her friend and so anyway, that’s where she recognized the name.  From there we started talking about, well you know just small talk...what are you doing?

Andrew:  “What are you in for?”

Scott:  What are you in for?!  And it turned out that she had hurt her back or aggravated a back injury doing this triathlon and I was intrigued.  I was like, “What’s a triathlon?”  So she told me.  She said, “Well there’s this event that they hold where you swim in the lake and then you bike and then you run.”  And that intrigued me.  I guess I was vaguely aware of the Ironman Triathlon that they do in Hawaii every year.  

Andrew:  Yeah, we’ve heard of it.  

Scott:  I kind of remember seeing the Wide World of Sports version of it and stuff.  But, it didn’t really register.  But this sounded like a lot of fun.  I was like, well I know how to bike and I can run.  

Andrew:  Even though you were hearing it from a woman in the hospital because of triathlon.

Scott:  Right.  

Andrew:  It still sounded fun.  

Scott:  It still sounded fun, right.  I had the surgery.  It went really well.  I talked to the orthopedic surgeon afterwards and I was telling him, “What can I do for recovery?”  I was really kind of devastated because I knew that it was going to take several weeks to recover...and he said, “Well, you know obviously you aren’t going to be running.”  I said, “What about biking?”  He says, “Oh yeah, biking’s great for it.”  And I asked him, “What about swimming?” and he says “Oh, swimming’s the best!”  

Andrew:  You don’t say?

Scott:  I was like, “Huh, okay.”  So I was determined.  I said to myself; I thought “I’m going to look up this event and I’m going to enter it for next year and this will be my goal for recovery.”

Andrew: My comeback.

Scott:  I recovered from the knee injury.  I sort of learned how to swim.  At least I learned how not to drown.

Andrew: That’s important.

Scott:  So I entered it and just had an absolute blast.  It was so much fun, except for the swim part.  The 400 yard swim ended up being more like 600 for me because I couldn’t sight.  

Andrew:  Zig-zagging across the lake.  

Scott:  Yeah.  I did it again the following year and then there was a few other triathlon events in Amarillo that I entered and participated in.  Around 2011 was when I transferred for work to Houston.  I continued doing some triathlons.  I did a triathlon in Austin and I was working my way up.  I did the Woodlands Half Marathon and I was thinking, “Okay I’ll go for the Chevron Houston Marathon and just kind of keep pushing.”  But then that’s when I developed a  really bad case of plantar fasciitis.  I tried everything.  I went to an excellent podiatrist here in Houston and did all kinds of stuff.  It was frustrating, but also about that time I had started following my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law around as they did some triathlons.  They were really into it and so while I was there of course I was taking pictures of them.  

Andrew:  Yeah.  So this was before you were full-fledged into photography?  

Scott:  Right.  So kind of a parallel story...my photography background.  I was into photography in the film days and I had developed an interest and had a bunch of film equipment.  I kind of got out of it because the digital photography  was emerging so fast that it really surpassed the film and all of the sudden all my film stuff was obsolete.  

Andrew:  Now it’s vintage!  Cool!

Scott:  Now it’s vintage, right?  Well...unfortunately I sold a bunch of it.  I had a Hasselblad Camera setup and stuff.  I had all my own dark room stuff.  I would do some black and white printing and stuff.

Andrew:  Cool!

Scott:  Yeah, that was really kind of cool, but...That took up a lot of time and expense and I had kids so I kind of put that aside.  I wanted to see where the digital photography stuff was going.  It was still pretty new back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  When I started following my sister-in-law and brother-in-law around 2011 or so, that’s when I really started picking up the digital photography again.  So I invested in a descent camera and still had some of my lenses from the film days so I could still use those.  

Andrew:  Okay, yeah.  So you would just take pictures of them on course while they were racing?

Scott: Yeah!  Then as I got more and more immersed into the triathlon and endurance sport community in the Houston area then got to know more people, got to take pictures of more people.  Then I started looking around at these events and seeing the race photographers and I realized, “Well you know what, I could do that.  I’m out here anyway.”  

Andrew:  Yeah!

Scott:  So I started contacting some of the companies and saying, “Hey, you know, I’m a photographer.  I’m interested.”  And so I started getting hired and I started working some of these events.  It was really kind of cool because it was a way that I could get up early on a Saturday morning, go out to an event, and be home by mid morning or by noon or so.

Andrew:  And see John, he would get to be a part of it without putting himself through all the torture like we do of running the dang thing!  He’s a smart guy right here.  

John:  So before we go on, I’ve got to ask.  Obviously an adrenaline junky...Have you taken up any other hobbies after meeting someone in the hospital.  “So what are you in for?  Yeah, I’m going to try that!”  Was that a one off thing, or any other hobbies that you’ve taken up.  

Scott:  That was kind of a one off thing.  

John:  Skydiving, rock climbing, you haven’t done any….

Scott:  I used to do some of that stuff.  I’ve skydived before.  I broke my arm skydiving so I kind of put that behind me.

Andrew:  He was the guy in the hospital getting somebody else interested in skydiving.  

John:  Yeah!  “It was great!  It was awesome!  You’ve got to try it sometime!”  

Scott:  Yeah, no, I’m done with skydiving I think.  Been there, done that.

Andrew:  Me too!  Never done it.  

John:  Yeah!  Scott after years of shooting race day events and portrait shoots with athletes, what are a few of the most memorable experiences as a race photographer.

Scott:  The thing that immediately comes to mind is the Alaskaman Triathlon that I shot.  Aaron Palain is a race director and he was in the Houston area for many years; he founded the Bayou City’s Triathlon Series.  One of his ventures was starting a series of extreme triathlons.  The first one he founded was the Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon.  As soon as he announced that and I started seeing some of the materials off that, it was intriguing.  

Andrew: “Do you need a photographer for it?”

Scott: Yeah!  I knew Aaron and I had worked for him for a few years.  We got to talking and we worked out a deal where I would go up there and I ended up bringing my two older daughters along who were in high school at the time...

Andrew:  Cool!  

Scott:  And rented some cameras for them to use as well.  So we went up there as a photography team.  There were some other local photographers in Alaska and some from Houston who made the trip too.  But for me and my two daughters it was just an unbelievable trip.  For those who have been there they know, but it’s just surreal almost.  The scenery and the landscape and everything.  Aaron did a fantastic job of laying out the course and picking the venues and stuff.  I still look back on those photos and it’s just amazing.  One memory in particular that’s bizarre to me about that was we were by the side of the road.  I forget the name of the highway, but it had the inlet with the ocean in the background.  The bikes were coming by and we were sitting there shooting the bikes as they go by.  As I usually am, I’m usually in some kind of a ditch or something and I heard this rustling in the grass next to me.  We were worried; we were aware of bears and there were all kinds of warnings and stuff about bears.  So, we had bear spray and stuff.  But this was in the grass and just kind of rustling beside me as I was shooting the photos.  I was thinking, “Alaska doesn’t have snakes do they? I don’t think they do.”  

Andrew:  “Alligator?  Crocodile?”  

Scott:  Yeah, umm.  As time went by I looked down and this little black bunny rabbit just kind of sitting there.  Just hanging out.  

Andrew:  Hanging out.  

Scott:  And my two daughters were kind of over by the car and we were parked in kind of a gravel area and there was another rabbit that was just kind of hopping around.  So we had some strawberries in the car that we had leftover from snack or lunch or something and they broke those out and they were holding them out.  The rabbits would just come up and eat out of your hand.  It’s like, what are these wild rabbits....and that’s how the wildlife was in Alaska.  They’re not afraid of people and didn’t seem to be scared of us.  We also saw at the resort the day after the triathlon and right before the awards ceremony as people were gathering, there was a mother black bear and three little cubs that were kind of hanging around the resort and everybody was taking pictures.  They had one of the resort managers keeping people away.  

Andrew:  Life in Alaska!  

Scott:   Life in Alaska, yeah!  

Andrew:  Here we get coyotes.  

John:  My experience was kind of like yours.  I saw the announcement of that race.  I was like, “This is fantastic!  I don’t want to do this, but I want to be a part” and especially when they said you had to have support on the mountain.  I was like, “That’s my role!  That’s what I want to do.”  

Andrew:  Did you try to talk any of your athletes into doing that race?

John:  Well I did!  I had one of my athletes that was doing it and so I got to go and do it.  Where I feel jipped, Scott, was I was like the only person there who never saw a bear.  Most people...they had prepared us for months.  They had these monthly webinars leading into the race, all this and that.  Again, buy the bear spray and watch out for the bears.  

Andrew:  Wow!

John:  So we were all kind of scared of the bears.  Tthen everybody started seeing them and the bear, were like, we weren’t a big deal.  And I was like, “I didn’t get to see the bear.”  So I kind of feel jipped.  

Andrew:  You’ve just got to go back now, right?

John:  I guess.  Yeah.  Let’s do it again.

Andrew:  You’ve got to talk another athlete into the Alaskaman.  Scott, we kind of heard your history in the sport….How you got started as a triathlete, and how you transitioned into photography from being a triathlete.  So now that we have you in your timeline as an experienced race day photographer, kind of just talk us through your process.  When race day comes it’s a little bit more in depth than just kind of posting somewhere up in a ditch and snapping the pics.  Just kind of walk us through how you prepare for race day and what a day out on the course is like for you.

Scott:  Okay, sure.  So I’ve got two camera bodies that I take with me.  

Andrew:  What do you shoot with?  

Scott: I shoot with a Cannon system and there’s a huge rivalry--or there has been--between Cannon and Nikon and now Sony and all the mirrorless cameras are kind of entering the mix too.  But I started using Cannon years ago and over the years as I have evolved it’s just easier for me to stick with a brand.  It’s a good brand.  Really my routine starts the night before.  I make sure I have batteries charged.  I make sure that I have memory cards that are ready to go.  Once the batteries are charged I sync the time on my camera bodies to make sure that I have the correct time...and now that we’ve got Daylight Savings Time I’ll have to remember to do that.  I lay everything out the night before and that way in the morning when I go...One thing that I’ve learned in the Houston humidity is that if I leave my stuff in the air-conditioned house and then I pack it up in the car and go to the race site and it’s cold when I pull it out of the bag, the lenses will fog up immediately.

Andrew:  Immediately, yeah.

Scott:  So what I’ve learned is that I need to leave the stuff out in the garage or on the back porch or something so that it doesn’t…

Andrew:  It’s been in the elements, yeah.

Scott:  It’s been in the elements and been warmed up.  A little photo tip there for everyone.  

Andrew:  Yeah, yeah for sure!

Scott: I usually plan to get into place...if there’s any traffic restrictions or anything then I try to figure out when those are and get positioned prior to that obviously.  

Andrew:  Yeah.  Have you scouted your locations out in the days leading up?

Scott:  Most of the races around the Houston area I’ve been to and I kind of know the areas and I kind of know where I like to be and all.  If it’s a new race then I’ll go on Google Maps and check out the different spots.  I might also even drive the course the day before or the week before or something just to make sure things look good.  I always try to avoid--don’t like to have power lines or anything in the background like that.  Obviously you try to avoid dumpsters and porta potties and cars if I can; parked cars or driving cars.  I kind of like the wide open shots where there’s a lot of horizon and sky to work with.  I’ve got some preferences that I’ll scout out.  Once I get to a spot usually it’s still dark.  It depends on the race, but I like to bring music.  I’ve got a portable bluetooth speaker that I’ll put out.  

Andrew:  Because you’re out there depending on the race, I mean, a couple hours to what eight, nine, ten in some of these Ironman events.  Are you on course all day long when the sun goes down and you keep yourself entertained all day?  

Scott:  For the full Ironman events I usually take brakes because while people are out on the bike--

John:  You don’t have aid stations, so you--

Scott:  And usually the light is better early in the morning and then later in the afternoon as well.  So midday light is generally not the best light either.  So yes, I’ll take brakes for full Ironman events.  Half Ironmans are usually over by midday so I’ll stick around for most of those.  But the speaker really is--mostly what I’ve learned is that over the years people say, “I never saw you out on the course.” or “Where were you?”  I’m like, “well--”

Andrew:  “You didn’t hear me?”

Scott:  “You didn’t hear me?  I was…”

John:  “I was down in the ditch with the rabbits!”

Scott:  So I’ve started wearing some goofy hats sometimes.  I’ve thought about getting a banner or flag or something just so people are aware; “Hey, here I am!”  I’m not trying to hide really.

Andrew:  Pose.  Look good.  This is your moment!

John:  That’s what he really needs...more like that 100 yard marker saying, “Flathouse ahead.”  You know, zip it up, clean the nose, and get ready for your shot.  

Andrew:  You’re 100 yards away from getting “Flathoused.”  

John:  On say a 70.3 type event, how many shots are you getting in a day?

Scott:  Oh gosh, okay!  Great question!  I was looking back over some of my previous races that I’ve done and I--for a half Ironman I’ll get about six or seven thousand shots.  For a full It might be--I really don’t do too much more than that in a full, but yeah maybe about eight or nine thousand.  The most I’ve done in a day was when I was working for Bright Room which is now  MarathonFoto, and I was covering the BPMS 150.  I was sitting in Fayetteville as the bikers come by.  I don’t know how many they have, like 25,000 riders and I took about 20,000 photos in a single day.  

John:  Did your finger get tired?

Scott:  It did.  My hands were just cramped.  Fortunately they supplied their own equipment and so I was using their cameras and stuff, but man, that was a long day.  That’s where I decided I really want to focus more on quality rather than quantity because that wasn’t fun.  I was getting paid by the hour…

John:  These guys are out on the race course and they’re working hard obviously, but I think sometimes they don’t appreciate those of us on the sidelines; the photographers, the coaches, and all that, but it’s a long day for us too.  

Andrew:  It’s a very long day.  

John:  Like I said, we don’t have aid stations so we’ve got to kind of plan ahead.

Andrew:  I usually end up taking between 30 and 40 thousand steps on race day.  So doing that, those days you’re taking 20,000 photos for a different company, that kind of led you to want to branch out and do your own thing.  So now your approach on race day is a little bit different.  You’re trying to be a little more artistic.  You want to walk away with high quality images.  What are you looking for out on the race course now?

Scott:  Great question.  When I was working for a lot of these photo companies…

Andrew:  You’re trying to get a picture of every single athlete coming by.  

Scott: They’re going for volume, yeah.  And nothing wrong with that.  If you participate then you want to make sure you have some photos.  So they’ve got some guidelines that they want their photographers to follow and when I’m working for somebody else I’m more than happy to adhere to whatever they want.  But a lot of them seem like they want the head-on bike shots.  They want the head-on run shots and stuff.  And that’s great and those are easy.

Andrew:  It’s not artistic though, Scott.

Scott:  Well, it’s easy to get and they can look kind of cool and stuff too.  But what I realized was that when I was out just kind of shooting my friends and people I knew I thought, “Well, let me just try this and see if I can get some panning shots of a profile shot of the bike.”  So I worked on that a little bit and I was able to get some good shots and I started posting those and people went nuts.  They loved it.  Just because I guess it was relatively uncommon and…

Andrew:  And now it’s the picture that all of us athletes want of ourselves.  Because you look cool, you can see my cool bike, you can see my cool expensive wheels, you can see my cool expensive helmet.  

Scott:  People spend a lot on a bike and make it look good.  And they do look cool, right?  And that’s the best way to show it is in that profile shot.  So I started doing some of that and I realized that if I want to continue this and if people want me to continue this then I’ve got to do it myself because if I’m shooting for the companies they generally aren’t wanting that.  It is a tougher shot to get.  It’s kind of a lower percentage shot.  Of those six or seven or eight or nine or ten thousand shots that I might do, very few of those are actually ones that I think are sufficient quality.  

Andrew:  For people who aren’t photographers I want them to understand.  Okay, a cyclist is coming by at 18 to 22 miles an hour.  So as that bike is moving along side of the road you’re having to keep that cyclist squared up in the center of your frame with your camera.  So as they’re going by you’re trying to pan at the same speed.  And so your shutter speed on your camera, I’m assuming, is set very quickly to try to get some nice crisp images as they’re going by right?

Scott:  Well, we can dive into a little bit of the technical details here.  So initially, yes.  I wanted to use a really fast shutter speed to make sure that I froze the action.  But since then my thinking has evolved a little bit and I’ve tried to use a little bit slower shutter speed because I want to see the blur on the spokes.  So when I go back and look at some of my early pictures and the spokes are frozen in space, it looks like they’re just sitting there balanced on the bike standing still.  

Andrew:  You don’t get the sense of motion.

Scott:  Yeah, you don’t get that sense of motion.  So the trick for me...and when people are riding their bikes and they’re in the aero position, their head and shoulders and arms are generally not moving.  If I can pan and match their speed and get the focus on their face, on their head, and still maintain a little bit of blur in the legs or in the spokes on the wheels then that for me is kind of the goal shot to go for.  

Andrew:  That makes sense.  That totally makes sense to get that sense of movement as they’re going by to convey that in a photo.  That makes sense to me.  I’m glad I asked that.  I’m glad we had that follow up.  So Scott, there are events all over the state of Texas.  We know where you’re based.  There are many races across the United States that are worth traveling to in photography, like ones in Alaska.  How do you decide each and every year which races you’re going to go to and shoot?  

Scott:  So that is a tough question for me.  

Andrew:  There’s so many options.  

Scott:  There are so many options and of course last year with the pandemic, and even this year to some extent, it’s been tough.  Because I’ve planned to go to events.  I went up to Lubbock fully intending to shoot the Ironman 70.3 Lubbock last year and it didn’t; it got cancelled at the last minute.  

John:  But you still got some good shots out there on the course that day?

Scott:  There were other people like me who traveled there and they decided to do the course anyway and so I thought, “Well, I’m here anyway so…”  I’m out there.  But it is tough to decide.  There are so many cool events.  The ones in Texas are pretty easy and we’re amazingly fortunate to have some excellent races.  

Andrew:  Yeah, we have a lot of good events.  

Scott:  Obviously, Galveston, Ironman Texas, Waco, and Lubbock.  Four Ironman events in one state; it’s fantastic.  I’ve started to branch out and I tried to--of course, I’ve got a fulltime job and I’ve got a family, and I’ve got kids that were in high school or will be in high school and so they’ve got activities as well.  So it’s not like I can take off every weekend and just go to events as much as I’d love to.  My wife and I, we’ve talked and decided that if we can plan and do the Texas events and then plan on maybe one or two larger, more expensive trip-type events.  In 2019 we went to Louisville and did Ironman Louisville which turned out to be the last one.  

Andrew:  The one where John raced it and was hoping to get “Flathoused.”  

Scott:  Yeah, and I fell down on the job.  I don’t know what happened.

Andrew:  We won’t blame you!  It’s a long day.  It’s a long, long day.  

John:  I’ve just got to keep racing.  That’s why I keep racing.  

Scott:  There are just so many cool races.  The Challenge Series--that looks like to be a really cool event--Challenge Daytona and Miami that just happened.  Looking at those for next year.  

Andrew:  Very cool!  Yeah, John and I went to that one and we had a lot of TriDot athletes at Challenge Daytona.  We had Coach Jeff Raines just race Challenge Miami.  Very, very, very cool.  I actually grew up pretty close to Daytona International Speedway.  I think we were like an hour and change away.  So I had been to the track a lot as a kid for NASCAR events and stuff.  So I knew how big that track is and to be out there on your bike, to be out there running around that track...It was pretty cool.  So that would be a pretty good spot.  

John:  That’s a nice backdrop for that one.  And I’ve got to say, I’m racing Ironman Florida this year so my vote is Ironman Florida.  We can try this again.  If I get that great shot then I can finally do what I’ve said for years...I can retire from Ironman racing.  Of all these events that you go to--maybe you’ve been once, maybe you go every year--what are a couple of your favorites and why?

Scott:  One of my favorites every year is Ironman Texas and I can’t remember the first year--I think it was 2016 when I first went to Ironman Texas.  And by that time I had done Galveston a couple times just kind of on my own and it’s fun being part of the energy and the atmosphere and everything.  But man, when I got to Ironman Texas and Hippie Hollow and Moxie Bridge; it was just unbelievable.  I couldn’t believe just the energy and the spirit and the crowd.  And it was really cool.  Not only that, but also all the international people.  Being the North American Championships it attracted all kinds of people from all over the world.  And it was really an amazing event.  So I’ve always loved going to Ironman Texas and to be honest the other events--it’s hard to find that same atmosphere to match it.  Obviously every event’s got it’s own flavor and it’s own energy as well, but I still love the Ironman Texas.

John: I go to most of the Ironman races every year and you’re absolutely right.  Each one kind of has its own unique feel which is really cool.  Every venue is different, the energy.  But, yeah.  Even though I think we’re both a little biased being hometown, it’s certainly one of the best and it’s a great one.  Looking forward to one of these days finally getting Andrew to…

Andrew:  So I haven’t even been to it yet as a spectator as close as it is.  I live four hours north in Dallas and so when I was looking at “Okay I want to do an Ironman, which one should I sign up for?”  I looked at Ironman Florida.  I looked at Ironman Arizona.  I knew I don’t have the bike legs to do anything super hilly so I was looking at some of the more friendly bike courses and I just kept hearing from people that the course and the crowd and the venue is just untouchable in Texas and in the Woodlands.  So for me that was the tiebreaker compared to signing up for Florida or signing up for Arizona is that I kept hearing, Scott, exactly what you’re saying.  And I haven’t gotten to race it yet.  We don’t always date our shows.  We don’t always give away when we recorded it versus when a show publishes.  We are recording this episode fairly recently from the time that Ironman Texas got cancelled for 2021 so I’m still a little salty there.  

John:  For the third time.

Andrew:  Yeah, well for the second time.  Yeah, for the third time!  Because last fall as well.  So I’m still dealing with those emotions a little bit.  

John:  Fourth time's the charm.  We’re going to get you there.  

Andrew:  So one day, Scott, I’ll be on course and you’ll be on course and hopefully I get “Flathoused” while I’m out there.  So, we’ll see.  

Scott:  We could even pose this to your audience.  What course has or what course do they think is better than Ironman Texas?

Andrew:  Are there any?  

Scott:  Are there any?  Yeah, and if so let me know because I want to go there.

Andrew:  John Mayfield, the Monday this show comes out I’m going to post the warm up question and you can post a poll on what people think the best venue is for Ironman.  

John:  Who’s bigger than Texas?

Andrew:  Noone!  Except for Alaska.  

Scott:  Or who’s more fun than Texas?  

Andrew:  Scott, a large part of the art of photography is the editing process.  And you will often share timelapse videos of yourself editing a good race photo which is super cool.  After you leave a race and you have thousands of photos on your memory cards which you said anywhere from seven to eight to nine thousand...When you get into the editing process and you’ve got all those photos, what’s the process like from there on creating the mint Scott Flathouse images?  

Scott:  Sure!  In carrying forward this line of thinking where I really decided I want to go more for quality than quantity...At one point I started looking through some photos and I would pick out a few.  I would say, “Well, these are good photos.  They’re sharp.  They’re in focus.  They’ve got the motion blur that I want...But let me just play around with them and bring them into PhotoShop and see what I can do.”  A lot of times I’ll replace the sky in PhotoShop or maybe I say, “Okay I need to clean up the background a little bit.”  There may be a trash can or power lines or something that I need to get rid of.  And let me spend some time on it and really see what I can do to get it looking good.  

Andrew:  To perfect it.  

Scott:  Yeah.  I started doing that.  And again I would post those and got huge response.  People loved it and I was like, “Okay, let me continue.”  Obviously I can’t do that for every photo, but I can pick some.  So people who have really cool looking bikes or kits or famous pros, then I would take their photos and work it a little bit in PhotoShop and post it to my Instagram account.  I started getting some tremendous feedback from that so I’ve continued doing that.  Then somewhere along the line I thought, “Well, okay let me do some screen recordings of this.”  And show people the process.  Then nobody wants to watch for 45 minutes while I’m doing it so I compressed it into 30 seconds or a minute.  And those are kind of fun.  

Andrew:  I think they’re super fun that’s why I brought it up.  It’s also a more advanced version of what I do.  

Scott:  Those take time to make and to bring into the video editor and stuff so I don’t do that very often.  What you’re seeing there are edits where I have a pretty good idea of exactly what I’m going to do.  A lot of times I’ll go in to start editing a photo and I’ll get stuck or I’ll change my mind and trash it and start over.  So obviously, I’m not doing timelapse of those.  Where I have a pretty good idea about what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it I’ll periodically record timelapse and put that out there.

Andrew:  Very, very cool.  Scott, from your years of covering the Texas endurance sports scene.  You talked about how you always go to certain Texas races.  You do a lot of the Texas races.  There’s tons of great ones here and then you travel for some.  In that time you’ve really gotten to know the athletes in this space--whether they’re cyclists, whether they’re triathletes, or whether they’re pure runners--so you really get a front row seat opportunity to cheer athletes on through your lens on race day.  How much would you say the relationships you’ve built in the sport mean to you as you pursue race photography as an art form?  

Scott:  Oh, it’s huge!  I think again, really fortunate to live in the greater Houston area where there is a tremendous sense of community in the endurance sport area.  I’ve developed a number of friendships with people across the area.  And really there’s people around the world that I correspond with and have gotten to know and there’s no way that I would know this guy in Greece or somebody in the UK or somewhere without having that connection of triathlon or endurance sport.  It’s really been fantastic for me as a way to connect with the endurance sport community.  

John:  Over the years you’ve shot thousands of photos of thousands of athletes.  So you obviously know what makes a good race-day photo.  As athletes, what can we do to help you?  What can we do to make our race day photos as good as possible?  

Andrew: Because there’s a lot of times whether I’m running or biking out of the corner of your eye you see the photographer coming up and it’s kind of like, “Do I pose?  Do I look as aero as possible?”  What can athletes do to help you have the photo come out even better?  

Scott:  Great question!  Inevitably, and I don’t know what it is, but a lot of people seems like they’ll see me--and a lot of times I’ll have my car parked by the side of the road--and for some reason people think that’s the time to get a drink from their water bottle or to open up a gel or to get out of aero.  No!  Don’t do that!.  It really depends on the kind of photo that you want.  If you want kind of the serious hard core then just stay in aero and maybe burn a few matches or something.  

Andrew:  Yeah, get those calves really flexing.  

Scott:  Yep, yep.  I also have a lot of fun with people who go by and they’ll flash the hang loose or give me a thumbs up.  One of my favorites was 2018, Ironman Texas.  I was out on the Hardy toll road and there was a guy that went by and he did kind of the boudoir, went to the side and put his hand up.  And you can see that photo; right now it’s the banner photo of the Pathetic Triathletes.  It’s really one of my most popular photos ever.  It’s a lot of fun.  So if you want to try to replicate that pose I’d be more than happy to shoot you as you go past.  But yeah...Either stay in aero and look serious or give me a thumbs up or a peace sign or hang loose or something and have fun with it.  

Andrew:  So Scott, I’m sure there are folks listening today that are like me and are just really into photography themselves.  Maybe they already take pictures for their friends or for their training partners or maybe they aren’t yet, but are super interested in doing so.  What advice or tips do you have for capturing great images of athletes on race day?  

Scott:  Oh another great question!  I’m a pretty firm believer in that, in general in life if you want to get good at something then you’ve got to do it over and over and over again.  

Andrew:  The 10,000 hour rule, is that what it is?

Scott:  Yeah.  I’ve been doing race photography and it really kind of comes natural.  I kind of know how to do it, but what I’ve realized though is a lot of people are just waiting for their friends to come by.  And sherpa or spectating on a triathlon it’s a lot of hurry up and wait, right?  So you’re waiting, you're waiting, you’re waiting and then all of a sudden they show up and they run by and maybe you’re not ready with the camera.  I see a lot of that where people have missed their husband or wife, or the person they’re looking for.  One thing I would suggest is that as you’re waiting for whoever you’re trying to get, just go ahead and practice shooting everybody. Memory cards are cheap and you can always delete the photos later or whatever.  But get a feel for the pace and--

Andrew: Those people won’t think you’re weird.  They’re used to people taking pictures of them on the course.  They probably just think you’re a race photographer.  

John:  Yeah, they pose.  

Scott:  Yep.  Really the equipment that--I use some expensive camera gear, but you don’t have to use expensive camera gear and a lot of people use their phones.  But yeah, I would say just practice getting those shots and eventually you get a better feel for it and you’ll get better at it.

Andrew:  And when they come by, you’ll be ready for them instead of missing them potentially.  I think in kind of going back to John’s question, because before we even started recording we were talking about the race-day tattoos.  Just in terms of--because as triathletes we’re wearing our bib number, the numbers on our bike, the numbers on the tattoo, sometimes the number is Sharpied--what is the easiest way for your camera to see our number?  Is there like optimal positioning for our race-day tattoo numbers or anything like that?

Scott:  Please wear race-day tattoos.  Those are the greatest invention for photographers.  

Andrew:  So they really are that helpful?

Scott:  They really are.  As we’re going through the six or seven thousand photos that we take it’s so much easier to identify bib numbers with the race day tattoos.  That’s my appeal to athletes everywhere.  

Andrew:  I don’t know what made me think of that.  I was like, “We need to bring this up on air to have everybody hear.”  If you’re not going out and buying your TRITATS or whatever it is that you’re putting on your body, it really does make a difference and it heightens the chances that the photographer can get those pictures to you afterwards right?

Scott: Yeah, for sure.  As far as the placement goes, since I do shoot a lot of bike photos, the side of the leg or the side of the arm where your kit doesn’t cover it up.  Nowadays a lot of people have ink and so if you have real tattoos then make sure you get the race-day tattoos or the temporary tattoos that have the border around them.  So that really helps distinguish it from real tattoos.  I will say, they just look cool.  You know?  And then the extra bonus from the temporary tattoos is you get that cool sunburn that you get to keep for several days afterwards.  

John:  You go into the restaurant afterwards.  “So what’s that on your arm? 3-7-what?  Did you do a triathlon or something?”  

Andrew:  One additional souvenir from the day.  Scott, all of us athletes...we love getting quality images of ourselves after a race.  That’s why it’s such a big deal if you get “Flathoused.”  Because anything worth doing is obviously worth Instagramming afterwards.  From all the value that we as athletes get out of having great photographers like yourself on course, what can we do as athletes to support our local area race photographers?

Scott:  Obviously, if you go to an event and they have a photographer and they offer the photos for sale, then please by all means.  And if the photos are good and you like the photos then go ahead and spend the money and purchase the photos.  

Andrew:  Does that go to the photographers?  

Scott:  It depends.  Ultimately the photographers are getting paid somehow.  They are either hired directly by the event or they work for a photography company that is contracted by the event.  But it really helps.  I see a lot of people, they’ll screenshot the stuff with the watermark on it and I understand why people do that.  But at the same time…

John:  As we’ve said, you’re getting up early, you have expensive equipment that you’re using, you’re taking your time, your expensive equipment to secure that image.  Even your time to put that watermark on it so that it’s not basically stolen from you.  So, yeah, I think that’s a very good point to make and something probably people may not even realize that they can be doing that.  So I think that’s a great point to make and make that distinguishment that it’s not maybe just taking a screenshot, but that’s actually something that those photographers--that is their art form.  Its something they did as they took their time, their money, actual dollars to create those.  

Andrew:  So moral of the story everybody; support your local photographers.  Buy a race photo.  If you like one.  If there’s one that you’re like, “You know what, I’ll throw that out on the Gram.”  Throw it out on the Facebook.  Load that as a profile picture for a few weeks.  Spend the 10, 9, 20 or whatever it is and walk away with a photo.  I’ll usually get one particularly from the bigger events, but even a sprint...Like I said, I mean my Strava profile picture--the one I gave a shoutout to--was just a local race where the photographer got a great shot of me coming out of the water and I was like: “Yeah I’ll buy that.  I’ll spend some money on that.”  And I think at the end of the day it’s such a small fraction compared to the other things we spend money on in this sport right?  So it’s totally worth it.  

Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down.

Andrew:  Scott, we covered a lot of ground today talking about your adventures in race day photography, but we didn’t go too, too deep into your own triathlete career.  Before we wrap up and call it a day I just kind of want to give you a chance to share a little wisdom from your own experiences as a triathlete.  You mentioned that you started with very little experience.  It took some work for you to get ready to swim your first 400 meter open water swim and you kind of worked hard at the sport from there to progress in your ability and in the distances you were racing.  For the folks in the audience who are currently where you were earlier in your tri career...they’re still figuring the sport out or maybe they just have a race or two under their belt and are trying to improve and progress.  What were a few of the things that made a big difference for you early on as you were growing and improving as a triathlete?

Scott:  Reflecting on my experience in getting involved in triathlon, I was really doing it on my own for the most part.  LIke I said, I did get some help here and there, but I was just out there doing runs by myself and I didn’t know how to workout really.  I didn’t know how to train and I thought, “Okay well let me just run today.  I feel like biking today.  I really need to get a swim in.”  

Andrew: And that was me before TriDot.  “Well what do I feel like doing today?  What’s the weather outside.  Is it a good day for a run?”

Scott:  Exactly!  How far do I run?  How fast do I run?  So all those things I was just winging it at the time.  I think nowadays the coaching opportunities and the different programs that are available are amazing.  I really appreciate the TriDot approach and the data driven approach that they have for training.  My background is in engineering and so that really appeals to me.  

Andrew:   Oh really!  Look at that.

Scott:  But also as I look around today, there are so many good triathlon teams and clubs and things and so many resources.  I would highly encourage anybody who’s thinking about getting involved into triathlon is joining one of these teams.  Find a good one that has a good mix of experienced triathletes and also new triathletes so you’ve got other people who are learning with you.  There’s so much that I think I missed out on by not being a part of a larger triathlon community.  There were some smaller ones there in Amarillo.  It’s not really hot there with triathlon activity, but if you are in one of these larger metropolitan areas--Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio--there are plenty of teams out there who are willing to help out.  Plus, these teams you generally get the benefit of having maybe some cool kits and other perks as well.  A lot of times the teams have discounted entries into races and other things as well.  So that’s what I would highly encourage anybody who’s looking to get involved in triathlon is go ahead and find a good team.  Don’t do it alone.  

Andrew:  Don’t do it alone.  Well that’s it for today folks, I want to thank Scott Flathouse and TriDot Coach John Mayfield for talking to us about Race Day photography.  Head to ScottFlathousePhoto.com for more information about Scott and be sure to follow Scott Flathouse Photo on social media to follow his work.  You’ll see all the examples of the top notch photos with the motion blurred wheels that we talked about on the show today.  

Enjoying the podcast?  Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about?  Head to TriDot.com/Podcast and click on “leave us a voicemail” to get your voice on the show asking a question.   We’ll have a new show coming your way soon, until then, Happy Training.

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