Athlete in Action: Olly Woolrych


On the side of a trail whether it is singletrack, fireroad or some dangerously angled drop swatting away at flying insects in the bright searing sun I find myself most weekends with athletes flying past me with race number on and no time to really chat.  I love the challenge of shooting these events and always looking for more to shoot then recently I have found myself wanting to try other stuff and explore different shot ideas.

So with this I came up with the idea of shooting different athletes away from a race environment, on their favourite local trail or simply in between intervals catching their breath before they kick again.  This idea I have coined with the phrase “Athlete in Action”  I want to capture what drives the individual and what they are passionate about in their chosen sport or challenge as some are wanting to achieve a goal rather than be the next “insert event winner title here”.

So begins this journey with a young guy full of passion and energy that is quite contagious, quite invigorating even at 5am in the dark as we meet at Palm Beach back in October.  Olly Woolrych is a distance runner who has raced in some big events like The North Face 100 in the Blue Mountains of Sydney.  He wasn’t there to win but more to achieve his personal goal and to  prove he can do what he sets his mind to and has control of what can be achieved.  Olly can be found running around Sydney’s Northern Beaches in his preparation for his 2015 run from Mexico City to Panama, a challenge of 5 marathons a week for nearly 6 months.  No small task but it is all for the opportunity to raise awareness for mental health in particular supporting the charity Beyond Blue.

This is where I come into the picture or Olly does i guess as I am the one taking the photos, we met for a run out on the northern side of Barrenjoey Headland, the less friendly seldom used side of the iconic tourist destination.  Olly was pumped as he has been running out here for training and even though it is a back and forth track of only 1-2km he has done some 16km sessions out here in the rocky and unstable track ” I use this word vaguely” to build track skills and strength.  At times I found it hard to find places to stand and shoot as Olly would run up and down sections for my photographic desires with the words “just once more Olly” becoming the slogan for the morning.

The aim of this on-going project is to give athletes known or unknown by the general public the chance to spread word of their endeavors and for me to try and capture different photos, in the absence off a handlebar or chest race number, showing off their love of their sport.  I hope in this free and uninhibited environment that something unique and not previously imagined will be discovered and created.  I don’t expect this in the first shoot, the first athlete but over time as I get to know what drives these individuals that I will be able to tap into a creative process and create some unique imagery.

Thanks Olly for your time mate and anyone wanting to know more about his cause jump over to his site and check it out.

Cheers Gil.