Gavin Doremus Shoots Hood to Coast Race in Oregon

May 22, 2020
Photographer Spotlight

Born and raised in Oregon, freelance photographer Gavin Doremus was familiar with the Hood to Coast run. His father has run Hood to Coast for the past 15 years, and he himself had ran it once. So, when a marketing agency reached out about the opportunity to photograph the race, Gavin was ecstatic.

Everyone who signs up is having a blast. Running the Hood to Coast is one of the most unique experiences you can have as a runner. Sure, there are other mega-relays out there, but this one is something special. Anytime I can work with a company that is both exciting and doing something for the greater good, I count that as a win in my book.

Gavin Doremus Hood to Coast his work on the site

The photographer’s personal experience with the race meant he knew what to expect. Not only is Hood to Coast a race that covers a multitude of terrains, it also has a giant party at the finish line. Plus, the company that organizes the race gives back to a variety of charitable causes, including raising $900,000 for immunotherapy research and patient programs with the Providence Cancer Institute in 2019.

Gavin Doremus Hood to Coast mountain shot

For Gavin, it was important to capture Hood to Coast’s essence in bright, colorful, energy-filled shots. The shot list he was given was long and detailed, but once he was out on the trail, he realized that having 12,600 runners over 199 miles allowed plenty of space to get the shots and still incorporate his own creative ideas. Together with his driver, the pair set out to capture the diversity of the race’s participants.

Coming from a space where I shoot lots of extremely fit people, it was a fun change of pace working with athletes who have a more average fitness level. The biggest thing I took away was just how excited they were to be there. I saw college runners breezing by me running sub seven-minute miles and elderly people shuffling by clocking in around 20-minute miles. Both parties, and everyone in between, would smile, laugh, and cheer as they passed me. It was cool to see everyone sharing that space and loving it.

Gavin Doremus Hood to Coast night shot

Since the Hood to Coast race spans two days, the shoot took 36 hours in total with three hours for sleep in the middle. Starting at 5 AM, the photographer shot from the top of Mount Hood, through downtown Portland at dusk, and ended in Seaside, Oregon in early afternoon the following day. For the nighttime shots, the photographer planned an elaborate lighting setup with a few strobes. Several shots in, Gavin realized that his plan was not working as he had hoped.

I spent about 30 minutes trouble shooting, then decided to pack the strobes back into the car and do what I’m strongest at: throw on my favorite, low-light prime lenses and get into the action. I found I was able to create much more compelling images using available light and being in the middle of everything than I was using strobes and feeling like I was shooting from the outside in. I learned an important lesson that night: when things aren’t going as planned, take a deep breath, strip your gear down to the essentials, and get into the action.

Gavin Doremus Hood to Coast BTS shot

Beyond shooting, Gavin had to get the images to the client in real time. He purposefully rated the selects on his camera at each location so that he didn’t have to sort through thousands of photos every time he connected to his laptop. Instead of taking time to rest between locations, the photographer did quick edits on his laptop, which was hooked up to a cellular hotspot, and sent the images straight over to the client.

Getting images to clients in real time really kicks up the intensity into overdrive. The other challenge is connectivity issues when you’re shooting on location in the middle of the forest. I found that as much communication with my point person as possible helped mitigate any frustrations with lack of cell service.

Gavin Doremus Hood to Coast finish line

Despite the lighting and connectivity challenges, Gavin enjoyed shooting for Hood to Coast. His favorite location during the shoot was the finish line. Although the race is a relay and only one team member is officially running, many teams group up to run across the finish line together.

That’s the best part. Witnessing the joy in everyone’s faces and seeing them hug and high-five one another. I got to see my dad’s team come in, which was pretty cool.


Account Executive, Quinn Thomas: Alysa Schols
Marketing Manager, Hood to Coast: Hope Hill
Driver/Photo Assistant: Allie Hanigan 

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