Getting the shot: Nykredit CPH Marathon

January is usually a quiet time for me and probably most photographers in the Northern Hemisphere, but thankfully there’s been enough happening to keep me busy. Two weeks ago, for example, the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten printed a massive full-page advert for the Nykredit Copenhagen Marathon, which you can check out below.

Nykredit, Copenhagen Marathon, København Maraton, CPH, KBH, photography by matthew james, sport and action photography, sport fotograf, løb, NBRO, runners, running, jyllands posten

The full page Nykredit Copenhagen Marathon promo for Sparta

The brief for the picture was simple: get a few members of NBRO Runners to jog along Dronning Louises Bro (a wide bridge in the city centre) and make it look relatively empty of traffic.

I arrived half-an-hour early to scout out a decent spot where I could get high and look down on the runners. I even enquired in a few shops if it was OK to shoot from their upstairs windows. The answer was yes, but the windows wouldn’t open wide enough. So instead I reverted to plan B – a step ladder that I found lying abandoned in a stairwell. Remarkably I actually found the owner of the ladder in a restaurant and asked if it was cool to use it for 10 minutes. Like all Danes I meet, he wasn’t at all bothered and was only too happy to assist.

At 3:30pm the runners arrived and group leader Anders suggested they run right down the middle of the road. It was a daring idea but one I liked, so, with cars, buses and cyclists screaming past continuously, we got to work.

My assistant carefully held on to the ladder, which I had positioned on the central reservation along Nørrebrogade. Her instructions were to catch the camera first if I fell, and worry about me later. But with the light fading and the rush hour traffic increasing, time was against us and we had to work fast.

Nykredit Copenhagen Marathon, København Maraton, CPH, KBH, sports and action photography, sports fotograf, NBRO runners, running, løb, motion, photography by matthew james

Taking ridiculous risks as usual to get the shot.

Every 30 seconds or so we were given a window of easy traffic as the lights turned red, so in those moments the runners got in to formation and started jogging towards me. Unfortunately there wasn’t a single shot without some kind of vehicle in the background, but I thought I could worry about that later. And within five minutes we were done.

Back in the lab I started the “fun” process of elimination, whereby I had to choose which picture looked best, despite most of them all looking identical. I eventually found one with just one van in the background and immediately got rid of it in Photoshop.

Next I did a few basic edits to the sharpness and contrast, before converting it all to black and white and then popping the colour back in to the runners. Funnily enough I usually tease other photographers who do this, but on this occasion it actually seemed to work. I don’t know, you tell me.

Looking outside the window right now it’s hard to imagine spring, let alone summer. But time seems to fly by these days and it will be the Nykredit Copenhagen Marathon before you know it once again. If you’re taking part this year I’d love to hear from you, especially if it’s your first marathon. And if you crossed the finish line last year then you might like to see a selection of pictures from the race itself. Head over to and let me know what you think.