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Triathlon photographer José Luis Hourcade: ‘Challenge Family races feel like home’

Many triathletes know José Luis Hourcade. Pro athletes know him by name and in person for sure, Age Groupers most likely a little less, but almost everyone knows him at least by face. This is no surprise, as the Spanish photographer travels the world to take pictures of athletes at their finest moments at many triathlons – mostly Challenge Family races. We asked him about what his life as a triathlon photographer is really like.

If you look around at any Challenge Family race, you’ll have a big chance of seeing José Luis Hourcade. Almost always as a passenger on a motobike, with a big camera in his hand and another couple of at least as big lenses on his back. He follows athletes while they’re swimming, biking and running, and almost always joins the leaders in the race. You can see him in the craziest poses on the motobike: bent over, backwards and sometimes even hanging or standing. Always looking for the best pictures anyway.

‘A good picture can be positive for the athlete, organizer and to support tourism in the area’

But what is actually the power of a good sports photo, according to Hourcade? “It’s hard to say, because there are multiple answers. To give you an example, in triathlon photographers and videographers are very lucky, because we are one of the few people who can follow the entire race and capture beautiful landscapes and unusual moments that the athlete may not see, because they are focused on their race. At the same time, spectators are not always able to get everywhere, while we can take pictures of everything that happens at these spots. Therefore, a good photo can be positive for the athlete when choosing a race, for the organizer when promoting his race and to support tourism in the area.”

‘I think I would sink a few meters after starting to swim’

Hourcade has been active as a triathlon photographer for about 13 years now and rolled into the world thanks to his wife, who is a journalist and began working for a Spanish triathlon magazine. One thing Hourcade knows for himself: he didn’t participate in a triathlon himself yet and that won’t happen neither. “No, I’m a former rugby player, I’ve already given the best of my body to the sport and I think I would sink a few meters after starting to swim”, he laughs.

Hourcade travels to about 10 to 15 races per year on average. “For me that’s perfect, because I have to combine it with some other activities. My wife runs a media/content marketing agency and we work together on many projects. We are also involved with other sport companies, providing them support at their events and more.”

‘Work begins well before the race and does not end until well after the finish’

While attending triathlon races, Hourcade is very busy for sure. His work begins well before the race starts and does not end until well after the finish. “Well, we all have some serious steps before a race, to be honest just like triatletes. In my case, in addition to photographing some extra activities, a job begins to organize what kind of photos I need to take in the race – for example pro athletes, landscapes, Age Group athletes and/or sponsor activities – and I always have to make sure to arrive to the finish line before the first athletes crossing the line. After a day of taking pictures, the second part – or triathlon – starts: selecting the best pictures, editing and sending to the media. As a triathlon photographer I take a lot of pictures and for me the most difficult thing is to choose my official pack: the pictures of which I think that they show the best of the event.”

Challenge Family races feel like home and a special connection to the Norseman

All these years Hourcade has been visiting beautiful places around the world. Is he able to name a favorite race? “It’s hard to say because I have so many good memories from different races. I love working on Challenge family races: it feels like home. But, I have a special connection to the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon as well. This race marked the beginning of my adventures in triathlon and I keep good friends over there.”

‘I was lucky to share many races with other photographers’

Of course, the triathlon world is relatively small – especially when compared to the biggest sports in the world – and so is the world of triathlon photographers. Hourcade knows almost all of them and is grateful to many of them as well. “I was lucky to share many races with photographers like Michael Rauschendorfer, Paul Phillips, Thierry Deketelaere, Francisco Garcia, Christophe Guiard, Ingo Kutsche, among others, from whom I learned a lot and who have offered me their help and experience on more than one occasion. For me these were very beautiful moments. I truly think all photographers have a very good relationship and this is very good for this sport.”

‘Meet good friends during races’

Yet Hourcade also deliberately keeps a bit of a distance from the triathlon world when he’s not crossing the course somewhere. For example, he does not have daily contact with professional athletes, to name just one example. “I have a great relationship with many of them, but in general we get back in touch when a race is coming up. I think it’s good to disconnect for a while and meet good friends again during races.”

Best picture ever?

Finally, we ask Hourcade about the best picture he has ever taken. Can he choose? “There are many that I like, it would be difficult… maybe the next one.”