The 2021 Hardrock 100 in Slow Motion

Derrick Lytle, of The Juniper Lab, talks to us about making a slow-motion film about the 2021 Hardrock 100, and what storytelling means to him.

By on July 26, 2021 | Comments

Derrick Lytle is a filmmaker and founder of The Juniper Lab, a film company dedicated to telling stories of the American Southwest. Derrick’s profiles, time-lapses, and slow-motion videos show individuals traversing often rugged and pristine landscapes. Lytle recently filmed the 2021 Hardrock 100. The resulting film, shot at 420 frames per second, shows runners traversing Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in all their slow-motion glory, capturing more detail than a traditional camera is able.

Living near the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and a trail runner himself, Lytle is no stranger to the (literal and psychological) ups and downs of ultrarunning. “I’ve been coming to Hardrock for years, have run a Softrock, and wanted a way to capture the runners outside of aid stations,” Lytle stated. [Editor’s Note: A “Softrock” is a run across the entire Hardrock course over a number of days, and not during the official race.]

Stating the dearth of imagery coming from the depths of the course, Lytle wanted to pay homage to the effort of runners, but also show the beauty of the course in some of the most challenging sections. Filming with a light and nimble camera that required no extra crew, Lytle hiked to Stony Pass, Green Mountain, Grouse Gulch, and on the road to Handies Peak (until hail and lightning got in the way). He spoke of inspirations like photographer and ultrarunner Howie Stern, who, “…knows these courses and what will make a beautiful photograph. He puts in the effort and it really shows in his photos.”

While trail running and ultrarunning have been around for decades, until the past few years the sport has been extremely niche, thus, had very limited funding and little interest from the public at large. Lytle described his desire to produce creative films that pay homage to endurance sports, specifically with his side project The Juniper Lab. “I love watching climbing and mountain biking films, because I think there is a lot of creativity in films surrounding [those sports]. People go the extra distance to get those interesting shots.”

When asked what’s in his future, aside from other assigned projects, Lytle described his next trail running creative endeavor in the making. “I’m working on a longer [self-funded] film right now… It’s a running film, but it’s also very metaphorical. [I’m hoping] to push boundaries and the creative side of media in trail running.”

Alex Potter
Alex Potter is a contributor and former editor at iRunFar. Following a nearly decade-long hiatus from running after college, she has found a new love in trail running. As a photojournalist, Alex has reported throughout the Middle East and East Africa for publications like 'National Geographic,' 'The New York Times,' and 'The Washington Post.'