On March 19th, Jason Lester, an ultra-endurance athlete & ESPY winner, embarked on a 4,800 mile journey across the United States with Nike’s message that “a better world starts with sport”. The Journey For a Better World documents in real time Jason’s 102-day trek running and cycling from New York City to Eugene, Oregon.
Matthew Brush, an athlete and adventurer himself, joined the Nike Better World team as the photographer and videographer. His role is a demanding one both physically and creatively, constantly moving and capturing images that relay to the world Jason’s story of inspiration. Due to his personality & drive, Matthew is the perfect man for the job. "I’m always shooting and enjoying every moment of it." With over a decade of photographic experience and a formal graphic design education, Matthew creates compelling images on the go, literally chasing down moments and doing whatever it takes to get the epic shots he’s known for.
As part of the cross-country trip, the team is stopping at 39 Nike stores before reaching their final destination at the Olympic trials, where Jason will take a victory lap around Hayward field.
Along the way, they are preaching the word of sustainability, sharing about Nike’s innovative products made from recycled plastic bottles and organic cotton, and how lives are changed through sport.
Recently, an unfortunate turn of events occurred when a plastic bag flew into Jason’s front wheel. The bag seized the bike, flipping Jason over the handlebars, and he broke his clavicle in 2 places. Rather then stop the journey, a custom recumbent trike was built for him to continue riding while he heals. His perseverance shows an extreme amount of tenacity & determination.
On their site, designed by Instrument, you can stay up to date on Jason’s progress including what mile he’s at and his plans for the day. If you’d like to join Jason for a run in the city closest to you, or just meet him in person, check out the events calendar to find out when he’ll be in your area. Amongst other locations, there are upcoming events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, & at Hayward Field in Oregon for Jason's big finish.
Now, take a moment to be wowed by Matthew’s images of the journey, processed with VSCO Film™, and read more about his experience with Nike Better World.
All I can say is that the man is very passionate about what he does and his message to the world. He lives by his words “never stop, because achieving your dreams and goals are right around the corner”. He’s inspired me personally to accept all challenges big and small, and if I get knocked down, to simply get back up and keep going. If you get knocked down 8 times, then get up for the 9th time. As it relates to photography, my dreams and goals are this: to simply chase the moments and subjects I want to pursue and not let anyone get in my way of doing exactly that. There are so many people in this world that I’d love to meet and hear their stories. In turn, I only hope to share a little bit of myself merged with my art and create timeless images.
Well, this is by far the most physically and mentally challenging job I’ve ever taken. It’s literally non-stop. 16 hour + days and having to be physically in shape as well as spontaneously creative is a huge challenge. However, it’s what I love to do and how I approach and shoot many of my subjects. There are many days where I’m running with a video rig in one hand and a camera in the other. I also take advantage of my longboard quite often to skate alongside him while shooting. Occasionally, I’ll have my bike out and will mount a go pro to my helmet with my 1dsmk3 rigged onto a magic arm on the handlebars. Running, climbing fences, getting on overpasses, sprinting ahead, it’s all part of the game. Luckily for me I’m an avid crossfit athlete, so this type of work gels well with me. With the long hours and intense physical activity to get the shot, I’m definitely burning some serious calories out here.
I've really enjoyed the southwest, namely New Mexico and Arizona, simply because I love the wide-open landscape with cacti and red rocks. It's also a bonus with the way the light tends to form out here. Of course we will be heading up the PCH highway on the Pacific Coast, which will also be incredibly beautiful. Nothing beats the west coast! Then again, I think every state we've visited or will visit possesses it's own beauty.
I’ve always gravitated towards extreme sports, and adventurous moments in life. This job specifically came to me because the digital agency who handles Nike’s social media and website had recommended me as an ideal candidate who could pull it off and do well at this type of work. It takes someone with crazy amounts of energy and the ability to adapt to any situation. It really is an ideal fit for me, and I love everyday of it despite the high physical demands and how draining it can be at times. Prior to doing commercial work, I had photographed NBA basketball for the Trailblazers as well as other college sports. As a youngster, I always skated, snowboarded and did other crazy physical activities. I guess I just tend to shoot the types of things that I’m personally drawn to. By doing that, they eventually lead to jobs that allow me to capture what I love.
What does your daily routine look like on the road with Jason Lester?
Our call times are typically around 7am. I meet up with the crew around 7am in the Hotel Lobby, slam a protein shake and some other vitamins, eat a few eggs, load up the trailer, and then take off to our starting point. Our starting point is always the exact place we finished the day before in order to meet the exact mileage. A run day typically averages 33 miles, and a biking day will usually be around 75-80 miles. On running days, we usually stop every 5 miles so he can get a quick recovery drink, ice his knees for a couple minutes, and then we're back on the road. On biking days, we do the same procedure except that we break every 20 miles.
During the middle of the day, we take a 45 min to 1 hour long break for the crew to eat lunch and for Jason tosimply get off his feet. His trainer / nutritionist usually makes him a vegan meal and then gives him a massage with a car wax buffer, one of his best recovery devices. Days are usually 7-9 hours on the road depending on how he feels and his performance levels. At the end of every day, we fill up a giant plastic tote with 25 gallons of water and then dump in 10 gallons of ice. He calls this his "hurt box", which is actually an ice bath to immediately reduce swelling of his legs. From there, we head to our next hotel, have a little meeting to discuss the highlights and the hiccups of the day and devise a game plan for the next day. At that point, I head into my room to download cards, edit photos, process them, upload to Nike, shower, and eat, all simultaneously.
There are always roadblocks, almost daily. The routes are pre-determined and have also previously been scouted, however, there's always something that will get in the way. A couple key moments have been loose pit bulls chasing him, getting lost in some serious ghettos in Baltimore and Delaware, riding through a gnarly rain storm in South Carolina, having to call the day short due to intense lightning and thunderstorms in the big country area in Texas, and most notable, Jason breaking his collarbone. As for Jason, it's not so much the elements that bring the most challenge, but the days where he has to make an appearance at a Nike store early in the morning before he hits the pavement and then a second appearance that same day at another Nike store destination. We've had about 25 of these specific days so far, and they are extremely exhausting for not only him but also for the entire crew and myself.
Can you tell us more about your system for post-processing your images? Has this specific project called for a different method or style then you usually use?
This project gave me full creative freedom to process the images in my style. I still shoot a fair amount of film on my hassy, however it would have been a mess to deal with film on this type of trip. Thankfully, VSCO Film’s profiles and presets allow me to achieve the looks that make a photo still look like a photo, ie: shot with film. My post processing usually consists of either the Fuji 160C or the Portra 400. From there I open up the shadows, do a little split toning to it depending on what colors are in the
photo, and sync it to all the photos that are similar. If it’s shots of big scenic landscapes, I tend to use the 160 and pump the greens a bit while cooling the blues. If the shot is more skin tone specific, I’ll use the Portra 400 and decrease the orange. Then, I usually comb through my selects one by one and individually tweak them to my liking, never too contrasty or sharp and never fake looking at all. The images have to be believable and take the viewer to that moment. I want people to enjoy the content and be impressed with the shot, not the way it looks or how it was processed. VSCO Film gives me just that.
It truly is a journey. You can plan it to death, but if it doesn't unfold itself, it wouldn't be as powerful of a story. Every day brings something new. The crew grows closer together, and we've always got each other's backs. We're like a tightly knit family out here making sure our athlete, Jason Lester, gets to the Olympic Trials on June 28th in Eugene, Oregon. It's a privilege to be on this job creating an epic story, writing history and creating what will be an amazing visual story that will be looked at and modeled after for years to come.