Saturday, September 3, 2022

The Man Behind the Camera: Interview with Victor Villarreal

Special thanks to Victor Villarreal and Utah Tri Buzz contributor Marco Menchaca for collaborating on this interview!

Check out Victor's Instagram account and support his work at!

Lastly, keep in mind there are some great local races around the corner:

Brineman **SEP 9th (north of SLC)
Kokopelli **SEP 17th (St. George)
Bear Lake Brawl **SEP 17th (UT/ID border)

First tell us who the person behind the camera is. Are you a Utah native or when did you move here?

I grew up in Southern California, where I spent my childhood riding my mountain bike as far as I could without getting into too much trouble. I ran track and Cross Country in high school, where I developed my love for running. I moved out to Utah after high school with my family. I have now been living in Utah longer than I have in California.

We understand you are very passionate about arts, what else do you do besides taking great triathlon pictures?

Photography is something I began doing because of my love of the arts. With my photography, my goal is to create snapshots worthy of the Nike posters we had hanging up in our bedroom and in our high school history class (my history teacher was our track & cross country coach). 

Not every photo has the same “wow factor” as those posters, but I approach my sports photography as if it would. I know not everyone will be on the podium at Kona, but to some, the local triathlon is their Kona. I feel their achievement is worthy of being captured and being a memory worth looking back at with fondness.

My art background is grounded in architecture and graphic design. Those are the fields I studied in college. Besides photography, I also do chalk murals. My graphic design background and connections opened the door for chalk murals.

I try to create a mural on my driveway for the neighbors to enjoy when I’m able to squeeze in the time between photography, work, and training for my next race. I am a regular at the Chalk Art Festival held at the Gateway. This has become a traditional event for me.

Do you also swim, bike and run? What is your favorite distance?

I do swim, bike and run! I consider myself a runner first, but also a triathlete. My perspective in my photography is an extension of my triathlon experience. I guess the olympic distance is my favorite distance, as it’s the distance I’ve done the most.

This distance gives you enough of each discipline so an exceptionally strong athlete cannot win the race by just conquering their favorite discipline. It’s a great way of keeping a triathlete honest.

I’ve done a few sprints and 70.3s and this year I'll be doing my first full distance triathlon. My experience with the 70.3s have been more of a race in survival mode than anything else. They make for great memories because I survived the poor decision of racing a distance I was under trained to compete in. With more experience in triathlon, and getting my nutrition under control, I hope to do more than just survive Ironman California this October.

Specifically to triathlon why this sport and how did you connect to it?

Back in high school, our coach glorified the Ironman World Championships out in Kona. He wore his Ironman Timex watch, like it was a medal. It made me perceive triathlon on a higher plane.

Since then, I had always wanted to do a triathlon. It wasn’t until my son and his love for the water did I actually take on this adventure. My son, Antonio, was born medically fragile and had special needs. Life tends to take a back seat when your family and loved ones require your full attention. My grand plans in life switched gears in order to provide for my family.

We were introduced to a group that participates in 5Ks with kids and adults with special needs by pushing them in racing strollers. Push To The Finish [ ] allowed me to introduce my love for running to my son. Tonio (as we called him) and I ran every race we could with Push To The Finish. We then expanded this adventure to half marathons and even ran the Ogden Marathon two years in a row.

His love for the water brought me back to swimming and the dream of doing triathlons together. He loved the freedom being in the water gave to him, but he didn’t care too much for the bike portion as he sat in a trailer behind me. When we ran, he had the best view. The bike didn’t offer as great of a view.

We solved this problem with a grant from the C.H.A.R.G.E. Syndrome Foundation [ ]. We now did our rides on his custom built semi-recumbent tandem by Bilenky [ ]. The first organized event we did with his new bike was in the summer of 2016, the National Ability Center’s Summit Challenge. He passed away in January of 2017.

Now, my son’s love for racing is what ties me to triathlon. The year he passed away was the year he and I were going to race triathlons. Instead, I dedicated that year in his honor by continuing to race with other children with special needs to fill in for him. My friends with RaceTri helped me achieve this.

My involvement in triathlon, either as an athlete, or as a photographer, helps me share his love for racing with others. I’ve worked with a non-profit that helps promote racing for those who cannot race on their own. The Utah chapter of the Kyle Pease foundation [ ] connects athletes like my Tonio, with able-bodied volunteer athletes, who race with them.

Do you work with more photographers out in the race courses or is it just you running around trying to cover as much as possible of the event?

When I began shooting triathlons, my youngest son helped out. There is too much going on some courses during a triathlon to capture everything by yourself. When I'm not able to get a second photographer, you can find me covering much of the race course by myself.

My goal is to capture the moments family and supporters cannot capture on their cell phones. This is why I don’t do many podium shots.

Do you do photoshoots for athletes for social media or other special events on demand? and what is the best way for people to reach out to you?

My camera and I venture off the race course from time to time. I’m best known for race photography, but I also do outdoor family portraits and special events. I can be contacted online, either through email from my website [ ] or on my Instagram [ ].

IT had a decent swim, but totally sucked on the bike and run

How do you see your photographic career growing? Do you have any specific goals or dreams that you are interested in?

I’ve always viewed my photography as a side project. Only recently, have I viewed this “side gig” as something that has the potential to be more of a full time gig. I guess that is everyone’s dream - to make a living doing something you love. The goal will always be to shoot more events AND afford to participate in local races as well.

Which one of the 3 disciplines do you feel is the hardest to get a good shot and why? and which is the one you prefer to shoot the most?

For me, a good shot is one where I can capture the emotion one puts out while racing. No one likes to look like they’re on death’s doorstep, but those make some of the best shots.

I love shooting the start and finish of an open water swim, as there is so much splashing going on. Good shots are hard to get during the swim, since most athletes have their face buried in the water.

I have been known to float in the water with my camera to capture an angle no one else can. Many good shots were missed because the swimmer was breathing away from the camera.

The bike portion of a triathlon are my nature shots. I prefer to capture shots where there are no vehicles in the picture. A good sprint or downhill shot with a beautiful background helps tell the story of how awesome it would be to participate in this race.

For me, the run is the hardest to get a great shot. For many triathletes, the run is just a means to the end, and as a runner with a sprinter mentality, I look for the mechanics of good running form. Instead of capturing a full shot of someone running, I focus on capturing the emotions on their face that the race has brought to the surface.

Finish line shots aren’t as rewarding as the Olympics make them out to be. Most athletes reach to stop their Garmin at the finish line instead of running through it. I get it. The athlete is just glad the race is over.

Do you have a special memory of an event or person you took pictures for?

Pier starts are very memorable for me. I prefer to take shots while being out in the water and in 2021, the East Canyon Triathlon and Echo Triathlon launched their athletes one at a time. With me in the water, athletes began to showboat on how they entered the water. My pictures consist of cannonballs, high dive jumps, belly flops, forward and back flips, even some coordinated double-entry backflips.

*****Below is the 2022 UTCS - the only update we're aware of from the below is that Brineman will be a unique Friday race on Sep 9th. Check out this post if you need a refresher on how the UTCS works.*****

show up at 3+ races to qualify for a slew of season awards!
Update: Brineman is now on Sep 9th

Below are links to all the 2022 Championship Series races:

Ice Breaker - Sprint
Sand Hollow - Olympic
Daybreak - Olympic
Jordanelle - Olympic
East Canyon - Olympic
Brineman **Now SEP 9th - Half (70.3)





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