John Cachero Photography had the pleasure of being the official photographer of the AZ on the Rocks Ninja Course Experience event in Scottsdale, Arizona on Saturday, February 10, 2018. This event came together in the wake of the abrupt cancellation of the American Ninja Warrior Experience event scheduled to take place at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
How in the world did I get the opportunity to photograph this awesome event?! There's a story... and I'm going to tell it here.
BUT IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ THIS BLOG POST AND GET STRAIGHT TO THE PHOTOS...
HERE IS THE LINK TO THE FULL PHOTO SET:
PASSWORD: anwe (CASE-SENSITIVE)
I have to have a password on the gallery or evil bots will scour the gallery and download photos. However, by using this password, you will be able to view and download any of the photos from this gallery, free of charge.
If you share any of these photos on social media, please please please give me credit in your posts by tagging @johncachero and @photosbyjohncachero on both Instagram and Twitter and John Cachero Photography on Facebook (be sure to like the page first). Thank you!
So How Did I Get Here? First a Quick History.
In November 2017, I was hired to do a commercial photo shoot for Anytime Fitness - Sandbridge in Virginia Beach, Virginia. At that photo shoot, the owner of the gym, Kay Freeman, had several of her clients come into the gym to be featured in the photo shoot. One of those clients was American Ninja Warrior hopeful, Chris Jenkins. From the positive experience of that photo shoot, a great relationship began to grow between Kay, Chris, and me.
After the original videographer who was supposed to produce Chris' American Ninja Warrior Season 10 audition video fell through, Kay and Chris asked if I would be interested in producing the audition tape. Although, I had never done any professional videography, I did have the experience messing around at home with my family, so I was up for the challenge. Over that next month, Chris and I got together several times to film his video and we became fast friends. The audition video was produced and submitted, and, if you don't mind me tooting my own horn, it was a major success! Everyone involved was quite happy with the end product. My relationship with Kay and Chris had solidified.
The American Ninja Warrior Experience; Awesome Opportunity, Then Massive Disappointment.
When Chris found out about the American Ninja Warrior Experience (ANWE), a chance for fans and amateur ninjas to run an authentic American Ninja Warrior obstacle course, he jumped on that opportunity so that he could get first-hand experience and also so that we could get footage for his Season 11 audition video. We had our tickets for the event purchased, our plane tickets purchased, and our hotel reservations in place several months in advance for the first location of the ANWE tour, the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. We were pumped!
Then just FOUR DAYS before the event (THREE DAYS before we were going to fly out), the ANWE tour was cancelled abruptly and with no reason. Everyone was confused and disappointed. Chris and I were obviously upset, but I was more upset by all the stories that came out after the cancellation about parents that had bought tickets to the ANWE as Christmas gifts and birthday gifts for their children. Parents were furious, children were crushed, and even though tickets to the event are supposed to be refunded, no one is going to be reimbursed for all the money spent in air fare and hotels. Utter heartbreak.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
The Pro Ninja Community And AZ on the Rocks Come Through in the Clutch.
After the news broke that the ANWE had been cancelled, Chris and I resigned to the fact that we were no longer going on our journey to PHX. In search for answers, I took to Twitter. In the following days after the cancellation, rumblings that the pro ninjas scheduled to appear at the ANWE were still going to get together and do something - ANYTHING - for the fans who were supposed to attend. AZ on the Rocks, an indoor rock climbing and ninja gym in Scottsdale, Arizona, took the reigns and decided to make something happen for the ninja community. Kevin Berk (AZotR owner) and Steve Kimpton (AZotR manager) reached out to Arizona-based pro ninja, Adam Rayl, to help with getting the rest of the pro ninjas on board with this last-minute event. With just TWO days before the original event was to happen, AZ on the Rocks put together the Ninja Course Experience event, free of charge to anyone who wanted to attend!
Our journey to PHX was still on! Thankfully, we didn't hastily cancel our plane tickets (we did, however, cancel our hotel reservations). So, last Friday morning, we boarded our plane excited to check out the event. Our flight itinerary was supposed to go ORF > ATL > PHX, but through a series of unfortunate events (including a tire change on our plane), we missed our connection in ATL. The airline then tried to change our flight itinerary to ORF > ATL > JFK > PHX arriving at 11pm local time. No sir! We did not want to route through JFK on a Friday night. With the help of a kind airline lady that was actually on her way to have her lunch, she got back behind one of the computers at an empty gate and got us on a direct flight from ATL to PHX arriving at 9pm local time. (Cheryl Bourne, you are our angel and our hero!)
Since, we were arriving late and had nothing to do in Arizona when we landed, Chris and I came up with a plan that we'd go straight to AZ on the Rocks once we touched down. We were certain the Ninja Course Experience event on Saturday was going to be crowded and we were worried that Chris might not be able to make a run on the obstacle course, so we figured let's offer my professional photography services to cover the event and help to set up. I had some gear with me already to photograph and video Chris; just one lens (the versatile 24-70mm f/2.8L) and one hot shoe strobe (a Speedlite 580 EX II), but it would do. We also wanted to give back to the ninja community as they and the pro ninjas were doing. We got to AZ on the Rocks and sat down with Kevin, the owner, and Steve, the obstacle course ninjaneer, and offered our help. They happily accepted! We were in!
The Ninja Course Experience Event Was an Absolute Success!
With full access in and around AZ on the Rocks, Chris and I got to help set up, meet the ninjas, and have an amazing time. The staff at AZ on the Rocks absolutely ran like a well-oiled machine; the event went smoothly without hiccups. The pro ninjas were so incredibly friendly and giving, everything you'd expect from these athletes who many look up to on our televisions. I spoke to many people that day, both ninjas and fans, who agreed that this make-up event probably ended up being even better than anything the original ANWE event could have been. The event at AZ on the Rocks was intimate, uplifting, and fun!
Thank you to Kay Freeman of Anytime Fitness - Sandbridge for helping make this trip possible. Thank you to Kevin and Steve and the whole staff at AZ on the Rocks for trusting Chris and me to put in work on that Saturday. Finally a huge THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all the pro ninjas that showed up and made this experience so incredible. (I'd list names, but I'm sure I'd leave someone out.)
Here Are Just a Few of My Favorite Photos From the Event.
Remember, you can go back up to the top of this post for the link to view my entire coverage of this event. If you would like different file sizes, please contact me directly.
John Cachero is a photographer in Hampton Roads, Virginia specializing in commercial, portrait, and special event photography. He photographs weddings exclusively as an associate photographer for Ross Costanza Photography.