The sun hadn’t come up yet, and it was freezing cold at 20 degrees. This was no time to be locked out.
Photographer Andrea Mead Cross and her producer/designer, Kelley Kwiatkowski — both Broward County residents — found themselves in Grand Forks, North Dakota, toward the end of October 2014.
They were there to shoot photos of twin sisters Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux, who teamed up to win silver medals for the U.S. women’s hockey team in 2010 and again in 2014.
There was just one problem — when the four women showed up at Ralph Engelstad Arena at 5 a.m. for the ice time they had reserved, they found all doors locked.
After waking up a couple of people in town, they finally got a maintenance person to drive over and open it up. A makeup artist was there, too, preparing the twins for their close-ups.
But by the time the makeup had been applied and the twins had changed into their outfits, a new problem arose.
“Just as the guy was just turning on the lights to the arena, we hear these voices,” Kwiatkowski said.
“It turns out, there was a whole parade of 10-year-old girl cheerleaders/ice dancers who said they had ice time,” Cross said. “They were flying around the rink, and we said, ‘No, we have the ice time!’
“This was a Pepto-Bismol moment because we had already booked a flight out of town for later that day.”
There were a lot of those Pepto-Bismol moments, Cross said, on the journey to making the book Sports Souls, which was released in December.
The book’s 144 pages are filled with unique photos of athletes, and a great majority of them are reigning or former Olympic champions.
In all, 25 athletes are profiled, and most of them contributed short essays about the adversity they have overcome in their careers.
Retired volleyball star Misty May-Treanor, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, is perhaps the most well-known athlete in the book. But all of the athletes featured are well known within their particular sports.
In most cases, Cross and Kwiatkowski didn’t know the athletes before approaching them or their agents about posing for the photos.
But when water polo star Tony Azevedo was told that 100 percent of the proceeds from the book’s sales were going to charities that help animals, he was all in.
“There was not even a question in my mind,” said Azevedo, who was born in Brazil — where he had dogs, mostly boxers, as pets — but competes for the United States, winning a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics.
Azevedo, who lives in California and has qualified for this summer’s Olympics in his native Rio de Janeiro, said he became keenly aware of animal rights while playing professionally in Montenegro.
Over there, Azevedo said, he sees “tons of stray cats and dogs dying of starvation. People love them as kittens and puppies but abandon them when they are not so cute and cuddly.”
May-Treanor, who recently retired, also is an animal lover. But the main reason she posed for the book is because she had worked previously with Cross and Kwiatkowski.
“This was a no-brainer,” May-Treanor said. “Anything creative like this for athletes — I think it’s fun, and it allows the public to see a different perspective.
“I also like that it’s not the mainstream athletes you would typically see.”
Sports Souls, which can be found on Amazon.com, costs $35. But there is also an autographed edition that sells for $100, and that is targeted to animal lovers who are willing to pay more with the understanding that the proceeds are destined for charity.
Animals aside, the book itself was a passion project for Cross and Kwiatkowski, both former swimmers from Michigan who met in 1990 while competing at the USA Sprint Triathlon Nationals.
Although this is her first book, Cross has earned the trust of athletes over the years by doing commercial shoots.
“I have a really good reputation with [athletes],” Cross said. “They know that I would never put anything out there that would make them look bad.”
The first athlete Cross photographed for the book was American cyclist Taylor Phinney.
After trying for about a month, Cross and Kwiatkowski finally heard from Phinney’s agent, who said he was willing to do the shoot.
There was just one caveat.
The women had to be in California in 24 hours because Phinney was leaving the next day for Europe, where he spends most of the year competing.
And so began a 26-month book journey for Cross and Kwiatkowski as they crisscrossed the country at their own considerable expense, shooting athletes in places such as Dallas; Ann Arbor, Michigan; several stops in California and Florida; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Boulder, Colorado.
How much were those flights, hotels and other travel-related costs?
“A lot,” Kwiatkowski said.
Although the women did not want to specify the amount, they both regard the cost as an investment in their future business.
The end result was worth it, they said. And Azevedo, for one, was thrilled with how he was photographed.
Azevedo, whose photo shoot took place in Huntington Beach, California, is accustomed to being shown in his sport’s uniform, which is a Speedo bathing suit.
But in Sports Souls, he was in jeans and a pullover — a welcome change, he said.
“I thought it was really powerful,” Azevedo said. “I think these photos show Olympians and pro athletes with a warmer heart.”