Sunday, May 31, 2009

Crystal City, 5.31.2009

"Inadvertently" showed up at Crystal City (Arlington, VA) circuit race.  Had planned long bike ride, but hit pain problem, so swung by to catch pro race.  Took about 200 pictures and processed and posted 64 here.  Pretty high keeper rate.  Used same approaches described for Clarendon Cup (post).  No autofocus.  Light was good, found some mellow shade areas on the route that gave more balanced lighting.  Pretty high turnout by mainstream cycling press (kudos to promoter), rocking with $20,000 photo gigs.  No envy.  I like the simpler street photography mode.

Pleased with learning and results.  Some pretty sharp racer pics, and a couple pleasant candids.  Looking forward to more at Fitchburg-Longsjo (MA), Lost River (WV), Cascades Classic (Bend, OR), Junior Nationals (also Bend) and regional races.  May go to Moscow in August for Worlds ...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Clarendon Cup, 5.30.2009

Clarendon Cup (part of the two-day U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic), promoted by Arlington Sports.  Best outing of the season.  Shot 1,500 images; processed (cropped, adjusted exposure, intensity etc.) and posted about 300 here.

Light was a little hot (bright sun), which washed-out some shots and made harsh shadows.  But bright light also provided high-tone opportunities like this and sparkles.  This shot of the DC Velo guy is a favorite. This year's Rock Racing jersey looks like something that calls for EMT gloves and occlusive bandages. Kelly's Jeff Brandon was awesome (placing first in 1/2/3 ... Kelly also grabbed 3rd and 4th).  Something strikes me about this candid, wholesome, appealing.

Things that seemed to work best:  Shot almost all race pictures manual focus (Canon 5D autofocus is slow for sports); varied ISO from 400-800, aiming to keep at F5.6-8.0, shutter speed 1/800-1/1250; work to keep low, on ground if possible (to capture cyclists' faces).

Skills to work on: Manual focusing, background management (tossed a number of otherwise good shots because junk behind racers), and hydration.  I may bring a second body with wide angle; results were comprised when shooting in tight corner (turn 3) with longer lens (70-200 mm).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tour of Somerville, 5.25.2009

Tour of Somerville didn't meet expectations.  Light was bright and harsh.  Fields were less than expected.  Very chubby man crossing street in front of peleton hit my lens and yelled at me.  Achey overnight on port-a-bed.  And so on.

A few nice shots here.  Liked Laura Van Gilder fan club -- nice shot of Laura before her club here.  Sons raced well; Nate (Kelly) was in five breaks during Pro/1/2 event.

Apologize for being cranky.  Next up is USAF Classic in my hometown, Clarendon.  That will go better ...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

RFK, 5.24.2009

Just a quick set of shots at Sunday's RFK Criterium, promoted by Hub Racing ... held on former LeMans race course behind RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.  Bright but overcast day, so good conditions for shooting.  Manual focus again proved out for tight race shots.  Mostly candid shots and Mens Pro/1/2 event.  Uploaded photos here.  Off to Somerville, New Jersey, for Memorial Day Tour of Somerville.

Favorite is kid with iguana.  He asked "How do you do that?" about bike race.  He rides small trick bike, but would like to race.  So ... I pointed him to NCVC Juniors web site ... maybe we'll see him rocking the pack next year.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bike Jam, 5.17.2009

Gray day, some rain (but mostly good soft light).  Shot at ISO 800, 1/1000th second.  Using lessons from Wilmington (yesterday), did more work using manual focus.  Generally pleased, though quality dropped off as day progressed (got more tired and a little cold).  Liberating to photograph the old fashioned way; not dependent on some computer chip to draw image tight.

Bike Jam is one of my favorite venues ... lots of good racing shot angles, spectator/kid activities, people.  Good time with street photography co-conspirator, Kevin Dillard.  Posted 130+ shots here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wilmington Grand Prix, 5.16.2009

Long but pretty good day at Wilmington Grand Prix in Wilmington, Delaware.  Several colleges, art schools and galleries add some exotic background, interesting people.  Town seemed grittier than 2007.  My guess is the recession has led to cut backs.  Pretty overcast in morning, with partly sunny, at best, toward afternoon. Shot most action at ISO 800 @ 1/1000th second.

Did more work than usual shooting using manual focus, this seemed effective at catching close-in fast-action shots.  I think I'll do more manual focus from now on -- my Canon 5D is great for portraits/candid work, but sluggish for sports.

Selected and posted 151 photos here.  Exciting Pro/1 race -- National Race Calendar (NRC) event.  Son Nathan did a lot of hard work leading in Cat 2/3 race at start of day, followed immediately by Junior race.  A lot of crash action; caught some with camera.  Had EMT role for racer in Cat 2/3 event -- face/head injury, blood in trachea impeded breathing, worked C-spine, facial injuries, until back-boarded and transported.

Off to Baltimore tomorrow for Bike Jam.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tour of the Gila, 2009

Tour of the Gila is one of the biggest bike races we've been to.  Out in New Mexico, Silver City area.  About 6,000 feet altitude.  High desert, Continental Divide, energetic old mining town gone a bit artistic and upscale.  Cliff dwellings, mountains, the mix.  Son Nathan flew out Monday, April 27, to race in Category 2 stage race -- five events, 323 miles, about 20,000' climbing.  Impressed by Nate's first two days' results and feeling hemmed in by DC, I made an impromptu decision to take a look. (Recession cheap airfares didn't hurt.) Packed camera kit, some clothes, caught Friday 7 pm flight from Dulles and got to race area about 3 AM MST (5 AM EST) Saturday.

Nate did awesome in Saturday's Cat 2 criterium in downtown Silver.  On about lap 5 of 30 laps (1.08 miles per lap) he broke away from the pack to form what became a 3 or 4 man breakaway.  Nate sustained this for just about the end of the race, and came across the line in eighth ... gained a few seconds in the overall classification, remaining at 13th slot GC (the second highest junior).  (During the crit, we learned at Sunday's podium time, he won a preme or two -- some extra swag with his check.)

Photography was pretty good, shot a range of speeds (1/320 candids, 1/800-1/1,250 for race shots, with either 400 or 800 ISO).  Big news was the Pro/1 race, a cohort one level above Nate's.  Stars Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis, Chris Horner and others entered.  So there was a large contingent of media -- and competition and performance was an amplitude higher.  I had a press pass and a good amount of time up near Lance and crew.  High altitude light was very strong.  And it was windy and dusty.  Am starting draft post processing (on laptop).  Will upload some samples tonight (Saturday).  Need to wait to get home Monday to do more refined work on Mac Pro (i.e., with color balanced monitor).

Some pretty cool stuff.  Young woman who played violin for her friend in race was striking.  Each time the peleton came around, she'd drop into some Bach or another.  Seemed to have been good effect: her friend moved-up in the standings.

Long, 103 mile road race tomorrow (Sunday).  7 mountain passes, some wicked descents, no guardrail, shear drop offs of 200 feet on curves.

Sunday, May 3 -- 102.6 mile Gila Monster race promised to be more than epic.  On top of four days' prior racing -- two long road races, time trial and a sapping crit, -- today's Cat 2 race had 8,943' of climbing, in dry mountains and swash.  Some nasty downhills, cliffs.  Unlike the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel crit, where the riders pass many times in many laps, the road race only had a few quick options to photograph individual riders.

Early morning I drove up to race mile-40, Emory Pass, the highest point at 8,156 feet, to check vantage points.  I settled to a stone box canyon about six miles below the pass, and waited for the Cat 2's to come through.  (Because riders U-turned at the top of the pass, I'd get two opportunities to shoot.)  Both going up and going down, I missed Nate, sitting in the pack, but I got the main group and a breakaway. 

From the box canyon, I drove 65 miles to the finish line area, at Pinos Altos (high pines).  I got some nice shots of the Lance Armstrong machine, with Levi Leipheimer and others as they charged to win the Pro/1 race.  Levi won, Lance got 2nd.  A bit later, a Cat 2 caravan vehicle came through but wasn't immediately followed by a group.  A smattering of racers straggling from other events (Masters 40+ and Women 3/4) came up.  Then a couple 2s charged in, followed in a few minutes by a breakaway with Nate. He looked fresh and called out "Hey Poppa" as he shot past. Nate finished 9th in the Gila Monster, the top junior for the event, and 9th overall (GC -- General Classification) for the Tour.  Awesome.

Posted a few preliminary images from my laptop while in New Mexico.  Total capture for the Tour was 1,397 images.  Using Mac Pro (with Aperture, etc.) at home, finished posting late Tuesday night.  About 176 images selected.  Some nice race pics, but favorites are candids and landscapes.

Extraordinary thanks to coach Sue Hefler for Nate's results, and NCVC's (my club's) great success with Junior racing.  (NCVC Juniors also won more than a few podiums in Sunday's Bunny Hop, a local event in Maryland.)  Sue -- Hefler Performance Coaching -- and Pierre Pelletier have not just been the special sauce behind much success, they have provided expert guidance in all aspects of racing, patient mentoring and care for a broad community of racers, novice to pro.  Pearls like these have no price.