After a mild and dry Sunday, the rain moved in overnight and continued through the morning. I used the time to get caught up on some work which needed attention, but thought most of the day would be indoors and there was little chance of shooting tonight. Shortly after 11:00 Rob called and asked if I wanted to go watch the Castletown Classic Races.
This is a Pre-TT event, put on by the organization that produces the Southern 100 Road Race, which is described as Road Racings Biggest Secret. It was certainly a secret to me.
Even early in the day Rob didn’t think the TT practice would be a go, due to the wet roads and ultimately he was right.
Although the TT riders didn’t get a practice session in, I did! I wore my Photo vest and brought my credentials, but unfortunately my TT Credentials were not of any help in Castletown.
I wasn’t able to get an ideal position, but was able to work on framing and tracking the bikes that are substantially faster than the bikes I typically shoot. It was overcast and fairly low light, but I was using my Canon 1Dx Mark II and a 100 to 400 lens. Just because I was practicing, it didn’t mean that I had to practice with every lens! I shot at 2000 ISO and I knew that if I couldn’t get the shots with this camera, it wasn’t the camera’s fault, it would all pilot error.
I tried a few different locations, partially up a tree, behind a stone wall, but mostly I was behind a wall of orange-vest marshals.
We are all hopeful the weather will clear tomorrow. My morning plan is to find a spot on Bray Hill to shoot for tomorrow.
I have also been invited to shoot some behind the scenes activities with a couple of the teams, it will be fun if it works out.
Today, May 28 is a big day, rich in history in the world of motorsports. The Monaco F1 Gran Prix begins shortly dating back to 1929 about 5 hours later in Indianapolis there is the 101st running of the Indy 500. Pre-dating both of these major events is the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) where the initial lap record in 1907 was 38 mph. The courses each have their challenges are dramatically different, Monaco is just of 2 miles of twists, Indy is a 2 1/2 mile oval and the TT is 37 3/4 miles of twists turns and roads that haven’t changed much since 1907.
All are amazing motorsport events and each have pushed the technology. Speed at around 200 mph,it seems is one of the few things that they still have in common.
Intense competition and amazing driving skills are required all each event, but only at the TT will you have drivers that are not full-time professionals. The top 20 drivers are seeded and go off in numeric order, but the rest (about 60) are based on qualifying times.
The race is a way of life here on the Isle of Man. With a population of about 86,000, the TT brings in an additional 40,000 arrive for race week. International fans arrive all with a common bond.
I arrived a few days ago and had great plans on how to prepare, but I quickly realized that no amount of planning would have adequately prepared me to shoot the race.
Just walking around on the Promenade in Douglas, I met a few people who introduced me to others and so it went.
My dear friend and primary US driver Bruno referred me to his friend Rob Cummings who has been living here for 30 years. Rob picked me up late Saturday morning for a course tour. Of course the tour at the IOMTT was on a BMW K1200K – there is no replacement for seeing the 37.75 mile course on a moto, even though we were at most going half of race speed, even though we did hit 105 mph on the mountain.
By late afternoon it was time for me to head back up to the Grandstand, pick up my final credentials and wait for the practice session to begin. And wait for the practice session to begin. And wait for the practice session to begin.
On an island not unlike Kona and Lanzarote, there are microclimates. There can be bright sunshine on one side and rain on the other. At IOMTT the decisions are simple, if the medical helicopters can’t see to land on the mountain, is no practice or racing.
Unlike with race days, which are scheduled Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, when a weather cancellation will mean events are rescheduled for the next day. With practice however, there is no rescheduling and drivers, mechanics and fans need to wait until Monday night.
Perhaps the most recognizable driver at the TT is Guy Martin, who’s thick accent often needs sub-titles to be understood.
Isle of Man Tourist Trophy – 2017
Isle of Man Tourist Trophy – 2017
Isle of Man Tourist Trophy – 2017
Isle of Man Tourist Trophy – 2017
Isle of Man Tourist Trophy – 2017
Isle of Man Tourist Trophy – 2017
One of the things I am most looking forward to is watching the side cars races.
No race related activities today, just everyone hoping today’s sunshine holds through tomorrow and beyond.
While my blog title is 100% accurate, the week, the island and the guys on the bikes couldn’t be more different.
After a winter of Minnesota hibernation, my race season began by shooting the Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3, a great place to start with a beautiful venue and many good friends. Two weeks later I was in Oceanside California for the 70.3, once again a great event, followed by Ironman Texas, the Get in Gear 10K in Minneapolis, yes I got to sleep in my own bed, then out to Ironman St. George 70.3 and home for the Medtronic Twin Cities 1 Mile.
Ironman Lanzarote was next. Lanzarote is in the Canary Islands and is a place like no other. Not unlike Kona, Lanzarote is a volcanic island. It is however more lava and much less vegetation.
On Wednesday, after a very quick overnight in Dublin, I arrived on the Isle of Man. While not much different in size and population from Lanzarote, the Isle of Man is a speck in the Irish Sea between Ireland and England.
While in recent years, it has become know for off-shore banking, and of course Tour de France sprinter Mark Cavendish, aka the Manx Missile, the Isle of Man is the home of the World’s oldest and most dangerous motorcycle race and yes, I am here for race week.
Although I have been riding and shooting from the back of motorcycles since 2002, I have only owned one since 2011 and that began with a 70cc scooter.
From riding around on the scooter to enhancing my skills at the Zalusky Advanced Rider School and attending the California Superbike School, my fascination has not only been with riding but the visual and the movement of the machines, the colors and the speed. As I begin my experience here, I am can visualize what I want to shoot, my hope is that I can execute. Only time will tell. Time, patience and practice.
The normal island population is about 85,000, with the largest city being Douglas where about 30,000 Manx live. Over the next two weeks there will be 40,000 visitors, coming by air and by ferry.
I am pleased to have arrived a few days early to get a feel for the island, the village and the people, and have spent much of the time wandering around.
For some reason, my Midwest accent makes me standout. At least so far that has been a good thing and I have made some great new friends. I have been able to connect with a local photo legend who was born on the IOM and Peter Bull was a wealth of advice and very friendly suggestions.
I have had an offer of a course tour on Saturday and in the meantime I am checking out routes for the public transit system.
Although the Grandstand area is quiet now, by Saturday evening when the practice sessions begin, there will be a roar.
I also had a chance to be introduced and chat with Bruce Anstey, 11 time TT Champion.
I will be posting more as Practice Week begins and throughout race week.
There are a few things that I can say with absolute certainty:
I travel a lot;
I take a lot of photos;
I have a lot of files that span more than 10 years; and
Art Directors and Photo Editors often request images at the least opportune times.
With this in mind, what I need to rely on is a rock solid organizational methodology and having everything backed up.
My long-term objective in writing my blog is to provide useful information and to have some fun – this one in particular addresses some issues that no one regards as fun. Perhaps it can however, relieve some frustration.
I feel obligated to insert a warning here: This stuff is REALLY, REALLY Boring! Boring, yes, but it is critical and if you get it right the first time and invest just a couple of minutes in the process, I promise, it will save you hours later. However to keep it interesting, I will pop in a few photos here and there and include their files numbers.
Here we go!
Two weeks ago a young friend of mine, Paul Findlay posted on Facebook that she had not been selected for the Canadian Olympic Triathlon team. I was fortunate to be shooting the ITU World Cup in Monterey Mexico in 2010 where Paula had her first win. I thought the finish line photo of Paula would be a great Instagram.
I remembered the event, but wasn’t clear on the year so it took me a couple minutes to find the file, but it was only a couple of minutes. It is my consistency in file naming that allowed me to quickly find the image.
As I am working out this blog, I just received an email from Valerie, Hunter Kemper’s wife. Hunter is a 4-time Olympian and has become a friend over the years. Val was looking for some images from Hunter’s 2006 win at the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis. Here is one of the shots I sent off.
Although it should be obvious, but I feel better mentioning it – everything starts with the year. I keep all of the current year images on my primary (external) hard drive.
I then create folders for the major events that I cover:
Friends and family;
There are always a few folders that I carry over year-to-year and want access to on my primary hard drive. These are mostly related to family and a couple of longer-term projects that I am working on.
Within each grouping above, I will further separate the images. Since I shoot more triathlon events than anything else, I will use triathlon as an example.
Within the world, well my world of triathlon, there are several major event organizers.
International Triathlon Union (ITU);
World Triathlon Corp (Ironman) ; and
Other individual events which are listed separately.
Again since I shoot more WTC events and any others, I will again use that as my example, so far for this year, within this folder I have:
San Juan 2016;
George 2016; and,
My most recent event was Ironman Boulder 70.3 on June 11, 2016.
I arrived in Boulder on June 8th and shot in both the morning and afternoon of the 9th and on the 10th.
Within the Boulder 2016 folder above, I created sub folders, by day, with each one being easily identified and sorted.
The basic structure is:
BLDR 160609A (first shoot of the day);
BLDR 160609B (second shoot of the day); and
BLDR 160610 (only shoot of the day).
I always use the date structure of YYMMDD. By putting the year first, the computer will sort your sub-folders in numeric order.
Here is a shot of my buddy Rafa Goncalves from our morning shoot in file BLDR 160609A
And from the afternoon in file BLDR 160609B here is Callum Millward, shot for Quintana Roo Bicycles:
For the race day, I change my methodology just a bit to:
BLDR16 Race Day.
Here is a shot of Sam Appleton by the well-known yellow barn on Nelson Road just north of Boulder.
Within each folder I build some ‘intelligence’ into the file number.
Without getting into the details at this point, I use Photo Mechanic to edit, sort my images in the order they were shot and rename them and enter descriptions before I import images into Lightroom for any post processing. For the Ironman Boulder 70.3, my sequence is:
In this way, EVERY image I shoot has a unique identifying number. This is critically important to me. Since I send out password-protected galleries to Magazine Photo Editors, Art Directors and commercial clients, I frequently receive requests for high res images, where they only send the image number.
One variation on this theme is that when I have multiple sub-folders as listed above, I will start the first sub-folder as BLDR16 001. If I have for example, 156 images in the first subfolder, I would start the next sub-folder at BLDR16 0201. I want to ensure there is no possibility of confusion on which images are being requested.
For my race day images, I will typically start the numbering sequence at BLDR16 501 or 1001.
As I mention above, I do all of my numbering in Photo Mechanic before I even import images into Lightroom.
Since I shoot events, it is easy to organize this way. If I were shooting landscape and travel, which I do for fun, I would likely start with:
For example, my images from Marrakech are labeled: RAK16 066. (RAK is the Airport Code for Marrakech).
Since most of this happens when I am traveling. I do not have my primary external hard drive with me. I use a MacBook Pro from late 2014 that has a solid-state drive (SSD), copying images from the card reader to my desktop is very fast. If I am using the new CFast2 card from my 1Dx Mark II, it is lightning fast!
When I get back home, I copy the entire event folder to my primary hard drive. More later on updating the location in Lightroom. I promise to do a Lightroom overview post soon.
The entire file structure methodology above is related to working with the original and unprocessed files. As part of my workflow, I will typically provide up to 4 or 5 web galleries for Triathlete.com. After selecting and post-processing the images, I will export them to a new sub-folder, in this case named:
BLDR16 – Tri Mag Gallery 1.
Similarly I would other files that I export would be to sub-folders named for the intended recipient of the images.
All of this organization is great, but if you lose a drive, you are sunk! I have more than 10 years of images archived with the general policy that I keep everything forever.
When I am on the road, I travel with 2 LaCie 1 TB Rugged Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 drives. On one drive, I keep all of my current year files as well as my prior year files from all triathlon events and other major events that I am currently working on. The other drive, I use as a daily backup. It only takes a couple minutes a day to copy the files over and allows me to sleep at night.
When I get back home, all of my current files and changes are automatically backed up every hour using the Apple Time Machine system and a 2TB Time Capsule.
If you don’t want to use the Apple Time Capsule it is very easy to set up using any external hard drive.
In addition on a monthly basis I use a hard drive docking station and a group of what would normally be internal hard drives to create another back up off all of my files.
Later today I am heading off to one of the best races in all of Triathlon, Challenge Roth.
One of the hazards of trying to squeeze in so much great stuff in a limited amount of time is the risk of both physical and mental overload.
The tour in the Atlas Mountains was amazing and both visually and intellectually stimulating and sometimes it takes a bit just to appreciate both the significance and the magnitude of what you have seen.
I did get out in the evening for a great dinner, in spite of being a bit lost!
After another peaceful breakfast on the terrace Mustapha arrived at 9:00 and we sat and talked about the day.
First on the list is the Ben Youssef Madrassa – an Islamic college that was founded in the 14th century and current facility was constructed in the 16th century and housed 130 students. The school was closed in 1960, not bad – operating for 400 years.
The Madrassa was reopened in 1982 and is said to be one of the best examples Islamic Architecture.
Here are a few snaps from the morning.
From there we headed to the tannery. Although I have been told of the many tannery scams in Marrakech and someone approached me I walked back to the car to meet Mustapha. He rescued me just in time!
We drove to the tannery with again had been operating in it’s current format for hundreds of years. Each process of cleaning, preparation and dyeing is done in permanently constructed ‘vats’.
From the cleaning to drying in the sun, either on the rooftop or in the courtyard.
There was a full array of natural pigments used in the dyeing process.
The tannery is run as a co-op for 60 families, who’s ancestors came down from the Atlas Mountains to tan and make their leather products.
The tannery does have the reputation of being pretty foul smelling, so much so that upon entering you are handed a fistful of fresh mint to hold by your nose and mouth. I have always said that I am a lucky guy and once again it proved true, the cooler weather had the smell hovering right around Minnesota State Fair livestock levels.
Of course after the explanation of the tanning process and a bit of history is the showroom and push to sell you something / anything.
No pressure Mr. Paul, we just want to show you all that we do here! If you believe that, they’ve got you.
I will say the work was really nice and at least based on prices that I have seen are not too unreasonable. We moved away from the handbags, cushions and slippers, none of which appealed to me and on to the jackets.
As luck would have it, I have been looking for a jacket. I tried on several and although they had the cut and style of a moto jacket, the leather was so soft, I doubt that I will ever wear it will riding. We went back and forth on the price and I relatively sure I probably paid too much, but it felt good to me.
Our final stop of the morning was the Jardin Morjelle. Originally created over a 40-year period by French Painter Jacques Morjelle, is truly like stepping into and an oasis in the desert.
As Majorelle traveled he expanded the garden surrounding his workshop with plants he would acquire around the world. Subsequent to Majorelle’s death the property was acquired by Designer Yves Saint Laurent and was his residence.
Jardin Majorelle is now a public museum and one of the most visited spots in Marrakech.
It’s popularity made photos without a throng of people a bit challenging.
I hope these few images convey a bit of the peace and cooler temperatures of the garden, oops Jardin.
After a stop for lunch and coffee we headed back to Riad El Mansour. Mustapha dropped me off and before I headed down the street remembering LEFT, RIGHT, RIGHT, I stopped and met Omar the Spice Merchant. He invited me in, which I knew was a set up for buying something and likely over priced.
On the way from the airport, Mustapha had mentioned that he would be pleased to guide / drive me around Marrakech if I would like. The cost 20 euro for about 3 hours. Undecided and suffering from a caffeine deficiency, I told him I would let him know.
After spending several hours getting lost, I mean unintended exploring in the souks, which while fascinating would not hold my attention for all three days I was here. Wadi at the hotel called Mustapha on Thursday evening and we would leave at 9:00 AM on Friday.
Somehow on what was a short trip from the airport I had managed to learn a lot about Mustapha, whose family was Berber and from the Atlas Mountains. Mustapha thought the best day to head toward the mountains would be Friday, there was a weekly market we would see and Mr. Paul, I will show you the REAL Morocco!
It did take about 40 minutes to get out of Marrakech, which has almost a million people. Marrakech was established in the 11th century and yet over the last 10 years the population has almost doubled with people coming in from the country for work, the primary business is tourism.
The four lane highway was really about 1 ½ lanes each way for autos and then ½ lane for mopeds, scooters, bicycles and donkey carts. Riding with Mustapha, there were a few things I immediately realized. 1 – I don’t want to drive and 2 – in Marrakech, there are no rules, only suggestions.
Turn signals while drive are strickly optional but remarkably I didn’t see a single accident. No automated turn signal, but eye contact, a motion of the hand or nod of your head and with an amazingly cooperative environment everyone eventually gets to where they are going and home alive at the end of the day.
A few minutes off the highway we came to a village and their weekly market. Somewhat like the souks of Marrakech but this time there are no tourists, well except for me. You can buy any vegetables you desire, pick up fresh meat.
You know it’s fresh because you can see them men carrying it from the slaughter rooms to the butchers’ booth. Mustapha said in the slaughter rooms there is a government inspector to make sure good conditions are maintained.
We walked through the market, where you could also see a doctor / dentist / barber, all of which are in adjacent booths. Not what you would think of as health care, but it has been done this way for hundreds of years.
Of course there was the café, which except for the ambiance and attire could have been the Starbucks in my neighborhood. Probably the same guys every Saturday morning.
I shot a few images and trying to be noticed as little as possible. I really don’t think that the people minded having their photo taken, but they more likely viewed it as a revenue generating opportunity. There were kids who offered to let me take their photo for a few Dirham – not the candid shots I had hoped for.
We continued our drive up into the mountains turned off the main road to a dirt road – to see a beautiful view for photos! Indeed it was amazingly.
Next up we pulled off the road near a Berber Museum. When the Berbers moved down from the High Atlas Mountains in the seventh century they settled here but it was a strategic error in judgement, since their enemies had the high ground. Later that would eventually move further down and found Marrakech in the 11th Century. This should give you a reference when the locals refer to something as really old!
While I was wandering around the souks yesterday I couldn’t help but wonder where all of the products came from. Of course there are vendors for small electronics, household goods and typical apparel which is easy to understand, but where are the Moroccan products from. It really didn’t seem like the Souk owner was just the front man for the family weaving the rugs or making leather goods. Bargaining here is a highly refined sport and well, I am not good at it. I think I have pretty good negotiating skills but not for individual items.
With the souks and the vendors in mind, Mustapha took me to a Berber Cooperative, where 250 families from various villages in the mountains brought their carpets and other products to sell. Truly amazing work and as the man showing me carpets said, no pressure, no bargaining. I didn’t believe it for a minute, but then we never got to that point! I just told him I thought the work was beautiful but I would not be buying a carpet today.
Our three-hour tour was not past 4 hours and we will still in the mountains. I said that I would be honored to take Mustapha to lunch. A bit more of a drive and we stopped at a wonderful spot, ate on the terrace with a great view. I had grilled chicken with lemon. When ordering, the waiter asked: Leg or Breast? I said breast. Without cracking a smile, he asked: Right or Left? And then started to laugh!
Although we had seen very few tourists since leaving Marrakech in the morning and there was not American among them. Sitting on the terrace at lunch, of course there was another American at the table next to us. A visiting professor of Comparative Religion, who at one time lived in Minneapolis. A small world indeed.
The trip back to Marrakech had few stops but a bit more traffic, but still great things to see.
Back at the Riad El Mansour for a bit of a rest and edit the images that I shot prior to heading out for dinner.
A full and amazing day, not only enhancing my adventure but expanding my life.
I am not an anxious traveler. I can adapt to most situations and if the hotel didn’t look exactly like I was expecting, within a day or so, I can pretty much feel at home. If things don’t go quite right I try not to let it detract from my adventure.
On May 5th I started out with a flight to Las Vegas, was picked up at the airport by my friends Bruno and Chris, who had driven in from Ramona, CA and had my motorcycle in their truck. After finding a convenient spot to unload, I headed out for a ride around Lake Mead and they went on to St. George, UT where Chris would be racing the Ironman St. George 70.3 on Saturday and Bruno would be driving for me as I shot.
Although the weather wasn’t the best, it also wasn’t the worst and we got the job done!
Sunday May 8th I headed from St. George to Zion National Park, up by Bryce Canyon through some amazing terrain and ended my day in Torrey Ut.
Monday was perfect weather and the night before I decided I would head down toward Telluride. Another amazing day. I didn’t have a place to stay but I was sure I could find something.
Tuesday morning had some rain and light snow at elevation and based on the radar maps it looked like it was snowing at Monarch Pass where I had planned to ride so, I adjusted and headed north to I-70, rolling into Boulder early evening.
My BMW is still in Boulder with a friend, I flew home, shot the Medtronic Twin Cities 1 Mile on Thursday evening, and Friday morning headed to The Woodlands TX for Ironman Texas.
Sunday back on an early flight to Minneapolis, with a couple of days to reorganize and finish the images from the last events.
For more than a month I had my reservations to Lanzarote. I knew when I was leaving, when I was returning and the route. I also knew that as long as I was in the neighborhood, so to speak, I wanted to visit Morocco. I had never been to Africa and thought it could be amazing. The day I was leaving for Lanzarote, I finally made my air travel reservations to Marrakech.
Still I waited to find a place to stay hoping that someone in Lanzarote would have a recommendation. No luck, back to Hotels.com for a look. I found the Riad El Mansour, five miles from the airport and nominal walk to the old city.
Prior to arriving, I received an email asking when I was arriving and for 15 euro, they would have their driver pick me up. All good so far.
I did manage to find their driver Mustapha, among the 100 other drivers waiting there. He gave me a quick highlighted tour on the way from the airport and said – now I take you the way you will walk to the hotel so it will look familiar. Again, all good. And then we stopped!
Parked the car in what I can only generously call a chaotic street and stopped right between the melon cart and the banana cart.
As we grabbed my bags he quickly pointed out the small sign beneath the canopy that had the logo of the hotel and said, See this is how you know you are in the right place. Left, Right, Right – remember Left, Right, Right! The next 50 meters were so filled with people and vendors that cars could not travel in.
LEFT! The street narrowed to 3 meters, there were kids playing and a few doorways.
RIGHT! A moped whizzed by from behind, with no one else in site. Walked under a shadowed structure built to connect the buildings on both sides.
RIGHT! Ahead is a dead end, and a shadowy dead end at that.
OK, I am now starting to re-think my low anxiety approach to travel. Just beyond the plant, we finally stop at a large carved wooden door and he rings the bell. We are welcomed by Abdess “Mr. Paul, it is so nice to meet you!”
I find that I am stepping not into a hotel, but to my eyes back in time and into and Indiana Jones Movie. It is amazing structure between 200 and 300 years old with only 6 rooms and a very peaceful interior courtyard.
I am in the Azure room. I mean with only six rooms you can easily use names instead of numbers
After a much needed nap, I headed out to explore the big square, the souks and the old city. After a few hours of wandering through the chaos, I returned to Riad El Mansour.
Peace and serenity, just a few meters from the chaos.
Time now for dinner and upon recommendation of Wadi at the hotel, it was Left, Left, Right and then a 1 minute walk and another right to Latitude 31. Again peace, serenity just a few meters from the chaos. This time with amazing aromas, in an open air courtyard with impeccable service and extraordinary hospitality. Latitude 31 was immediately on my favorite list.
Before turning in for the night, I asked what time breakfast was served. Mr. Paul, you are on holiday, when you get up, I will make you breakfast!
If you are going to Marrakech – contact me, I will share the details of where I was. Not only did they enhance my trip but in doing so, they enhanced my life.