Canon 1Dx Mark II

In about 36 hours I leave for four weeks of travel, which will include 3 National Championship events in 3 different states in eight days, one of the most challenging Ironman races in the world the following week and by my estimate about 17,500 miles of travel, 14 flights and several days on my motorcycle.

I start off with Ironman St.George 70.3, which is the North American Pro Championship, then ride my motorcycle from St. George (May 7) to Boulder, weather permitting, shooting landscape photos for three days. Then a flight home to Minneapolis to shoot the USATF Road 1 Mile Championship (May 12), followed by Ironman Texas (May 14), which is the North American Pro Championship. My final race of this stretch will be Ironman Lanzarote in the Canary Islands (May 21).

After a couple days of editing in Lanzarote, I plan to take a few days off to go to Marrakech   and since I will am routed through Dublin, I plan to take an extra day there as well.

Needless to say I am pleased that my long awaited Canon 1Dx Mark II arrived today. Many thanks to Julie Murphy of National Camera Exchange who kept me well informed as to the delivery date and allowing me once again to get the first one in the Twin Cities.

I do wish I had a bit more time to learn about the new camera, but I do have a couple days to figure out what is different from the Canon 1Dx.

I know I am not alone when people ask, Paul – why do you need a new camera?  Sure it is alway fun to have new gear to use, it becomes a practical matter.  I always shoot with two camera bodies. The current generation and the prior generation. For me this has meant my Canon 1D Mark IV from early 2010, which I love and has served me very well and the Canon 1Dx, which I received immediately prior to leaving for the 2012 London Olympics.

The Mark IV has about 500,000 shutter actuations and then 1Dx is not far behind.  These are tools that have well used and appreciated, as is Canon Professional Services, who keep my gear in great shape.

This blog is not an Unpacking the Box Blog.  You can go to the Canon Website if you need to know what’s in the box. It will be more articulate and accurate than I will be.

This blog is the kick off a four great weeks of travel and amazing events and venues to shoot, which should be an amazing test of the new camera!

Just one performance note, when set to live view the sound of shooting 16 fps, is a constant whir!

I plan to get something posted every few days with some details of the events, race images and impressions of the new camera – Stay tuned.

Competitive Image Blog
Canon 1Dx Mark II

In the vein of The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Competitive Image Blog
My original Canon 1D on the left and the new 1Dx II on the right
Competitive Image Blog
My original Canon 1D on the left and the new 1Dx II on the right

It’s Alive! Building a New Site with LiveBooks

The paraphrase Charles Dickens in Tale of Two Cities, it is easier than it looks, it is harder than it looks.

When I launched my first Competitive Image website in 2004, I had to design the basic layout and determine how I wanted it to look and to work.  Of course I wanted to show off my work, give people the best first impression and still give them the desire to look deeper at the galleries from an event. I was always flattered when I had a lot of people looking at images on my site.

My 2004 site was build by developers who tried to translate my vision into something that was both functional and could be maintained.

Keeping in mind that the only thing I knew about HTML was how to spell it, somehow from 2004 until 2011, I was able to maintain the site with only nominal additional work from the developers.  Of course every time I need them to make a change it was expensive! My specialty was reverse engineering and thankfully I didn’t screw too much up, too often.

In early 2012 it was certainly well past the time for making a change, but in doing so, not only did I need to have the cash for the upfront investment in the site development but even more demanding I had to decide what I wanted to show and how.

I started by looking at the sites of photographers whose work I liked: Joe McNally, Chase Jarvis, Peter Read Miller and others.  Not that I was I wanted to build a site that was exactly like theirs or better than theirs, I just wanted to find a great way to display my work.  What I found particularly interesting was in the lower left corner of each site, was the note: Powered by LiveBooks.  Each site was different and each did a great job of showing off their work.

That was April 2012 and I was committed, or so I told myself, to having the site up and running by mid-June with plenty of time to tweak it before I went to London for the Olympics.

In the meantime a friend set up a meeting on my behalf with a developer who he thought could help me with my new site.

I briefly described what I had hoped to do and showed him some of the other sites that I liked. After a bit of thought, he estimated that the development of a new site would cost around $10,000. My sushi lunch nearly exploded all over the table, I asked about using something like the platform-based site such as LiveBooks.  He said that by the time I finally got it to look the way I wanted, the extras would added up to the same cost.

In May I was on the road, or more appropriately in the air.  I was in Texas, Northern California, Southern California and Madrid.  Great races, great people great photo, but not a lot of time to think about a website.  The rest of the summer and fall continued at the same pace.

What I did decide however was that I didn’t need to provide a full gallery for each event that I shot.  Typically I send a medium resolution gallery of selected images to a publisher after an event via an FTP.  When they want the high res, I do whatever post-processing is necessary and send it off.  If they need something that isn’t included, I get an email and respond with a set of additional selected images.

With this realization, I became incredibly lax at maintaining my site.  Lax is in fact an over statement of my effort, I just didn’t update anything and yet, I had more images published than ever before. I was now getting to the point where the appearance of my site was a personal embarrassment to me and would refer people to my WordPress Blog, because my blog had current content.

Race season ended, with the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and the Bahamas Triathlon, which only left 3 things on my calendar for the balance of 2012:  Thanksgiving, yoga and my website.

I kept being drawn back to the LiveBooks platform and earlier in the year, I had discussed having a custom site build for $4,200, better than $10,000 but still!

I once again looked at their basic formats as well as their interactive home pages and I did find one that I thought with a few changes could be really cool.  Even with the interactive home page, I was prepared to compromise.

My first job was to go through my images picking what I wanted to display.  This was no small task since I shot about 40 separate events doing the year.  I spent all day everyday, for two weeks going through images, post processing and optimizing them for the web.

My next step was to sign up for the LiveBooks, free trial period – I had received a coupon code to extend the trial period from 14 days to 30 days and used that as I signed up, thinking it would take me most of the 30 days to really get ready.

I began my free trial in a Friday and by Monday I was comfortable with the LiveBooks Edit Suite and I activated my subscription and placed the order for an interactive home page.  Cost to-date was $400 for annual hosting and the use of the platform and an addition $200 for the interactive home page. $600 in, not bad – but I was certainly ready to adjust my expectations of what could be done with their template.

I am extremely lucky in that I have a great friend Carl who is an amazing designer. One of his strengths beyond design is his ability to visualize the users’ experience.  It is always challenging to work with Carl and I mean that in the most appreciative and affectionate way. Carl challenges me, makes me think and in the vast majority of the time is spot on in his process.

100% of my interaction with LiveBooks was done via email.  In fact, it was somewhat into the process that I realized that my customer service contact, Elena was really based in Romania. Both her understanding of the LiveBooks system and her English were perfect.  Once we synced up on the zone differences, things went even more smoothly than before.  I would send off requests, comments etc. each evening Minneapolis time and by the time I was at my desk early the next morning I would see the result of the changes. We could do another round in the early morning and then she would be gone for the day. I did have to pay for two additional design changes at $50 each (total cost now up to $700, including the annual fee).

If you look at the LiveBooks offerings and then see the magnitude of the changes I have made (and if you knew how picky I am), you could easily understand how this process could take months. The changes of which there were many, took just over 2 weeks. Looking back at the process, I am still impressed with their responsiveness.  Best of all, there were no compromises on my part.


There are a few things that I realized in the development process.  Whereas I used to be really flattered by the sheer number of people looking at my site immediately after an event, that is now much less important. What I want are the right people to look at it and for them to be blown away by the images. My constituencies are much more clearly defined and include, but are not limited to:

  • Publishers;
  • Photo Editors;
  • Art Directors;
  • Designers;
  • Race Directors; and
  • Workshop Participants.

Of course the list could go on, but these are the primary users of my images. Everyone is of course welcome and I am always flattered, but I wanted to build a site that would show off the quality and diversity of my work, not necessarily the volume of it.

Although I still have some content to add, SEO and behind the scenes work to do on the site, the change from my prior site is so dramatic I wanted to get it launched as soon as practical.

Will the new site lead to more business? There is no doubt in my mind that it will. In fact, I picked up two small projects solely by showing off the test site before it was launched.

Two of my favorite things about my LiveBooks site are: the site scales to fit the size of your screen, so you never have to use the scroll bar to see the entire page; and based on the interactive homepage, you can see 15 of my images without a single mouse click!

It was a lot of work to bring the site to its current state, but well worth it and LiveBooks made it much easier than I could have imagined!

Take a look if you get a chance. I hope you like what I have done, with a little help from my friends.

Paul’s Sports Photo Rule #2

In the past I have mentioned that I have rules, I don’t have very many but there are a few that are really important. Perhaps the best known rule is that You have to shoot the cute girls! I mean, who wants to look at old guys like me?

A more complete explanation is that if you shoot the best looking athletes, with the best form, your photos will be most appealing.

Finding a group to shoot is easy in Triathlon and especially around the time of the Women’s Athlete Briefing. Greg Welch of Ironman fame and with Oakley was on hand to distribute Sunnies with frames in team colors for the girls that sponsored by Oakley.

Hanging out with Welchy is like a magnet for attracting the athletes. I just had to stand there and shoot. Here are a few relaxed and very happy snaps from the day.

The man of the day – Greg Welch, Ironman World Champion!

Team Australia Erin Densham, Emma Moffatt and Emma Jackson.

Canada’s Paula Findlay.

Sarah Groff with the huge Triathlon Grandstand in the background.

Oakley’s in team colors with the commemorative London cases.

Canada’s Kathy Tremblay.

And of course, my friend Sweden’s Lisa Norden.

More soon – off to the Olympic Park again today!

Cheers from London!

Course Familiarization

Even though the London course has been set for the last couple of years and many of the women have raced here, some even had their qualifying race one this course, there have been many miles in between.

From 6:30 to 7:15 AM, they girls had a chance to get out and ride a couple of easy laps of the complete course.  Some rode alone, some with teammates and many with coaches.

Here are a few snaps from their preview ride.

I would be worried if Sarah Groff were not in her typical playful mood.

Sarah and Laura Bennett settled in for a couple of easy laps.

Gwen Jorgensen rode with USAT High Performance Leader Jono Hall.

Paula Findlay was out early.

Reigning World Champion and local Gold Medal favorite knows the course but takes advantage of the available time.

After their ride the girls had a chance to swim the course.

Just beyond the first turn of the one lap swim, the Olympic Rings glow in the early morning sun.

Jono meets Gwen at the swim exit. Laura and Sarah opted out of the swim this morning.

Not only were the girls practicing on the course but so were the operators of the remote TV camera which runs on cable stretched over kilometer moves over the swim course and transition area.

I couldn’t help but stop and drool over the row of BMW F650 GS motos, which is my ideal to shoot from. Unfortunately, I will not get one for the races.

More soon.

Cheers from London.

It is Very Quiet in Hyde Park

Although the course familiarization is not until Thursday morning, I headed to the race venue to look around. I have shot on this course the last two years, but from the previews I knew that everything at the start finish area would be bigger.

I walked in through the media room, which was also for the Open Water Swimming events, but it is at least four times the size of the room we had for the ITU events the last two years.

Here is the view upon walking out into the grandstand.

Great finish line grandstand seating 3,000.

The blue carpet is still covered, but the finish line is ready to go, with photo stands for 96 photographers!

Part of my reason to be on site today was identify the spots I want to shoot on race day. This one looks good to me. Unfortunately, I subsequently learned this spot is not available, and I had to submit a written request for the swim exit positions on the sides.

The Olympic greets the athletes as they exit the water.

Running into T-1 they will see 3,000 screaming fans!

The bike racks are in place, just waiting for placards and bikes.

Even from across the Serpentine, the magnitude of the stadium area can be seen.

Although the race is centered within Hyde Park, on the seven lap bike course, the racers exit the park, go through Wellington Arch and the around the circle in front of Buckingham Palace, and back through the Arch and into the park.


Damp and Dull Day in Guildford

As only the British weather forecasters could say, It will be a Damp and Dull in Guildford today. While the weather was a bit gloomy, the day was anything but dull.

Thanks to great facility at the Surrey Sports Park, Hunter headed to the pool for an early morning swim.

While local master’s swimmers have the left 4 lanes, we have right half of the pool. This morning it was all for Hunter.

After his swim and a good breakfast, Hunter settled in to watch the swim heats live from the Olympic Aquatic Center. While he was watching, he thought he might as well put in a couple of hours on the CompuTrainer.

When Hunter finished his spin, the CompuTrainer moved to Gwen’s room. Under the watchful eye of Gwen’s Coach Cindi Bannink, they are both watching the rowing heats!

Just an easy ride, with a few pick ups. What is that cadence?

Right from her bike Gwen and Cindi headed out to the Rugby fields for a few long laps. Cindi was kind enough to give me a few minutes warning as to when they were wrapping up, so I can get a head start getting to the field.

The Surrey Sports Park is the home of the Pro Rugby Team, the Harlequins. Gwen and Cindi caught their attention on the run.

As always, Gwen displayed her excellent form.

Manny Huerta and training partner, Leonardo Chacon, Costa Rican Olympian were wrapping up their ride.

After lunch and a siesta Manny did a light run for a NBC / Telemundo Interview.
Here their cameraman left his HD camera and used his skateboard and GoPro for some actions shots.

Manny took a few minutes to check email before his interview.

Finally an in depth interview (in Spanish of course) with Francisco Cuevas from NBC / Telemundo.

Post interview, I headed back to London with John Martin.

Today, I am heading back to Olympic Park and Central London.


Training Camp – Surrey Sports Park

Away from the hustle of downtown London and the excitement of the Olympic Village the USA Triathlon Team has their pre-race residence camp in Guildford, at the Surrey Sports Park, part of the University of Surrey.  In addition to their 50 meter pool, there is a testing lab, soccer I mean football fields and an assortment of squash courts, rock climbing and other facilities.

The flags in the window represent the nations of the athletes training here. No one is actually representing the Nation of Starbucks, but it is great to have it here.

This gives the USA Triathletes an opportunity to work with their individual coaches and get some rest in a very relaxed atmosphere. In addition to having great meals, the team masseuse and chiropractor are also here to provide some TLC.

This morning started with a 7:00 swim where we were joined by an ABC News crew.

Having raced in Hamburg, Matt Chrabot came into Guildford as the Men’s Team alternate.
Both Gwen and Manny started their day in wetsuits, just in case their is cold water on race day.

Gwen was filmed for an upcoming ABC News feature.

Jeffery Kofman from ABC News interviewed Gwen.

Hunter passed on the early morning swim, headed for the Surrey Performance Lab for his workout.

The results of Hunter’s effort is seen by the sweat dripping from his top tube.

You have to look closely, if you want to see Hunter’s feet.

Manny and his training partner, Costa Rican Olympian Leonardo Chacon, did a mid afternoon trail run.

Upon returning from their run, an Olympic Broadcast Services crew had arrived for a planned interview.

Although the Team will be here a few more days, I will head back to London after tomorrow’s morning workout.   We are working on getting access to a few things that you will likely never see on TV – Hopefully we will have some exciting images do share!

Cheers from Guildford.

London Calling

Over the last two years I have been in London for the ITU pre-Olympic events and have loved it, so I was eager to get back into the more central area, particularly to see the Tower Bridge with the Olympic Rings suspended.

It was really a quick trip into London from the Olympic Park, just a couple of changes on the DLR and I was at the Tower Hill Gateway station.

I was walking around and saw a couple with an Ironman Logo on their backpack.

Although Nick had recently done Ironman Switzerland, he did not fare as well as Rebecca who qualified for Kona at Ironman UK.

As it turns out Rebecca is Rebecca Romero two-time Olympic Medalist. Rebecca was a Silver Medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics in Rowing and a Gold Medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in Pursuit Track Cycling. All in all, not a bad background for an Age Group Triathlete!

With the farewell of  See you in Kona, I headed to find a Starbucks.  Near the end of the day, I ran into Rebecca and Nick one more time and chatted a bit more. Rebecca asked if I had ever seen a Gold Medal, and although I had, I would love to see her’s if she had it with her. As it turns out, Rebecca had made several media stops during the day and did have her medals with her.

Where do you keep your Olympic Gold Medal? Well in your Team GB sock that you wore when you won, of course!

The evening light on the Tower Bridge is truly spectacular, first with a French tall ship in the foreground, certainly gives an idea of a much earlier time.

At a bit later (after an amazing dinner, sitting along the Thames) closer to sunset, I tried a few shots using HDR. I hope you like it.

Although I don’t often use HDR, it is great fun when the right situation presents itself.

Here is another new building, still under construction that to me begged for a moderate HDR effect.

This afternoon I will be heading out to Guildford to re-connect with the team at their training camp away from the distraction of the Olympic Village and pressure of the media.

More soon!


My Day Off – I think I Will Take a Few Photos

Friday night was late for everyone for those who attended the Opening Ceremonies it was even later. While I spend my evening watching the telly (am I sounding British yet?) with the staff at the University of East London, many photographers ended up working at the Main Press Center until 3:00 AM and then slept of the floor of the workroom for a few hours until it was time to go again.

The Team also had a late night, slept in and then traveled to Guilford, which will be their training base for the next few days, away from the distractions of the Olympic Park and the pressure of the media.

While they were traveling, I had the day off! What better time to go tour the Olympic Park and head in to London.

The London Olympics set up a great system to get the media around to the venues, but mostly to the back entrances. Since I am only credentialed for common areas and the Triathlon, I am unable to go through the stadium to get to the park. I was able to find my way through via the entrance to the Aquatic center.

Although I arrived early, I was still somehow surprised by the size of the crowds. Many moving from one ticketed venue to another; but many just out enjoying the beautiful day and the fabulous venues.

Here is the view of the Park from the Aquatic Center.

There are waterways, running throughout the park, here between the Stadium and the Aquatic Center.

Substantial park and flower gardens.

Inspire a Generation is the theme of the London Olympics and is prevalent throughout the park, here at the Velodrome.

The Olympic Basketball Arena can only be captured with a fish-eye lens.

An ocean away, I met a family from the Minneapolis area here to enjoy the games and support Team USA.

This Austrian couple came to support their athletes!

Unless you are sitting at home in front of your telly, you cannot possibly see all that you would like to see. British Airways helps solve the problem by having an outdoor viewing area that can be seen from both sides of the River Walk area.

Corporate Sponsors have major presence at teams from Coca Cola are out entertaining the crowds, doing dance and rap routines – all with a recycling theme!

Coca Cola also has sculptured building that combines design and music.

Before heading into London, I stopped at the MPC for a while to watch the end of the Men’s Road Race, and then on to the DLR.

Media Day for USA Triathlon

Although I am still not really sure what day it is, other than Olympic Opening day, I know that it was USAT Media Day.
After checking into the Main Press Center and receiving the final packet of materials and my photo vest, I met Hunter Kemper on the Olympic Village set of NBC’s Today Show. Hunter laughed when they sent him to Hair & Make Up.

He was relaxed and everyone on the set had a great time, while he was demonstrating to Natalie Morales and Savannah Guthrie how they should cheer for him at the Olympic Triathlon on August 7th.

A quick unguided tour of the International Broadcast Center proved that even the broadcast guys like to have there photo taken.

Next I headed up to the Canon Professional Services area to have my fish-eye lens checked.

“Well it seems to work up close, but the distance seems to be a tad off – we will fix it overnight and have it for you in the morning”

Now it is time for the Press Conference with Gwen Jorgensen and Manny Huerta, both were delightful and individually fielded questions and told stories for 45 minutes.

I made a new friend on the way back to my lodging!

Tonight I have a fabulous view of the Opening Ceremonies (on TV) watching with the UEL staff.
Tomorrow I will be exploring a bit of London and checking all of the places that I can find Olympic Rings.  Sunday, I head out to the Guildford Training camp to rejoin the team.

Follow me on Twitter @CompImagePhoto for photo updates.