Marrakech – 1 More Adventure

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.

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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’.

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From the cleaning to drying in the sun, either on the rooftop or in the courtyard.

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There was a full array of natural pigments used in the dyeing process.

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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.

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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.

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Another great day!

More soon,

Paul

Put This One On Your Bucket List!

There are lots of things that can be said about an Ironman Triathlon and the people that race them. From the outside, friends of the triathletes, whether Professional or Age Group think they are Compulsive Obsessives and addicted to their training. Others sit back in awe of what they have or are working to accomplish.

Although my deteriorating knees saved me from ever attempting an Ironman, I have done some pretty absurd things in my long and undistinguished athletic career. But, as the tag line for Ironman says – Anything is Possible, which I believe is what really drives most of the participants. For some it is a statement of what they can do, for many others it becomes a lifestyle.

There are of course the genetic anomalies like Craig Alexander, Jan Frodeno, Mirinda Carfrae and Jesse Thomas that do this professionally and win, but let’s face it; they are not like the rest of us.

Traveling to compete at one of the 40+ Ironman races or other Iron-distance races around the world is becoming increasingly common. Destination races have become part of the adventure of racing, as well as a great way to see the world and involve your family whom has had to be incredibly supportive during your long training.

Each year it seems I am spending increasing amounts of time in Europe covering events. The atmosphere, the charm, the attitude of the hosts keeps drawing me back. Personally I also love the opportunity to explore new places and cultures.

For years, my friends at the ITU kept insisting that I come to the race in Hamburg just to see the crowds. When I finally did, it was amazing. Now I typically spend July in Germany shooting IM Frankfurt, Challenge Roth and Hamburg.

Last fall Club La Santa invited me to cover the 25th Annual Club La Santa Ironman Lanzarote on May 21, 2016, which after working out the scheduling seemed to be an opportunity not to be missed.

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Ironman Lanzarote – Club La Santa

Ironman Lanzarote - Pre Race

Ironman Lanzarote – Club La Santa

In fact, IM Lanzarote turned out to be the combination of attributes of all of the best events I have been to over the last 15 years. Lanzarote has the volcanic Island and black sand beaches of Kona, the mountainous bike course of Zell am See in the Alps, the welcoming celebratory atmosphere of Roth and crowds of Hamburg! Really it has it all.

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Over 300 Volcanoes on Lanzarote

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Ironman Lanzarote

Ironman Lanzarote – Timo Bracht riding  though the Fire Mountains

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Ironman Lanzarote – over 2,500 meters of climbing 

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Ironman Lanzarote – Spectacular views – if you have time to look

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Ironman Lanzarote

 

Unlike many of the North American events, Lanzarote has a rich 25-year history and certainly reflects the personality of founder Kenneth Gasque. To say the least, Kenneth treats every triathlete and family member as his personal guest.

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Kenneth began his Ironman career in 1985 and immediately commenced his efforts to bring a race to Lanzarote. 1992 marked the beginning of Ironman Lanzarote and was the 4th event in the world. The race has a rich history, with some athletes returning for 15 years or more. When you arrive you are neither treated like guests or friends, you are treated like family. With the Club and Event staff doing all they can to enhance your experience.

At first Lanzarote may seem difficult to get to, but since I typically have to make a connection in Amsterdam, Paris or London to get to the race venue, this time I connected in Dublin and then headed south for an additional 3 hours to Lanzarote.

Club La Santa is a training center, in the fall and winter professional cycling teams, triathletes, swim clubs and many others flock here to escape the European winter and enjoy some solid training. On site there are 3 50-meter 8-lane pools, a 400-meter track, soccer field, weight training, gym and almost anything else you can imagine, including Stand Up Paddle boards. While May is not peak training season families from all over Europe arrive to play together. My apartment was simple but quite comfortable and for my 8 day stay, I felt very much at home.

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I hope you enjoyed a few my favorite photos from my stay in Lanzarote, judge for yourself, but put this one on your bucket list!

 

 

 

Sochi – A Day on the Coast!

Getting off of the Media Bus at the Main Media Center was a bit bizarre.  It was 60 degrees and sunny! My system is just not wired for that in February, but I LIKE IT!

My first stop was the Ice Cube Curling Center.  Now in my fourth day of shooting, I am starting to see some of the same photographers that I have seen at other venues. Good guys and really good photographers. Most are really helpful, professionals and easy to work along side of. I am sure the others would be too, if we had any idea what the other one was saying!
I have been having fun with the Brits, Aussies and Canadians, eh!

Please don’t ask me to explain the details of Curling, but I understand there are Stones, you have to get it in the House and the closest to the Button to win a point, but sometimes you can get two points.

What I do know, is that it as intense as any sport out there; and if there was a staring contest, these guys would win hands down.

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After curling, I took a deep breath and headed to the Iceberg Skating Palace, where I saw my friend Paula Kim. Paula had previously been the ITU Photo manager and was now the Venue Photo Manager.

At least I had shot and somewhat understood Short Track Speed Skating, which you can generally describe has high speed mayhem in a small oval, with flashing sharp blades and resemble something from Iron Chef. As you see the thickness of the padding on the sides, it becomes obvious why it is there.

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I made it back to my apartment by 6:30, had a farewell dinner with my buddy Dave who has been here working for 3 months – really great pizza and a beer or 2.

More Biathlon later today.

My Sochi Home, Away from Home

The recent reports about the problems with the media housing, probably would not have had much of an impact on me had I not just watched the Discovery Channel Series – Klondike.  In the days leading up to my trip, I spent entirely too much time trying to track down details about which hotels where having issues and envisioning slogging through mud filled streets. Just in case, I was able to pick up a light blub in Moscow – like that was going to save me from anything!

The Moscow Airport had a special line for credential holders traveling on Aeroflot and as a Delta partner, my Sky Priority Boarding made getting my gear on easy. Upon arriving in Sochi, there was certainly a celebratory atmosphere, with the anticipated 100,000 visitors coming through the airport.

I was able to immediately able to get my credentials validated and then pick up my luggage (everything made it!).

Volunteers where EVERYWHERE!  The young lady with the clipboard had my name and told me I needed Bus TM17 which would take me directly to my hotel. Another volunteer, Alexander, a writer from Siberia, helped me with my luggage and would check on me every few minutes to make sure I was doing well. About a 20 minute wait for the bus and we were off. Yup, we talked about the weather in Siberia compared to Minnesota – pretty close for 2014.

New highways (with dedicated Olympic vehicle lanes), new tunnels, new bridges, new water treatment plants and a new rail system. It is really pretty easy to see how you could spend $50 Billion or so, even if it was all efficiently used.

My only glitch of the day was that I was dropped off at Valet Hotel #3, instead of the Valset Apartments #4. An easy 4 minute walk, which with all my luggage was made easier going down hill.

No mud, no workman just a bedroom, bath and a kitchen in a ski village, with a great view.  It is pretty spartan, ok, VERY spartan. but when I compare it to many of the places I have stayed over the years, this is pretty nice. Not perfect, but pretty nice.

I have been doing a little decorating, putting up a ski area map and the event schedule on the way – reminds me of my college dorm!

Sochi Walk About

Bedroom / Living Room / Balcony

No one can think of everything, the fan vent above the stove does only vents into the cupboard. I guess that means I shouldn’t cook anything too smelly or smokey!

Sochi Walk About

Kitchen / Office

I have lots of room to spread out and work.

In short, airport to hotel and checked in with the media center. Much easier than London.

After getting settled in last night I headed down to the Gorki Media Center for the Mountain Cluster. I picked up a few necessities (my photo sleeve – more on this later), a Sochi SIM card and a bit to eat. The Press / Photo workroom was already filled.

Sochi Walk About

Press / Photo Work Room

This morning, I had a short walk back to the original hotel where they serve breakfast. Three minutes out my door I run into my good friend from Boulder, Dave Taylor. Dave has been here since December working with the Olympic Broadcast Service.  It is amazing how quickly you can feel at home by seeing a friendly face.

Here are a few snaps of my new neighborhood!

I am on the 7th floor of the building in the middle on the right.  On the lower left you can see the Rosa Khutor Transportation Hub. A short walk from the hotel and I will be able to take the gondola up to the right to the Nordic area and I go up to the left, I will get to the Alpine events.

Sochi Walk AboutMy view of the Alpine areas across the street.

Sochi Walk AboutThe base station for the gondolas.

Sochi Walk About

Right now I am on the wait list for an Opening Ceremony ticket – hoping I continue to get lucky!

Finally for all of those wondering, yes I feel quite safe, which is no excuse for being stupid!

More later.

Paul

On the Ground in London

The adventure has finally begun!  Easy overnight flight to London and I was even to get a few hours of sleep.

As we arrived in London and heading toward Customer, there was a table of Olympic Staff there to validate our credentials and answer any questions, as well as directing us to a Games Only lane at Passport Control.  Wow rank does have its privileges!

My new favorite passport stamp:

From there I headed to the Heathrow Express, again courtesy of the Games. Easy Peasey, in fact it was a little too easy. Now the work begins as I go from Paddington Station to the Tower Hill Station, to the Tower Gateway, to DLR (Docklands Light Rail), change at Canning Town and finally to Cyprus, across the street from the University of East London (UEL) USOC housing.

As you have seen from my prior posts, I do not travel light. Upon arriving at UEL to my 3rd floor walk-up dorm room, I sat town and thought that the most physically demanding part of my Olympics is probably over!

A quick shower and then over the meet members of the US Triathlon Team while the when through their initial processing. Jonathan Hall, Hunter Kemper, Gwen Jorgensen, Manny Huerta and Andy Schmitz are ready to begin.

Hunter selecting his 4th Olympic ring.

Manny sitting on just some of his Olympic apparel that he needs to try on, here wearing his Podium uniform.

Final Packing for London – Remotes, Rain Gear and Cables

Today is the day, I am checked in, almost all packed and in general have my life together, well as much as it is ever really together. I do feel that I am prepared for a three-week trip.   I once received some travel advice to Take half the clothes and twice the money, while  that is really solid advice, I do take a limited amount of clothes but for me, I do have a tendency to take a lot of gear. Having said that, it is a fraction of what the guys from SI take.  I will only be setting up 1 or maybe two remotes and controlling them myself.

This morning I want to highlight some gear that I hope I don’t get to use on my trip, but then it has been known to rain in both London and Copenhagen.  If I need it, I will get a shot or two of what it looks like in action and how to use it, but for now here it is.

Once again from the great folks at Think Tank Photo we have several versions of the Hydrophobia. I have covers for my 70-200, (with and without a flash), as well as my 300. Both of which have seen too much use this spring in Minnesota.  I also have the add on to cover my remote. I hope I have brought too much rain gear, but I am sticking with the theory The more I bring, the less I will need.

This morning, I am also finalizing packing all of my card readers, cable, jump drives and other stuff that I need. Again, I am relying on my Think Tank Cable Management System.

I particularly like the clear front panel so I can immediately see which bag I need.

A final comment, since I had snaps of all of my camera bodies, I used my Canon G1X to shot the photos. This is a sweet little point and shoot, that you can shoot Raw, HD video and use in Manual, and Shutter or Aperture priority.  While not small enough to fit in my pocket, it fits nicely into a Think Tank pouch that I have on the shoulder strap of my Street Walker backpack.

Next post from London!

Cheers!

Follow me on Twitter @CompImagePhoto for daily shots from London!

Packing for London

It is now two days until I leave for London and the Olympics. Typically, I pack before the day before I head out to a race, but this time – it is my first Olympics and I want to make sure I have all of the right stuff, and just the right stuff and as such I have been working on this for a couple days.

Not only do I have to carry everything with me at the race, but it is almost more complicated to get it from Minneapolis to London with as little as stress as possible.

There are a couple of major differences between what I am bringing to London versus other events, instead of bringing my 400 mm f/2.8, I recently added a 300 mm f/2.8. Both the 400 and the 300 are fabulous lens, but the good news is the 300 travels much easier than it’s big brother.  It is substantially smaller and has about half of the weight.  I am also bringing 4 camera bodies instead of 2 and a couple of extra lens.

Here is the challenge:

For the last 7 years I have used Think Tank Photo gear. Its well made, really well thought out and it is always there when I need it.

Usually I use an Airport International and my Shape Shifter on the plane and then packed the Glass Taxi in my luggage. On site, I use my modular set / belt system and my glass taxi.  I started using my Airport international, when I went to China to shoot the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer Tournament.  My rough guess is that it has logged about 250,000 miles. It is served me well, but gee, I want to look good at the Olympics!

Although I have never visited the Think Tank facility, my guess that they sit around saying wouldn’t it be cool if we had a product that did _____?  And, then they make it.

A few of the cool things they have come up with are the Street Walker Pro, an updated Airport International 2.0, with a low divider set so a laptop can be included and then there is the entire Retrospective product line.

WOW – it all fits!

Now with the Artificial Intelligence Laptop bag on top for my Mac & iPad.

Zipped and ready to go!

Heading to the race venue I will add my Modular Pack and belt, which will be all that I use during the event, with the 300mm carried over my shoulder.  My lap top and cases will be parked in the Photo Workroom at the Venue. (Oh yea, the guy on the moto photo on the Modular Set box is me).

The Street Walker Pro is great, holds a lot and is comfortable to carry, but what about when you just want to ramble around and take a few happy snaps.  Sometimes there is fine line between locations scouting and sightseeing. When I ramble around, I generally carry 1 camera, 1 lens and take 1 shot at a time. I love to carry the 5D because of its size and it doesn’t really look like a Pro body. Here is my Retrospective 7, which also easily holds my iPad.

Rambling in London, I think will require more than one lens!

Here I am in the Arabian Desert with my Retrospective 10, I am still trying to vacuum the sand out of it!