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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I had great intentions of writing several blogs while I was on the road, but as luck who have it, I was more than a bit over optimistic about my available time. I know, like that has never happened before.
Saturday, May 7 was the Ironman St. George 70.3, the North American Pro Championship, with a great field of athletes and truly a championship course. With portions of the course set in Snow Canyon, it is a photo op in waiting. This was the fifth time I have shot there and unlike in prior years the light was less than perfect.
Temperatures in the low to mid-50s and periodic rain is indeed less than perfect. But I felt confident, I was wearing full dress Aerostich Moto gear which makes me look like a cross between the yellow Power Ranger and the Michelin Man. Bruno was driving for me and we were using my BMW F700GS, which we have modified to make it easier to shoot. In addition, I had ThinkTank Photo Rain covers.
Aside from a few random snaps, this was the first field use of my new Canon 1Dx Mark II, with its magical glow-in-the-dark ISOs and 14 frames per second.
First, more as a test of the camera, I shot the following image of Bruno at 40,000 ISO. Below you can see what it was like right from the camera followed by the image with some Lightroom clean up. Not too bad, but the real question might be if you are shooting in the dark, why don’t you just get out a flash? But then like I said, it was a test.
From a practical standpoint my greater concern is shooting with ISOs in the 2000 to 4000 range. Situations where there is low light, not in the dark, and I want to have a reasonable high shutter speed and a bit of depth of field.
Again here are a couple of shots with the unprocessed image first, followed by the Lightroom processed image. Really not too bad.
When I am shooting from the Moto, I typically shoot in burst of 3 to 5 frames and then as part of my edit process I select the image with the best biomechanics. With the 1DX Mark II, I was initially shooting in 5 to 7 frame burst. Certainly overkill, part was the sensitivity of the camera and I am sure part was attributable that I sort of lost the feeling in my hands in the cold rain. Either way the camera is sensitive to the touch. You can adjust the maximum frame rate in the settings but why give up the speed, I am sure by next week, I will get the hang of it.
I was really quite impressed with the quality of the images, particularly the color depth particularly on a fairly dark and grey day. Following are a few shots from the course.
Late Sunday morning, I loaded up the Moto and headed out for 3 days of riding through the spectacular terrain in Utah and Colorado. Some rain, some sunshine, some snow and hot and cold weather is the short version of the story. My final day had to be re-routed due to snow in Monarch Pass.
Here are a few snaps from the road trip, all shot with the Canon 1Dx Mark II and the 24-105 mm, f/4.0 lens. You can judge for yourself.
Tonight we have the USA Track and Field Road 1 Mile Championship and the off to Ironman Texas in the morning.
Now 36 hours into the ownership of my new 1Dx Mark II body, I have yet to have time to take it out for a real test, but after sitting with it for a bit on Tuesday evening and just a few shots this morning, I do have some initial impressions to share.
The set up, both physical and the menu content is virtually the same as the 1Dx. Please keep in mind I haven’t been through everything yet, nor have I opened the manual. I will likely find a few differences, as I get deeper into it.
The first noticeable impression is that 14 fps is really fast and that shooting with Live View at 16 fps is REALLY, REALLY fast. I did hold the shutter down to see how many shots I could fire off in a row and it slowed down at about 140 frames.
Having a burst mode of 140 + frames goes into the category of just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. To translate that into a practical use, as I am shooting in 3 to 5 image burst from the back of the moto, I truly believe that I will never be inhibited by the transfer rate to the CFast 2 card.
Since I have a couple of hours to kill here at the Las Vegas Airport before my ride arrives to go to the race in St. George, this is a good opportunity to check the high ISO capabilities.
The above images are full frame and as shot, with NO post processing and to me they all look pretty good.
To test a bit more, here are some higher crops of the same 3 images.
Again, except for the crop there has been no post processing to these images. Yes 20,000 looks a bit edgy but not too bad and I think the 5,000 looks pretty good.
Now you may be thinking why is this guy shooting at 1/800 in such low light? I sure hope he can hold the camera steady. The fact is that I shoot sports and if I want to stop the action I need a high shutter speed. High ISO and a tripod will not work for me.
In the final image in each series. I dropped the shutter speed to 1/400 to accommodate the reduction in ISO, but still pretty fast.
Finally here is an image where I have done a bit of post in Lightroom.
Just some minor post and it cleans up quite well.
Will I be shooting at 20,000 ISO? Probably not too often. The last time I did was at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
It’s not really about being able to shoot in the dark, which I could probably do, it is about shooting in low light. This whole photography is really about the light. The light reflected off of your image, as well as how much image noise is inherent in the image and what you in post.
Although this is very preliminary, I am pretty impressed. I am looking forward to the pre-start shots at the Ironman St. George 70.3 this weekend for the real test.
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.
In the vein of The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Ok, it is not quite camp, there are no tents or cabins; there are no s’mores and probably no bonfires! In addition, you will not be shooting from the back of a motorcycle and while we will be at events, you will not in an editorial sense be Covering the Event.
You will however have a great opportunity not only to shoot but also to have access at events that you could not do on your own. Well at least not legitimately.
Here are a few snaps from prior sessions.
Although the events change year-to-year depending both on the weather and the calendar, our tentative schedule
Class at MCAD -Tuesday June 7
Liberty Triathlon – Saturday Morning June 11
Capitol City Triathlon Morning – June 12
Class at MCAD Tuesday – June 14
Paul Saints – Wednesday Evening June 15
North Star Bike Festival – Friday Evening June 17
Canterbury Downs – Saturday Morning June 18
Motorcycle racing – Sunday – Mid-day June 19
Class at MCAD – Tuesday June 21
Events Pending – June 25 /26
One on one student sessions June 26 to 27
As you can see, the weekend of June 17, 18 & 19 we have 3 events schedule, which will really give you a real world feel of what it like to be a working editorial sports photographer.
Although your level of photo experience does really not matter to take the course, the more you know the more you will gain. Each year, we have a student or two who comes back for a second session and their work really improves.
What is important is that you are familiar with equipment. Although we do discuss the use of shutter speeds and f/stops, it will be in the context of getting a sports photo and telling a story and not the basic functionality.
One of the traditionally most popular classroom sessions is the detail walk through of my digital workflow from shooting the photo to post processing, using both Photo Mechanic and Lightroom. Efficiency is as critical whether shooting sprint event or an Ironman.
The final few days will be test of how much coffee I can drink! I will meet with each of the participants individually to give you each a more specific critique of what you can work on and where you can take your photography.
The image was shot last July at the Challenge Roth Triathlon and was published in Triathlete.com. In January 2016, it was selected by the industry group, Triathlon Business International as the Top Published Triathlon Photo of 2015.
In yesterday’s blog, I gave my thoughts on what are critical attributes about shooting from a motorcycle.
One thing that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog was that at Oceanside on April 2nd there were only two other motos for the media. One was for a photographer and the other for a spotter. Only having two photographers on the course is pretty rare and while there were marshals on the course, there really wasn’t much traffic for us. More common would be six or more. At the major events, sometimes they are hard to count.
Here is a common view at major events.
In the first image above, there are race marshals, still photographers, NBC videographers, and Ironman Live (streaming) videographers. The 2nd image has much the same but without NBC.
I hope this gives you a better idea of what it is really like and the driving skills required. As well as how badly things might turn out if there is someone without appropriate skills in the moving gaggle at the front of the race.
Oh yes and then there are the crowds.
The above portion of the Challenge Roth for is restricted to the TV motos and the Polizei. My driver dropped me off about 1 km from that point and to get the shots I wanted, I walked and then using a back road, he met me at the top of the hill. FYI – this image was also selected by Triathlon Business International as the Top Published Photo for 2015!
One thing I neglected to mention is that I cannot do my voodoo without a great partner. In addition, since I sit backwards, I only see the race and not really the roadway. To really have the right feel for what it is like to be out there, I have asked Bruno Desrochers, who has been my primary driver for the last 5 years to share some comments, as well as David Ashe who was a first time driver for me at the Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 in March.
I have lost count of how many races Bruno and I have done together, but our range of events is from ITU events in San Diego, USAT Age Group Championships in Milwaukee and the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Zell am See, Austria.
As luck would have it, we were able to find a 2015 BMW F700GS to use in Zell am See.
Here Bruno and I are just coming down out of the Alps and back into town to get ready to shoot the run. Although my preference is to sit backwards and shoot from the moto, on this course there simply was not room on the road and particularly the descents to do so. We had driven the course each of the two prior days to pick out our planned locations and to familiarize ourselves.
As we moved from spot to spot, we hit 115 km/hr and in fact dragged our foot pegs a couple of times on our BMW F700GS. I may be frowning on the outside but on the inside I am screaming, holy shit this is so much fun I can’t believe it!
The following shot of 70.3 World Champion Daniela Ryf should give you can idea of the extreme nature of the course.
Now that I hope I have sort of established the environment that we work in, my hope is that comments from Bruno and David will have greater context.
First from Bruno, although he does have a side job as an aerospace engineer, he is as close to a professional driver as I have ever met.
Bruno – I started off by volunteering for the Oceanside 70.3. The beginning of my experience with this type of driving was for race marshals. It wasn’t until the 2011 Ironman Arizona that I met Paul. I’ve read about being a moto driver in these events and spoken to professionals. Part of my motivation was by driving it provided me a way to be involved while my wife Chris was competing. Being a spectator is actually quite hard on the mind and body, especially on full Ironman events
Much of the experience is about riding with a passenger and reacting to what the passenger does. If the passenger moves a lot, this will limit how close I’m willing to get to an athlete. It is definitely more difficult to ride slowly, keeping up with a cyclist or a runner while keeping the bike stable at these speeds. Other aspects of the experience are; what’s expected from me as a rider; and what I have to do during the event – where can I go – knowing the course.
Finally, it’s about knowing the rules:
Don’t put you and your team in a position that will result in an accident for anyone;
Anticipate where the others will be around you. For Age Group athletes, you have to expect the unexpected;
Let the athletes go first – don’t crowd them particularly in the turns;
Get off the course if possible if your position is threatening to others;
Take the time to do what you have to do, but don’t drag along. Give the space to other motos when you’re done;
Know what your role is
Abide by the rules
Anticipation is a key to safety. One time, riding downhill and keeping pace with the cyclists at about 30 mph, I was keeping a fair amount of distance all around between us and the athletes. I didn’t know what was going to happen, if anything, and even though the reaction times are the same, the time it takes for events to happen are longer, as we all know. Next thing I know the cyclist, who was about 30 meters in front of us crashed. Although surprised, I was ready and had plenty of time to swerve around without impacting those behind me. I also had time to see the poor man sliding quite a ways, but didn’t see him stop.
From my perspective, having ridden all types of motorcycles, the best is a relatively upright, not a high performance machine, easy clutch, responsive throttle, and 2-wheeled motorcycle, as opposed to a 3-wheeled Trike models. It also helps to have a short shift lever on the transmission, but obviously not necessary. A more upright position helps relieve the pressure on the wrists. Also, I often find myself slipping the clutch while maintaining slightly higher revs to maintain a really slow speed.
Finally, if a specific course was provided for this purpose, I would gladly take it. One can never have too much training and ultimately, if all moto drivers knew what to do, it would make everyone’s job so much easier and safer.
As Paul pointed out, it all starts with the motorcycle. After all, this is the tool that enables the ideal experience between the driver and the passenger. This team should be comfortable both physically and for communication purposes regardless of the passenger’s job. In addition, the moto is there because of the event, so having a loud motorcycle is not a good feature. The reason is twofold; the first being that if the passenger is a marshal, there’s no point in advertising to the cyclists that the marshal is coming up being them; the second is that even if the passenger is not a marshal, there’s no point in freaking out the cyclist when riding by at greater speeds. So considering that these events are usually half-Ironman or Ironman distances, the moto team will be there for a long time.
I’ve had the opportunity of riding for marshals and photographers. Often times, I have seen volunteer marshals that have had little to no experience on a motorcycle or even as a marshal. I think it’s obvious that this is not advisable. Personally, I am perfectly happy to teach a person on how to ride behind a motorcycle, but doing so at an event is not the place to do so. In this case, the passenger could misinterpret what they were told, and do something inadvertent that could lead to an potentially tragic accident. I’ve also seen an inexperienced person climb onto a motorcycle only to end up on the ground, along with the motorcycle and the rider. However, as these events require volunteers, you don’t get to pick and choose the rider/moto or the marshal.
I agree with Paul’s statement that the moto driver is responsible for the safety of the crew and everyone around it. Having Paul ride backwards is actually a boon as he becomes my eyes-in-the-back-of-my-head, and since we communicate through an intercom system, he can advise me of the status from his perspective. This results in an increase in safety. But the reason I’m there is to help Paul get the perfect shot. Yes, safety is number one! So I will evaluate Paul’s requests and if I can do it, I will. And since we’ve known each other, Paul has acquired his ideal motorcycle for these events and we’ve modified it a lot to help his effort. After all, this is basically his desk while at work.
One point I would like to make. I see the volunteer marshals/spotters, who are often athletes themselves, come to these events. I applaud these folks since without volunteers, there likely will not be an event, and it’s a way to give back to their sport. However, these volunteers should be made aware that dressing appropriately for motorcycle riding is preferable. I’ve seen folks in T-shirt, shorts and sandals. I know that it can be hot at times, but having at least a pair of jeans and a decent jacket with shoes could mean the difference between a road rash and a serious injury. I personally have lost many pounds in water as a result of the gear I wear. Loose/floppy clothing is not a good idea. It is always best to bring your own helmet, a small investment in the most secure and safest fit.
Having experience with both marshals and photographers, I prefer photographers. The simple reason is that the photographer usually wants to shoot as many of the athletes as possible, so we’re not limited to observing a few of them, and you get to see more of the action. Of course, they are usually more experienced passengers, so they are more likely to know what to do and what is expected of them on a motorcycle. I remember driving for Andrew Loehman at Lake Tahoe who liked to stand on the pegs while taking pictures. It wasn’t until the third or fourth time that I realized what he was doing. Although I would have preferred him telling me, he was so well balanced that I just didn’t know he was standing up.
We can be riding along with the pros and are just as likely to see age-groupers, especially on the run. One should note that there are no marshals on motos during the run, but with the right photographer, it is possible to ride with the runners. I must admit though that this is usually the most stressful time of the day. Some photographers like to stop more often and take pictures from different vantage points, which could also be interesting. All in all, for me, this is the best seat in the house.… and I usually get to see my wife somewhere along the way and encourage her, woohoo!
Paul – Thanks to the expansive world of Social Media, I was able to connect with David through the Facebook page for the BMW Club of Puerto Rico. Not unlike Bruno, David has a side job. He is a Private Equity investor, and is currently running one of his portfolio companies in the specialty consumer finance arena.
Remember the moto reserved for the media that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog – the BMW S1000RR? Here is David on his double R, doing what it is made to do.
David – I have been riding motorcycles since I was ten years old, but I have been a motorcycle fanatic since much younger than that. My first tricycle as a toddler was a just a stand-in for the real thing; I just added the engine noises myself. Many years ago, I caught a glimpse of the Tour de France coverage while surfing TV channels. What caught my eye were not the alpine views and the superhuman fitness of the riders, it was the motorcycles. Dozens of motorcycles, carrying photographers and also support crews for the teams, sometimes with several bicycle wheels on hand, weaving in an out of the crowds and the athletes, speeding up to catch the next “peloton”, or stopping to get a shot, or aid a competitor. Now, that looked like a lot of fun, I wondered who these people were, and marveled at their control of their large (mostly) BMW motorcycles, at slow and high speeds, and almost always at close quarters.
So it was a welcome surprise when Paul found me in our local BMW Club Facebook page, and inquired about finding volunteers to serve as his “moto” during the Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 triathlon. Since my current ride is a BMW S1000RR sport bike (not at all suited to riding with passengers, much less as a photo moto), I cast a net to try to find him a rider with a BMW R1200GS, perhaps the best platform for this purpose. Well, I got caught up in the net, though I didn’t put up much of a struggle. At the end of the day, our local dealer offered up one of their demo bikes, so long as I was the rider.
It was a ton of fun. Most motorcycles with ample passenger seating will do just fine; even one of those large scooters will probably work. As it happened, the R1200GS was a great mount, combining low-speed maneuverability with the power to quickly get in position, to quickly cover ground when needed, and with the brakes to haul two large adults to quick, safe stops when needed. Since part of the time Paul was sitting facing backwards, the rear top case (the side cases will just get in the way and are not needed) was a bonus, allowing him to rest his elbows on it and also giving him additional protection when accelerating hard. And accelerate hard we did, allowing him to get shots of the rear and middle packs of bicycle riders and then speeding off to get to the leaders. This required bursts of speed, at one time reaching 100 mph on the gratefully closed roads, no sweat for the big boxer twin. After chasing down the lead bicycle riders, we then transitioned to the running section, which required some slow-speed riding in tight quarters. This time, the big GS tiptoed her way through the event like the all-around champ that she is.
Do not try this if you are not experienced in carrying passengers your own size and weight, and who will be moving around on the back seat. In fact, this is a job for very experienced riders, as we had to accelerate, brake, and turn, under conditions that might have been taxing to riders with lesser skills. But the real key to a safe and fun day is the quality and quantity of communication between pilot and photographer. It helped greatly that Paul connected his Sena bluetooth communicator to my helmet, and this allowed us to coordinate every move much better than through shouting, tapping, or however else we would have had to manage. In addition, Paul made it very clear that every decision regarding driving the motorcycle would be up to me, and only me. If he said “go”, and I didn’t think it would be safe, we didn’t have to go, even if it meant missing a shot. We also met the day before, went over the route, practiced with Paul sitting backwards and reviewed the plan for the day, which started at 5:00 AM. Having clear expectations up front, and not feeling any pressure to perform made it fun, and safe.
I strongly recommend pitching in and acting as a “photo moto pilot” in an Ironman, or similar event. You will get a chance to be a part of a fun event (without having to swim/bike/run for 70.3 miles!), and feel the electricity generated by these large gatherings of like-minded people. It’s yet another riding experience, and one I look forward to repeating sometime soon.
Paul – In conclusion, I hope yesterday’s blog and this one will provide some insight as to the requisite skills, equipment and safety measures that are necessary on the course, and what the media and drivers deal with.
One final photo, it really doesn’t have anything to do with the blog but it is a shot of me riding my BMW F800R and loving it!
Zalusky Advance Rider School – Thanks Tina Kelly for the snap