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.

Ironman Lanzarote - Pre Race
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.

Ironman Lanzarote - Pre Race
Over 300 Volcanoes on Lanzarote

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Ironman Lanzarote
Ironman Lanzarote – Timo Bracht riding  though the Fire Mountains
Ironman Lanzarote
Ironman Lanzarote – over 2,500 meters of climbing 
Ironman Lanzarote
Ironman Lanzarote – Spectacular views – if you have time to look
Ironman Lanzarote
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!

 

 

 

Canon 1Dx Mark II – Part 2

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.

Competitive Image Blog
ISO 20,000, 1/800, f/4.0
Competitive Image Blog
ISO 10,000, 1/800, f/4.0
Competitive Image Blog
ISO 5,000, 1/400, f/4.0

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.

Competitive Image Blog
ISO 20,000, 1/800, f/4.0
Competitive Image Blog
ISO 10,000, 1/800, f/4.0
Competitive Image Blog
ISO 5,000, 1/400, f/4.0

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.

Competitive Image Blog
ISO 20,000, 1/800, f/4.0

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.

More soon!

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.

HomePage

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.

Leanda Cave Autographed 2012 Kona Victory Photo

Ironman Las Vegas 70.3 World Champion and Ironman World Champion Leanda Cave has autographed 8 posters which we are selling on eBay for $125. Each photo is printed on 16 x 24 glossy paper will be shipped in an individual mailing tube.

100% of the proceeds will go to support the Blazeman Foundation to further the research for a cure for ALS.

This is a truly unique holiday gift for your favorite triathlete!

2012 Ironman World Championship
Leanda Cave – Winning 2012 Ironman World Championship
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Double World Champion Leanda Cave signing original photos at Ironman Arizona!

Follow @CompImagePhoto for our Photo Of The Day!

The Lance Effect

Early in my athletic career, the bragging rights for which have long since expired I was a bike racer. I loved it then and still love it now! I remember a friend and I placing late night calls to the Sports Desk at the Minneapolis StarTribune to get them to print at least a few results from the prior day’s stage at the Tour.  Eventually they just got tired of us calling and in the mid-70s, we would get about an inch of coverage the next day – Stage winner, GC all in very small print. In 2001, I was able to see a few stages of the Tour with my son.  And now, it almost seems unfathomable that I can watch real time coverage on my iPhone.

Greg Lemond made a huge impact on US recognition of the Tour and in 1989 used technical innovations developed for triathlon for is final Time Trial victory!

Fast forward to 2012 and Lance Armstrong is a household name, not only winning the Tour an unbelievable seven times, but almost more so as a role model, a cancer survivor, prime mover and supporter for cancer research.

Now at age 40 Lance has returned to his roots in Triathlon and now matter how well he does, it is a big deal for all of us. While there are only 198 riders in the Tour d’France, we can in fact be out racing along side Lance in an Ironman or 70.3.  This is worth repeating: Age Group Athletes can be racing on the same course at the same time as the seven-time Tour d’France Winner! (Just like we do with Crowie, Chrissie and Rinny!)

Lance is not like Michael Jordon who decided to have a go at baseball and had 51 minor league at bats or even like Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson who for four seasons played for both the NFL Raiders and MLB Kansas City Royals.

Lance is an endurance athlete going back to his roots in Triathlon and he is here to race. He has the background, knowledge and resources for meticulous analysis and training.

Lance is clearly, not just another guy on a bike or another pro to add to the mix. He has to be treated as a serious contender and even while he finished a “disappointing” 7th at the Ironman Texas 70.3, he now has two top ten finishes in his first two races!

While Lance is feeding his own competitive nature, what he is doing for the rest of us is bringing new attention from non-traditional sources to our sport. There will be more fans, more publicity, more news and ultimately more sponsors and not only will it be good for all of us, it already has been.

What better way to illustrate the difference than on the left we have Terenzo Bozzone at the Press Conference at the 2011 Ironman Texas 70.3 and on the right is Lance at this year’s Press Conference.  Notice the reflection of the vacant seats in Torenzo’s glasses and the crowds reflected by Lance. Out on the course it was much the same.

Finally in the water and ready for the day to begin: Tim O’Donnell in purple, Michael Raelert in red and Lance in yellow. Always easy to track.

Lance moved into the lead as the group approached the turn-around and rode an individual TT on the way home.

Although traffic is typically congested on the Ironman Texas 70.3 course, everyone slowed down to get at least a look at Lance.

On the run he still had his moto and live video escort.

Although Lance had been run down by Tim O’Donnell, Sebastian Kienle, Ronnie Schildknecht and had faded to sixth, the thrill of passing Lance Armstrong was not lost on Jordan Jones.  Admittedly, the additional $750 in price money was more significant to Jordan than it was to Lance.

The weekend ended, as it began, with lots of media attention.

Lance, I will see you at the races and I am thrilled that you are here!