Friday, April 29, 2011

Calgary...

So, I made my way to Calgary. The weather wasn't bad when I landed on Wednesday, and it was actually quite nice on Thursday.

Today? Not so much.

It's 34 degrees outside, and it's snowing. Hard. At this time of year, I'm usually doing daily temperature checks of my swimming pool in preparation for a season of fun and frolic. Up here, I'm putting on a second pair of socks.

I drove to Medicine Hat, Alberta yesterday; about three hours each way. It's flat, straight, and largely desolate, with the occasional town dropped here to spruce up the scenery. It's the type of drive where you really want to fill up before you leave and before you come back. There's just not a lot out there.

The other thing about the prairie is the weather. A mighty big storm kicked up during my trip back to Calgary. It was one of those storms that make you take pause and consider whether or not you should even try to drive through it:


A typical storm on the prairie.

I decided "What the Hell?", and decided to go for it. It was a pretty challenging drive, not because of the rain as much as the wind. The winds were pretty serious, and a bit more than I'm used to driving in. I'm not in a real high-profile vehicle (a Ford Flex), so the fact that I was getting buffeted makes me happy I wasn't in a van or large SUV.

Now, in case you think I'm over-stating the power of the winds out here, I assure you, I'm not. They can get pretty strong, to wit:

The wind did this.

So,  even though I was confident that I would get through the storm unscathed, it's an impressive thing to see something like the shed above, slanted by the wind. I don't know how people live out here (I assume some do, although I didn't really see any), but I know I wouldn't want to.

Tomorrow will bring a drive out to one of my favorite places on the planet, Canmore, Alberta. Canmore's up in the Rockies, about 15 minutes from the eastern gate to Banff National Park. I'm hoping for some good photo ops, as I haven't been out that way this early in the year in about four years. The last time I went to Banff (Lake Louise, actually) in April, there were dogsleds.

Yeah.

So, there's no telling what I'll see tomorrow, although I've made the drive enough to know that, with the snow, there should be plenty of stunning vistas along the way, and I intend to take advantage of them.

You know, unless it's windy and stuff...

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Great White North... Again...

I’m not even prepared for this.

It’s late April. When I pack for a trip, I should be able to pack some jeans, some nice shirts, and maybe a light jacket in case it gets cool in the evenings. After all, it’s Spring, amirite?

Well, such is not the case.

I head to Alberta the day after tomorrow. A week ago, it was 20 degrees in Alberta.

In April.

Now, I guess this shouldn’t really surprise me, as the last time I went there in April I saw dog sleds, with actual dogs on them, mushing (I guess that’s what it’s called) through the snow. But it wasn’t cold. I don’t like the cold. This is no great secret. But for some unknown reason, I’ve once again opted to travel, if not in a winter month, to a place that I know will be cold.

I should re-evaluate this whole “let’s go truckin’ around in the snow” plan at some point.

I’m flying into Calgary where, admittedly, I always have fun. I’ll be visiting Canmore, Red Deer, Edmonton, and Medicine Hat (right?) during this trip, so there won’t be a lack of photo ops. I’ve never been to Medicine Hat before, so I’m kinda’ looking forward to that. Of course, the Canadian Rockies are one of my favorite places on the planet, so I’m definitely looking forward to that during my trip to Canmore.

Now, during my last trip, I suffered a loss; a tragic loss which I didn’t share, and one from which I thought I might not recover. I lost someone who guided me; always steering me in the right direction. If I got lost and far afield, she would help me find my way. She’s been my companion during my travels for longer than I care to remember, and now she’s gone.

Of course, I’m speaking of my beloved “Lola”, my Magellan GPS.

During my trip to Chatham in March, she started acting up. She would power up and power down, and would do either without warning. Not only was it annoying, it was something which easily could’ve resulted in me getting lost on some areas of Canada in which I’ve never travelled. But I tried to resuscitate her, and she even showed signs of life a few times. She went in her sleep, apparently, not even caring to say “goodbye”.

But, all is not lost. Today will be rebirth, of sorts, as I procure Lola’s replacement. I could wrestle with Mapquest, or Google Maps, but that’s just far too pedestrian for such a 21st century guy. I could use the navigation on my Droid, but the roaming charges would kill me. So, I’ll bite the bullet and plunk down the likely two hundred bucks for Lola’s replacement, and I will give her a trial-by-fire, so to speak, as I initiate her in the frigid climes of Alberta, Canada.

I’m just hoping she has that same sexy British accent…

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Grand Prix...

So, last weekend saw me making the drive north from San Diego to Long Beach for the 37th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. After my most recent experience shooting motorsports, in Daytona, I decided I would take advantage of more opportunities when they arise.

I made the drive up on Friday, and took root in my swanky hotel suite at the Holiday Inn Airport near the Long Beach Airport. It was a solid $35.00 cab ride from the race circuit but, because I waited to book a room, I had to take what I could get. I still got "swanky", I just got it five miles from the circuit.

I woke up Saturday at 5:15am, got dressed, and had the front desk call me a cab. Will Call opened at 7:00am, and I wanted to make sure I would avoid the inevitable line that I'd encounter.

Mission accomplished:



No lines here.

I got my pass and began the hike (and, trust me, it was a "hike" to the circuit. Although it was still early, I could feel how hot it was going to get. There were four locations I would be shooting from, and I wanted to go find them. The first two, at turns 1 and 6, were easy enough to find, and each had unobstructed views of the track. That was a plus, because I hate shooting through fences. Of the other two areas, one meant shooting through not one, but two fences, and the fourth was just too damn far to walk to. It was at a hairpin, so it's not as though I'd be getting any high speed shots anywhere.

But those first two areas were money. I was able to get some shots that I'm pretty happy with. These were shot at the end of the front straight:



This guy missed making it into turn #1. Twice. That was surprising, because "this guy"
was Paul Tracy, who's no stranger to Indy Car racing.

The "Go Daddy Girl", Danica Patrick, going into turn #1.

Mr. Ashley Judd, Dario Franchitti, heads into turn #1.


Tony Kanaan screams into turn #1.




I probably spent more time at turn 1 than anywhere else. It offered the best view and, so I thought, the best shooting opportunity. I did get a couple of shots through the fence, and that was the only turn where that was really possible.

But, as happy as I was with the turn 1 photos, imagine my surprise when I found the photographer's platform at turn 6. From there, I could look down the track and see turn 5. It was a bit far to get decent shots of the cars coming out of turn 5, but I gave it a shot:


Danica Patrick comes out of turn #5.


Yeah, not the best shooting of the day. But when I concentrated on turn 6, though, I got what I think are some of my best shots of the day:

Oriol Servia heads into turn #6.

2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner Mike Conway.

Rookie Sebastian Saavedra leans into turn #6.


And it was turn #6 where I got my favorite shot from the day:

Ryan Briscoe going through turn #6. Briscoe finished the day in second place behind Mike Conway.

If I've learned one thing about shooting motorsports, it can be expensive. When I shot in Daytona, it was $80.00. This time around, I start to cough and wheez when I say it was $265.00. Granted, that allowed access to the photo platforms, and allowed me to avoid shooting through nothing but fences, but I'm not sure I would do it again. If nothing else, it cost me $265.00 to learn that I don't want to spend $265.00 next year.

Next up, if everything goes as planned (well, racing-wise, anyway) will be when I head to Mosport International Raceway, in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada in July...


AN ADDENDUM!!

I'm normally not a fan of addendums, but there was really no way to work this in anywhere else. If you enjoy a nice Bloody Mary as much as I do (hey, breakfast is the most important meal of the day), do everything in your power to avoid getting one at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Long Beach, California. All I can say is that it was, hands down, the absolute worst tasting cocktail I've ever had the displeasure of drinking. It was a truly horrid experience, from which I can only hope I one day recover.

That is all...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

So, the racing thing.

Now, I’m not much of a motorsports shooter. I think I’ve done it three times; once at Daytona (this past January), once at Mosport Park in Ontario, Canada, and once at a little 1/8 mile dragstrip outside of San Diego.

It’s fun. It’s loud. You get sunburned. You drink a beer. It’s all good.

My last outing, though, to Daytona, really got me jazzed about doing it. It’s kind of like this infectious little bug that you don’t know you have until the opportunity presents itself again. You don’t really think about it and then WHAM!, there you are, makin’ plans.

That’s what’s happening this week as I prepare to head north, about an hour’s drive, to Long Beach, California.

This year marks the 36th running of the Long Beach grand Prix. It differs from races like Daytona and Mosport in that there’s no actual “racetrack”. Fans line Shoreline Drive and Ocean Boulevard to watch Indy cars screaming at ridiculous speeds through the city streets; kinda’ like you do as you try to get home in time to watch the latest episode of “Ghost Advnetures”. You know you do it.

So I’m heading up on Friday, and will hole-up in my swanky hotel suite until o’dark thirty Saturday morning, when I head over to the course to pick up my pass. The actual Grand Prix isn’t until early Sunday afternoon, but practice and lesser races will be help until then, so I hope to get some ample shooting in before the hordes show up Sunday morning. Of course, there’s nothing like shooting on race day, so I’ll get that done, as well, but Saturday should offer up some decent shooting opportunities without the crowds.

Now, when I shot at Daytona, I was quickly made aware that my Sigma 50-500mm lens was just too big and unwieldy to use without, at least, a monopod. I ended up using my 70-200mm, but I found that I was wanting just a bit more reach. So, to that end, I’ll be using the 70-200mm along with a 2X teleconverter, effectively giving me 140-400mm. This set-up will be faster at 400mm than the Bigma is, so that should help me out. I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m all to happy to wing it.

And, as if this isn’t enough, it looks like I may head to Mosport in Ontario, Canada to do some shooting in July. A friend of mine is a flagman for the F2000 Series, so he gets me some pretty good access there.

I’m expecting to go through more than a few memory cards this weekend, so hopefully I’ll get something posted this weekend.

Stay tuned…

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