Monday, October 26, 2009

SpeedFreaks endurance race

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to shoot the first (annual?)...

(Official artwork by buddy, world traveler and artiste extraordinaire Blue-Eyed Devil of Wrench-in-the-Gears fame.)

...SpeedFreaks Stage Race in Leesburg, VA. Brought to you by the same fine folks who run both the Leesburg Baker's Dozen race each spring, and last winter's SnotCycle, it's run on the same private farmland singletrack. SpeedFreaks was a two-day event, but I only managed to make it out for the second day.

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After a bit of rain for Saturday's race, the Sunday portion couldn't have been more perfect. Cool temps and blue skies the whole day.

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When I set out to shoot this race, my plan was to emphasize the fact that it was a fall race, as opposed to all those spring and summer races. I had a couple of ideas in mind, but mainly, I wanted some leaf color in my shots. I wasn't having much luck finding color around the evergreen/pine grove part of the course. While standing around considering my options, I had a chance meeting with Rob, one of the organizers. He offered to escort me to the back side of the trails, a section I'd never seen. I happily agreed and followed him across the fields.

At the far end of the trails, I found some cool rock-drop obstacles as well as some colorful trees. After wandering around looking for an appropriate place to set up, I finally found a couple of trees that offered some nice color. I hunkered down and snapped away as weary riders pedaled past.

Unfortunately, I couldn't spend the entire day out shooting the race, so after too few hours in the field, I had to pack up and head home. Once there, I posted my unprocessed shots from the day to my pbase gallery. I tweaked a couple of shots (seen above) and posted those to my main flickr page.

At the end of the day, I realized a couple of things:

1) I need a wider lens. A nice 10-20mm would be sweet. Either that or a nice full-frame Canon 5D Mark II. Whichever :)

and 2) I have *got* to get out and ride the race course. I know so little of the trails there, I don't even know what all I'm missing. The trails are private and only open for the races each year (and a few pre-rides). Since I shoot (and don't race), I need to get myself on board one of those pre-rides.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

W@W #4, 7/15/09

My photos from the fourth and final (for '09) Wednesdays @ Wakefield race have been posted.

As usual, feel free to grab copies of the web-sized images for your own personal use (blogs, email to friends, Facebook, etc). If you want full-sized copies (either digital ($15) or print ($25)) let me know. Images on the Pbase site are batch-processed. Full-sized images will be individually hand retouched so they'll look better than the small ones.

Thanks to PVC for putting on a great race series. And thanks to all of the racers for giving me such great subjects to shoot! See you next year (if not before!).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

W@W #4, 7/15/09

If anybody is anxiously waiting, the photos from W@W #4 should be posted on Sunday. Please spread the word. Sorry for the delay...I've got to duck outta town for my older daughter's lacrosse tournament.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Quiet 'round these parts, eh?

As usual, the summer is proving more busy than anticipated. I had hoped to shoot the 12 Hours of Lodi Farm, the 12 Hours of Cranky Monkey race, as well as the complete Wednesdays@Wakefield series. In reality I missed Lodi and the Monkey, and at best I'll hit .500 on the Wakefield series. 'Tis amazing how much time these babies take.

The good news is that I was able to make it out to the third installment of the Wakefield series last week (the photos are posted here). The shooting was same as it ever was. There's a high treeline right next to the most interesting part of the course (the fast downhill woop-de-dos) which casts it into shadow by race time (5:30pm) and deep shadow by race end (~8pm). So I spent the first part of the race shooting on the less-interesting part of the course that still had decent lighting.

This junior-class (possibly super-junior class) racer was my favorite of the day. 99.9% of all racers (and riders...including me) skip this ~18" high rock obstacle (also seen in the photo above), since there is an easy bypass next to it. Not this kid! He went up and over for no other reason than he could. And he did it with a cast on his arm! In fact, he was the only person to hit it during my hour shooting from this location (a hour that included the beginner as well as the hotshot singlespeed classes. Bravo!

After spending the early part of the race in the sun, I decided to head over to the downhill woops and try to get some acrobatic shots of racers catching air. By the time I got over to that part of the course, another photog had set up shop in the prime location. That, along with the high growth of vegetation along the trail forced me to try and find some other creative angles. I resorted to using on-camera flash while letting the camera automatically drag the shutter (allowing both subject and background to be correctly exposed). The results were pretty good.

Not sure what this week's race will hold. I'm kinda tired of shooting in the same two spots. Tho shooting practically anywhere else would require a full studio light setup. Which I doubt the racers would appreciate :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

No Hours of Lodi Farm

Sadly, due to a death in the wife's family, I'm not going to be able to shoot one of my favorite races of the year - 12 Hours of Lodi Farm - which happens noon to midnight, Saturday.

You racers have a good time. And try not to do anything interesting or particularly photo-worthy till next year, k? Thx.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Leesburg Baker's Dozen race photos posted

I've posted my shots from the Leesburg Baker's Dozen mountain bike race. The gallery can be found here.

The posted shots are free for the taking/use non-commercially (Facebook/blogs/whatever). A photo credit and a link back to the gallery is all I ask in return.

Full-res digital files are $15. 8x10ish" prints are $25 (assuming my source image is good enough to sell/print). Email me if you're interested. The posted shots are straight out of the camera (no post-processing). Any full-res file or print will be hand tweaked and should look better than the web version.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Processing pix from the Leesburg Baker's Dozen race on Saturday. Shot roughly 700 shots. There's gotta be one or two worth sharing...right? Right?

We can only hope. Stay tuned. Pix, write-up and lessons-learned coming in the next day or two.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Off-season race

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Today saw the first (annual?) running of the SnotCycle mountain bike race in Leesburg, VA. Run on the same farm course that the Leesburg Baker's Dozen race uses in the spring, this race gave me the unusual opportunity of shooting a mountain bike event in winter.

And I blew it.

I tried. Sorta. I showed up with an actual plan and everything: I wanted to use a long, fast lens (200mm f/2.8) and go for shots of racers with a really shallow depth of field. I arrived before the start of the first race at 10am (and at about 12°). I wandered the farmer's fields looking for suitable backgrounds to blur out (thereby highlighting the riders). The color options were pretty limited: stick-brown of the leafless trees, brown-spotted amber of the dormant grass fields (spots courtesy of the cow poo (yay!)), and waaaaay of in the distance, an occasional stand of evergreen trees, giving some life to the scene.

So I set up and waited. And waited. Aaaaaannnnndddd waited. I picked a spot that was about 75% of the way through the course, so it was gonna take a while for the racers to reach me. Why I waited on top of a hill where the wind could constantly cool me is beyond me. But that's what I did. Probably 40 minutes later, the first racers started streaming past. I moved around as I shot, jockeying for interesting angles/backgrounds. I half-heartedly fired off shot after shot. I just wasn't feeling it. I didn't want to shoot hundreds of shots of racer after racer after racer. That's what I tend to do at the local summer races. Sure, it's nice to be able to provide racers shots of themselves. And it will occasionally earn me a few bucks. But it's gettin' kinda boring.

I looked for opportunities to take more artsy/active/general-interest shots, but sadly, this course offered little (that I'm aware of) in the way of "technical trail features" (TTFs - log crossings, drops, water crossings, jumps, rocks, unusual obstacles, etc). So it was pretty much just shootin' racers racin' past. When run in one direction, there is a decent 1-2' drop where you can usually get the more acrobatic riders wheelie-dropping off. Not the most exciting subject, but more interesting than simply racers riding through an amber field of dead grass spotted with mounds o' cow poo. Unfortunately, the race today was run in the opposite direction, eliminating the one pseudo-technical bit.

So I wandered the course for a couple of hours, firing off shots hither and tither. In the end, I think I came home with only ~100 shots, and of those, ~30 were immediately deleted due to being out of focus because of my ridiculously shallow DOF. I've really got to get smarter and shoot with something between the 1' I did today and infinity. There's a lot of wiggle room in there. I'm not sure why I didn't make better use of it.

In a perfect world, all of my general rider shots would have come out like this one:

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Unfortunately, not many did. A few more shots can be found in my flickr stream.