A newb with fancy equipment at the San Rafael Twilights

Everyone’s seen the YouTube videos of newbs with fancy cameras. Kinda reinforces the fact that a nice camera does not a good photographer make. Yes, I Yoda-ized that.

Well, that’s exactly what happened this past weekend at San Rafael. Knowing that I hadn’t shot a single race in more than six months, knowing that I had gear I’ve never tested before, and knowing that the race was ran by the douchebags barricade-lovers at ProjectSport, I still went ahead and attended. I had a lot of fun, but I doubt the time was spent wisely making images. It was, as they say, a crapshoot.

Some of the new equipment included a new never-before-tested-on-cycling by yours truly camera body, and a physically larger (and thus heavier) lens, the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS for the latter part of the race. I think the combination of the two was enough to really drive this point home: you can have the best equipment and glass in the world, but if you can’t use it proficiently, you might as well just leave it at home. It’s kinda like those douchebags that drive Ferraris around town thinking they know how to drive those kinds of cars, then wrapping themselves and their vehicles around trees.

Enough bitchin’, I’ll let the images tell the rest of the story.

 What would have been a so-so shot of Allison Tetrick

This happened a few times

 … and a few more times

Sadly, what would have been a great photo of Mary

And this last one isn’t terrible, just interesting … timing

For more crappy stuff, check:

2014 San Rafael Twilight Criterium

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Burlingame Criterium

Peninsula Velo E3 (1/800, f/4, ISO 640, 420mm)

Ever since I joined PenVelo, I’ve had the pleasure of waking up at odd hours of the morning to help set up the course in Burlingame. I have to say, even though it’s an ungodly hour to be awake (4am), I enjoy the company and the noble work we do. It’s always been fun–this is my second year doing this. I look forward to next year!

2013 Burlingame Criterium

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Merco Cycling Classic Stage 3, and a whole bunch of photographers in the same room!

The Masters of the Universe (1/320″, f/5.6, ISO 320, 70mm)

Merco has always been a big target for local photographers. It’s a big race, smack in the big surge of the road season at the end of winter. Temperatures are always pleasant, and the weather is generally merciful. I’ve shot this race only once before, and I enjoyed it as much as the San Rafael Twilight, mostly because of how little I get to shoot, and how much I get to socialize.

For Paul Doran and myself, the Saturday criterium was the most attractive option to shoot. Paul even went as far as suggesting that we should get a bunch of us together afterwards for dinner and shop talk. I was game, and so was just about everyone else we invited!

Men’s P/1/2 corner dive, shot using the panning 300 technique (1/1000″, f/4, ISO 320, 420mm, 300/f2.8+1.4x)

One individual I was looking forward to seeing again was Dale Lewis, whom I learned the panning 300 technique from. I met him only once in 2011, at the Strawberry Crown Criterium in Watsonville, near where he lives.  In fact, when he saw me again at Merco, he didn’t recognize me until I introduced myself again.  Hopefully we’ll see more of him this season. He’s a magician.

When the sh*t hits the fan, bring appropriate hardware (1/1250″, f/4, ISO 160, 15mm fisheye)

Had a great time messing around with Alex’s new EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye lens on my 5D Mark II.  You can see more of those shots at the bottom “bonus” link.

The best part of the day, though, wasn’t the race itself, but the little get-together we had afterwards.

Ronald Mariano (with Alex in the background)

Garrett Lau and Kenneth Tham

Tim Westmore

Paul Doran

Alex Chiu and Dale Lewis

So what do a bunch of guys with cameras talk about around a table for hours on end? Things like giving each other sh*t about what we shoot with, camera buttons we didn’t know existed, odd domain names, and folding stools. The most memorable tip was Ronald’s innovative knee pad/pivot bench. Yes, you should try it: place your knee pad on the ground and sit on it, you can pivot around it just like Ronald can!

I had a great time, and I felt privileged to be included in a group with this much talent. We should make this an annual tradition.

2013 Merco Cycling Classic McDonald’s Downtown Grand Prix

2013 Merco Cycling Classic Bonus Photos!

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Half Moon Bay Superpanorama

100% Crop from the panorama (ISO 640, 200mm, f/16, 1/200″)

The family decided to take a trip to the beach on a very cold New Year’s Eve. I knew there was an opportunity for a shot in HMB, but I couldn’t really “picture” it.  I’ve been there a couple of times before, and both times the sky was overcast and drizzly.  But in winter, HMB is lit by glorious light from a clear sky.  Once we took the long walk towards Pillar Point, I scampered up to the top of the cliff by the Air Force Base for this shot.

Get the full JPEG here. Careful, the file is 74MB in size, compressed at only 10%. Interestingly, this is about the same size as a Nikon D800 RAW file. Just thought I’d throw that in there. ;-)

A few lessons learned on this trip:

  • Clean my frakking sensor more often
  • Shoot at least 2 series, because you never know …
  • Lock the exposure in Manual, so it won’t auto expose for every shot
  • The Airbase is much higher than it looks (I’m afraid of heights)
  • The Mavericks Surf Competition held here has scaffolds where photographers shoot from the cliff to get the surfers, but you need permits from the USAF to get inside
  • It’s like “Where’s Waldo” when making these, the image has so many stories to tell

The completed panorama’s resolution is approximately 44000×3150 (138.6 Megapixels), give or take a couple of pixels.  I racked out my EF 70-200mm zoom to get maximum detail for this stitchup.  It took most of my day processing and reprocessing to get this final image.   It is composed of 38 images shot in profile, layered and cropped in CS5, then finished in LR4.  I initially shot two series, but one of them didn’t stitch, so I’m glad I shot two. It’s not perfect, and you can definitely make out some of the seams that Photoshop put in to stitch it together, and one of the boats is even all whacked out, but all in all, a pretty interesting exercise.

I was inspired by this.

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Best of Cycling 2012

Womens Pro/1/2/3 Field (1/4000″, f/2.8, ISO 640, 300mm)

Here are my 10 Best images from last year’s cycling season (road and cx).  It’s always tough to pick these, but since I wasn’t as productive this year it came down to selecting from fewer sets.

EDIT: New equipment for the year included an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, and an EF 300mm f/2.8L IS.

Best of Cycling 2012 on Flickr

 

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San Bruno Mountain Hill Climb feat. Me, with a cold

Yep, that’s me! (ISO 400, 135mm, f/8, 1/1250″)

I had the option of racing or shooting this hill climb. I decided to CHICKEN OUT and shoot instead. Not having raced last weekend is really catching up to me. I’m genuinely worried about CCCX Finals next weekend, esp. since I have a cold.

I scouted the same spot last year, and I thought Sutro Tower made for an interesting backdrop.  Also, being about 200m from the finish guaranteed that there weren’t many people around–most everyone was at the finish.  Five layers of clothes later, I was still shivering.  Running into some friends made it all better. :)

2013 San Bruno Mountain Hill Climb on Flickr

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Stafford Lake CX vs. Sierra Point Night Cross – FIGHT! (A race report)

Since I didn’t do any shooting at the Sierra Point Night Cross (too busy enjoying the company of friends and teammates), I decided to change it up a little and post my race report from both races.  Enjoy!

Racing Category: Sandbaggers (AKA Open C)

Sierra Point is my most attended venue. I’ve raced this three times now, ever since I picked up CX 3 years ago (damn has it been that long already?). Every year I feel like I’m not prepared enough. Last year, they added the bridge staircase which made it even tougher.  This year, though, I thought it was a lot easier than the two before it.  Let me explain.

As soon as I heard that Murphy Mack was going to reuse his Cesspool of Filth (from the SSCXWC last year) at Stafford Lake, I put it on my calendar and made it a point to go.  Having done not-quite-enough drills with the MBCX crew (thanks Tom and everyone!), I felt less than adequate about having a go at one of the tougher courses in NorCal.  The thing that made this race HARD was the staircase in the middle. It was unrideable. The staircase would totally mess with my rhythm, spike my HR, and just ruin the day for me. It also didn’t help that I started in the first third of the field, placing me in an area where people were going ALL OUT in the first lap.  After looking at my lap times, I knew that was a mistake, because despite my first lap being my fastest, my later 3 laps were horrible, behind in minutes!

Coming off a week after Stafford Lake, I had a plan for Sierra Point: I’d start at the back of the field. And it was a large field: 86 sandbaggers were announced.  It’d take it easy on the first lap, saving my strength of when it counted: a consistent lap time (there were 6 laps), and a fast final lap.  It also saved me from getting tangled in the melee of crossers going up the first few climbs of the mesa.  It really looked like a pile of bodies and wheels.  The plan would be to see how many people I could pass in the race, helping me both psychologically as well as physically, in the later laps.  The result was a surprisingly easier race than Stafford Lake and previous Sierra Point races.

Some of the highlights at Sierra Point included a dude on his first CX race trying to pass me on the second lap like his life depended on it, a suspicious barrier setup right before a long running section that ended in a hairpin at the top of a hill, and a guy struggling on the last lap to keep me from passing him by endoing into a downhill (protip: crashing is always slower ~ Murphy Mack).  The first barrier section has always been challenging; this year they placed it a little farther from the climb it led into, but the trail behind the barriers prevented almost any form of remount at speed–it was too rough!  The solution was to suitcase the bike across the barriers and keep it aloft until after the hairpin, where a downhill section would aid in the remount.

Throughout the race, I noticed that I had no power; on the paved straightaways, I would easily get dropped by the guys in front of me.  But in the dirt and technical sections, I surprisingly made up any lost ground.  The race allowed me to use the “smooth” remount technique that Tommy C always preaches: the remount shouldn’t place any unnecessary stress on the bike.  I expected my low power, and my lack of training really shows here, but I still felt that I was able to practice the bike handling skills in this race.  Many people also made the mistake of attempting a remount past the first set of barriers, where a run was all but mandatory to maintain a reasonable speed.

My last lap was where I just let it all out.  There was almost no one contesting with me through the course, at least until the last section.  I kept passing anyone I saw ahead of me.  In the last dirt section to the finish, one racer was peskily not allowing me to pass him.  I left him hanging out in front for a little while longer, as I knew where I’d get a chance to try a pass: the last hairpin onto the pavement.  And pass I did, as he went wide and I cut on the inside, turned on my so-called “sprint” and almost crashed into the right barricade because it hurt so much. :-p

He never caught me.

Stafford Lake CX placing: 32/~40 (bottom 25%)

Sierra Point Night Cross placing: 43/86 (glass half full of beer!)

The Cesspool of Filth (Stafford Lake CX) claims another victim (ISO 320, 200mm, f/2.8, 1/3200″)

2012 Stafford Lake CX on Google+

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Oakland Zoo Photowalk, with Camera West

I don’t normally visit zoos, but when I do, it’s with a photowalk group.

Zoos don’t particularly excite me. They are a symbol of our oppressive nature towards animals.  It’s one thing to rescue an injured animal and nurse them back to health, it’s a whole other to put them on display instead, and deprive them of their natural physical needs, like running (basically).  So we visited a bunch of couch potato animals today.

Happy faces in our group (ISO 1250, 300mm, f/11, 1/160″)

My goal on the photowalk was to meet a few of the shooters that normally go on these types of meets. I always love learning from others, and sharing some of my experience with them.

Michael Maloney, from Camera West, is a veteran photographer. A retired pro from the SF Chronicle, he spends his retirement days meeting new people, and debating exposure settings with the likes of me.  Recently, he’s been leading photowalks from the shop with various subjects and goals.  They’ve shot the moon over SF, the Safeway Fast and Furious in Pleasanton (a race I did not shoot), and others.  Not having shot animals myself much, I thought I’d play along and pretend to be a wildlife photographer for a day.

Let me tell you, even in a zoo, it takes patience.

Giraffe friends with benefits (ISO 320, 210mm (70-200mm + 1.4x), f/5.6, 1/640″)

If you’re looking for a particular look from an animal, you may get lucky and get the right shot within the first 15 minutes, but if not, you may be in for a long wait.  The quality of light also plays a big role in making a shot look like what you want, and during the midday sun like what we encountered, it may not be ideal for most wildlife photographers.  Granted, these weren’t really “wild,” but you get the idea.

Most of my images are portrait style shots, mainly because I love bokeh, and long lenses were all I had for my SLR. I also had my new Canon S100 handy to get group shots, but I was a bit disappointed with the lack of contrast from the P&S. I guess I can’t really expect “L” results from a small camera.  In any case, it definitely beat having to bring a second SLR body; I just dropped it into my belt pouch whenever I was done with it.  I don’t miss having a second SLR body slung around my shoulder.

Michael M on the job (ISO 320, 5.2mm, f/2, 1/125″ from S100)

The Oakland Zoo photowalk with Camera West on Flickr

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Rand Miller’s Last Ride, feat. Oakland GP!

Rand Miller bids farewell to his fans (ISO 1250, 420mm, f/4, 1/5000″)

This race is special to me. Not only does it take place near my hometown, but this particular edition was also hosted by my team, Team Oakland Cycling. A perfect day for cycling, it was a bittersweet day for all of us fans of Rand Miller.  He had announced his retirement only a week before, leaving many of us wondering whether he was serious or just full of shit like he normally is.  His reasoning is that he wants to invest his time in his “career” as a chemist, as he has one more year to go on his post-graduate doctoral program.  I don’t get it; for someone who doesn’t train, eats pizza and drinks beer as recovery food, and gets an average of 2nd place on almost every crit he races, I can’t see how he can’t spend enough time studying!  Ok, ok, so he got second to last at Oakland, but it’s still a 2nd!

In any case, I wish Rand well and luck for his upcoming last year at UCSF. I have my fingers crossed that he’ll be back at it, in one fashion or another, despite what he says about retirees returning to form (he thinks they suck).  I think he’ll pull a Michael Jordan and start playing golf in a year.  Or join Minor League Baseball.

Dean Abt (ISO 640, 24mm, f/4, 1/5000″, fill flash)

Team Oakland Cycling Cat 4/5 field (ISO 320, 24mm, f/5.6, 1/125″, fill flash)

It was also awesome to see nearly all my teammates gathered in a single day. Nothing beats a (mandatory) volunteer day like playing race host. It tends to bring out the best in people, you know? ;)

2012 Oakland Grand Prix p/b Volkswagen of Oakland on Flickr

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San Rafael Twilight Criterium (a rant)

“Intent” ~ Alison Tetrick (Exergy Twenty12) (ISO 320, 420mm, f/4, 1/2000″)

Is there a rule in photography where people have to mind where they walk? I just googled it, there isn’t.  So my problem is with people who should know better; @PodiumInsight yes, I’m looking at you!

When a photographer is lining up for a shot, they should expect no disturbance from anyone, especially other experienced photographers.  But when one of those so-called “professionals” decides to play the ignorant card and waltzes right in front of your shot, what can I do?

Seriously!

These two PJs decided to get right in the middle of the street, prompting a flash mob that ruined the finishing shot for many of us at the end of the street, Women’s 1/2/3

At the SRT Criterium this past weekend, there was an additional layer of bad taste called an “All-Access Pass” that was granted to those who had the galls to apply for one.  These passes were given to PJs (photojournalists and their wannabes) so they had a virtual full access to the entire race environment.  I honestly can’t say how this is an advantage, other than that it gives them a right to get right into someone else’s shot and not apologize for their insolence.  These types of passes are the main reason why I don’t frequent Tour of California races; some people really believe that they’re above others.  I could do without that.

Anyway, back to the rant at hand. All I’m asking is that people: please watch where you’re going, because if you don’t, you might end up with a 300mm f/2.8 lens shoved up your ass.

/rant

2012 San Rafael Twilight Criterium on Flickr

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