shoot reports

Wilflower Practice Weekend Review

This weekend was a big weekend for the Ironteam - Wildflower Practice weekend.  We're all training for an Ironman in the Fall and registered for the Wildflower Half-Ironman in May as a practice race, so this was a practice race for the practice race.   I'm a huge Wildflower fan so I was really looking forward to this.  I did the half-Ironman course three times 10 year ago and was curious to see how my performance now compares to back then. I took Friday off from work and headed down at noon.  We hit no troubles on the drive and got to camp around 4:00 which gives plenty of time for a leisurely set up.  Dinner was a bit scattered and random, and probably not the best it could have been for a pre-race dinner.

I went to bed around 10:00 and for some reason couple not fall asleep no matter what.  I was warm and comfortable but just could not drift off.  I wasn't nervous or anxious or cold or hungry or dehydrated or anything else I could think of - The only problem I could think of was that I wasn't very flat.

The loud wakeup siren came early at 5:00 am and I was more than happy to get up, mostly because I was bored of lying there doing nothing.  I got up, had some cereal, got the bike ready and headed down the hill in the dark for a 6:30 setup time and ready to hit the water at 7:00 am.   The transition area was laid back and I did my normal routine of laying out my towel and making two piles:  one for T1 and one for T2.

I just bought a new wetsuit last week and was excited to try it out.  It fits pretty well!  It's definitely the right size, but it's a little on the thick side which makes it slightly restrictive.  Hopefully it'll loosen a touch over time.   The swim went really well, taking 42 minutes.  I had some shoulder trouble leftover from skiing but it didn't affect me at all and the swim went really well.

T1 was pretty laid back.  I felt awesome coming out of the water and ran up the dirt road through the parking lot and started changing.   Since this was just practice I kept it super laid back and ended up taking 14 minutes which is about 3 times what I normally take.   One key to a good T1 is putting on enough sunscreen and I did very well at that, then headed of to my bicycle adventure.

The bike at WiIdflower is something special.   The first mile out to Beach City is a series of little whoop-de-dos that never let you get settled.   Then you hit the steepest hill of the day getting out of Beach City.   Then 10 miles of big rollers.   Then somewhat flat, then Nasty Grade and the last 10 miles of hills.

This year I'm training with a power meter on the bike and looking to it to help me with my pacing.  My Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is around 186 Watts right now and the book says a half Ironman should be biked at around 80% - 85% of that in order to   I aimed for 160 Watts which is just on the high side of that range.

The problem with Wildflower is the hills are so steep that I can't make it up them in my lowest gear without busting through my power budget, and these hills start right at the beginning with no chance to really warm up at all.   I have a power alarm set at about 220 Watts and it goes off quite a bit on the hills.  The good news is that I can stay under budget for most of the ride, including most of Nasty Grade and the hills after that.

I was worried about not taking in enough nutrition on the ride and so I over-compensated.   I ate about 6 or 7 Gus on the bike - about one every 40 minutes or so - plus a few bottles of Fluid and a couple of Chomps.  Probably more than 1,200 calories of sugar which is too much.   Around mile 50 I started feeling sore in my back and neck, and I kept eating more Gu in anticipation of the hard run.  I was hoping for well under 4 hours but he bike took me 4:06.

I hit T2 not feeling great but not really knowing why.  I figured I would start to feel a little better after some coconut water and a slow mile shuffle but things did not get better.  I assumed that I was going to need a ton of energy so I kept eating Gu!   (bad idea)  The last one I ate was a real chore with my body not wanting it but my brain forcing me to finish it.  This was just compounding a bad situation.

I've become a fan of a 6/1 run/walk strategy but the hills are placed in such a way that you can't really force that schedule onto the course.  Instead I try to walk/jog up the hills and run on the flats and downhills.  I got some good distraction from Matt F. from SF Ironteam and kept jog-walking the best I could.  By mile 4.5 (on the big hill) I was feeling pretty bad and feeling a little woozy.  I hadn't seen anyone in while and I decided to just sit down before I fell down, and that's when Cornell and an SF girl passed me.

After a minute I felt a little better and decided to just shuffle on to the aid station at the front gate.   That's where I started to drink some plain water and immediately started to feel better.  In hindsight I realize this water was diluting the mass of sugar sitting in my stomach.   After a couple minutes I started to feel better and even started to jog a little bit.  I started to feel good after turning into the Redondo Vista campground and I actually jogged most of the way to the turnaround in the pit.

I was doing some math and realized that I wasn't going to hit my goal of 8:00 overall.  Even worse, I wasn't able to keep the minimum Ironman pace of 14:40 per mile, which means I wasn't on track for making the cutoff in an Ironman.


The swim was great and I think I'll be able to double my endurance and make my personal goal of 1:45 for an Iron-distance swim.   Aside from that it was a bad performance.  My main problem was ill effects from the over-nutrition, but even disregarding that my time was slightly below minimum required Iron pace even though I held my power, or even exceeded it.   That's a big red flag for my bike capability.

The run was a disaster, as it always is.  I'm not a strong runner and I'm no good at hills, which makes Wildflower a tough course for me every year.  Luckily the run course at Tahoe is much flatter and I'm going to rely on that fact in order to finish.  My pace when I was able to run was worse than 10:30, and I could only do that less than half the time.  Iron pace for the run is 14:45 and I need to be able to hold that for hours.

If there's a silver lining to this performance it would be my post-race recovery.  By the end of the run I was actually feeling pretty good, and after I stood in the lake and got some food in me I felt pretty good.  I was in a great mood Saturday evening and woke up feeling great on Sunday and Monday.   I had very little post-race soreness or fatigue and I attribute that to the training I've been doing with Ironteam.


- used sunscreen well - wore bike jersey on run (as always) for sun protection - new jogging belt with two bottles worked well - should start with one bottle of coconut water and one bottle of fluid - held to bike power budget as well as possible given the hills - excellent recovery resilience


- ate way too much and got a bad stomach on the run - forgot sunscreen chap stick - could use new tri shorts - mine are worn out - missed my time goals for bike and run - need better efficiency on the bike to extend endurance - best run pace was still slower than 10:30/mile

Another wedding photobooth

I did another photobooth at a wedding last week and it worked out really well.  (Pics are here on flickr)   The biggest improvement this time:  A laptop for instant review. People really seemed to react to being able to see their antics on the screen and I think this is a "must have" for future setups.   I did this by having Lightroom 4 in tethered mode, in the loupe module with no toolbars visible.   Valuable sides effects being the ability to check focus if needed, and no work required at the end of the day to download cards.

If I had it to do again I would have an external monitor visible for public reviews but not have the keyboard accessible.  There were a few people who always wanted to go back and review previous shots or delete bad ones and that's a level of fussing I don't want to allow.

Also, next time I'd like to bring some props. :-)  Some hats, a feather boa, or something like that.  In this case though, people had no trouble having fun.  (And the reception was dry too!)

Behind the Scenes on Georgia's shoot, and folding a big reflector

I took some pictures with Supermodel Georgia last month, and those pictures have been getting some great reviews Flickr.  Let's go behind the scenes on that shoot briefly.

As you can see, I have a large white paper backdrop lit by two Alien Bees strobes.   There's a Canon 580 EX on manual mode as a hair light just out of frame on the upper right.  The yellow tool caddy is my stand-in for checking exposure and lighting.

Most of the shots are full-length on the white background but sometimes girls look better with a lower key background.  When I want to switch to a black background quickly I use the Botero 037 black/white foldable reflector hanging from a lightstand. It's really quick to switch from the room-filling white backdrop to a 3/4 length black backdrop and the only real drawback is the length, as you can see in this shot:

Behind the scenes with Georgia - black backdrop

I just put the lightstand holding the backdrop straight on the white paper.  You can see the home-made snoot for the hair light in the upper right corner.   The black rectangle on the left is a large piece of foam core board I use to block the camera's view of the left strobe, to but down on lens flare, glare, and washout.

Once you've got the lighting mostly right, two backdrops to switch between quickly, and a model, the only thing left to do is shoot!   The results are here on Flickr and there's a mix of black and white backdrops.   Notice how the black background shots don't include the feet?

Well, there's one more thing left to do, and that's clean up afterwards.   Somehow that reflector folds into box the size of a large pizza and sometimes it's not obvious how to do it.  You especially want to look like you know what you're doing when you're in front of a paying client, so watch the following video and practice!

Fold a large reflector like a pro

or if you hate music:

Suffer for my art

This weekend makes twice in the last year I've been painfully bitten by bugs while doing photography.

I was first bitten by a wasp last summer wile standing on a beach at Lake Tahoe at 11:00 pm. What kind of wasp bites people in the middle of the night? The resulting picture is here:

Tahoe Stars

Then just this past Sunday while I was lying on my belly in a field I picked up a tick that burrowed into my torso. I was only on my belly for one photo so I'm pretty sure I know exactly which picture I was taking when I picked this guy up:

The Tick

That picture was taken after expert extraction by my lovely wife.  Her comment was "are you going to pass out now?"  (I didn't)   I find it ironic that I was on a field trip for a class on shooting macro photography when I picked this up, giving me the perfect opportunity to take a picture of something very small!   The picture above is really just a snapshot taken quickly in the kitchen - not a lot of setup involved.   It's not exactly professional quality, but I wasn't really in my right frame of mind at the time.

The picture I was taking while lying on his home is here:

Yellow Flower

Also not really top-rate but I'm including it here for completeness' sake.   I guess this is all the more reason to spend $200 and pick up the Canon angle view finder attachment - because sometimes kneeing is way better than lying down on your belly...

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Wrap-up

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 2011 I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was going to shoot the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on January 9th, and indeed I did.   I'll spare you the blow-by-blow details but I want to give a quick summary about how it went and remind myself of a few things for next year.

I had a great time.   The traffic was light, the bowl was a sellout, the crowds were good, and it was a good game.  I got some nice shots and I didn't get hurt.  One fun thing about a football game at AT&T Park is the photo work area is the Ginats' dug-out. Let me rephrase that: the World Champion Giants' dugout.

What more could I ask for?

Well, I guess I could ask for the PAC-10 being able to field enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of their bowl slots.  It would have been nice to have a PAC-10 team there, but I guess you can't have everything you want.

The Gear

I took a little bit more gear than I have in the past, including a 500mm f/4.0 lens that I was renting from local nature photographer Joe Decker.  Here's a  shot of the camera gear I took:

gear bag for Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

As you can see, there's a lot of stuff there.  I took 3 bodies and 6 lenses this time.  The larger pack on the right is the ThinkTank Airport International which I absolutely love.  The 500/4.0 just barely fits in there.   Next to it is the 70-200/2.8.   There's a 1-Ds mk III (Yes, that's the slower, larger sensor model instead of  the faster 1-D made for sports.)  There's a 5-D mkII and a 24-70 in there too.

In the middle is an old Tamrac backpack of some sort.  I almost never use it while shooting anymore but it's good for carrying gear around in. That bag holds the 300/4.0 lens, a 40-D body, a 17-40/4.0 wide-angle zoom, a 15mm fisheye, some lens hoods which I never seem to use, my compact flash wallet, etc.

To the far left is my ThinkTank modular belt system, which is what I actually wear when I'm shooting the game.  On top is the monopod which is permanently attached to to 500mm lens during the game.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 2011I took 3 bodies but really only used the 1-Ds mkIII for about 95% of the shots.  Once you use the great focus system on the body you never want to go back to the old 9 point focus system on the other cameras.  There's enough time between plays in football to switch between lenses based on how far away the action of the next play will be, so I just kept switching lenses and always using the 1-D.

The 500mm lens was the longest I've used for shooting football before.  It's a pretty long lens and it really pulls in the action from far away.  Also, due to the narrow angle of view and shallow depth of field, the long telephoto really isolates the action a lot better.  A well framed photo taken with the 500 looks a lot nicer than a heavy crop from a narrower lens.  There's a trick to using a lens that long but when it works, it really looks nice.

The Results

Gametime Lens Selection

Lightroom has a nice metadata browser that makes it easy to get some informal stats about collections of images.  I ended up with 136 photos of action during the game.  The screengrab on the left shows the lenses I used to take those images.  Although the 500 is the "sexiest" (and most expensive) lens I had it ended up not being the most used, producing around 15% of my "keeper" images.  The good old 70-200 turned out to be the most useful (producing more than 50% of my keepers), followed by the wonderful 300/4.0.

You can see a much larger collection of about 50 images from the game on my flickr page.

The question of Naming...

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 2011

Finally, I'd like to ask one last question.   To what year do we attribute bowl games played in January?  Is this the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 2010?  Or how about the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 2011?  Sure, it happened in 2011 but it's the bowl game attached to the 2010 season.   Back when it was the Emerald Bowl and it happened in late December there was no problem.  I checked my photo passes from previous years and sure enough - they all have the year in them.  This year's official bowl title is simply "The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl".  No year specified, so maybe they don't even know what to call it.   What's it going to be called next year?

One last thing...

Those of you who follow my blog know I've always had a thing for a good fisheye shot.  Ever since I started shooting at AT&T Park I've had a vision of a wide shot that included the whole stadium with a view of the field, the scoreboard, the bay behind, etc.   Now that I'm rockin' the full-frame camera and the fisheye lens, I could go ahead and get it.   There wasn't that great of a sunset that night, but here it is:

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 2011

That's probably it for sports until next year!