Friday, September 26, 2014

back to pisgah

Another year, another visit to the excellent Pisgah Mtn Trail Races in southwestern New Hampshire! Only this time I didn't run (see here for last year's 50K recap). For a variety of reasons, I decided it was time to try out a Northeast Race Photo shoot for this event. And I'm really glad I did; I love how these shots came out.

I arrived at the Kilburn Road trailhead with plenty of time to spare, but dawdled on my way to the summit, which was a decent 2-mile hike over to the east. It's easy to get distracted, as the scenery is fantastic and the photo possibilities endless, especially on a misty morning in the woods.

heading east into the park along Kilburn Road

So when Greg Hammett, the lead runner of the 23K race, came silently rocketing past me about a quarter mile down from the top, I knew I had to kick it in gear. The light in the woods was WAY too low to catch runners. For the first few racers, I left the camera set at a really high ISO (around 1600; pretty grainy) and a shutter speed of less than 1/60th second and just attempted to get lucky with a couple of panning shots (always a gamble).

Once on top of the mountain and mostly in the open, the light was a lot better and I was able to bring the ISO down to a reasonable amount and use more appropriate shutter speeds for catching runners. When I got a chance, I switched lenses from the wide angle to the 200mm and caught some pretty nice shots of runners coming along the slick ledges just past the summit vista.

Everyone remarked on the oppressiveness of the 100% humidity and people were drenched, but it was still a remarkably upbeat and positive group of athletes. During the several hours I spent up there I saw an uplifting number of smiles and leaps and got lots of high-fives and thanks from people going by. I started down with about 10 runners or so left to come past, which provided the opportunity to get some shots of descenders in the dark woods. And I was also able to catch several runners again on their completion of the infamous Kilburn Loop. All in all, a very rewarding day at Pisgah. Some sample photos are included below, and the full galleries can be found at Northeast Race Photo.

2014 Pisgah Mtn 23K Trail race Photo Gallery

2014 Pisgah Mtn 50K Trail race Photo Gallery

Descent off the final summit during the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 23K Trail Race

Cruising along the summit during the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 23K Trail Race

 Kristina crossing the summit

Bob Dion in motion

Ultra Leap!

smiles, ears, partners, and steady strength at Pisgah

Coming off the Kilburn Loop during the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 50K Trail Race

Coming off the Kilburn Loop during the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 50K Trail Race

Approaching the final five miles of the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 50K Trail Race

Friday, June 13, 2014


Seeking sweet trail runs in western Massachusetts, I recently became aware of Alander Mountain in the far southwestern corner of the state. I did a quick Google image search on it, and came across a photo of a surprisingly above-treeline scene with subalpine-like vegetation on a windswept ridge. The notion instantly hooked me, and I had to go see.

We parked at the Mt. Washington State Forest headquarters and hiked/ran about 3 miles west to the summit, where sure enough there really is about a quarter-mile long section of mostly open ridgeline. It's very low and far south for that kind of thing, and I'm not sure what maintains it, but it is definitely one of the most beautiful mountain views in the state. And prior to about a month ago, it was completely off my radar! Very worth checking out.

After the summit, we made a long loop out of it by descending the ridge to the south (into NY, briefly) and then following the South Taconic Trail south for a few miles before swinging back northeast on the Ashley Hill Trail (which was a bit rough at first) and Charcoal Pit Trail.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

2014 Seven Sisters Trail Race

Sunday was the annual Seven Sisters Trail Race here in western MA. Twelve grueling miles of rocky climbing and descending on an out-and-back course along the M-M Trail in the Holyoke Range. A record number of runners participated this year, and by the looks of it most of them had a blast. At least that's how it appeared to me taking photos just before the turnaround, as an extraordinary number of them mustered the energy and enthusiasm to leap and bound around like the maniacs they surely are.

I had a great time shooting, but prior to that my morning was kind of a disaster, and it's amazing I got to do it at all. About two hours earlier, I'd gone to the start of a local marathon, but after one picture my D600 crapped out on me. The mirror locked up completely and nothing I did would fix it. I had to forgo shooting a race I had promised the race director and others I would be a professional race photographer for. I can't express enough the embarrassment, shame, humiliation, helplessness, anger, and despair I felt.

After a frantic call home to my girlfriend, she brought me my spare camera (my old D300), because I was too stupid to have brought it with me. I told her what to grab (the camera and a spare battery) (neglected to ask for the charger or a spare memory card) and she saved my butt. I had no time to spare to make it over to Seven Sisters, and raced to the turnaround, parked, and hiked out on the trail.

Well, the battery in the camera only had half a charge, and the spare had NO charge. And the D600 batteries (of which I had three, each fully charged) don't work in the D300. So I had half a battery on an old DX camera (my good lenses are FX) with one pint-sized memory card to shoot a high-profile trail race with. Great.

I managed to make the most of it though, and got shots of the bulk of the racers before running out of both card space and battery juice (at the same time, coincidentally). See the full gallery here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Traprock Return

My plans for this spring went awry. After doing a 50K last September and a 40-miler last December, I signed up to do the Traprock 50K this April and the Pinelands 50-Miler on Memorial Day weekend. All was going well until later February, when a groin pull quietly crept up on me and forced me out of running for far too long. Every week or so I'd try a test run or two, and every time it was too soon and I set myself back further.

I knew my ultra plans would have to change. Fortunately, I was able to drop down to the 1-loop 17K course at Traprock, and was able to run it without too much in the way of repercussion (it was 2 days ago now, and so far so good, anyway). My pace was 27 minutes slower than last year (not surprisingly, since I was injured this spring and in very good shape last spring), but that allowed me to run the whole race with Jen, who ran much faster than she did at a similar distance trail race (Monroe-Dunbar Brook) last fall.

Traprock is such a fun course, and very well organized. Once we'd finished and had our fill at the barbeque and picked up our pint glasses, I grabbed my camera and headed back out on the course to take photos of people finishing their second loop on the 50K, and maybe the first dozen or so racers finishing their 3rd loop. The mid-day light was really harsh, shining brightly down on runners' heads and casting faces fully in shadow beneath visors. Plus there's always my nemesis, the high-contrast "dapple," when you're shooting in the woods in such conditions; it's impossible to expose for both the highlights and the shadows. Nevertheless, I think I still managed to come away with a few good shots of most people. Some highlights below:

[EDIT: I was ordered to take the photo gallery down; apologies to anyone looking for their photo.]

L: Jen in the sweet Traprock t-shirt.
R: Our fellow 413 runner Steven Pelletier cruises past on lap 2.

L: Sara Pragluski Walsh rocking up the ridge on her third lap.
R: Alanna Almstead shows off her second Ultra Leap of the day!

L: Kristy Burns heads out for her final lap.
R: Anthony Tieuli near the end of his second lap.

L: Trail buds.
R: A runner re-climbing the ridge.

Men's 50K race winner Ryan Welts flying down Penwood Ridge to the finish.

Adam Wilcox cruising to a solid second place finish near the end of the third loop.

Gary Hebert heading back out for his final lap. 

L: P.J. Gronski finishing loop 2.
R: Kristina Folcik-Welts (dangergirl) sailing to a phenomenal win in the women's 50K. 

L: Curry Galloway sets out on her third loop of the 50K.
R: Clara Barnes sprints to the finish of the 17K.

Napoleon Tetreault on his way to finishing the 2014 Traprock 50K.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Westfield Half-Marathon

Had fun taking photos in the light rain at the 2014 Westfield Half-Marathon today. Some sample shots below:



and here's the full gallery of photos