Saturday, March 30, 2013

big fish, little fish

Today was a tale of two wildly different photoshoot types. At 9:15 AM I shot the start of the Fast Friends 4.5 Mile Road Race up in Swanzey, NH. Then at 1:15PM I shot the finish of the Westfield Fast Flat 5K Run/Walk down in Westfield, MA. The similarities end at the fact that both were races.

For the start of the Fast Friends race I moved out into the road directly ahead of the runners and got this shot (at full zoom; I wasn't THAT close):

Nobody seemed to mind me being there, and I was able to scoot away well before the runners got near me. I had ample time to drive over near mile 3 or so and find a reasonable spot to shoot the runners once they'd spread out some. I parked near the small access road for Mt. Cresson (cool local conservation area; who knew??) and obsessively cleaned my camera filter glass until the runners arrived. 

Eventually runners came by and I was able to photograph everyone, first to last (except for three walkers who were 13 minutes back; sorry, guys!). There were 147 finishers. Full race results at coolrunning

Afterwards I went to the finish and caught up with three old friends from my Capital Multisport days (from when I lived in Concord, NH). There was also a very cool police dog demo going on, and the good people at Fast Friends let me go inside and meet one of the greyhound rescues (Enzo; I wanted to adopt her on the spot). All in all, it was an easy, stress-free photoshoot. Here's the complete photo gallery

L: Enzo, the prettiest greyhound rescue; R: Deb Livernois, rockin' runner!

Then I drove down to Westfield. There was plenty of time and the drive was easy, but soon I realized this would be a very different shoot. For starters, it was a first-year 5K. And it was a run/walk (one that attracted both top regional talent and stroller-walkers alike). And there were 1114 finishers. Results at coolrunning

And there was an official, downtown Westfield-based race photographer that the announcer kept promoting on the loudspeaker. There's no rule I'm aware of that says I can't shoot the same race, but I'd like very much to not step on anyone's toes. Anyway, I caught the first two finishers as they came across the line at Mach 1, then missed the next dozen or so top runners as I made my way back a quarter mile or so to the last turn in the road before the finish. Here, I took photos of runners and walkers non-stop for the next hour. My upper body was pretty kinked up and sore by the end! Full gallery here

Congratulations to all the runners of these two races. I'm so impressed with how many New Englanders turned out for great causes and good exercise on a late March weekend. 

L: whee! R: whee!

Vamonos, Muchachos!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Berkshire Photoshoot Pentathlon

The 2nd Annual Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon was held up in Charlemont, MA this past Saturday. Athletes run, bike, kayak, run/hike, and ski/snowboard. All before the end of March. In New England. I don't know of too many other local race events with so much photographic potential!

I tried shooting this event last year, and learned a few lessons along the way. This year I went back armed with a better camera and a faster lens, and, um, yeah... learned a few lessons along the way.

Just strategizing locations for shooting was a challenge. I ended up catching runners as they came through Charlemont in the first mile, and also as they came out of the woods at the Warfield House around mile 4. That first location wasn't the most scenic setting on an overcast, dirty-snow, late March morning, and the second location was where the best shots came out. I also shot the bike leg, mostly out on the scenic section of road between Zoar and Monroe. Parking along this stretch was really difficult as there were still foot-high snowdrifts lining each side of road. There was literally no place to safely pull over for miles (the road was still open to traffic). I ended up parking in some shallow snow and walking half a mile up the hill to where I wanted to get some shots. For the kayak leg, I pulled over above the snowy boulders downstream of the Zoar Picnic Area and put my emergency blinker lights on; got a few shots there. For the hill climb and ski legs, I just walked up to the finish line and did catch-as-catch-can. The photoshoot was kind of an event in itself!

Exposure was much harder this year. The bright snow made it very difficult to expose for the athletes, and to add to the difficulty the sun kept coming and going behind gauzy clouds. The shots I got reflect the challenges, with some appearing overexposed and some appearing underexposed. Three cheers for Photoshop CS6!

I'm super impressed with the athletes who completed this event. I can't even imagine how cold the Deerfield River must have been for the kayakers. Even the best must have gotten a little bit wet in spots. Hats off to you guys. You are officially awesomely badass!

The full photo gallery is now up at Northeast Photo

Sunday, March 24, 2013

hot damn...

I set my half-marathon PR by over 2 minutes today at the 2013 Oleksak Half-Marathon in Westfield, MA. My previous best had been at the same race a year ago when I ran 1:36:25 (a 7:21 pace). Today it was 1:34:22 (a 7:13 pace). And I felt good the entire run. As you might imagine, I'm feeling really good about this.

The winds were biting during the warm-up run, but I remembered how much I usually heat up regardless so I stripped down to just shorts and a t-shirt. This ended up being a good move as the sun came out and it warmed right up to the low 40's by mile 2. I did wear gloves most of the way, though.

The first mile is flat and I hit it right on my goal pace of 7:21. Mile two was a little slower, but that was OK since it had some uphill. 7:27. Mile three is almost all ascent and has the steepest hill of the race. That one was a 7:53. Fine. Mile four levels out but still climbs. 7:32. Again, fine. Mile 4-5 is mostly flat, and I began to make up the time. 7:05. Mile 5-6 has the biggest downhill. 7:00. From there it's a very gradual downhill/flat trend (with a couple of short hills) all the way to mile ten. 7:12. 7:09. 7:22. 7:08. Somewhere around mile 8 the effort began to catch up with me and I started to flag a little, but another Gu and some extra water at the next station perked me right back up. Then you get to the flat final three, through neighborhoods. Here I methodically picked off a couple of the guys I'd been behind for a bunch of miles, and I have to admit I felt pretty good doing that. It just all felt right. Nothing hurt, nothing felt tight, and I had the energy to just stride away. Love it when that happens. It's not all that often, but I love it when it does. The final three mile splits were 7:02, 6:52, and 6:30. Hot damn.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Holyoke St. Patrick's Day 10K

After taking photos at the Shamrock Shuffle 5-mile race in Winchendon last Saturday, I zipped down to Holyoke to shoot a similarly-themed event of a completely different magnitude: the Holyoke St. Patrick's Day 10K road race.

Evidence of the event was obvious as I drove in on Route 202. Cars were parked on both sides of the bridge over the Connecticut River, and downtown was completely clogged with parked cars and pedestrians. I angled in from the north and parked right where I wanted to, a few spots from Beech Street near mile 5½. A girl scout troop was handing out bottled water and Gatorade here.

The lead runner showed up about 5 minutes later, tearing up the last little hill before the sprint to the finish. Those that followed blew by at foot-blistering speeds as well. Very impressive. After the punctuated spectacle of seeing the first twenty or thirty come by at increasingly regular intervals, the main pack arrived and the street literally filled with people. I took photos for the next solid hour.

Sometimes it seemed more like a parade than a race. Massachusetts clearly loves St. Patrick's Day! Anyway, the whole gallery is now up at Northeast Photo. I had a lot of fun shooting this race and laughed a lot while processing the shots (which was a monumental task, by the way!).

These are a few of my favorites: 

(all photos copyright Ben Kimball 2013; please do not copy or use without permission)

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Harbour Shamrock Shuffle

I went up to Winchendon this past Saturday to take shots at The Harbour Shamrock Shuffle 5 Mile Run. As luck would have it, I had chosen to shoot at the exact spot where Liz from Global-Click Photography (the official race photographer for the event) had already set up. If I had arrived early enough, I might have been able to scout out a different location, but since I'd made that wrong turn back in Athol...

With only a minute to go before the first runners arrived, I decided to jog down the course a short ways and take photos another quarter mile or so along. I can't say I love the busy backgrounds I ended up with in some of them, but in general I'm actually quite pleased with the way most came out. I love that 70-200mm lens!

Thanks to Liz for being cool about it all, and for talking shop with me for a little while. She's good peeps. 

Anyway, here's my gallery of photos from this race. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

homing pigeon

Following Hal Higdon's advanced half-marathon training plan, I set out to run easy for two hours today. I also tried to mimic the elevation profile of next weekend's race course in Westfield, except I wanted it to be harder. So I planned a route that would get the climbing and descending muscles some action. Oh, they got action.

Jen dropped me off at the (ever-awesome) Leverett Co-Op and then I ran home. 14-ish miles. The first four were mostly uphill, all the way to Shutesbury. Then, for good measure, there was another mile of climbing to top it off. Actually, I felt pretty good, if a little chilly (there were still a few inches of snow on the ground up there and the wind was pretty biting). Then it was four solid miles of quad-pounding downhill to where I'd stashed a gatorade bottle in the woods.

Note: If you eat a quarter of a box of Cheez-Its the day before your long run, you only have yourself to blame for what you'll probably need to run into the woods to do the next day.

By the time I got to 9 miles I was feeling good, but a little fatigued as well. So the next few miles of trail running on Mt. Orient weren't exactly... speedy. Or much of anything, really. It was still a bit icy up there too. I went pretty slow, not wanting to twist or tweak anything. Back on the roads I was able to open it up some, though, and cap off a fairly awesome weekend long run with a nice, comfortable stride into the home stretch.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hawley Kiln and WAMDA races

On Saturday March 2nd, I made it up into the Berkshire Hills by 9AM to photograph the start (and part of the finish) of the 2013 Hawley Kiln 5-Mile Snowshoe Race. I'll be launching my own part-time race photography site soon, and wanted to get some practice with the new equipment (Nikon D6oo, which I got last fall, and the 70-200mm f/4 zoom lens that I got last week). I was able to shoot the start and catch a dozen or so finishers before I needed to take off; I also wanted to shoot the WAMDA 5K race that started at 11AM down at Look Park in Northampton, about half an hour away.

Hawley Kiln 5-Mile Snowshoe Race
The snowshoe race looked like a great time. After shooting the start, I chatted briefly with the race director, Ed, and some of the local volunteers at the Fire Department where the start was, and then headed out a ways on the trail. The actual kiln is only a quarter mile or so away, and very near the course, so I walked over there and checked it out, stepped inside, etc. It's sort of like a stone tepee. The racers took longer than I thought they would getting back, but that was fine with me as it gave me time to scout out a couple of shots.

After leaving the snowshoe race early (sorry to everyone I missed!) I took some scenic back roads down to Northampton and just barely made it into the back part of Look Park in time to catch the WAMDA 5K racers on their first loop. Thanks to the two runners who pointed me in the right direction!

Race photo lesson learned: don't bother trying to shoot everyone when they're all bunched up together at the start. Even with good gear, the autofocus can't figure out what to settle on and a wide aperture essentially guarantees a lot of out of focus shots.

Anyway, I got a couple of good ones and a few gestalts, then moved back to a different location to catch the runners on lap 2. This worked out much better and I was able to get good shots of nearly everyone. All in all a successful and enjoyable morning of race shooting in wintery western Massachusetts. I plan to put all the race photos up for sale on my new site (coming soon!).

who's psyched for some outdoor exercise in early March?

full race photo gallery