Blogs tagged with "photography"

When I qualified to race in the 2014 ITU Age Group World Championship in Edmonton, Alberta, I decided to go for two reasons. At the time (August 2013), I thought my long-distance racing days were over and Olympic-distance would be my future - that is, if I could run without pain. The other reason, perhaps even more important to me, was that it would finally put me in striking distance of the Canadian Rockies and Jasper National Park.
Why was this so important? You ask..

It's a proverbial bucket-list location for me. A dream more than 40 years in the making. There was a photograph I had cut out of a calendar, framed, and hung on my wall when I was a little kid. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. There was an emerald-colored lake, evergreen trees, and a mountain in the background with diagonal stripes of snow. And I dreamed big. I declared to everyone that I would one day find this place and take my own photo of it. If it really existed. Seriously. Corny? Yep. It was sort of my Shangri-La, paradise on earth.

Over the years, I spent many days dreaming of this place. Eventually, the thought it faded into the background, a distant memory in my busy no-time-to-smell-the-flowers existence. And the photo found its way into a storage box somewhere (my husband Jim swears I've shown it to him). But the day I found out the ITU World Championship was in Edmonton, the image returned instantly - and the dream had now become a distinct reality.
I knew EXACTLY where it was. I had done my research as a kid - with maps and road atlases and books - long before the internet existed. The snowy peak was Mt. Edith Cavell. It was considered one of the "50 classic climbs" in North America (I found THAT information browsing a book store - This photo shows the hanging Angel Glacier (top right)
which spills over an almost 1000-foot cliff.
This photo shows Cavell Glacier and Cavell Pond.
In 2012, the trail to the pond was completely washed away
by a mini-tsunami caused by the fall of a glacier above this one.
Then, we went to find my lake. It was there. In fact, with the weather conditions, it was ALL you actually could see. I can't say I wasn't disappointed. But there was absolutely nothing we could do. We decided to hike the trail a bit in hopes it would clear up. But instead, it got much colder and we hurried our way back to the car.

Jim's words to me? "I'm sorry sweetie, but this might be the. best. we. can. do."

Mt. Edith Cavell is behind the fog.

My heart sank. I begged him to wait a half hour, even though it was almost 6 pm and the sun was on its way down.

And you know what happened? A miracle! The first of two. The time-zone difference was two hours from Ohio, and when we got in the car to warm up, satellite radio was airing the Cleveland Indians game. We (especially my Indians-season-ticket-holder husband) could pass that half hour with no worries. We listened. And waited. And the rain eased a bit. We made a final trek down the trail and I prayed that the low clouds had lifted.
And we got our second miracle. No, I didn't get the perfect shot. But the weather had cleared enough to show Mt. Edith Cavell's characteristic snow bands. The lake was choppy and not nearly as green as the original photo, but it was just as magical. And it acted a little like Shangri-La - I felt young, like a kid again. With big dreams - dreams big as mountains:
This is what it's supposed to look like except the summit is missing.
Proof that I made it there.

Taking the iPhone version.
And later it really cleared up and you could
see the summit from the town of Jasper as the light was fading.
More from the Canadian Rockies once the sky cleared up
in the waning daylight.
On the way back to Edmonton, the sky cleared up completely. It was so dark you could see the Milky Way winding its way through the stars. And then, we got a third miracle.

Midnight was approaching and I looked out Jim's car window to the north. I knew what I was looking for because our airplane pilot had pointed it out two days earlier on our flight in: the green glowing sheets of the Northern Lights. They once again appeared in the northern sky - an extremely rare sight in summer. And I caught it just in time, before light pollution would have snuffed it out. I immediately urged Jim to stop the car. We took a quick detour off the highway, pulled over to the side of a dark road, and scrambled to get the camera out. Jim played around with the shutter speed and managed to capture the final amazing event from this miracle of days:

The Northern Lights (aurora borealis), 30 August 2014

The next day would be a difficult one. We got to bed at 1:30 am but would need to take a train and a shuttle down to the race site - Hawrelek Park - at 9 am to check in my bike. I did final race prepping, and that evening, we visited the West Edmonton Mall - a huge indoor wonderland that contains a hockey rink, a water park (wave pool and zip lines included), and an amusement park with a full-size roller coaster:

The Mindbender coaster in Galaxyland inside the
West Edmonton Mall. The ride is much longer than you think
with three loops and many spiral turns.

The only thing left to do was race the next morning. AND, be ok with the fact that I had probably used up all our miracles. I thought it would be easy, but it turned out to be the hardest part of the entire trip.

Race morning brought very low temperatures - 6-7 C (low 40s F). Most of the athletes were losing the battle to keep warm. Last year's ITU World Championship in London was cold, but this seemed much colder. I was shivering even with five layers of clothing. My wave started at 9:40 but we had to be there before 7am to set up transition. We were late to the party, but we finally found the warm indoor area near the swim start in which athletes were relaxing and getting into their wetsuits.
They lined us up just after 9 am, so we still had a long cold wait. The 1500m swim was two loops in a chlorinated man-made lake. The start was fun - we all lined up with one foot on a platform, then ran and dove into the water. It was my first time diving head first in a triathlon swim (usually it's a deep-water start or a beach sprint into shallow water). I was relieved to start swimming because the water temperature (at 19 C/66 F) was balmy compared to the air.
Hurry and start this thing before we freeze.

My swim was the one thing that did go well. I felt strong - no back pain, no problems staying on course. Going into the second loop, I was able to drop the two women flanking me for most of the first lap (usually not the case). I think many made the mistake of going out too hard.

The run from swim exit to transition was ridiculously long as they sent us past screaming spectators in the grandstand. A long run makes it harder to get out of a (partially dry) wetsuit, but surprisingly, I had very little trouble. Surprisingly I stayed on my feet despite my disc problem, and I was on my bike pretty quickly.
The 40K bike course was also a double loop with a steep climb at the beginning. The course was very fast, but the cold was an issue for everyone. My legs were not burning like usual, and I thought I rode really strong, but my time was the same as Nationals in Milwaukee. It was extremely disappointing to say the least.
Coming around for the second loop.
At least I had my homemade custom Toothless helmet.

Thus, when I saw the time as I pulled into transition, I started to mentally unravel. Then things went really wrong. After racking my bike, I couldn't get my helmet strap unclipped because my hands had gotten so cold my fingers didn't work. They were frozen. I struggled and struggled with it and then tried to pull my helmet off while it was still strapped. In retrospect, it must have looked quite hilarious. But then I started to panic as other women came in and start the run while I was still struggling to get my helmet off. I finally yelled for help and an ITU official came over, but right before she got to me, I actually managed to unclip the strap myself. I took off running as fast as I could.

The run transition was also ridiculously long, and my legs felt fried before I even got out on the run course. I saw Jim on the way out and just shook my head in frustration. I knew right away that I had nothing. This, combined with the cold, the disappointing bike split, and the helmet disaster had rattled me beyond recovery. And instead of reminding myself this was a "C" race, I ran frustrated and discouraged. It shouldn't have mattered that much, but it was a world championship and spectators were acting like it. I was getting my butt kicked by women I've beaten in the past and all I could do was "run through it." I had mentally checked out.
First loop of the run.

The 10K course was two loops, partially on a gravel trail. The second time I saw Jim, he told me to back off and not hurt myself. I was probably hurting myself more mentally than physically at that point. By the time it was over, the only positive thing I could glean from my run was that I actually started to feel good around mile 5 or 6. Unfortunately, I had no speed, and that was when the race was just about over.

I grabbed a flag for my run to finish anyway, and I didn't complain or sulk until I was out of sight, showered, and had lunch. Lying in the hotel room was when the uncontrollable tears came. And the fear and worry has come back. And I have about six weeks to work through it so that I can toe that line in Kona with the confidence and killer instinct I need to get through it.

Writing this has helped me put the whole thing in perspective. Sometimes I need to stop and smell the flowers and appreciate the journey. I guess that's why I keep writing - to step out of the momentary and consider the enduring. And perhaps tell a race story that might save someone else's race. And add things to that "bucket list." While I can. Because there is no Shangri-La. It just looks that way in pictures.

When I qualified to race in the 2014 ITU Age Group World Championship in Edmonton, Alberta, I decided to go for two reasons. At the time (August 2013), I thought my long-distance racing days were over and Olympic-distance would be my future - that is, if I could run without pain.

Most of you may already know I work in the marketing department at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. My main responsibilities include the Zoo's website and social media presence, photography and video. If you love animals, working for a Zoo is a reward in and of itself. But all jobs have their issues. I could tell you a million things that are stressful in trying to market a Zoo, and both zoo and non-zoo fans could probably guess many of them. But today, I just want to write about how, as internet marketers, we try and try and try to give people what they want, we try to serve up information for them in several outlets and formats, and yet, they will still find things to complain about. I constantly wonder if it is a direct result of the instant-gratification society we live in or if it just has to do with my views of society as I age (there's that word again, "aging"). Will it get worse as time goes on? And, why is it that we can have many people giving us a thumbs-up on Facebook, and yet we can't shake off the sarcastic and negative comments?

I encounter the same thing with my personal social media sites. I love going to concerts and I love to take photos and video, but sometimes, I just like to enjoy the show. After great feedback on my videos, I have felt a responsibility to my YouTube friends to keep supplying more. But now, when I upload several videos from a gig, instead of getting a "thank you" from people, they ask me if I have more video from the show.
Maybe it's just human nature. Maybe it's just MY nature in wanting to please everyone. I wish I could give out some lessons to be learned from this, but I'm still trying to get a grip on it myself.

Most of you may already know I work in the marketing department at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. My main responsibilities include the Zoo's website and social media presence, photography and video. If you love animals, working for a Zoo is a reward in and of itself. But all jobs have their issues.

I hadn't planned on blogging camera reviews, but my new camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3, arrived yesterday and I'm so excited about it that I feel the need.

I have a history with this camera. Three years ago, I needed an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera for my job at the Zoo - one that my marketing cohorts could easily use. After exhausting research (because I'm a camera geek), I settled on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 -- the original version of the camera that arrived on my doorstep yesterday. The TZ1 turned out to be one of the best little super-zoom cameras on the market AND one of the best hybrid still/video cameras I've ever used. Its phenomenal video capabilities were found out by accident - when I dialed the wrong (video) setting and hit the shutter button. Mind you, I had no need for a video camera at work because I already have the semi-pro Sony HDR-A1U.
Since then, the TZ1 went through several generations to arrive in 2009 as the ZS3 (chronologically, the TZ7, as it's known overseas). Panasonic and others classify their super zoom, hybrid (still/video) cameras as "travel zoom." I suppose that's because it fits in your pocket. All I can say is this camera defies classification. It is just as good as the little pro-sumer cameras on the market -- you know, the ones that look like DSLRs but aren't. But, you may ask, why did I buy it? I mean, for home purposes, I already HAVE a DSLR (the Canon Digital Rebel XTi), a Fuji 10x super-zoom, a Canon point-and-shoot and a great Sony Mini-DV camorder. The reason is simple: my passion for music. I need a camera that can take excellent concert photos, great video and fit in my pocket. So I can get it past security. I CONFESS. I'm a live music junkie! That being said, I have a great opportunity coming up in September - I'm going to Italy on vacation then popping over to England to see my favorite band, Turin Brakes, live in London. Hmm... do I need a new kick-ass camera? Yep.
What I ended up with is one of the greatest little cameras I've ever held in my hand. The ZS3 has made major improvements from its "TZ" days. The zoom is phenomenal (12x), and it has even better wide angle capabilities - 25mm. The one complaint I always had about this camera is it doesn't have a manual mode -- specifically, shutter-priority. What I didn't learn from reviews is that it DOES have a setting that limits the shutter speed -- i.e., you can choose the minimum. BINGO. Action shots, here I come. Panasonic has added to it's "scene" selection for quick choices (including "high-sensitivity" -- also known as: "concert"). There's an "iA" (intelligent Auto) mode for no-brainer shooting. The ISO setting goes to 1600 for low light conditions, and all the usual bells and whistles are included: aperture priority to adjust for back-lighting conditions, auto-focus modes, white balance, excellent macro focus modes, image stabilization and color modes like sepia. They've also added burst shooting and bracketing and things I may never use like "face recognition." And then comes the new video capabilities: the video button is no longer on the mode dial (so you can take video on the fly), there's HD capability, and, finally, STEREO sound. Here's to the YouTube haters who will no longer insult my sound quality. I really can't ask for much more in a pocket-sized point-and-shoot. But to sweeten the deal, they even made it in BLUE.

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