Category Archives: nature photography

2018 STRC Trail Fest at Grist Iron

Last year I ran the first trail race put on by the Southern Tier Running Club. This year I was back again but not as a runner. I photographed the event and an event it is. This is truly as billed a Trail Fest. One day, 3 races. There is a 1 mile race a 5k race and a 10k race. I photographed each one. Then there are post race festivities including live music, food, and beer. It does not get a whole lot better.

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Photographing one race can be challenging enough but photographing 3 races in a row is a different story all together. It was fun, exciting, and challenging just like running itself is. Photography at this point becomes an endurance sport in a way just like running. You have to be able to stay focused and not miss your shots. Look at what is in front of you and plan your moves just like on a trail run.

The first race of the day was the 1 mile race. I stayed relatively close to the finish line for this one and moved a little bit out into the field. I used my longest lens, my 300 mm, for this race so I could capture the runners as they approached in the distance. Then as they moved closer to the finish line I could take some nice close up shots that would also include some nice scenery of the trees and lake behind them.

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For the 5k and 10k races I wanted to be farther out on the course so I could depict more of the scenery in my photographs. But I also wanted to stay close enough that I would be able to tell when each race stated so that I could have a sense of when to expect runners to reach me. I hiked out on the course a mile or so until I came to the edge of the woods. It was the perfect spot for me to set up for photographs.

I could see into the woods along the trail that came directly towards me so I would see the runners approaching me. Then the trail took a 90 degree turn and then another 90 degree turn. The trail basically snaked around me where I was standing so I could watch runners along the trail from multiple perspectives. I would be able to photograph runner’s running head on towards me then they would turn and they would be running perpendicular to me across my field of view. Then they would turn again and be running parallel to me again. All I needed to do was change my positioning and I could capture each runner and multiple places along the trail with different scenery. I was also able to see the runners clear across the field from me as they started the race in the first mile or two and photograph them there with my 300mm lens.

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I really enjoyed photographing this event from this spot. It allowed me to be much more creative than I would otherwise be able to be. I used four different cameras during the 5k and 10k races. I took photographs from four different angles. I was also able take photographs with different scenery in the back ground and vary the composition of each photo by zooming in or out and they all came out very nice.

So, doing all that sounds perfectly good in theory, but in practice it is a bit challenging. One of my goals when I photographed this race is to try to get a photograph of everyone who is running. So transition and planning becomes very important. How will I move from photographing at one angle with one camera to using another camera at another angle and still another perhaps at a different angle or distance. This all has to be done on the move in real time as runners are approaching and passing you by.

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You have to get a feel for you equipment and how long it takes to move from one camera and one position to the next. You have to have a preconception of what you want to include in each photograph. For me at this location there were several flowering trees that I wanted to include as the background of most of the photos so I planned to take shots as runners approached each of these landmarks. You have to often be aware of multiple runners at once. As one runner is approaching one landmark another runner is approaching you. Which one do you photograph in which order so that you don’t miss any of the shots? How many of the runners do you group together on wide angle shots so that you can compose a nice scenic shot and include all the runners and not miss anyone? These are all thoughts and calculations that are going on in my head as a photographer in the moment sometimes subconsciously. It doesn’t always work out but I would say the vast majority of my photos turned out as I hoped they would.

This was all done basically sight unseen. I had a vague memory of some of the course from last year, but this year’s course was going to be very different for a variety of reasons. I had not been able to go up and preview the course prior to the race. I basically walked around and found a spot I liked minutes before the race started and then started thinking about how I wanted to photograph the runners as the race was happening around me. I am not sure if that says I am a bad planner or a good photographer for having it happen that way and being able to pull it off, but even if it was less than ideal it worked out ok. There might be a few things I would do differently but those are lessons learned for the next event.

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Another part of the experience that has benefits and drawbacks is that since I found such an ideal spot that allowed me to take a wide variety of photographs of each runner from multiple angles, is that it allowed me to take a wide variety of photographs of each runner from multiple angles. Meaning I was able to take a ton of photos. I took a large quantity of photographs, over 3000. I could have taken many more if I had chosen to. I was under the impression that I had done a good job on limiting the sheer volume of photos I took until I started reviewing them on my camera after the event and realize just how many I had taken. Capturing all those images in and of itself is great and I love having so many photos to share with people but what it means for me is more work. It is time consuming to transfer all the photographs from each memory card to my computer. I probably need to do some hardware upgrades there at some point. Then I have to upload all those photographs to the internet to share them with the runners and the race organization. That takes time and websites don’t always cooperate or make it easy to upload large numbers of files all at once. So it becomes a slow time consuming process. But it is a process that I love none the less. Then there is the process of editing photos and sharing them which is also fun but time consuming and with 3000 plus photos it will be a while before I get through them all and share any significant number of edited photos.

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All said this was a great event full of great people from the runners to the volunteers to the organization putting the event on and the host site.

Thank you to Southern Tier Running Club for having me out to photograph your event. Thank you to Grist Iron Brewing for hosting. Thank you to the volunteers for making this happen. These events don’t happen without volunteers. Thank you to all the runners who went out and got after it on the trails. I hope you all had a great time and I hope you enjoy the photographs.

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Photography Life

I love photography and I love trying to make it a part of every aspect of my life. Most photography is going out and finding subjects to photograph but for me photography is about photographing life and more importantly photographing my life. I want to photograph the things I do and the things that I love and share them with the world.

Some aspects of life are a bit more challenging to photograph than others so I try to explore new tools and techniques so I can capture as much of life as is possible. Over the past year I have begun using GoPro cameras to capture parts of life that are less conducive to carrying around traditional camera gear.

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I recently went running at one of my favorite local places Tanglewood Nature Center and there are so many great sights to see there. I have photographed the scenery there many times. I wanted tot try something new. I put my GoPro on an extension pole and used it to take some creative shots.

I ran out to the cliffs. I stopped at two different spots that have the best views and I used my extension pole mounted GoPro to take photographs at angles that cannot be achieved from just standing on the path. It was an interesting process to try and maneuver the GoPro into a position that would get the best shot. It took a lot of attempts to get the best photographs. This is a technique that will take some practice to master.

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After my run I hiked up the trail and found an interesting tree. This tree is hollow and had multiple holes in it. I wanted to attempt to photograph the inside of the tree. I also wanted to photograph through the openings in the tree. I was able to get a view from the hollow at the base of the tree where some woodland creatures had been munching on nuts in the past. I was able to take photographs looking up through the opening in the top of the tree. Then I rotated the camera from the same position and photographed the inside of the tree looking down to the base of the tree on the inside. Then I captured some images of the view at Tanglewood seen from the perspective of the tree.

 

Kicking off a new venture

I have been planning to take my photography in a new direction for a while now. What I have been wanting to do is teach photography. I have been thinking about this and developing plans for a while.

Now is the time I will be kicking this new venture off. I will be starting off by volunteering to lead two, one hour long nature photography workshops at the Corning Museum of Glass. We will be walking around the campus at the CMOG and looking for interesting things to photograph and talking about nature and photography.

If you are looking for something to do this Saturday join me at the Corning Museum of Glass from 1 to 2 PM or from 2 to 3 PM for a nature photography workshop.

Following this I will be adding more workshops I will be offering. Follow me here or on Facebook for more information regarding upcoming events. You can contact me through my website or social media with any questions you have.

These photographs are just a sample of what we can hope to see . I photographed them on a short walk around the CMOG recently.

Hope to see you Saturday.

You can find more information about the event at Corning Museum of Glass

Spring Bird Photos

So, in case I didn’t spend enough time on my feet today I decided to go out and see if I could photograph some Spring birding action. I have been to some local spots that are normally good birding lately, not for birding or photography but for photography, and I did notice quite few birds particularly migratory birds that move through our area in early Spring and then move on to their breeding grounds. I really wanted to get out and try to take some photos before these birds move on.

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Blue-Winged Teal

First I went to Sperr Park in Big Flats, NY. There were quite a few birds there. I saw red-wing blackbirds, a large number of swallows, a good number of ducks, geese, and some smaller birds hiding in the bushes.

One aspect of my wildlife photography I struggle with is having patience and staying still and waiting for my subjects to come to me. This is much easier when you have already run 18 miles. I spotted a pair of blue-winged teals, which I don’t think I have ever seen here locally. They tend to be skittish so I just patiently crouched along the pond and waited and watched as they moved about hopping that they would get close enough for a few decent shots. I was also able to stand and watch some kinglets dance around in the bushes. They zip about at amazing speeds. They are not afraid of me and flew right by me multiple times as they chased down insects to eat.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

After Sperr Park I went to Eldridge Park in Elmira, NY., the sight of my run earlier today. I had noted that there were some interesting birds still here today so I wanted to make sure I got back and captured some photos of them. There were not as many birds or as much of a variety of birds as when I was here a few days ago, but the birds I was most interested in were still here. I watched the cormorants and horned grebes swim around the lake. I waited as they approached. They would dive and then emerge closer and closer to me. When there were within range I captured the images I was looking for.

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Double-Crested Cormorant

I was lucky today both species of birds were very active and moving around the pond so it was almost effortless to capture the images I wanted. I was even more fortunate as a dozen cormorants all took flight at the same time and I was able to photograph them as they wheeled around the lake getting higher and higher as they flew until they flew off. That provided me with several opportunities to photograph them in flight.

If you enjoy the work I do please consider supporting me on Patreon at any level. Any amount of support helps me to continue doing the work you see here.

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Horned Grebe

State Parks Are Havens For Trail Runners

One of the greatest things about running is that you can run basically anywhere. You can walk out your door and run. There is not a whole lot that is necessary in order to run. Just put your shoes on and run. You don’t need a ball, a glove, a field, or a team. It’s just you, your feet, and the ground.

However, if you love nature you might also love trail running, and trail running requires one more thing, a trail. At very least you will want some outdoor space where you can run off road. Not all communities are fortunate enough to have areas where they can go out and run on trails very easily.

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In my experiences running on the past several years I have learned that there is one great resource that trail runners can take advantage of and that is your state parks. One thing that almost all state parks have in common is that they have trails. If you want to get out and enjoy some trails you need to check out your closest state park if you haven’t done so yet.

The Finger Lakes Region of New York is fortunate to be home to no fewer than 17 state parks. These state parks are areas where the people have decided nature is important and should be preserved and protected and that is one of the things that draws people to trail running. The opportunity to be out in nature and enjoy two things that go great together, running and nature, is irresistible.

In the Finger Lakes region there are multiple state parks where running clubs are able to put on great races. The Ithaca Running club has been putting on trail races or years and some of their races feature our great state parks. The Tortoise and Hare trail race is run in Buttermilk Falls State Park. The Monster marathon and half marathon, also put on by Finger Lakes Running Club, is held in Robert Treman State Park.  Forge the Gorgeous trail race is held at Filmore Glen State Park by the Finger Lakes Running Club. Red Newt Racing holds their Cayuga Trails race which encompasses to state parks, both Robert Treman and Buttermilk Falls. Lucifer’s Crossing trail race is held at Robert Treman State Park by Red Newt Racing. The race itself is named for one of the most prominent features of the state park, Lucifer’s Falls where the runners will be climbing the gorge along the falls.

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Soon we may have even more races to look forward to at state parks in the Finger Lakes region. The Southern Tier Running Club is planning to bring race to our area at Newtown Battlefield State Park and Pinnacle State Park. The proposed race at Newtown Battlefield would be a trail half marathon. The race at Pinnacle would have options for a 3 and 7 mile course.

Running races is one great reason to go for a trail run at a state park but there are more reasons. Most state parks offer multiple trails and not all of them will be covered by races. Not all trails are appropriate for races but all trails are appropriate for exploring. So take this great opportunity to explore. Go take a run down a trail you may not be familiar with. Just see where it goes and enjoy it. Relax, take your time even. Stop and soak in that nature. Exploration and connection are the best things about getting out there in nature on a run. See something new. Get out there and connect with nature.

State parks also might have trails that connect with other trails. Trails that go a much longer distance than you might otherwise expect. You can start on one trail in a state park and take a turn off onto another trail and go on an adventure. Who knows you could start in a state park and end up running across the state on the Finger Lakes Trail if you want to. You can pick up the Finger Lakes trail in Watkins Glen State Park and Robert Treman State Park for example.  You never know where the adventure might lead you. Be open to the adventure.

Another great aspect of state parks aside from opportunities to camp and hike or run trails is the opportunity to find solitude. Sometimes even running alone in the city you never really feel that solitude. There are always cars and street lights and other pedestrians and barking dogs. There are so many distractions to take you out of the moment. Too many other things to pay attention to that take you out of that moment. Get out on a lesser used trail at a state park and you might not see anyone for miles. No cars to worry about. No barking dogs to contend with. You can become fully immersed in the moment and just enjoy the run with no other concerns. Just drink in the nature and experience real solitude.

Gather your friends and meet up at a state park and start your adventure today.

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Tanglewood Trail Not So Much Run

Since I began training for my 50K in the beginning of January I have yet to run any trails. Trail running is my favorite kind of running and my training is to prepare me for a trail marathon and then a 50K, so I have really been itching to get on the trails. So far timing or weather or any other of life’s many variables have conspired to keep me from trails.

Going into this week 6 of the training plan long run I really wanted to get out on a trail to run. The weather had not really cooperated with multiple days of snow into mid week. But I really wanted to run trails. Then life circumstances really started hitting home and I really just felt like I needed to get out into nature. Nature is where I can find my peace and maybe just escape from life for a while. It is what I needed. So I doubled down on my desire to hit the trails today.

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Normally on a long run in the winter I would were some running tights, but aparently life prevented me from having any of those clean. I have a pair of windpants that I can run in that have a light mesh lining to them and I figured would be perfect for the temperature and at least keep me warm. So I geared up and went out to my favorite local trail spot at Trnaglewood Nature Center.

My assumption was that Tanglewood is a pretty popular outdoor destination locally. I assumed that people would have been on the trail over the past few days so that the snow would be a little packed down and more runnable. And that is where it started to bite me in that ass. I always think I have learned my lesson about assuming. You know the saying when you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME. Well I sure began to feel like an ass once I began running.

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There had been almost no one on the trails. Miscalculation number 1. Especially not on the trails I wanted to be on. I was pushing through fresh 6+ inch snow with every step. I was wearing my Altra Lone Peak 3.0’s that I love but they were no help in that level of snow. There was no traction to be had. The snow was so deep every step was over my ankles. Every step pushed snow up into my open pant legs of the wind pants. Miscalculation number two. Thank goodness I did have the good sense to where nice warm and tall Smartwool winter socks. Also since the snow was pushing up into my pants and the pants had a mesh liner the snow was powdery enough at first to just pass through the mesh liner. Once the snow got between the mesh liner and the outer layer of the pants it compressed and did not come back out through the mesh. I stopped to try to get it out but that was not happening. The snow just built up inside the bottom of the pant legs. Miscalculation number three. By the end of the run it was like trying to run in the snow with ankle weights on.

I am glad I went out with the intent of taking some photos and getting some time lapse footage or I may have given up sooner. Having something else to focus on other than the inability to run helped me to want to stay out there longer. And I did get some decent footage.

It is odd how something can both be a bad experience and a good experience at the same time. Thinking about this experience as a run and it was terrible. It was a grind and miserable at times. But when I think about it as a nature experience it was nearly perfect. I was out in nature experiencing something pretty unique for me, pushing through fresh snow and taking photos. As a nature experience it was something I needed. My dog just died and I needed to get outside and connect with nature and feel some connection and try to let the tension melt off me. This was the experience I needed. It was not the run I wanted or hoped for but it was the therapeutic nature experience that I needed to help me cope with life.

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There was really nothing about this trail run that was normal. The snow slowed me to basically a walk at times, especially on hills. The deep snow made finding footing difficult. I couldn’t tell if my footfalls would be on trail or on flat ground. I spent much of the time fitting the edge of the trail being of balance. Tanglewood is a place I love to run at in part because I am so familiar with it. I have been there to hike and run dozens and dozens of times. However, on this occasion the snow also made the trail in general difficult to see. The trail was so difficult to see at times that I couldn’t tell if I was even on the trail during the course of my adventure. I found myself stopping multiple times and looking around trying to figure out if I was still on the trail or not. I could not really tell. I looked around slowly searching for trail markers. It really slowed me down in my progress on the trails but I did eventually find the trail markers and succeed in getting back on the trail.

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I kind of think of this as a metaphor for life. In life unexpected and unfamiliar circumstances can blind you to your usual path. The path that you are so comfortable with you can follow blindfolded. But this new life experience has thrown you for a loop and no you are struggling to find your way. So, if you find yourself stuck by some unexpected life circumstances and you are struggling to find your footing or you can’t see the path your life normally follows anymore, stop and take your time. Get your bearings. Look around and find those trail markers that will guide you back to your path and help you find your way. Look to those friends and family members that have always been there for you and count on them to get you back on your feet and help you find your way again.

50k Training: Week 2 Long Run

The winter weather in Upstate, NY has been a bit brutal in January. I was really hoping for a milder winter like we have had the past few years during which to train for my first trail marathon and 50k. Last week I ran my long run of 14  miles on a treadmill. Something I never thought I would do.

This week I was determined to run outside. Yesterday the temperature was around 12 degrees and it was the morning after our region was hit by a snow storm. The roads were still covered in snow. Barely a snow plow in site. But I remained determined to run outside. I layered up my clothes, put on heavy socks, and laced up my trail shoes. I treated it like a trail run, but on snow covered roads.

Since the roads were in bad shape I couldn’t travel to somewhere where I could run 14 miles on an out and back our loop course. I have a route where I can run down into town and around back up to my house, but I thought it best to stay away from areas where there might be more traffic.

I have a loop route that I run from my house of 7 miles, so the decision was to run 2 loops of the 7 mile course. I have never run that loop twice in a row. It is fairly challenging since I live on a hill and it creates any course of significant distance with a good amount of elevation gain. Running this loop twice generated nearly 1,800 feet of elevation. This combined with the snow made it particularly challenging.

The cold as also a factor. During the first five miles I felt pretty warm. There were times when the wind started whipping and it penetrated my layers of clothes and I was cold, but overall I think I had the perfect clothing on. That made me pretty happy because one thing I worry about as a relatively new runner is not knowing how to dress appropriately for the weather. Especially in the winter. I’ve only done much running in the winter for the last couple years.

One thing that really helped me with the struggle on this run was taking my GoPro out with me and photographing the scenery and photographing myself as I ran. It helped to take my mind off grinding out the miles and all the miles still to go. Having two loops of the same terrain to run was actually nice from a photography standpoint because I could try a couple of different things out on the spots that I really wanted to photograph. I created several different time lapse videos and a short regular video along with the photographs featured here.

You can check out the videos I created on this run on my YouTube channel: Kyle Reynolds