Category Archives: Photography

Photographing Brant Hill Challenge

Round and round they go. When they’ll stop, nobody knows.

I have been fortunate to be involved with quite a few races over the last several years. Some as a volunteer. Some as a runner. Some as a photographer. Sometimes I’ve been involved in more than one way at a given race. My good friends were putting on a race to help support our local youth running club, SOAR. I wanted to be involved in the event and support them in their efforts.

The race was called The Monster Brant Hill Challenge put on by Rebellion Running. It was held at Newtown Battlefield State Park in Upstate, NY. The race format was a timed loop course event. The runners would have 3 hours to complete as many laps as they could or wanted to. I had only ever participated in one timed loop course event before and I enjoyed it more than I expected. I had never photographed an event held in this format before.

I started off photographing some impressive younger youth athletes that took on the one hour youth course.

I was very intrigued as to how this format would lend itself to photography. My normal process is to scout out what I think will be the best location on the course to take photographs and stake out a position there and photograph every runner as they pass me by. The format of this race lends itself to so many different possibilities that it threw me of my game a little bit.

One thing I did differently was set up a GoPro at the aid station taking time lapse photos every second to record the runners as they made their nutrition choices. The cameras recorded over 14,000 images which I have not even begun to go through yet, but it ought to be interesting. Also, it is highly advisable to turn off the camera after the event so you don’t have thousands of empty frames to look at and delete. And you should pick up said GoPro so the race crew don’t have to bring it back to you after the event. There are always new wrinkles and things to learn from.

I began the event by photographing the runners as they took off down the trail at the start of the event. Then I moved around to the other end of the loop and went up the trail a little ways from where the loop ends so I could photograph runners completing their first lap. Then I moved back to where the end of the loop was and the aid station was set up to photograph runners as they made the turn to continue for another loop or stop for some aid.

I decided to make my way around the loop in reverse so that the runners would be approaching me as I walked up the trail. I stopped and photographed each runner from wherever along the trail I encountered them. This was really cool to be able to feature a large portion of the course in photographs. It also allowed for runners to be featured in different ways as they were covering different terrain on the course. They were able to get photographs on flatter faster sections where they felt better as well as on the tougher sections. I really enjoyed the variety of different photographic opportunities that were made available by being able to move throughout the course without missing any runners.

As I made my way around the course I stopped in a few key spots to photograph all the runners as they came through. These key locations were on the climbing section of the course. I know runners really hate having their picture taken during the tough climbs on a course but as a photographer I always feel like they make for some of the best photographs because they really show the blood, sweat, and tears that the runners are putting into running the race. You can really see the runners working and see the determination etched on their faces as they climb. Also, going out on the course more gave me a better appreciation for the conditions on the trail that the runners were dealing with.

I think this having so many opportunities for photos during one race also allowed the athletes to have more fun with their race photos at this event.

Photographing this type of event also freed me up to be more creative and take chances with some photography. I really strive to get a quality photograph of every runner at a race so I don’t like to do things that might cause that not to happen. But on the loop course I knew I had already seen all the runners multiple times and I was confident that I had good photographs of everyone. I used my smaller camera with a wider angle of view on the trails to photograph the runners on the trails as they passed by me. The goal of the photographs was to pan with the runners and shoot at a slower shutter speed than normal to create a sense of motion as the runners move. This sense of motion can be generated in the background as I pan the camera with them and in the runner’s body’s as their arms pump and legs strike the ground and push off. This series of photographs will have a more artistic feel to them. They most likely will not have a crisp image of the runners in many of them.

Now I have really come to like this race format as both a runner and a photographer. I am looking forward to photographing another event like this and sparking some even more creative ideas.

Corning Rugby Action Sequences

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to watch our local Corning Rugby Boys and and Girls teams play again.

I was happy to have captured what I think are some really nice action sequences.

This sequence was a nice extended sequence with the Corning Rugby Girls in possession and making several passes.

Corning Girls defense in action.

A nice run during the Corning Boys rugby match.

Another nice run by the Corning Boys rugby team.

Hinkle Library Exhibit

I have been pretty fortunate as an artist. I have been able to have an exhibit featuring my artwork each of the past four years. I had an exhibit featuring my photography of shelter dogs at the Chemung County SPCA hosted at the Chemung County Historical Society. I had a joint exhibit with my father showcasing our wildlife art hosted by the Community Arts Of Elmira. Last year I had an exhibit featuring my photography from my running adventures hosted by the Tioga Arts Council. Currently I have an exhibit that I recently installed at the Hinkle Library at Alfred State College. This exhibit showcases a variety of the subject matter I have photographed in the last several years. The exhibit will be on display through April 2019 and possibly longer.

I love creating photography, but having an actual exhibit does not come natural for me. From the contacting venues to the planning, to the setup it is all as challenge for me. One of the biggest challenges of having an exhibit is choosing what artwork to showcase. Past exhibits I have done have had some sort of theme so that helps to narrow down the selection process. But, for this exhibit I wanted to display a variety of my past works of all types so that left the gate wide open for possibilities. I had some images that I knew I wanted to display such as my shelter dog photography and two images that to me have become representative of my work, a peregrine falcon and an Eurasian eagle owl other than that I didn’t so much as choose the images as just let my natural tendencies dictate what work I put on display.

The space at the Hinkle Library is nice and big. It is able to accommodate quite a few of my images. I was very happy with the amount of space I had. There were also glass display cases and a table that I could use to display smaller pieces that are on stands and photography books. I was really happy with those options because that is not something that is often available at other venues where I have had exhibits. With the large space and the number and variety of photographs I was able to bring for display I was very happy that my father, a talented artist in his own right, join me to set up my exhibit. My father has a much better eye for layout and formatting than I do. He is great at making sure my images are hung in a way that they are easier to see and have good spacing as well as arrangement. During the set up process I spread out the photographs along the wall with a rough idea of how I think I would like to arrange them and then we look at it and think over the arrangement and he makes recommendations to me for adjustments. My dad is great at getting the fine tuning and details correct for the exhibit, those are not my strong suit. He sees things that I do not see including ways to display pieces that I didn’t even see.

The way I ended up setting up the exhibit essentially had feature walls. Each wall of the exhibit featured a different subject matter. One wall was all of my larger 20 x 30 inch shelter dog photography. The opposing wall features my small woodland creatures with a transition into nature photography that continues on the adjoining wall as it transitions into scenic views of nature. On the wall that is directly across from you as you enter is a series of avian photography. In the center is a table and two glass display cases. The table features several of my photography books I have created as well as photo album to flip through and a large framed set of three images standing on the table. The display cases each feature some of my small metal print photographs that have stands for displaying on a desk or table as well as a larger framed photograph in the bottom that can be hung on a wall.

I am very happy with the way this exhibit turned out. I really did not know what to expect or have a good vision for what I was going to do with the space. It really came together in the process with the help of my dad. The photograph featuring shelter photography has always been and continues to be in service of supporting the Chemung County SPCA. For any purchase of those dog photography I will continue to donate 50% of the cost directly to the Chemung County SPCA as I have always done. Please stop in and check out this exhibit in this very nice space if you can. You will have an opportunity to see some things you may not have seen a other exhibits I have had.

If you want to see more opportunities like this please support my work through my Patreon page: KRNaturalPhoto.

Gear Challenges

Over the years my photography has taken on many shapes. There have been twists and turns and unexpected adventures. That is part of what makes my photography so exciting to me, the unexpected. As my photography has changed and evolved over the years my approach to photography changes and my needs change. The very things I need to create my photography may change.

Pico Peak in Vermont

Over the last several years I began running and then my photography followed along and running became a large part of my photography. It started with mostly photographing races that other people were running. But then there was this shift in my mind. I love nature and my running allows me to explore more of nature than I can just hiking. I wanted to be able to photograph the places my running takes me and where it takes others. This often means getting out in nature and of the beaten path.

When you are running and trying to photograph your adventures it can get complicated. There are specific things you need for long distance adventures like food and water and you need to be able to carry that with you out in the forest where you will have no access to it if you don’t bring it with you. And when you are running you can’t really carry a 300mm lens attached to a DSLR while you are trail running. You can’t even really carry a regular size lens like a 18-200mm zoom lens on a DLSR with a battery grip. You can’t really carry something like that in your hands while you run for an extended period of time. What if you fall or just drop it into a stream or off a ledge? And how would you get to your food and water if your hands are full of camera gear?

Mt. Tom Challenge

Trying to find the right combination of running gear and photography gear means compromises. And sometimes compromises that are less than satisfying at times. I first found a small Nikon mirror less SLR that I could fit into my belt pack as I ran. That was annoying as the weight caused it to bounce around at my waist as I ran. However, it did allow me to capture some pretty good images even on my first attempt at this pursuit.

I then upgraded my running gear to a hydration vest for longer adventures and this allowed for a more secure location to put my small camera. I also began using GoPro cameras to create time lapse footage and capture candid moments as well as create some video components. The GoPro cameras were a nice addition but they did not allow for the control that I would have with an SLR style camera and both the GoPro and the mirror less camera I have been using do not have quite as high quality image capacity as I would like either. I also always worry about getting stuck out in the rain with my mirror less camera and having that get ruined as my iPhone was. That is the advantage with the GoPro cameras they are designed for this type of adventuring and can withstand it physically but then there is a compromise with what you can do with them and the image quality of photographs.

Hyner View Trail

I would like to find a system that would allow me to carry one of my DSLR cameras with a smaller wide angle lens attached perhaps in a small backpack format. I really a have not found many options that might work like that. It would need to be a relatively small backpack that can be tightened down to not bounce around while running and it would also need to be able to carry food and water. And on top of all that the camera and food and water would all need to be easily accessible. I don’t want to have to stop incessantly to get different gear out. I need to be able to do this literally on the run. I found one option that might possibly meet some of those needs but not all. So that would create yet another different type of compromise.

Another possibility is investing in adifferent type of camera, yet again. One that meets more of my needs. Thechallenge there is two fold. First is it a good financial strategy to constantlybe trying to upgrade or change gear in order to meet the goals that I have. Theother concern is that if I buy new gear I then have to learn how to use it. Tosomeone who is not a photographer it might sound silly to say I have to learnhow to use this new camera. I mean, it’s just a camera push the shutter andtake picture right? But unfortunately every camera is at very least minimallydifferent to operate even if you are using ones from the same manufacturer. Iuse mostly Nikon cameras and each one of them is from slightly to drasticallydifferent. The biggest difference is in switching from a DSLR o a mirror lesscamera system. So then if I ended up having to buy a camera from a differentmanufacturer to meet my needs that differences could be even more exaggerated.So then on top of learning a new camera there is the challenge of masteringeach camera and remembering it between uses. You don’t use all your gear allthe time. Some items are for special purposes. So if you don’t use it all thetime you have to re-familiarize yourself with the camera so you can rememberhow to use it especially if you need to be able to operate it on the fly. I amnot sure that is practical or even a good idea.

STRC Trail Fest at Grist Iron

I love photographing running events with my DSLR and 70-200 mm f2.8 lens. Ideally I would love to find an option that would allow me to carry that lens and food and water so I could run a course with the runner and photograph them at all different pints as they move through the course. But I just don’t know if that is something that will ever happen.

There are just so many variables that need to be considered and addressed. I am hoping that as I see more and more people out there trying to do things similar to what I am doing that more and more options will become available. 

Does it mean that I have a unique creative vision that I can’t find the gear that allows me to do what I want or am I just crazy for wanting to try to do something that just doesn’t seem possible?

Lucifer’s Crossing

Photographing 2018 Red Baron Half

I have been trying to volunteer at some of the races I photograph. Usually my volunteer duties keep me stationed at the race start line and then I can head out to photograph the race before it starts. For this edition of the Southern Tier Running Club Red Baron Half Marathon I volunteers to help with course set up. This entailed putting cones and signs along the entire 13.1 mile course. I really didn’t know how long this process would take, but I was pretty sure we would be back in time for me to get prepared to photograph the race. As we slowly drove the course and set up the necessary equipment it seemed to be taking a long time to me. As the time neared noon I began to have a significant increase in anxiety, fearing perhaps unrealistically that we would not get back in time for the start of the race. I think the biggest problem for me was that I was not in control of the situation. I couldn’t just leave (We were all riding in one car together doing course set up.) when I needed to and there was nothing I could do to speed things up. Also, I was 13 miles away from where my camera was.
We did arrive back to the staging area for the beginning of the race in plenty of time despite my anxiety. There was even enough time for me to help out getting some last minute stuff done there as well. Then I headed out to the start finish line to take a few photographs of the beginning of the race.

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When I photograph a race I want to not only get great shots of the runners themselves but I want to get shots that have great backgrounds that show off the race course as well. Last year I was able to photograph the race from two separate locations, one near the beginning of the course on a more scenic location and one at the finish line in town. Due to changes in the race course layout (which were significant improvements over the past) the field of runners would be much more spread out than last year by the time they arrived at the location I was at last year. That would require me to stay there for a longer time to get photographs of all the runners, which is generally my goal, before moving down to a different location. I was afraid that with the speed of some of our great runners I would not be able to photograph all the runners near the beginning and get back to the finish line in time to capture the race winners.
I made a strategic decision to pick the one most scenic location I could that I felt embodied the race at which to take the vast majority of the race photographs. I think I made the right decision. I was able to capture a few photographs at the stat line of the race beginning. Then I drove down to about mile 10.5 and waited for the runners to arrive scouting the spot a little better and finding just the right place and angle to take photos from.

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The location I chose is where on road turns onto another nice wide road right in front of where I was positioned. I would be able to see the runners approaching and turn the corner to move towards me. This to me is the most scenic spot on the course that in my opinion as one who has run it is pretty nice and scenic. There is a steep cliff that parallels the road the runners are turning on. There are a variety of deciduous and evergreen trees as well as other vegetation growing or attempting to grow up the vertical cliff. I love the combination of runners pounding the pavement combined with the natural beauty of the course with the rock cliffs and tress in the background.  I really wanted to get as much of that cliff into the photographs as possible while still filling the majority of the frame with the runner themselves. To do this I decided to shot at a slightly upward looking angle for a lot of the shots. The photos that I took from that angle came out great. My clothing decisions for that idea did not mesh nearly as well. It cost me a pair of jeans. Check out my post on Instagram to see that outcome. So I did not shoot from that angle quite as much as I would have liked. But I am still very happy with how the vast majority of the photographs came out.

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I was able to post the photographs to the runners the next day. People seemed to be looking at the photographs as soon as I posted them in the morning as a few orders were placed as well as receiving a few messages from people interested in the photos. Comments are always great from the running community. I receive great feedback from them and I always appreciate reading their words of support on social media.

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If you have any questions or comments about my photographs from Red Baron or any other aspect of my race photograph please feel free to reach out and get in touch. Thank you.

If you appreciate my work and want to support it financially you can contribute as little as $1 a month on Patreon at KRNaturalPhoto.

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Water Gap 50K

When I decided that along with some of my friends we were going to try to run our first 50k this year we initially only planned to do one. Then during the process of training one of my friends training for our first 50k with me mentioned that there was another 50k later in the year that she was considering doing. That sounded potentially fun and something we could possibly do if we felt like it after our first 50k and we still had any interest in running that distance. Over time the idea of running a second 50k this year just kinda fell by the wayside. After our first 50k we never really discussed it.

GOPR5014_3-2

Then my other friend who ran our first 50k together this year mentioned to me about one and a half months ago that she was thinking about running the other 50k we had talked about previously. And that is all it took. I was in for a second 50k. And that is how I ended up running the Water Gap 50k from Red Newt Racing. All it takes is that one friend who is a bad influence and you get sucked right into another race.

I did not have a particularly good summer of running leading into training for this race. I had no idea what to expect for this training cycle or race. I had battled a lot of soreness over the summer, but I was ready to add in some miles and see how things went. I basically just ran normally during the week and added one long run in at the end of the week. Because of our condensed training time, we only decided to commit to this about a month and a half out from the race we added two miles to our long run each week with no decreases in mileage along the way, just a constant increase in miles. The only week where there was a decrease in miles was the week before the race where most people would taper and for the taper I rested most of the week and then another tough trail race, the Green Monster Trail Challenge 25k which has over 3000 ft of elevation gain. So not really a restful taper. We don’t really do things by the book around here.

Our goal for this race was to finish the 50k in under six hours. I really had no idea what to expect from this race particularly with the condensed training, but after all our long run results we felt pretty confident that we would be in good shape.

I prefer to run in cooler weather, so I was pretty happy as the race approached and the forecast was showing that it would be cooler than the week before. What I was not prepared for was sleeping in a tent overnight in the nearly freezing cold temperatures and then starting only my second 50k race at those same nearly freezing cold temps. That was a little bit of overkill on the, I hope it is colder than last race, wish-fulfillment. But it was still better than being too hot.

This was a very different type of race for me. The course was relatively flat and relatively straight. I have never run a road marathon before (However it looks like that will change next year.) so running 31 miles on flat straight terrain was new to me. I always feel like the constantly changing course of most trail runs benefit my legs by constantly changing my stride and that keeps my muscles from tightening up, but with this course my stride was mostly the same the whole way. I think the combination of that factor and the cold made my hips especially very tight and uncomfortable for most of the race. Even in the beginning when I should have felt good. There were points during the race where we were wishing we could just do a little climbing, something that anyone who knows me knows I never say. We just wanted to break stride and activate some other muscles. I usually love downhill running and there were some very nice little downhills in the beginning of the course that I enjoyed, but by the second half of the race what downhills there were I couldn’t really enjoy because I was too stiff and tight.

Despite all the challenges of training for and then running this race we were at the half way point and pretty sure that unless something catastrophic happened we would be able to make our time goal. During the second half of the race we spent a lot of time doing mental calculations and figuring out how much time we could afford to give back as we got more tired and the wheels started to come off. We would have to run about seven miles farther than our longest training run so one never really knows how it will go. I also spent our training runs trying to work out a new fuel strategy which I never really figured out and then made some unwise choices for pre-race meals the night before that lead me to completely abandon what I was planning to do for fuel that had worked on my previous 50k. Instead I ran the whole race on gels and tailwind until the last aid station where a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was calling my name. It was the first time I felt like eating any solid food other than M&M’s.

We slowed down significantly in the second half of the race but did succeed in finishing under our time goal at 5 hrs and 47 min.

The course was a really nice course and had the opportunity to be gorgeous, but the freezing temperatures and cloud cover most of the day made it hard to enjoy the scenery.  There were a few burst of sunlight peaking through the clouds to brighten things up, however when you are in the middle of a 50k those only serve to heat you up more than you would like. A lot of the course is run on a nice wide gravel trail with trees on one side and an open field on the other side. Those sections are primarily flat. I really loved the sections of the course when you are running through the woods. Some of those sections were more technical and had more elevation changes to them. The woods, the technical trail, and the elevation changes are all thing s I love in the sport of trail running. There were some nice sections where you run pretty close to the river, which again would have been a little nicer if there wasn’t complete cloud cover. My favorite part of the race was a section where you are in the woods and you drop down across a short but relatively steep decent that is narrow and drops off to both sides and then when you get to the bottom you pull a U-turn and go back the way you came at a completely different elevation level and you enter this section of the woods that is like a small twisty canyon for a second. Its kind of narrow and wooded. When I got to that spot I was just like, wow this is why I do this.

Another aspect of this race that I could not possibly oversell is the fact that myself and two of my friends ran the race and then two more friends crewed us at the race the whole time. I ran the entire race with my friend who talked me into running the race. I have never before run an entire race with someone before, that was a nice experience and if nothing else it makes the concept of a race less stressful. Its more like just another long training run with your friend. I highly recommend that if you are going to run an ultra and can make a weekend with your friends out of it, do it. You will not regret it.

At this race I again tried something a little bit different. I only shot video with my GoPro’s and no photos. I then used my software to extract photos from the video. I am not happy with the results of those photos. The photos did not turn out as well as I would have hoped. After these last two races I will go back to some of my methods I have used in the past. This is what happens when you are always pushing the limits and trying new things. Sometimes things don’t go as well as you would like.