Tag Archives: Nature

Birthday Fun

Once a year we all reach that date where we mark that we have been graced with yet another year on this earth. I am generally not a big celebrator of holidays or birthdays. I like low key things not big celebrations or doing something fancy. This year I had no real plans as to how I was going to spend my birthday. The only thing I knew was that the day after I was going to run a race with my friends. However, for the actual day of my birthday I really had nothing special planned. I basically just wanted to relax and enjoy the day with the simple parts of life.

I had thought that my wife and I could spend part of the day walking our dogs. So we took our foster pup, Comet for a walk. When we got back home however, he decided he was not going to be coming back in the house until he was good and ready. Eventually I was able to coax him back into the house with some sliced ham. He knows how to get what he wants. But the delay it took to get him back in the house made it harder to have time to walk the other dogs and do anything else in the day.

I had thought that I would like to go hike at one of my favorite state parks, Watkins Glen State Park, but when I visited the website it stated that the gorge trail was still closed due to snowy and icy conditions and that was what I really wanted to do. So I was not sure what I was going to do for the rest of my birthday. Luckily I have an amazing wife who knows me really well and knows that I love nature and I love buying plants to spruce up our yard to attract wildlife and other critters to our yard, so she suggested we head out to one of our favorite gardening places, Horning’s Greenhouse & Garden Centers. She also suggested that we could stop and get something to eat at another place I really enjoy Seneca Farms in Penn Yan. We toured around Horning’s checking out their already impressive for so early in the season selection of plants. When you love nature and you are also a photographer you do things like pick out plants specifically for their potential use in photography. I wanted plants that were already in bloom so that I had some photography subjects to work with on some potential photography projects I had been thinking about. I also picked out plants with blooms that looked particularly interesting to me. I picked out some that were new to me and some that were plants I was not familiar with. Then once we were done picking plants/photography subjects we went and ate.

I thought that since we were already up that way we could stop by a state park I enjoy that I thought would be a nice place for some photography. So we ventured on over to Seneca Lake State Park in Geneva, NY. This park is nice because it has a nice long path along the northern border of Seneca Lake perfect for a walk or a run. We strolled along the path and I watched the birds, hoping that some of them would get close enough for some decent photography. The birds did not cooperate. My wife petted dogs. We took some photographs of the scenery. I even modeled a little in some photos for my wife, not something I normally volunteer to do but it was just such a nice day I figured why not.

After we were done at Seneca Lake State Park I realized it was just a short drive further to one of the best birding spots in our area, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, where eagles and osprey nest and you can see many different species of migratory birds this time of year. This was an unusual visit for me because normally when I go to Montezuma I am driving, which means I am driving a car, looking for birds, and balancing camera equipment all at once. This time my wife was driving and I actually sat behind her on the driver side, because most of the viewing opportunities would be on the driver side not the passenger side. It was a really nice change. It was like having my own private guided tour through the refuge with a chauffeur. We saw lots of different birds, most of which were too far away for good photographs. The lighting was also pretty terrible for photographs, but it was still a very enjoyable time watching the birds and enjoying nature. We did get to see one eagle perched in a tree and then take off. Seeing eagles is pretty much the highlight for my on any bird watching trip, so I was happy.

My birthday was a very enjoyable and fun day and I owe it all to my wife who knew I was getting disappointed when I thought we wouldn’t be able to walk all our dogs like I had wanted and still have time to do something else and then found out the trails I wanted to hike were closed. She suggested making a trip I hadn’t thought of and she was willing to roll with all my other ideas for things to do. She is always supportive of my adventures and ideas even when it is not my birthday. I could not have thought of a better way to spend my birthday this year then out exploring and enjoying nature with her.

Tyoga Running Club Collaboration

Facebook memories reminded me that nine years ago 3/27/2010 I had my first pieces of artwork on display in an art gallery. That was the opening of a door to things I never imagined. Those photographs would be on display in the Artisan’s Shoppe in Wellsboro, PA. It is quite amazing that on that same day nine days later another door would open to me and an opportunity to take on something else totally new in my life would arise. Nine years after my first photographs went on exhibit I am back in Wellsboro, PA meeting with the fine folks at the Tyoga Running Club. I had been having this idea developing in my mind now about a project I would like to embark on. I finally got up the nerve to approach them about it via email and they invited me to attend a meeting and discuss my idea with them.
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Leonard Harrison State Park, PA
 
I have really have been learning that the hardest part of the creative process is the ask. Reaching out to people to ask for support and or collaboration just fills me with anxiety and trepidation. It is the one thing that holds me back more than anything else. As the day went on I became increasingly nervous about this meeting. I do not enjoy speaking in front of groups of people. One on one I can talk your ear of, and some would say quite loudly, but group speeches are not my thing. As I sat in the meeting room with the Tyoga Running Club and they discussed their preliminary business before turning their attention to me. My hands were sweating profusely, and I continuously tried to dry them on my pants. I sat off to the side seriously reconsidering having passed on a beer from the bar. Thankfully when they turned their attention to my idea my brain and my mouth seemed to function relatively normal and for the most part I was able to express myself fairly clearly I think. I enjoyed sharing my ideas with them and talking with them.
 
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Hills Creek State Park, PA
 
If you have been following me here you’ve seen that my running has progressed to longer and longer distances and as I have explored different running challenges I have been in search of ways to document my adventures and share them with the community. I am always open to taking on challenges especially in the form of new creative ideas in my photography and new physical challenges through my running. I am always looking for ways to combine those two aspects of my life and do new things. As I planned for 2019 I knew I wanted to do a couple of big races. I wanted to run Worlds End 50k again because I loved that race last year. Then I wanted to use that training and race to propel myself forward into my first 50 mile experience at Finger Lakes 50’s 50 mile race. Despite those two huge goals for this year there was just this niggling in the back of my head that kept thinking “What about more?
I kept returning this idea of running 100 miles. 100 miles is pretty much the standard high water mark in ultra running for now. In all the challenges I have undertaken while I knew they would be and will be difficult and challenging but I have been pretty confident and remain pretty confident tht I can at least finish the race. 100 miles is a totally different story. I have no idea if I can actually run 100 miles and there really is no way to test it other than to do it. As a writer and photographer I want to turn any new adventure into a creative project, so that is what I sought to do.
 
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Ives Run, PA
 
I don’t really like to travel and I knew there was a 100 mile race nearby in my area. That race is the Pine Creek Challenge hosted by the Tyoga Running Club. I have been to their events in the past and they always do a great job. This made sense to be the event that I would try to run. The Pine Creek Challenge takes place in the Wellsboro, PA area. The course follows a section of the Pine Creek Rail Trail. Not only does the running fit perfectly into what I like to do, the experience overall fits right into my wheelhouse. I have been to the Wellsboro area multiple times most of which involve exploring the natural landscape, trail running, or photography or some combination of those things. This is a beautiful region. I have seen some of it but not as much as I would like and I have not spent time on the Pine Creek Rail Trail despite frequently thinking about doing so. This would give me a reason to do it.
 
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Leonard Harrison State Park, PA
 
One of the goals of my photography is to show off and generate support for our natural areas, our local communities, and our local organizations/businesses. I really wanted to collaborate with the Tyoga Running Club to show off their event and the amazing natural area it showcases and the community that supports it. I am really excited and grateful to have their support as I embark on this project.
 
 
The goal of this project is to create content about the natural area where this event takes place and about my experience competing in and training for this event. This will include trips to the area to photograph the scenery and probably writing about it. I would like to go down and do some running there. I plan to photograph the event as I participate in it. I will also shoot some video of the event. When I shoot video it is not usually centered on myself. It usually focuses on the scenery. On occasion I will film myself running. And even more rarely when filming myself I will speak to the camera. I know after reading this much verbiage from me it doesn’t seem like it but I’m shy and I don’t like to be recorded or speak on camera. But I think recording some of my thoughts as I am going through the actual experience of this race would be valuable in completing the project and be compelling, I hope.
 
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Colton Point State Park, PA
 
And to top it all off I will write an article about my experience that includes my photography as well that will be published on my website and potentially in a local or regional publication. (If you are a publisher and this sounds interesting to you or you know someone who is please reach out to me.) I will share a lot of this work and my process on my website and social media as well as in conjunction with Tyoga Running Club.
 
 
If you like the concept of this project and would like to see more work like this please support me on my Patreon page, KRNaturalPhoto, for as little as $1 a month. It helps me to be able to do this work.
 
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Colton Point State Park, PA
 

2019 Hyner Training Run

In 2018 a group of my friends were all registered for the Hyner Trail Challenge in PA. I was not registered for the race, but had heard my friends talk about it. I was interested in the event and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. So I joined them for a group training run at Hyner to run 14 miles of the 16 mile course. It was really not the best day for a long hard run and certainly not the best day to be encountering the challenges of Hyner for the first time.

Now this year I am registered for the Hyner Trail Challenge. Once again myself and a couple of friends are making the trip down to PA for a training rung on 14 miles of the Hyner Course. It was a fairly typical cold winter day for our region, but it was made to feel even more frigid after enjoying multiple days of warmer weather including two days of 60 degree weather the previous two days. Then the floor dropped out of those temps and 24 hours later we were back to subzero temps in the morning with a high of mid 30’s. Luckily at least we had sunshine today.

Climbing up Humble Hill is no joke. The exertion level is high no matter what pace you are going. Despite the exertion raising body temps and the nice sun shining above the wind combined with the chilling temps to make it feel quite cold especially on the last quarter of the climb. It is cold and difficult but the view from the top makes it all worth it. It was still pretty windy and cold at the lookout point so it is not easy to stick around too long, but I hung out long enough to capture a few photos.

After that climb you switchback down the side of the mountain into the valley and you encounter the first of what will be many stream crossings. We stopped here to eat something quickly and drink some water. It was also a great spot to take some photos. I had brought my small Nikon camera with me and decided to get that out again and immediately proceeded to drop it on the rocks damaging the lens. Now that camera was out of commission for the rest of the trip after only about 3 miles. Not what I had in mind.

The next section is relatively flat but littered with so many stream crossings that you cannot really keep track. The freezing cold water from the snow melt doesn’t help either. Being that it was  a training run and not a race we decided to pick out way across the streams and try to keep our feet dry-ish as much as possible, but this is simply is not possible in places. You have to take on that freezing cold water. By the end of the stream crossings your feet are numb.

After the stream crossings you start another ascent. If you thought climbing meant no more water, you’d be wrong. On this climb you essentially climb up a stream bed as the water pours down the hillside and over your feet. After another descent you climb again and eventually reach SOB and whose name is well deserved. Then you reach the most moderate section of the entire course. There is some times spent at a relatively flat section on top of the mountain and then you have a long not too steep decent back into the valley. 

The most interesting aspect of this training run was the snow. Last year we ran in February. No snow. This year we are running in mid-march, nearing spring and there was quite a significant amount of snow especially on the second half of the course. I was hoping the snow would be melted. I am really hoping that the snow is melted by race day. It made the course interesting and was great for photos, but it did make for some slower going if for no other reason that just to be careful and make sure you had good footing.

Like many runners I use Strava to track my runs. One of the features I do really enjoy on Strava is the segments. When you run in an area where there are a lot of segments that have been created it allows you to pretty easily see how your performance has changed, hopefully for the better from run to run. There are a lot of segments that have been created for Hyner. I was happy to see that Strava had notified me of 12 achievements. Many of these achievements were 2nd best times on a segment which in this case doesn’t mean anything since it was only the second time I have run here. But there were several segments where I had PRs meaning that I ran better than last year. This was really good news to me because we really felt like we were taking it easier and not pushing too hard on this training run. So the fact that our perceived effort level was lower but we were actually faster on a lot of segments indicates to me that our physical conditioning has improved from our training over the past year. Hopefully this will translate to a nice strong run at the race in just over a month. 

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The Run I needed

Today I got in the run that I really needed. I love running and I really do enjoy it most of the time, but sometimes when I am training for a race the monotony just bums me out. This is especially the case here in upstate, NY during the winter when the weather can really limit the running options.

Today my training plan called for seven miles which is fine. That usually means that I will be running the seven mile loop I have worked out in my neighborhood and run countless times. Also, today it snowed all day long. So that means running the same old route, which most days I like, but is just boring upon continuous repetition on the snowy slushy roads trying to keep my footing and also being extra wary of cars driving in the snow. Not really the recipe for a fun and enjoyable run. I realize that every run won’t be fun and enjoyable, but I really felt like I needed on today.

I started to think about running somewhere on the trails. I thought it would be run to run through the fresh snow before it gets packed down and becomes too slick to really run on at all. It was the perfect amount of snowfall to run in just a few inches. It would add a little extra challenge but still be manageable. I started to think of places I could go where no one else would have gone yet and I thought Steege Hill Nature Preserve would be the perfect place.

I was a little nervous going into this run. I haven’t had much experience running on trails in the winter in the snow. I also hadn’t had much experience running on trails at night which it likely would be by the time I was done. I had all the proper gear including ahead lamp for when it got dark. I knew I could handle it and get it done. But it was that nervous excitement of doing something a little bit new and different.

And that is exactly what I needed to do. I needed to remember what it is that made me fall in love with running. It’s the challenge and the adventure that I love, especially as it applies to trail running. I like to be out there doing something new and connecting with nature. I like to challenge myself and do things that I enjoy just because I enjoy them, it’s not all about the training plan. Doing something a little bit different that isn’t exactly what the training plan called for is not just ok sometimes it is necessary. It is not going to ruin my training and it might just save it by keeping me from burning out. I have a long way to go with this training so I will feel free to mix it up from time to time and go off plan to get a little extra joy and you should too.

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Challenges of photographing winter as part time photographer

Winter is a very fickle season. It is especially fickle in regions with a more temperate climate that have changing seasons. Seasons can seem to change overnight. Seasons may seem to change well before it is time according to the calendar. Seasons may even change and then revert to the prior season. Sometimes it can seem like we skip entire seasons all together, with transformation straight from winter to summer and then from summer back to winter. Wait, where did spring and fall go?

A lot of people complain about winter. I enjoy winter. I even enjoy winter photographically. It can often seem like winter offers fewer options for photography, which may be true, but it offers an opportunity to hone ones craft around what remains. The most challenging part of photographing winter is that very variable that makes winter definitively winter and not any other season. That is the snow. Photographing winter without snow is just not the same. So the biggest challenge in a climate where snow may or may not be present or may or may not last even an entire day is being able to get out there and get those photos of the beautiful white stuff.

This is especially difficult as someone who is a pat time photographer who is growing their business. I do as much photography as I can but I still have a day job I have to report to every weekday. There are many days I wake up, look out my windows, and see the white frosting of snow draped over the trees and I just fall in love with my environment all over again. Then I am snapped out of my revelry because I realize I have to go into the office, which for me requires a one hour commute each way, and I will not likely get a chance to photograph that dreamy landscape. It is dark when I get up in the morning and often dark when I get back home during the winter months.

The best time in my opinion to photograph a winter scene is just after the storm when the snow is soft, clinging to the trees and fresh, and undisturbed on the ground. As a photographer that is chasing the dream of a perfect photo in every spare moment I am not in the office it is not very often when I am able to go out right after a storm to take advantage of this scenario. Even worse, in my region the temperatures can fluctuate so much that you can wake up in the morning to nice powdery snow and then arrive home to try to photograph it for thereto only be puddles remaining.

The other photograph I often chase in winter is a snow-filled landscape with a bright sunny sky overhead. This is not something that I am often able to realize with my time crunch and fluctuating temperatures. Either I am not available for photography on the days and times it is sunny or it gets sunny and the snow quickly melts away. I have been able to capture this scenario at times but it is one of my goals to capture this scene in different locations more frequently.

When you have limitations, you have to be able to adapt. I have adapted for my winter photography. While I still chase these other goals, I incorporate other different types of winter photography into my portfolio. Photography of shadows shown against the white background of snow can be interesting. I take close up photographs of smaller parts of a big scene in the snow. Braving the cold and photographing frozen bodies of water can result in some excellent shots. Another option is instead of waiting for the snow to settle and photographing the peaceful aftermath of the storm, go out into the storm and photograph the weather as it is happening. This can create a sense of drama.

No matter how you are able to do it just get out there and create photographs.

2019 running goals

When the new year begins we all feel the pressure to list out our goals and new years resolutions. I typical have lots of goals. They may even have very clear and concrete definitions of success. This year most of my important goals in running are really more about the feel than they are about achieving a specific outcome. 

  1. Enjoy Running More
  2. Take More Photos of Runs
  3. Complete a 50 Mile Race
  4. Run All FLRC Trail Races
  5. Think Big, Enjoy More
  6. Run With My Friends
  7. Don’t Worry About The Outcome
  8. Enjoy The Process

The only two goals I have that really relate to running goals as most people think of them would be to set another half marathon PR and completing a 50 mile trail race. The half marathon PR is so low on the totem pole of things I want to accomplish that it doesn’t even rate high enough to list above. If I achieve it it would be nice but if I don’t it’s not really a big deal this year. My only real competitive type goal is to push myself to even further distances than I have already accomplished and complete my first and maybe only 50 mile race. I am already registered for the race I am running at Finger Lakes 50’s in July. I am excited and at least at this point not too nervous yet. I am about to begin training and this time around the race I ran as my goal race for a 50k last year will be essentially a training run one month out from my 50 miler. And that is where I am struggling right now. Last year I was extremely dedicated to training in a way I had never been before. I think in large part that was because I was taking on something that I had never even contemplated before. Now after completing two 50k’s the concept of going longer doesn’t feel quite as daunting or intimidating. I know that I will live to regret this feeling now if I don’t find the motivation to be dedicated to training like I was last year.

After training seriously for the first time last year and running a lot of solo training runs I felt like I left behind a bit of the fun and enjoyment I had been getting from running. I am looking to regain that fun and train but at the same time not be so serious about it that I let it suck the fun out of things. I am going to try to incorporate more different things to try to not get stuck in the monotony of training and keep the fun factor high.

One aspect of running I had really been enjoying was incorporating my photography into my running. I think I also lost this in part due to training seriously for a big goal race. I am really going to stretch myself to get back to incorporating my photography back into my running the way it should be, the way I love it to be. There have been many things I want to do that I just haven’t done because I put up artificial restrictions around myself. There are pieces of gear I have specifically for running photography that I haven’t even used yet just because I haven’t put in the effort to make it happen. That is going to end this year. I am going to make photographing my running life happen this year. If you don’t want to be in a photo while you are running yo better not run with me. I will be loaded with camera gear as much as possible. I have so many ideas and plans I am hopping to bring to fruition this year. Keep your eyes open for new photography.

A goal I have for this year it to run all the trail races available from one of our areas running clubs. I want to run all of the trail running events that the Finger Lakes Running Club puts on this year. This is something that I just feel like would be a cool experience more than anything else. I have run a few of their events and they are fun and I always see others and just never commit to running them, so I figure if I commit to running them all in the same year it will get me excited and motivated to do it and not just procrastinate which is my specialty. In addition to running all the races, there are several that offer multiple distances and I am planing to run the longest version of each event. This fits right in with my other training and long distance running goals this year so why not, right.

My other goals all kind of tie together. I want to think about the big picture and make sure I am maximizing the enjoyment I get out of the running experience. This means doing what I enjoy. Taking all the photos. Working on photography projects that fit in to my running. And most importantly running with my friends. It is not always possible to work schedules into a time frame so that you can run with your friends especially when you may all be training or not training for different events. This year I am prioritizing making time for my friends. If I have to alter my training plan some, so be it. Making some changes and alterations on’t put an end to my running or make it impossible for me to finish the events that I am planning to run in. But running with my friends will make the whole year of 2019 better even the events where I am not with them. And because another goal of mine is to not worry about the outcome o my races it is a good reason to prioritize having fun with my friends and taking photos because it doesn’t matter what time I run my races in. It is always nice to run a faster time or better race especially at an event you’ve done before but that is not necessarily going to create a more joyful experience overall. I want to soak up every ounce of magic in these running experiences as I can even if it means I am going to run a slower race. I am going to bring as much camera gear as I can manage to bring to each race and I am going to photograph the majestic scenery that I am privileged to enjoy as I run by. I WILL STOP AND TAKE A NICE PHOTO. I am not going to just stop and take a quick shot or rely on my GoPro to capture it. I am going to treat it like my more normal photography efforts and make sure I get a shot that I want and will look back on and be happy. That will help me look back and remember the fond memories as well as share the experience with others. And all of these things are about enjoying the process. I want to put all of these pieces together to maximize the process of running and all of the things I get from it; the friendships, the time out in nature, the time with friends, the photography, the fitness, the way it makes my body and mind feel. I just want to sit back and find the appreciation for all of these things that sometimes I think I take for granted. I look forward to all of this in 2019.