December 20, 2009

Dec 19: Tree Hits

Keenan practices some tree-hit 3's.
90 in, tap the tree, 270 out.
Or, as in this image, 90 in, swing a huge left, and punch the tree as hard as possible.

Dec 18: New Tricks

Justin shows off his new video game trick, wherein he removes a ski mid-flight, wraps it around his body, then puts it back on for landing, all while throwing a cool cork 7.

Hazen is unimpressed.

Fat-ypus riders Vanessa and Kent put their base graphics on display.

December 16, 2009

Dec 16: Can't Resist

The backcountry is ripe with avalanches.
The South slopes are skiable, but the snow is thick and sun affected.
We went to poke around.
The snow was soft, deep, thick, crusty, ....
Difficult to ski well.

Dec 15: Sky High

Finally. Snow.

Although the backcountry is super sensitive and dangerous, we can now start sending cliffs, building booters, and skiing big lines.

Justin, airing it out.

While building a kicker, Justin finds that it's about ... mmm ... shoulder deep.

A bluebird named Sarah.

Tree-skiing, the Alta way.

Shameless self promotion:
There are more images posted to my website. Check them out here.

Dec 14: Night Riders

We took over a neighborhood parking lot for a rail session.
There were many visitors, from those enjoying the view of the city lights, to those stopping to watch us throw ourselves at the pavement at great speeds.

Perhaps this was foreshadowing. Keenan hit his dome real hard soon after this and was dizzy for the rest of the night.

Timmy making it look easy.

Hazen mixin' it up.

Dec 13: Happy Holidaze

Enjoy your holiday season.
Best wishes.

Dec 11: Forcing the Issue

The snow still won't come, but we're going out anyway.
We skinned 2 hours for recon, checked conditions, took some crappy photos, then skidaddled out of there.
We loosed a small slide on the way down too. We were safe, but it was still exciting.

The real excitement is that a mega storm is on the way to Utah. Instead of counting inches, we'll be counting feet. Maybe we'll get some real powder photos next week.

December 9, 2009

Dec 9: More of the same

Things I learned today, on another failed ski tour:

1. When you wake up at 4:30, you should eat more than a bowl of cereal. At about 8:30, after 3 miles of skinning/booting, you'll be wicked hungry.
2. Just because the data says 15" doesn't mean there will be more than 4".
3. Just because the map shows a road doesn't mean the road is open.
4. Zero degrees is cold. Minus three is cold enough to turn your sweat into ice.
5. Hiking before dawn is magical. Seeing Puma tracks enhances the magic.
6. Just because the light is crap doesn't mean it won't get worse. Take your photos of the Puma tracks ASAP. At the very least, take some BEFORE a pack of dogs arrives and trashes the scene trying to find the kitty cat.
7. Walking on ice makes your butt sore, and your knees too.
8. Sometimes the right choice is to give up, turn around, and go home without even stripping skins.
9. A failed tour is still good exercise, and as they say, 'A bad day skiing is better than a good day at work.'
10. If your tour fails hard enough, you can still go back to work. What's a clever saying for a bad day skiing AND a good day at work?

December 3, 2009

Dec 3: Cold Compounded

How to make a cold day colder.

Step 1: Wear the same clothes you would normally wear for skiing in 30 degree temperatures.
Step 2: Drive up to Alta and check the temps. Discover that it's zero degrees Farenheit ... in the parking lot.
Step 3: Realize you didn't pack any extra clothes.
Step 4: Realize you only brought your low-volume high-performance boots: the ones that make your feet numb even when worn around the house.
Step 5: Strap everything down tight and ski a few laps until you can't feel your hands or feet.
Step 6: Take a break in the lodge, remove your boots, and let your feet warm up.
Step 7: Spill a cup of water on the table, directly over your boots, letting the water run off the table and straight into your boots.
Step 8: Tip the boots over and let the water drip out.
Step 9: %#*@
Step 10: Go home.

December 1, 2009

Dec 1: No Snow

It's December now. Where's the snow?
I've heard CO is doing ok, as well as WA, OR, and even CA.
But UT, of all places, has no snow.
See for yourself....

We hiked to 11,500 feet, to get a nice view of the rocks and dirt. All those slopes in the background are skiable, but not today.

In these conditions, you can't even fake it. Although, we still have fun pretending to send it huge into the rock filled chute. Cannonbaaaaaalllllll!

At least the sky is super blue from 11-five. I wonder what it's like from 15, 20, or even higher.

November 25, 2009

Nov 25: Opening Day!

Alta opened today.
To celebrate the first official day of the season, ski costumes are essential.

Marge Simpson came out of the trees.

She rips.

There was also a rare sighting of a North American snow giraffe.

You've never seen a giraffe drop a knee like this.

What an odd couple.

It was super fun riding in a giraffe outfit, although the wind resistance was tougher than expected. I made it two laps, then ditched the headgear and torched the mountain in the giraffe shirt, complete with tail.
I may have to bring it out again. It made a lot of people smile, or at least snicker.

November 24, 2009

Nov 24: Bumper Stickers

I've seen some interesting bumper stickers this week.
Some I very much disliked, so I won't share them with you.
Others I liked very much.
Today I saw the following on an old white truck:

Math is my best friend.

Power to the peaceful.

Practice random acts of coolness.

I miss Jerry.

...and so on...

I've never seen so many stickers, in the same place no less, that fit me.
Although I'm a photographer, I'm also a math geek, and proud of it.
I think peace is underrated.
I like kindness, but coolness is pretty cool too.
I met Jerry.

...and so on...

...and SNOW on... Ski season officially starts at Alta tomorrow. Be prepared for some ski photo updates.

November 19, 2009

Nov 19: Welcome to Winter

Alta held a pre-season event, where local photographers and cinematographers shared their work from the previous season.
I presented a slideshow of my images from the 08-09 season.
You can see it on my website.

November 16, 2009

Nov 16: Castle Last

Just about everything has been skied in 3 days. We are starving for snow, willing to take anything. Streams of skiers are skinning (and booting? yuck) to every plausible line.
I thought we could sneak in to the Castle and find some clean lines, but another group beat us to it. We skied it anyway.

We all clipped rocks. I took a digger. Ouch. And I broke a binding. Double ouch.
Black Diamond replaced it for free. Thanks BD!

The light was boring, but we set a few photos anyway.

Demonstrating proper use of some lava-hot gloves.

Hide and seek in the boulder fields.

Down the fall line, leaving the Castle.

More good practice of my panorama action technique. These won't make the final cut.
Heavy distortion in the first one. Everything looks squashed. The second one is better. I'll get it figured out soon.

November 15, 2009

Nov 15: Powder Taste

Winter's been teasing us here in UT.
Another teaser storm dropped 10-12", and perhaps Winter has arrived, but Fall won't leave easily.

An early morning start, on the hunt for fresh snow.

As the sun comes up, we find what we're looking for.

We take a few laps.

Face shots taste good.

November 11, 2009

Nov 11: Leaf Me Alone

rake rake rake rake rake rake rake rake rake rake rake rake rake rake....
shovel shovel shovel shovel shovel
smash smash
shovel shovel shovel
shovel shovel
get new bag
shovel shovel shovel shovel shovel
smash smash
shovel shovel shovel
..... (must I go on?)
rake rake rake rake....
18 bags
haul them to the curb
move to the front yard and...
I'm ready for winter, when it will just be....
shovel shovel shovel shovel shovel shovel shovel shovel shovel......

Nov 11: Panorama Revisited

I'm preparing for a new type of panorama. I won't give it all away yet, but by moving the camera between images, I can preserve scale throughout the image.
In this 'small' example, I've taken 13 images of my backyard wall.
Normally, if you stand in the center of the yard and snap images and stitch them together, the wall gets distorted on the sides. It appears to shrink and fall away from the camera (because it IS farther from the camera at the edges).
By moving the camera, the wall remains the same size throughout the panorama.
Now, imagine this technique applied to an entire city block.
You'd be able to look straight into every storefront, in one image.
Cool, huh?

By the way, this is tricky with just a flat wall. It's going to be a nightmare with trees/people/cars/etc.

Click to view larger. Then scroll horizontal to see detail.

November 6, 2009

Nov 6: Super Panorama

This may not be too impressive at this scale, but here's another image from the Superior hike (Nov 3 post).
This composite incorporates 50 frames taken on a 10mp camera. I used 35 images to create the snow/mountain/sky background, then 15 images of the skier.
The full res image is 23000 x 7200 pixels, which is 10 times wider and 2 times taller than your standard single image.
For reference, the 7th skier from the bottom has recognizable facial features, and the ski logo is legible on the 9th skier (in shadow).
This image could be printed 100 inches wide and you wouldn't be able to detect any seams or transitions (hours and hours of photoshop blending). It would also be tack sharp and crisp, with no pixelation, since it would require no enlargement to print it at that size.

I'm very happy with the result of the process, as I successfully completed my gameplan for this shot. However, the image itself is not my favorite. I need to find a better location and shoot from a higher angle. I think this will provide a better perspective of the line. It's a good thing that the Wasatch has more than one big line. (It's going to be a great season.)

November 3, 2009

Nov 3: Earned Turns

Here's what you must do to ski big UT lines in early November.

1) You must... wake up early (4:45) so that you can watch the sunrise over the mountains, from 10,000', after a 2000' hike.

2) You must... choose a suitable range. Little Cottonwood Canyon has a host of nice lines.

3) You must... make it to the top, alive. Early season conditions include some mixed terrain. Dry rock, wet rock, frozen rock, ice, snow, etc. It takes most of 4 hours to summit Mt Superior, much longer than in mid-season.

4) You must... take a break at the top to survey your surroundings, hydrate, eat, recoup, and make funny faces.

5) You must... invent a harness for first-person action photos, carry it to the top, test it, and make funny faces.

6) You must... throw your gear everywhere and make tough-guy faces. Don't worry, nobody will see you up there, because nobody in their right mind would hike 4 hours to ski a pile of rocks.

7) You must... make tough-guys faces while looking down, to really show everybody how bad-A you are. Also, make sure your gear is color coordinated to impress all the ..... ... again, there's nobody up there, so you won't impress anybody.

8) You must... test the camera one last time before the drop, and make some more funny faces.

9) You must... get serious. A fall here would be bad. Look at all those rocks! Remember the 2000' climb? Well now it could be a 2000' fall. So, choose your turns carefully and don't hit any rocks.

10) You must... make it through the rocks unscathed, then gun it to mach speed on the exit.

11) You must... take off all your clothes for the hike down. Remember that it's November 3rd and there's no snow. It's also bloomin' hot up there. Strip off your color-coordinated clothes and waltz down in your shorts and tee, highsocks and glacier glasses.

12) You must... take a nap.

(photo not included.)

Have a great tour. See you at the top.

October 31, 2009

Oct 31: Halloween

My costume is a cross between a ski photographer and an out-of-shape tele-skier.
To really sell the performance, I huffed and puffed my way up the mountain, skied like it was my first day of the season, and took a few photos.

Okay, I admit it. It's not a costume at all. Even the huffing/puffing is genuine. I AM out of shape, but, I DID ski today, and it was awesome.

October 27, 2009

Oct 27: Night Bike

I'm working on another concept: nighttime adventure photos.
Here's an example of how it works:

Take your SLR, crank up the ISO to 3200, open up to f/4, pop the on-camera flash, and time it just right and you'll get an image like this:

Yuck, that's terrible. Blurry, noisy, boring....
Let's try again, changing a few camera settings and finding a better angle. You might get something like this:

Still not good. It just looks like a point and shoot that I used to capture a decent moment. Still boring.
Let's bring out some gear now. I'll use a battery pack and two lights.
Now, I can set the camera to ISO 200, f/8, hit the strobes at the right time and then let the background fill in during a 30s exposure.

This is much better, but it's still not right. The lights didn't balance well enough with the surroundings. The rider is ghosted, and the hill is too dark. And the moment seems missed, as the rider is past the camera.
Let's try again, changing to a 5.6 and decreasing the strobe power.
Then I'll add some star trails from ~700 images taken in Moab, spiraled using a technique I developed in PhotoShop.

There are still some issues to fix with this image, but it gets me closer to the target.

Oct 21-24: Moab Part II

For simplicity's sake, I've posted different images to different sites.
The blog images tell the story of the trip.
The website images, though, are my favorites. Check them out here.

The story:

We travel to Moab for 3 days riding and climbing, but forget the climbing gear. I guess we'll just look at the climbing routes and ride twice as hard.

We are explorers, following trails, but always looking for our own adventures

We ride between snow and sand.

We take in the scenery from countless viewpoints.

Sometimes our plans are foiled by fences. It's a tough decision to concede, but we turn around.

We ride the cliffs, on the edge of 1000' canyons.

Sometimes we must jump,

always at full speed,

to overcome obstacles,

which we conquer with joy.

After a long day of riding, the sunset is a welcome reward.


Epilogue. After the sunset, we had 5 miles to ride back to the car, in the dark, on slickrock, with cliffs and bumps all around. Some dared ride in the dark, with head-over-heels results. Some chose to walk, with stumbling results.
Through 3 days, I bled on elbows, knees, shins, shoulders, hips, calves, fingers, ....
Maybe I rode my bike, or maybe I fought a mean grizzly bear with a cheese grater and a belt sander. Either way, I am torn up.

Remember to check out my favorite images on my website: click here.