Saturday, August 29, 2015

Castle Peak 100K: Race Photography 101

Race photography.  Who knew it was so much work!

Scott was photographing the Castle Peak 100K race just north of Lake Tahoe, so I flew in for a fun weekend in the mountains.  ...  I got that and then some.

After a late night flight, and an even later night drive to try and find the race  start, we ended up parking the van in an empty field for the night, and starting the hike in the dark at 4am with headlamps.

I told him the whole way, I did NOT sign up for hiking in the dark! ;)

I soon forgot about the early rise and hiking in the dark 
once the sun started to come up and the skies changed to blues and pinks.

We (okay, HE) lucked out and found the perfect spot to catch the runners coming across near Prosser Creek Reservoir

Now the hard part.  The waiting.
(Insert me asking a million times, "Are you sure this is the way they are going to come?")

But soon they came.  One after another, we watched them try to balance on a log as they crossed a stream.  
I stole it from his website.  Sshhhh. ;)

Between shots, he was trying to coach me through using his other fancy camera.  Mostly I got pictures of dirt and rocks.  The focus was always on the trees, never the runners face (if their head even made it in the shot).  You know, the good stuff. 

Oh, and a few selfies of my new Castle Peak 100K hat, for good measure.

As soon as the last runner came through, we hiked back to the van and took off for our second shooting location: Hawks Peak in Truckee.  

Lesson number 37: There's no down time in changing locations.  Pack up and get going.

It was a short hike up Hawks Peak, but it was definitely steep enough to get my body warmed up.  

Once we found a decent spot, I pretended to know what I was doing with the camera while Scott set up all his fancy lighting.

I was slowly getting the hang of the camera about the time the last person came through at this spot.  I think I at least managed to get a couple shots that were salvageable as the runners came up a hill and around a corner.  (The lighting was tricky with the sun popping in and out of the clouds.  That's my excuse.)

But just for kicks, here's a little side-by-side comparison:

My photo (with her feet cut off):

Scott's photo of the same runner, at the same spot:

Yeah.  I need some more work.

I struggled through it, just with a little added cursing every time I messed up another shot.

We couldn't hike back down until I got a picture of us.  
Even as a photographer himself, I think he gets tired of my, 'Hey wait!  We need a picture right here!" 

After a quick stop in Truckee for some lunch (salads and wraps), we set off for spot number 3:  Castle Peak, the name sake for the race.

(We were in such a hurry to get up to the trail that I didn't even have time to finish my salad!)

I had been wearing my old Nike running shoes for the days adventures, but when I realized my carbon fiber insert was still in the right shoe (from my stress fracture) I decided to switch them out and try my brand new Salomon  XR Mission trail running shoes.

They were so nice and clean.  I knew they'd never be the same.

The hike wasn't as long as I expected - maybe a few miles - but it was definitely steep in some parts.  

Either way, the views were gorgeous - clouds and all - so I couldn't complain!

As we made it past the aid station and started heading up towards the top of Castle Peak, the winds really picked up.  And it got cold.  

So we decided to just set up shop on the side of the trail and get shots of the runners with Castle Peak in the background.  Even better, if you ask me.  (Also, I didn't want to hike all the way to the top.)

Scott took pictures all over, at any second, but for any of mine to even turn out semi-decent, I needed to be set up in one spot with the camera all ready to go.  The whole on the fly changing settings and still catching moving runners was not working for me.  At all.

So this was my spot, and this is my picture:

We stayed there for awhile, surrounded by the beautiful mountains, waiting for the runners to come and go (they had to go up to the top and then come back down).

As we got our fill of runners from there, we moved on to another location.  Back down to the aid station and back up another peak on the other side.  

This was my spot - again, with Castle Peak in the background:

Scott set up just around the corner to my left, and got the runners as they came up the hill.

One of my favorite pictures I got from that spot! 
Woohoo!  I finally got a decent one!
The breaks were getting long between runners, so we made the call to head back down and move on to another spot.

I just liked this moss covered tree on the way down: 

Our 4th and final location for the day:  the top of Mt. Judah.

Ready to go.

The trail started out rocky, moved on to open trails, followed by thick trees...and finally, the peak.

The iPhone takes pretty good pictures!

At most locations, I end up being the guinea pig for test photos.

Here I was just trying to walk and keep my hat on without the wind blowing me over.  That's how windy it was up there.  Oh, and cold, too.  

^^ That backpack was weighed down with at least 40 lbs of camera gear!

We packed some extra clothes, thank goodness.  I put on every layer I had, including sweatpants.  Scott just had a hoodie and wind breaker.

Scott set me up in a spot - conveniently located where I could sit down behind a big rock to keep me out of the wind.  I wasn't going anywhere else.

And low and behold, I came through with another good picture!  (One out of like 200 isn't bad, right?)

I mean at the rate I'm progressing, I'm probably going to be a famous photographer some day. ;)

We took some more pictures (selfies) kill time.  

The gap between runners by sunset was long.  We would sit for maybe 30 minutes before someone else would come through.  

And did I mention it was cold and windy?           It was cold.  And windy.

We actually got up and ran up the hill and did jumping jacks at one point just to stay warm.  Well, warm-ish.

The sun eventually went down, and we didn't even get a good sunset (that was the enticing thing about going up to that point),  so we hiked back down.  It was dark by the time we made it back to the car.  

Pre-down to post-dawn.  That's a full day on the mountain.

I was so tired I didn't even eat dinner.  I fell asleep on the drive home, sitting straight up in the chair with music blasting.  I think he wore me out.

Sunday morning, I got to experience my first "mountain hangover."  We slept in, made a big breakfast, and chilled for a little bit. 

And really, just a little bit - because I had a flight to catch and we still wanted to try out the new paddle boards!

(I won one by submitting a picture Scott took of us over 4th of July, and when he went to pick it up, he liked it so much he bought another one!)

We got both boards loaded up, and they took up the whole van!

I don't have any pictures of paddleboarding, because I didn't take my phone.  But suffice it to say that it was super windy, and the paddling (for me, anyways) was ugly and short.

We stopped to grab a bite to eat at Whole Food in Reno, and it was packed with Burners (ie people heading to Burning Man for the week).  I had no idea how big of a production that thing was, but these people were Loading. Up. on everything.

Then it was off to the airport that afternoon.  Again.

I had a quick flight to San Diego (I know, makes no sense to fly west and then all the way back east, but whatever), and then a non-stop on to Kansas City.

We spent some time on the runway in San Diego.  They never said why, but we were there for at least 30 minutes.  So, of course, I took some pictures of the planes coming and going to pass the time.

Once we were airborne, the sunset made for quite the show.

It just kept getting better and better.  And I kept taking more and more pictures... 
...until I passed out with my eye mask on. :)

Overall, the Race Photography 101 weekend was super fun, very enlightening, and extremely exhausting. 

I got a few pictures that made the official cut and are up on the website, so I'm happy about that.  I'll call it a success for day one behind the camera.

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