Monday, 17 December 2007

Haywood NorAm Cup - Days, 3,4, and 5

I have a bit of catching up to do. Day 3 was a day off, in honour of my birthday! Okay, maybe not, but it was good to have an "almost" day off.

There was still a course to ski and a captains meeting to be held, but other than that, Day 3 was uneventful. Except for the cold! It was still in the -20's!. There is an incredible amount of snow here, as you can see in this photo of the timing hut. Have a look at the snow piled on the roof!

On top of the snow they already had, a storm blew through on the last day (we were able to finish the event, though) and dumped even more snow. The storm was so bad, Trish and I had to stay an extra night before hitting the road.

The facilities continue to impress me. The stadium has lighting, which means the volunteers can get set up the night before an event and not rush around trying to get the stadium set up just before the event. Also, there is a place for the volunteers to go warm up while running an event. I think this is hugely important, since with out the volunteers, there wouldn't be any events.

Of course the volunteers are in it for the athletes and there is nothing as rewarding as seeing them perform to their topmost ability and enjoying the event.

Day 4 saw the continuous pursuit event where the skiers start in the classic style and change over to the "freestyle" (which is almost always a skate technique). This usually requires a change of gear. Skiers place their skate gear in the exchange boxes, then after their prescribed distance in classic style, they enter the exchange area to change over their gear and continue the race in the skate style. There is one time for the whole race, so changing over quickly is key.

One enterprising coach handed out skate poles to his athletes at the top of the hill before the stadium, saving them precious seconds on the change over (they changed on the downhill portion prior to entering the stadium). A couple of skiers thought this unfair, but there is nothing in the rules that say you cannot change poles on the course (or use skate poles during the classic portion, for that matter). The temperature was warmer than the sprints and surprisingly, the Ski Patrol reported a number of black fingers and toes. I think the extra distance made for worse exposure for wind chill and resulting frost bite. Racing gloves do not afford much protection! Results from the Continuous Pursuit race one Zone4 are here.

The event for Day 5 was a classic-style middle distance event, which ranged from 2.5 km for the "midget" category up to 20 km for the "open men" category. The weather took a turn for the worst, with a blizzard warning issued from Environment Canada. The temperature was a balmy -13 C, but there was even more frostbite than the day before. High winds and exposure over a longer distance (i.e., longer time) dramatically increased the risk of frost bit and I saw a lot of white patches on skiers faces, especially the younger skiers. I was disappointed to see so many of them in racing gear. I don't think they can generate the heat while competing that the elite athletes do. The "buffs" (you can see some in the photo below and go here for info) can help, but I really think parents and coaches need to step in and provide more directed guidance on appropriate clothing.

Its not just the athletes who need to dress properly. So do the volunteers!. I found the NEOS overshoes to be awesome. They are very warm and offer a high degree of improved safety since you can wear them over ski boots (which are notoriously slippery). More information on NEOS is here and results from the day are here.

The event was very well organized and congratulations are due to the event organizing committee. It is obvious this team has run this caliber of event many times. More photos from the event are here.


Thursday, 13 December 2007

Haywood NorAm Cup - Day 2

Sprints were the order of the day, as was the cold. Today was a bitterly cold day. It was -25C at 7:30, so the Jury met a couple of times to decide if we should postpone or keep on time. Fortunately, at 9:15 it was -20 and at race time (9:30), we were just under the wire at -19. The races went off with almost no issues. There was one late start that required a quick Jury decision and finish that was no more than 1 cm between two finishers, requiring a photo judging. It was my first X-C photo finish and was an indication of how close a number of the sprints were today.

Ian Murray from Nova Scotia had a good round of sprints. He finished 9th out of 31 in the Open Men class in the qualifying round, and was just edged out and finished second in the B Final. The qualifying results on the Zone4 web site are here and the final results are here. Despite the cold, the kids still found time to play in the snow, a time-honoured tradition at every ski race I've ever been to!

After a short meeting to prepare for the continuous pursuit race on Saturday, I headed down to Petite Champlain with Trish for a great meal at the Lapin Sauté. It was still very, very cold, but after a nice warm meal we went for a short walk to look at the lights. The area has wonderful character that fits nicely with the season.


Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Haywood NorAm Cup - Day 1

The drive up was a lot shorter than I thought. It is 1,000 km from Halifax to Quebec City, but it only took 9.5 hours of driving. Not realizing it would be so short, we stopped at Chateau Edmonston in Edmonston, NB. It turns out:

1. Edmontson is only 3 hours away from Quebec City, so the stop isn't really worth it if you leave early enough, and

2. The beds at this hotel are terrible, so we didn't sleep anyway. We would have been better off driving straight through.

Fortunately, the Hotel Normandin in Quebec City is much, much nicer!

NorAm Cup #2The Haywood NorAm Cup is being held at the Myriam-Bédard Biathlon Center. This is my first NorAm cup as ATD and what a great place to get in this season's "first tracks! It was quite cold, but the snow was fresh and there is a nice, solid base down. Grooming today should set the base up quite nicely for the sprints tomorrow. The organizing committee has things well in hand. I'm sure they've done this more than once!. I had a chance to pop up and meet them ahead of the first Captain's meeting as well as take a peek at the team wax rooms. Quite an impressive facility.

NorAm Cup #1

It will be an early morning tomorrow. The OC is on site from 6:00 a.m. onwards. I'm looking forward to the event, which will run from 9:30 to about 3:00. Hopefully the athletes will have fun.


Saturday, 8 December 2007

Start of the Season...

Trish and I are off to Quebec City to the Haywood NorAm Cup cup event. It should be a fun one and my first as ATD at a big event. In the mean time, we'll be thinking of everyone as you prepare for the the upcoming holidays. All the best!!


Sunday, 4 November 2007

A Rock in a Storm

Not much happening this week-end with Hurricane Noel blowing through town. The storm had dropped to a post-tropical storm, but it still packed a punch. We didn't lose power, but other people did. There was lots of post-storm wave action down at Peggy's Cove. The winds were on shore and there was still quite a sea swell.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

More Cheapness!

SandBags_8The small, portable Manfrotto (Bogen) light stands are very light. I guess that's why they are so portable! The down side is that they are easy to tip over, especially if there is an umbrella attached. Trish came to my rescue once again by sewing together some small "sandbags". These can easily go around the base of the light stand.

I can also hang them from the bottom of my tripod.


SandBags_1She started with cheap material from the the remenants section of the local fabric store. For $3.00, she bought more than enough material for 4 bags. The material she got seems to be quite durable and should stand up to years of abuse. I didn't care about the colour. In fact, I wanted the most garish fabric she could get, to make the bags more visible.

SandBags_6She cut a doubled over piece of fabric, then simple sewed two "pouches". She filled two ziploc bags with rice, so as to be able to guage how big to make each pouch.

She then sewed velcro into the mouth of each pouch. This means I can carry the "sandbags" without carrying a lot of weight. When I need to weight down my light stand or my tripod, I then add what ever is handy to get the weight. I carry a couple of ziploc bags and fill them with rice, stones, peas, whatever. I can even forgo the ziploc bags and put in a couple of water bottles or cans.




She left a couple of inches between the pouches so I could put in a couple of grommets in the fabric. This allows me to use a couple of hooks if need be (or hang the bag from my tripod hook).



Too Cool Snoot for Vivitar 285HV

Snoot1Trish discovered this inexpensive way to snoot my Vivitar 285HV's. Its a CaseLogic utility holder that she cut the bottom seam out of. There was a hook that annoyed me, so she cut that off as well. The hook was at the top and is used for hanging the holder onto the car's air vents. I couldn't see any practical use for it in this application, so it was gonzo.

The caseholder is made out of neoprene, so it easily slides over the 285HV's big head. There is a plastic ring on the top that is convenient for holding the 'mouth' of the snoot open in a consistent manner. It's pretty cheap, too, costing only $7 at Canadian Tire. Wal-Mart has them for a couple of bucks more.



Here is a shot of the 285HV on "tele" without the snoot:


Here is a shot with the same setup only with the snoot.


I really like the fact that the shape of the light area is the same all the time, because of the plastic ring on the front.


Monday, 15 October 2007

Fall Colours

The leaves are almost all gone, but I still have a few more things to try out. Here is another montage of some fall colours. I'm going to try and print these out individually and then montage them in mats and frames.

Fall Colours
Originally uploaded by novascotiaskier.


Sunday, 7 October 2007

Hallowe'en Peeps

Halowe'en Peeps
Originally uploaded by novascotiaskier.
Trish and I went to The Valley this week-end to get some more fall colour shots. Kentville runs a "pumpkin people" contest as part of their Harvest Festival. Scattered areound town are a bunch of "people" made up using pumpkins for heads. This years theme is "country fair". For more shots of the pumpkin peeps, they're at the end of this slide show.

Besides the pumpkin people, the fall colours were gorgeous. I'll be working on finishing up the leaf shots shortly. A couple of points worth noting. On the way up we stopped at Grand Pre Vineyards for our first NS wine tasting. I was pretty impressed with the whites. I didn't try the reds, but will do so the next time around. On the way back we stopped in at the Blomidon Inn for a bite to eat. The food was fab and we highly recommend this spot if you are ever in the valley.


Saturday, 29 September 2007

Tall Ships 2007

I didn't think I had anything to post this week until I noticed I hadn't processed my shots from when the Tall Ships festival was here. I didn't take many shots of the tall ships because I both ran out of space on my flash cards AND ran out of batteries! I can't believe I was so ill prepared. The only thing that was worth posting was this shot of the dory from the Acadia.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Off-Camera Lighting for Fall Colours (With a Twist)

Fall LeavesFall leaves have always reminded me of rubies, emeralds, and topaz gemstones. This year, I wanted to try to shoot leaves in a way that communicates a gem-like quality. In planning my shoot, I inventoried the various tools at my disposal and decided to try some radical “off camera” techniques. I have not finished experimenting with these yet. However, with a short window of opportunity for such shots, I thought I’d blog what I’ve learned so far in case others want to try this out.

The Light Table

Fall Gem (4)I thought my old mini light table might produce some interesting back lighting and I was not disappointed. I shot with both my Nikon D70s and my wife’s Canon G7. After shooting only a few frames with the D70s, I switched to the G7 and never looked back. The macro ability is awesome, especially when you have full manual exposure control.

I thought this technique produced a quality of shot that came close to matching that gem-like feeling. I was able to produce a collage of different leaves in the green-yellow-red gradient typical of the fall.

Fall Gems

Also, I loved the way I could move the camera around to compose shots that accented the shape and structure of leaves. I think there is a lot more to explore here, as well as shooting flowers and other “thicker” shapes (i.e., objects that do not lie as flat as leaves).

Fall Flower

Canon G7 Light Table GoboThe leaf went under a piece of glass and onto the light table. The G7 went on to my tripod. I put a toilet-paper roll gobo around the lens and composed the shot. Exposure was manually set, and I found I was usually 1.5 to 2 stops over exposing to what the meter was telling me to shoot. I always shot using the G7’s self-timer, since the shutter speeds were slow. Here are some tips from what I learned:

- Let the light table warm up. Fluorescent tubes take a while to hit their final white balance. My table usually took about 20 minutes to warm up to a point where I did not notice a change from one minute to the next.

- I used glass from a picture frame to hold the leaf flat. You will need to keep the glass clean, as little bits of plant and leave material look ugly in a close up shot.

- Likewise, you need to keep the light bed clean. Plants and leaves produce powerful stain-making agents, as anyone who has ever tried to get grass stains out of kids’ clothes knows! Wipe off the light bed regularly.

- The glass will reflect the ambient light, so you will need a round gobo to go over the lens. I am not sure Canon engineers designed the G7 with this in mind, but I found that the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper did the job quite nicely.

- You need to shoot the leaves within a day of plucking them off the tree, or about a half day of finding them on the ground. I did not realize the drying process was so quick!

- If you want to shoot a thicker object, you can supplement the back light with a flash and a reflector, giving you some front fill.

Light Table set up

A Simulated Light Table

Back Lighted Diffuser SetupMy light table is small, so I wondered how I would shoot a larger collection of leaves. My solution was to use a flash (SB26 on 1/16 power) and a diffuser to provide the light, and to sandwich the leaves between two pieces of glass. I used my N D70s in this case, as I did not need the macro feature and I could trigger the camera remotely. I am sure the G7 would have been just as good using the self-timer. I used my bottle of glass cleaner to pre-focus on a spot, which is where I then held the glass-leaf sandwich. F8 has enough depth of field that the results were still okay even if I was off my mark a bit in placing the glass.

The results were similar to those of the light table, although a lot of the frame was wasted because I manually held the glass in front of the diffuser. I think that if I constructed a way of holding the glass sandwich in place, I could zoom in and use the full frame. I did not shoot much using this technique, as I found the light table so much easier to use.

Diffuser Shot

Diffuser Shot Crop

A Scanner

Fall Leaves (5)What is a scanner if it is not an odd sort of light table with a built in camera? My set up here was simple. Place the leaf or plant on the glass, close the cover, and scan! This technique did not produce the same translucent type shot as the light table, but rather resulted in a solid shot. This was no surprise as the image captured is coming from the reflection off the leaf. This leads to a decision as to which side of the leaf to shoot. The “front” of the leaf produces a colourful type shot. The “back” of the leaf produces a more monochrome shot, but has a lot more texture. Both types of shots lend themselves to using the leaves as objects in Photoshop that you can manipulate to produce interesting compositions. You will need to make sure that the leaf is held flat, which I was able to do by putting a heavy book on top of the scanner.

Large objects produced some interesting results here as well, which will take a bit more time to explore.

Fall Flower (3)

For a slide show of some of the more interesting shots from this experiment, go here.


Saturday, 1 September 2007

Postcards: Tidal Bore Rafting

Low TideBlair, Anne, and I took a spin out on the tidal bore that comes up the Schubenacadie River. This bore is supposed to be the biggest tidal bore in Canada and a number of companies offer wild rides on the bore (and the afterwaves) their Zodiac boats. We booked on Tidal Bore Rafting Park . It was an early morning rise so I was surprised to see maybe 60 people waiting at the park.

LaunchWe split up into 8 boats to head out at low tide. With the water all the way out, we were knee deep in the muck before we were able to get into the boats. Anne lost both shoes and finding them was a challenge. We took a leisurely run down the river and waited for the bore on a sand flat in the middle of the river.

All dress up and no place to go

We didn't have to wait long and the bore was racing up the river. While riding the bore was interesting, it was nothing like riding the standing waves that form in different parts of the river as the tide advances upwards. The bow of the boat is the wettest spot, of course, but there really isn't much of a dry spot anywhere. I took the water shots with a cheap waterproof disposable film camera that the company was selling in the lodge. It did a decent job, and as you can see, timing is everything anyway!


After the tide had risen to the point where most of the waves had dissappeared, our pilot took us to a little corner of the river where you could slide down the muddy banks. This didn't last long either, as the tide quickly rose to cover the banks. House-to-house it was only 5 hours, but was a lot of fun.

See all of the photos from this outing at the end of the Outdoors set in Flickr.


Wednesday, 29 August 2007


Sensational Blue Hues 2This is a sample of Tara's art. Pretty cool, huh? I did a headshot for her a little while ago as I was doing some "Lighting 102" exercises. Also, my one-flash version of her portrait was picked up by David Hobby for his Strobist blog. Given the caliber of the photos submitted, I'm pretty honoured.

Tara (2)