Saturday, February 21, 2015

Winter Games

...from the 'sporadic musings' department...

Gearing up

As I write this, the Intellicast site displayed this (8 am on Monday):

I admit that's Celsius but damn, that's cold. For our American readers, that translates to -30°F. My weather station says 63% R.H. which makes it feel even colder. Thank God there's no wind. 

It's been cold this winter (so much for "Global Warming"). I'm going to say 10 days so far in the -30°C or colder range. There's only a foot or two of snow on the ground up here so far: we missed all the fun that Buffalo and the east coast has had. And we didn't have much of a summer. I actually own 5 different pairs of longjohns, ranging from the heavyduty level 4 stuff from XPS that I bought at Bass Pro, through my old merino wool, polyesters and the cotton weave that I'm wearing right now sitting in my living room. Life's a challenge in God's Country...

Thankfully it's supposed to get a bit warmer later in the week but I really don't want to go out. That said, I watched the guy across the road start and warm up a snowmobile with plumes of smoke and vapour coming from it (I told you. I'm not going out to take pictures!), all bundled up against the cold. Then I have to comment: a pretty, young, blond girl who was likely a guest at the inn, dressed in a slim, stylish snowmobile or ski suit, stood outside and chatted with him: no gloves, no hat, out for a cigarette. You have to be nuts.

Shot through my picture window from the comfort of my computer chair. I think they were heading out to the ice fishing huts on the lake. Certainly not for a long sled ride without face masks. 

I'm getting ready to shoot the Ontario 55+ Senior Winter Games on Wednesday and Thursday. We got some volunteer photographers together, divided up the sports as best we could and we're going to do our utmost to capture some images. Since I was helping to organize, and did what I could to convince people to volunteer, I had to let them choose which sports they would take: so I ended up with the exciting, Badminton and Table Tennis (I ended up shooting others! See below).

Nobody ever accused my mother of having stupid children. These are both INDOOR sports!

Stay tuned, I can't publish other people's pictures  (without specific permission) but here are links to the Ontario55+ site where they're being posted:

Thanks (in no particular order) to Gord Sheehan, Fred Pyziak, Kathy McKelvey-Brown, Sarah Bell, Rob Stimpson, Amanda Virtanen, Debbie Bradley and Scott McDonald for volunteering.

Debbie Bradley in FRONT of a camera for a change! 

Sidebar: We know that many people in camera clubs in the GTA cottage or visit the Haliburton Highlands regularly. Unlike most camera clubs, we do NOT shut down for the summer: in fact it's our high season! Cottagers are more than welcome to join! If you are reading this, please bring this to the attention of your members at your next club meeting. Forward the link to this blog and/or the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club website ( to members of your club, or suggest they contact our membership chair via the website. We will have TONS of events and outings for members in 2015!

Here come da Judge.

I tried to remember who made that line famous: it was Flip Wilson in the late '60s. But I learned that he didn't originate it, it was Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham (whom no one's ever heard of! Google is your friend).

I want to encourage all of my photographer friends to take a judging course. I took it five or six years ago and have since judged in dozens of competitions, ranging from local clubs to the TCC International Salon. I admit that I didn't intend to become that involved – I just wanted to learn what the judges were looking for so I would score higher in competition.  However it has done four things for me.
  • It has helped me in my own photography. By judging competitions, I get to look critically at hundreds of images and it becomes obvious very quickly what works and what does not. So I take ideas and concepts and techniques from what I've seen. No artist is an island unto himself. While your brain is fertile ground, you have to plant seeds for anything to grow.

  • It has helped me in my teaching. Of course, knowing what to teach... but also how. It is equally important, if the goal is to encourage rather than discourage, how you say things. The CAPA judging course stresses this but like anything else (especially for me) it takes time for these things to sink in. It's improved my communication skills.

  • I've been exposed to genres in which I had zero expertise (and I'm still but a grasshopper) but I've learned more about them and I'm not afraid to try. Birding. Street Photography. Photojournalism. Sports Photography. There are some where I'll admit to no knowledge but an interest has been kindled: Printing. Portraiture. 

  • I've met and dialogued with some very interesting people. Photography legends like Philip Sun, Lance Gitter, Harvey Rogers, Stu Freedman, Hilarie McNeil-Smith, Rob Stimpson and many others. Not all of them through judging, it's true: but I feel somewhat more elevated by the practice of adjudicating others' images.
I don't know about other jurisdictions but in Canada we have CAPA and more locally in Toronto, the GTCCC. I'm sure there are equivalents around the globe. Take the step. Contact your local club for information on judging courses.

Shooting the Ontario 55+ Senior Winter Games

An argument for staying in shape. These folks do stuff that I didn't do even 30  or 40 years ago. They should be very proud.

Shooting the games was quite challenging. For one thing, they had 10 different sports in about 17 different locations and we ended up with about 7 or 8 photographers. The toughest part were the medal ceremonies which all took place on Thursday afternoon, all over the map!

I got to shoot a variety of sports, filling in the gaps where others couldn't be there. Here's a look at some of the shots I did:

Alpine skiing at Sir Sam's. I shot at the bottom of the course, needing a long lens and very high shutter speed to freeze the action. Exposure was relatively easy because there was lots of light. 

Curling was tough to shoot. There was enough light but the ugly arc lights were a weird colour.  

The two iconic curling shots were people sweeping and someone throwing a rock. I tried a different treatment on this one to make it interesting. 

I tried an artistic rendering of the rocks and a broom. 

I've shot hockey before, in the same arena. So before I got there I knew where I wanted to shoot from: the penalty box. When I walked in, I discovered they had remodeled the place and EVERYTHING was glassed in, INCLUDING the penalty box. I only found a couple of spots where the glass was clean and undamaged enough to shoot through. So I have lots of shots of the same goalie and the same net (they didn't change ends between periods). 

Although it may look bright inside a hockey arena, you need really fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. I tried my telextender but because it uses up almost two stops of light, the best I could do was 1/500 sec at f/4.8, ISO 6400. And that was deliberately underexposing almost a stop. I switched to the 70-200 (which was enough from where I was shooting) and locked in the camera at 1/1000 sec at f/2.8, ISO 6400. 

Badminton was a huge challenge. It was like, "DARK" in there. And when they swing their racquets it's like squash or racquetball, the racquet is moving so fast you can't time the shots and it's just a big blur. I set up with the flash, but then got told it disturbed the players so I put it away. I got lots of shots of people standing there waiting for a shot. I did get other perspectives, but I thought this one told the story pretty well. 

Typical stance, waiting for a serve 

Table Tennis was another huge challenge. First of all, they were in a small venue (just room for two tables) and it was filled with people. Second, because any breeze disturbed the flight of the ball, they shut off the ventilation system and all the windows. Outside: -15°C. Inside: +30°C  and 100% humidity. Took over 30 minutes before I could shoot a picture through fogged-up lenses!

this gentleman is Andrew Kwan (Kwong Hon Kwan). He and his partner Sandy Chu were easily the best players there and took the doubles gold medal for the 65+ division. Look how the racquet and the ball are blurred, even at 1/500 second! I talked with him a bit: about 8 out of 10 serves are with heavy underspin so that the opponent has to loop the ball up to get it over the net, which gives the serving team a kill shot response. Every now and then they'd mix it up with a topspin ball, and if the opponent doesn't react to it, their shot will sail 'way long! Then there's side spin which leaves the opponent whiffing air instead of a ball! These guys were good!

I shot 3 or 4 award ceremonies. This was the bronze medal winning team in the 55+ division, one of my favourite shots. The coach on the left introduced himself as "Punch Imlach" and said his partner was "Toe Blake". I 'almost' believed them since their namesakes did dress like that for games! But they would have been 98 and 103 respectively and I knew they were gone... as an aside, I went to school with Toe's daughter, Mary Jane, when I was 12 or 13. 

The iconic handshake at the end of the Gold Medal game: the Ottawa Hawks were the winners. Hard fought physical games but lots of camaraderie.  

Gold medal winners got this handsome glass award. 

Local dignitaries making the medal presentations. All of the Games staff and volunteers wore these distinctive yellow scarves and matching laminated ID badges. 

Part of our mandate was to get pictures of the volunteers and staff enjoying their tasks.

Here's a bunch of them at the alpine skiing venue
The scarves were really distinctive. Games officials and volunteers really stood out in a crowd. 

You can't see the colour of the scarf in this black-and-white impression sketch. He was in charge of the hockey venue in Haliburton but I can't remember his name. 

This week's closing images

On Tuesday, I had to drive into Toronto (with a stop to see Dr. Ron in Aurora. If I had known when I was a kid how important brushing my teeth was...). Anyway I drove past the snowy owls venue and although I was looking for them, I didn't see any: until I was driving home the same way later in the afternoon. 

This guy was doing his thing, giving me the "evil eye" from atop a hydro pole. I used Topaz Adjust and Clarity to enhance the detail in this image. 

"Working the Scene" at the same spot, I saw this lonely tree and was captivated by the pastel beauty of the sky behind it and the snow in the foreground. I know snow is supposed to be white, but in this case it reflected the same colour tones as the sky.

I did quite a bit of work on this image, including adding textures to parts of it and cleaning up the foreground. Rendering the foreground was a bit problematic: but Hilarie McNeil-Smith (click the link to see her compelling images), whom I've known for a while since she taught a digital painting course I facilitated some years ago, suggested adding some blowing snow. Some of what she taught me stuck! I love the effect: I used an airbrush in Photoshop, lightly loaded with white and at low opacity to make it happen.

Click to blow it up to see it better. My friend Lori wants her entire wall painted like this. I know where to get 8 foot wide prints made! I think I'm going to get a fine art print made for myself (not 8'wide! I may go for 24x36", though). Want one?

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