Professional Photographer Mai Duong, the most enthusiastic photographer you will ever meet.

Sports

Pete and Niamh’s Engagement Session at Red Rocks… or not?

Engagement Climbing Session at Red Rocks Nevada

Pete, Niamh, and I had the awesome plan of using one of the mornings or evenings during a climbing trip in Red Rocks to do their engagement session.  After one day of climbing at Red Rocks I thought to myself… that engagement session was not going to happen.  To bring them so close to awesome climbing, and not let them climb?  That’d be impossible.

So this is how we spent their engagement photo session:

Engagement Climbing Session at Red Rocks Nevada

Engagement Climbing Session at Red Rocks Nevada

Engagement Climbing Session at Red Rocks Nevada

Engagement Climbing Session at Red Rocks Nevada Engagement Climbing Session at Red Rocks Nevada

Engagement Climbing Session at Red Rocks Nevada

Engagement Climbing Session at Red Rocks Nevada

Engagement Climbing Session at Red Rocks Nevada

I’d say that was time well spent 🙂

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Vancouver Half Marathon – I’m only Half crazy

Well, I did it!  I ran my first half marathon (the Vancouver Girlfriends Half Marathon to benefit breast cancer research) last week, the longest distance I’ve ever run.  I felt proud of myself, but most of all, I felt relieved.  Two weeks prior to the race, I had run 11.25 miles, my longest distance ever at the time, and injured my knee in the process.  So, the night before the race, I doubted whether I’d be able to participate or finish the race.  I slept 4 hours that night, nerves and all.

Vancouver Girls Half Marathon Medals/Necklaces

Our medals/necklaces that we received upon finishing the race!

So How Did It Go?

The half-marathon went great!  I survived the entire 13.2 miles, running the entire time.  I took some ibuprofen before the race, so the knee pain wasn’t too uncomfortable for the first half the race.  It’s a great flat course, with some nice views of the Columbia River and some not so nice views of the Fred Meyer.  Also, the crowd was awesome.  There spectators with signs and cowbells and whistles all along the course.  Annie met me a quarter mile from the finish and ran me in.  When I turned the corner to see the finish arch, I sprinted that final block to finish with a time of 2:04:31, reaching my target goal for a 9:30 minute pace!

How I kept my Energy

Well, as most of you know, I have lots of energy on my own, but while running?  Not so much.  I believe that the Gu energy gel I took at the beginning of the race, as well as the energy Shot Blok I took every two miles during the race were a huge help.  The Gu is a bit yucky and difficult to eat, so I’m glad I used the Shot Bloks while running.  Plus they’re like yummy gummy bears, just loaded with energy.

There were some points where my legs got tired and wanted to go slower, but it seemed to mostly correlate to when I was bored.  Xav has a theory when hiking that it takes 10% physical and 90% mental strength to get up the mountain.  I think that’s a bit extreme, but there is some truth to that.   How else could I have kept up 13.2 miles of running?  Besides being disciplined of course 🙂

Hot Chocolate Fried Chicken and Gravy
Hot chocolate: the best-post race energy drink ever!  Fried chicken and gravy: how I reward running.

Thoughts on the Race

I’m pretty satisfied with my performance, considering my four week fast-track training schedule.  Saturday night my hope was to get to participate, but my secret desire was to finish with a 9:30 minute pace, so I’m really happy I didn’t finish at a 9:31 minute pace!  A knee injury and an illness (two days dead on the couch) made me lose 25 miles of training runs, which was almost 30% of my training distance (I did the math).  Unfortunately, due to that hiccup, and Ben’s arbitrary challenge for me to run a half marathon in under 2 hours, I will have to sign up for another race. I guess this means more training runs followed by brunch… oh pity.

Special Shout Outs/Thanks:

Maddy, Chung, Preston, Aimee, and Dashiell: Thanks for coming out to celebrate my “longest” training runs with Brunch!
W. Jon and Poage: Thanks for keeping me company during a training run, because it really helped me to have company.
Milo!  My 11/11/11 nephew came along for my big 11 mile run!  Thanks for staying “calm” for those last couple of miles and being ever adorable at brunch afterwards.
Coach Ben, thanks for setting up my training schedule, even if you don’t know what you’re talking about, and all your other encouragement as well 🙂
Annie, thanks for your watch (and my watch), running with me, giving me that extra burst of energy at the finish, all your encouragement, and doing everything an awesome big sister does.
Karen!  Thanks for training with me, but most of all, thanks for signing up for the race in the first place!

My detailed trip report on the race to come.  🙂

Annie, Karen, and me. Girlfriends, we just ran 13.2 miles!


What Motivated me to Sign up For a Half-Marathon

Finding motivation to run
Three and a half weeks ago, I signed up for my longest race ever, a half marathon.  I am not a runner, actually, I hate running.  So, you might wonder, what would motivate me to sign up for a half-marathon, or even any race for that matter.

It began when a friend signed up for the Vancouver Girlfriends Half-Marathon, and in an act of solidarity, I agreed to register as well.  I wasn’t motivated at the time, but if all my girlfriends were gonna do it, sure, I’d suck it up and run a race.

Then came… nothing.  Well really, then came weddings and travel.  But, no running, no signing up.  With 6 weeks left to train for the half-marathon, I told myself, if I run three times this week,  I get to sign up for the race.  Finding motivation to run
So, I ran three times that week for a grand total of 4 miles.  I even ran in the hilly streets of San Francisco.  But, I also had a stomach bug that wouldn’t leave me alone.  So the running stopped.  And the registration was delayed.

One month left until the half-marathon, two hours before the registration costs went up $10, Annie and I found ourselves asking, are we really running a half-marathon in a month?  Well, earlier that week, we decided that if we managed to get a run in before the fee went up, we’d sign up.  So, there we were, 2 hours until deadline, and I told her I’d run that day, so I signed up.  But I hadn’t run at all.  (ha! Annie, if you’re reading this.)
Finding motivation to run

So, why did I sign up?  I could have easily opted out of the race.  After much thought and analysis (hey, there’s a lot of time to reflect when you’re running), I’ve determined the reason I signed up was for Discipline.
I lack discipline, something I’m now focused on changing.  In an effort to prove to myself that I can be disciplined and actually train for a half marathon, I signed up for a half-marathon.

So, discipline is my motivation.  Discipline is what makes me get out door and complete all my runs (even though it is soooo hard).   Many things can be inspiring (for example, your friends signing up for a race), but finding what motivates you is different.  Sometimes it’s a reward, like the feeling of satisfaction or pride, but for now, it’s my desire for discipline.  It keeps me running, and it’s what helps me stay productive with my time and with work.

Finding motivation to run

So, tell me, because I really want to know, how do you motivate yourself?


Portland Timbers Reserves vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps Reserves

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to photograph the Portland Timbers Reserves vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps Reserves soccer match.  This was all thanks to Craig Mitchelldyer and Thomas Boyd and their sports photography workshop.  On top of the awesome-nesss of having the two nicest sports photographers I’ve ever met instruct us, they also hooked us up with cameras and lenses from Canon and ProPhoto Supply.

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

They taught us some great pointers on what makes a good sports photo (like having a good background), and then let us loose us for some real game experience (aka. released us for the slaughter).   Shooting soccer is awesome.  And difficult.

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

Here are 4 of the bazillion shooting pointers I learned while out on the field:

1) Have patience.

One of my goals was to get a good shot of the goalkeepers.  Why?  Well, ever since I saw Fabien Barthez win the 1998 World Cup, I’ve loved watching goalkeepers in action (especially when they have shaved heads).

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

I tried to use what I had learned in the keynote to get a good shot of the goalkeepers.  However, it’s easy to get distracted and start looking at the ball.  I had found an angle of view that I liked for the goalkeeper, but I often looked away to grab other action shots.  Pro soccer is so fast (very fast) that before I knew it, the ball was already going towards the goalkeeper and I missed my shot.  Next time I’ll get it.  (because there will be a next time ;p heh)

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

2) Understand your subject.

I know enough about soccer to follow signs of what’s going to happen (direction changes, field kicks vs. corner kicks, etc.).  What I don’t know are the Timbers.  I confess, I’ve only gone to two games.  Going into the game, I had no idea who was likely to get the header or who liked to strike often.  (I do know that goalkeepers like to yell at everyone).

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

3) Know your equipment.

I spent a good amount of time in the first half getting used to the zoom of the 400mm lens and how far or close I could take a decent photo.  It’s fairly zoomed, but it also has an okay depth of focus with the compression.  Also, even with the lens on a monopod, it was very difficult for me to hold steady.  I took photos of the other end of the field and at 1/8000 the photos were blurry.  Tom mentioned the heat waves may cause issues.  It could be them, it could be me.  Oh, and all the awesome gear in the world (trust me, it was at this workshop) can’t make you an awesome photographer.  This workshop confirmed it for all of us.  You know what does…?

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

4) Practice.

It wasn’t enough to know where the ball was going, but I need to work on the timing of getting the ball in “peak” action.  Sure, little league soccer players don’t move as fast, but the physics is the same, and getting experience is always great.  Not just that, but, I need to practice all these pointers (making good pictures, having patience, reading the ball and the players, using a monster lens).

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

In the end, this was the best experience in my photography career so far.  Thanks Craig and Tom!

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer

Timbers vs. Whitecaps Soccer


Photo Tip: 7 Tips for Having Good Backgrounds – at Kleinman Eruption

In this post, I’m going to discuss the importance of good backgrounds.  Backgrounds can do a lot for a photo.  They can enhance your subject, or detract attention from your subject.  Watching out for your background is one of the easiest ways to improve a photograph.    In general, you want to avoid distracting elements or unattractive elements in the background of your photo.  I’m going to use my experience from photographing the Kleinman Eruption Ultimate Tournament to help explain my points.

Unhelpful Tip: Make the background out of focus.  In other words: use a wide aperture.  Or increase the focal length with a telephoto lens.

Before getting into the 7 tips, I’m going to address this tip.  While it does help improve your background, it doesn’t actually fix the issues.  Plus, it makes you reconsider your gear.  In this following photo, the photo is a pretty cool shot of him diving for the disc, except there’s a car and a fence in the background, and a pole running right through him.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

In this photo, I see a ton of cars that take away from the action.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

So how about we use a wider aperture?  A telephoto?

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

Cool, now instead of a focused pole running through her head, we’ve got a fuzzy pole running through her head.  So a wide aperture won’t just do it.  You’ll need to reorient yourself so that the pole doesn’t intersect your subject.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

This photos brings me to the next problem with wide apertures.  Sometimes, no matter how wide the aperture you use, you still can’t completely fuzz something out.  Like bright blue port-a-potty’s.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

I see you building.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

And I see you cars.  Why, you look even bigger now.  This is due to the long focal length.  I will explain that optical element in another post.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

So, in this case at Delta Park, the field had some pretty unsavory backgrounds.  Using a wide aperture or a telephoto wasn’t going to solve my problems.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

Real Tip for Getting Good Backgrounds:

Move yourself.  Look for a good background and point yourself in that direction.

So, how do you find a good background?

1.  Avoid Distracting Elements:

Sometimes, the background is all you get.  If there’s a distracting element, avoid them by keeping your subject off them.  In this photo, there were a ton of distracting elements, but at least the poles weren’t through the subject (the passer).

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

2.  Look for Clean and Simple:

If you have uncomplicated backgrounds, you can focus on your subject, and make it obvious as to who your subject is.  In the following photo, this was the cleanest angle I had.  I had moved myself to a far end of the field.  Sure there’s a huge building, a bit bright, but the red pops out and you look at that first, before moving onto the rest of the photo.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

And, if you catch a sliver of a port-a-potty, you can always crop that out, which I didn’t do for discussions sake.

3. Look for Complex or Intricate.  But Keep Their Head in a Clean Space:

Sometimes the background can tell a story.  Here, you see the story: a sunny day, teammates and spectators lounging on the side and watching the game.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

But if you can, be sure to keep your subject’s head in a clean space.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

And throw in a shirtless guy while you’re at it.

4. Look for Contrast:

Contrast between subject and background can help your subject stand out.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

And, these two photos bring us to the next tip.

5. Use Your Background Space If You Want It.

Sometimes, the background is important, so rather than filling the frame, if the background helps to tell a story, include it.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

 In this photo, without seeing the other players in the background, you might not understand what’s happening.  If I had cropped in tight, so the photo was without them, he would have been just a guy holding a frisbee.  With them, he’s a guy waiting to start the game.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

6. Change your angle:

With events like sports, you don’t really have much control over what your subject moves in front of.  So instead, try adjusting your angle.  For this tournament, I mostly shot from as low as possible so that the players’ heads were in the sky as much as possible.  Generally, the sky offers a great space to put subjects’ heads in a clean spot.

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

Lastly,

7. Have fun, get creative…

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

… and don’t stop shooting just because the background isn’t nice.

You never know when it might be the game winning point!

Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos Kleinman Ultimate Frisbee Photos

Hope this is helpful to you, and if you have any more suggestions or tips for me to add, let me know!


Kent Dragon Boat Race

The Kent Cornucopia Dragon Boat Festival was our last race before our August racing hiatus.  Alcan, Salem, and Kent were all two weeks apart, so by the time Kent came around, we were in great racing shape (and a bit exhausted).  As it so happened, the Anniemaniacs did great!  We raced strong, felt strong, and had our best race of the season.  We walked away with first place medals and a trophy which was super exciting for the team.

Kent Dragonboat Race

Kent Dragonboat Race

Possibly our best team photo yet.  The park had a new playground area, along with this fantastic jungle gym structure, so we all climbed in for a photo.

Kent Dragonboat Race


Salem Dragon Boat Festival

Salem… what an interesting race.  It was the Anniemaniacs’ first time at the Salem World Beat Dragon Boat Festival, so we weren’t sure what to expect.  The World Beat area was huge, biggest we’ve ever seen, with plenty of food vendors from all over the world.  In terms of racing, we were surprised that the races were all two boat races.  It resulted in little competition until the final, so it was hard to gauge how all the teams were doing.  Spectator viewing was very limited due to the water bank being over grown.  You could watch the middle of the race, almost the finish, or just the finish.  From a tiller’s point of view, the water behaved very strangely.  Around the beginning of the race course, after going under a bridge and right by a pylon, the water swirls, changing the force of water on the boat, and causing near collisions for many races.  This was more of an issue for boats in lane 2 (and the occasional lane 3).

Anniemaniacs at Salem Dragon Boat Festival

In our final against Paddles of Fury (lane 1) and Bridge City (lane 3), the Anniemaniacs came up in a close behind Paddles of Fury.  It was a close race, very intense, and just a 0.02 second difference!  Bridge City didn’t come in as close, but the previously mentioned pylon caused them to move into our lane, and the changing water currents caused them to briefly over correct and head off course.

Sidenote: we attempted to drive from Portland to Salem in the Nissan Leaf.  The car made it there, but without enough battery to make it back or charge at a 110 volt outlet.  So, we had to drop it off at the Nissan dealership to fully recharge the battery.


2011 Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival

Tomorrow the Anniemaniacs are racing in downtown Portland for the Portland Dragonboat race!  As of today, this is my second favorite race, with the Alcan race being my new favorite.  After the Tacoma race, the Maniacs headed up to Vancouver, BC for the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  I think race directors have been reading my blog because they moved the paddlers village closer to the race site, and didn’t have us shuttled through the vendors.  Instead of having everyone crowd by the Science museum to watch, we were all able to watch along the banks behind where the food vendors and merchants were located.  (Steering wise, the finish line signs were a bit useless so the best way to steer was following the colored buoys.  Note: colorblind tillers may have problems.)

Alcan Dragonboat Race

With the changes to the location of the paddlers village and the vendors, Alcan is my new favorite race.  The city is great to visit, and the food is good (Friday night we went on a food crawl and I tried to eat fried chicken wherever I went).  The competition is tight and numerous, where this year nearly 180 teams attended.  The people running the race are organized (and calm, much love to Madame Racestarter).  Lining up eight boats at the start is SO FUN, I love it.  The boats are small and light and weird to control, but we do well in them.  In the end, the Anniemaniacs raced strong and got 3rd place in Competitive B, placing 11th out of 100 mixed teams!


Tacoma Dragon Boat Race

Summer is almost over, including the dragon boat season, and I haven’t even made a single post about this year’s season!  The Anniemaniacs started the 2011 season with a race at the Tacoma Dragon Boat Race festival.  There’d been many mishaps in the past regarding this race and the Anniemaniacs.  In 2009, the Maniacs (despite winning first in all heats) were forgotten for the finals races due to race disorganization.  That disappointment had us skipping the 2010 race.  This year, we returned to Tacoma (“you guys came back?  we thought we’d never see you here after what happened last time”), eager to get a race in before heading to Vancouver, BC for the big Alcan race.

Tacoma Dragon Boat Race

Tacoma Dragon Boat Race

Tacoma Dragon Boat Race
Maniacs are back and excited for Tacoma!

The Maniacs did well, with first places in all qualifying races.  After a two year dry spell of tough competition, hard racing, but no medals, the Anniemaniacs took 2nd place medals!

Tacoma Dragon Boat Race

Tacoma Dragon Boat Race
The proud coaches, with medals!

At one point, with the race ahead of schedule, it looked like there was going to be enough time to squeeze in some bonus semi finals races.  Then, a dragonboat capsized!  A large wake swamped a team in the middle of a heat and the women’s team, Women on Water, found themselves *in* the water.  A cruise boat picked them up and the race was delayed an hour.

Tacoma Dragon Boat Race

Tacoma Dragon Boat Race

Tacoma Dragon Boat Race
Volunteers and other teams paddled out to help bail the capsized boat and collect lost paddles.


TGS at Joe’s Valley

Last April (I know… long ago), we drove to Utah (yes, from Portland) to go climbing at Joe’s Valley.  It was… cold.  We were only going to be there for four days, 3 of which were forecasted for snow/rain.  However, we were meeting with a large group of friends, all of whom were hellbent on going (“it’s the desert, it doesn’t snow!”), so we hopped in the car and headed 14 hours towards the boulders and clouds.  Sure enough, 3 out of 4 of the days, there was snow, rain, and even pellets of hard snow (not hail, I’ve forgetten the word). Regardless of the less than ideal weather, the trip was amazing.  There was still good climbing everywhere and great friends to climb with. We shrugged at the weather (“what can you do?”), made gourmet breakfasts on skillets and “hobo grills”, and even celebrated Easter with an Easter egg hunt.

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

It really was snowing.  The pictures I took (while standing out in the snow) are my favorite from the trip.  There really was nothing that was going to stop us from climbing.

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

To avoid the snow and rain, we opted to go to Triassic for two of the days, another outdoor climbing area that was a 45 minute car ride away.

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Also, you can’t have a climbing trip without climbing dogs! Here are our mascots from the weekend.

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos Joe's Valley Rock Climbing Photos

If you follow my photography at all, you’ll also notice that several of these photos are not my normal “style.”  I’ve been playing around with an idea for awhile, and this is the halfway point, a visual warm up, so to speak.  Let me know what you think, I would like your (brutally honest) opinion.