New Mexico

Nine days, three towns, our New Mexico vacation.

The Rio Grande on a stormy afternoon

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Our lovely casita near Taos

If you have the opportunity to visit Taos, which is about two hours northeast of Albuquerque, we highly recommend staying at Casa Gallina .  We stayed in the Bantam Roost, a self-contained adobe casita with a great kitchen and all the comforts of home.  Owner Richard Serpa is an amazing host, with a wealth of knowledge of the surrounding area and will make your stay unforgettable.  This was the most relaxing, soothing experience of our trip.

Our 2nd floor deck

Earthship Community near Taos

Chilies drying everywhere

Route 66 in Albuquerque

Read more.. Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

In My Yard

Sunny backyard, cloudy front yard, same day. Two different photos, both shot with a Canon 5d Mk II and an 85 f1.8

Read more.. Monday, June 18th, 2012

Upgrading

With the new Canon 5d Mk III coming out, I thought it would be a good opportunity to upgrade to a full-frame camera.  The Canon 5d Mark II would certainly fit my needs so I waited for the prices to drop, which they didn’t, but the supply of this camera started to dwindle (didn’t want to buy used).  Finally not wanting to risk missing out, and not being able to justify the additional cost of the Mark III, I bit the bullet and bought a new Mark II recently.  This coincided with the Lower Mainland spring classic, Barry’s Roubaix, in Pitt Meadows and it would be my first opportunity to test the camera at a race.

The camera feels similar to my Canon 7d and most of the dials and functions are the same.  The mirror has a decidedly more solid sound when it drops after each exposure and the rich bokeh and soft backgrounds while shooting wide open, is more evident.  I can’t wait to do some portrait and landscape work with this camera as I believe, this is where the full-frame format really shines.

All these images were shot with the Canon 5d MkII and a 16-35 f2.8 or 70-200 f2.8 Canon L Series lens.

Read more.. Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Spring Racing

Gray skies, wind and rain.  Those three words often describe the beginning of the road racing season on the west coast of British Columbia.  Sunday was no different except the rain.  It sputtered, it stopped and tried in earnest near the end of the races, but never really  got going.  The wind made up for that, as it picked up steadily and by noon was buffeting riders on the road.  With that the Escape Velocity/dEVo Spring Series for 2012 began.

Over 100 riders and a large group of volunteers descended on River Road east of Fort Langley for the first event of the Spring Series.

This was my fourth year shooting this race and I had never shot the back side of the course along 84th Avenue. So I wandered between corner 2 and corner 3 of the rectangular race course.  Corners are usually where things happen, especially when the roads are wet.  Everyone has a different body language when corning…I like to compare.  Some riders are very confident, you can tell….others more tentative, tense, nervous.  It often shows in the pictures I take.

The rest of the road along the back is quiet, tree-lined, beautiful pale green new growth on the trees.  The riders are dwarfed by these large trees.  It was so quiet, even when the groups of riders came by, hardly speaking, concentrating, steeling themselves against the cold and wind.  Derailleurs hummed and the wind whistled through the wheels.  I was so caught up in this stretch of road, I didn’t even make it to the finish line.

Check out my Flickr Photostream here for more photos of the River Road race.

Read more.. Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Stormy Seattle

Looking down Spring Street to the waterfront

We took an unofficial long weekend to Seattle, mainly to check out the Gauguin Polynesia Exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum but also for a change of scenery.  The weather was cold, stormy and very windy on Saturday but I managed to take my camera out just when the clouds parted briefly and sun came out creating dramatic lighting everywhere I looked.

Waterfront near Seattle Aquarium

Seattle waterfront

Seattle smoke

Seattle Public Library

Chairs and Legs

Read more.. Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Experimentation

In the last week two new photo software programs have become available.  Lightroom 4 beta is being tested until the end of March and Snapseed for Mac (desktop) is building on its popular iPad/iPhone app.  I hope to put the new Lightroom through its paces over the next few months but I did manage to experiment with Snapseed this weekend.  We went for a brisk (as in the weather was brisk) walk along the south side of False Creek and I snapped a few photos.  I imported these into the new desktop version of Snapseed hit a few presets, adjusted some sliders and got an almost infinite amount of different looks.  It’s great software for producing “art” photography or just plain “foolin’ around” and it’s very easy to use. It’s too early for me to comment on Lightroom 4 beta, although it seems to run more slowly than the current LR 3 version.

Yaletown

Reflections

Science World

Read more.. Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

A Walk Taken

On Sunday I grabbed my camera and 16-35 zoom and went for a two-plus hour walk with my wife through Pacific Spirit Park. We wandered from 16th Ave. down to Spanish Banks and back with several small loops thrown in.   The trails were muddy, the weather was gloomy and threatening rain for the most part, but it was very mild.

Pioneer Trail

Bog at Spanish Banks Trail

Fungi #1

Fungi #2

Read more.. Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Denman Island Delight

My daughter and I have a yearly tradition of going “camping” sometime in November or December.  This usually means finding a campground with a yurt or cabin as we are not hardcore winter campers.  It’s a time each year for us to have some quality father-daughter time.

This year, faced with little time and no desire to drive very far, we had the opportunity to stay at my brother-in-law’s retreat on Denman Island.  It wasn’t too far, although there are two ferries involved, and it was somewhere I hadn’t been since I was very young.

The house was warm and cozy and although it rained both days we were there, each morning had glorious sunshine.  Denman has three provincial parks, Fillongley, Boyle Point and Sandy Island Marine Park, the latter only accessible by boat or very low tide.  We explored the many trails of Fillongley Park, all less than 2 km. in length and walked out to the viewpoint at Boyle Point on a windy, rainy afternoon to view the Chrome Island lighthouse.  It was raining too hard for me to expose my camera to the elements unfortunately.  In Fillongley Provincial Park, there is a park within a park.  The land that is now Fillongley Provincial Park was bequeathed to the province of British Columbia by George Beadnell, an Englishman who settled there at the turn of the century and spent years building this property into one of the most beautiful estates in the Gulf Islands. A large, flat grassy field is home to many imported species of trees and is alive with colour even in November.

The town centre of Denman Island has a general store, giftshop/bookstore, a bistro and a great cafe, named Kaffee Klatch Bistro.  We stopped in each day of our visit for either coffee, lunch or both and it seemed to be the social hub of the island.  Great food, friendly, personable service and excellent coffee!

The beach at Fillongley Provincial Park with Hornby Island in the distance

Beds of colourful kelp and other seaweed along the beach

Walking the trails in Fillongley Provincial Park

Within Fillongley is Beadnell Park, once the estate of George Beadnell

Apples on the trees in November!

Read more.. Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Photos after racing: A tough combination

Mud...finally!

Saturday I raced the South Surrey CX at the aptly named South Surrey Bike Park. It was cold, but dry when I took my pre-ride and, even though after one lap, the course seemed ridiculously hard, I warmed up to the idea of trying to actually compete in this race instead of just being thankful I had finished.  In my second lap, I started scoping out locations where I’d want to shoot photos after my race.  This is as important in my pre-ride as making sure I know what to expect during the race.   I noticed plenty of great vantage points .  So one more lap of the course for good measure and then I returned to the relative warmth of my down jacket and the sign-in tent to await the start.  The weather seemed to be deteriorating before my eyes and I kept hoping the skies would not open up before my race was done.

There was no call-up in the Citizen’s category today, but I got near the front and at the gun,  sprinted uphill to the grass and was in the top ten at that point.  A couple of corners later, I was squeezed against the tape by another rider and about ten racers passed me by.  So much for the good start.  I continued to plug away at the course, trying to keep a steady pace and ride within my limits.  I was feeling pretty good, and I wasn’t behind the group, I was in the group.  Imperceptibly the weather began to change, a little wind, a little colder, a few raindrops.  And then it was all over!  I barely remember the great flyover, slipping and sliding on the off-camber grass, the deep puddle and mud in the dirt jump park.  I do remember crossing the line with my head down, then turning to see people finishing behind me.  That was a new concept for me.  I took some time to chat with my fellow racers about battles we just had, falls we almost took (or in my case, actually took) and how great it was to finally have some mud on a course here in the Lower Mainland.  Everyone seemed the most excited about the mud, and as it turns out, the flyover.   Then it started to drizzle.

I was exhausted, cold and muddy when I returned to the car and changed as quickly as I could, so I could get back out to photograph the race.  Try getting muddy, sweaty, tight-fitting lycra off in a hurry with fingers about as sensitive as popsicle sticks, not easy!  Toweling off in 4ºC in the rain, that was fun.  Finally, all suited up in raingear, boots, toque (beanie if you’re American) and gloves I was ready to go.  No wait, I need my camera!  Ok, plastic bag over camera, lens and flash done clumsily with my popsicle stick fingers and now I was ready.

I made my way to the mud pit as I knew if nothing else I’d get something decent there.  Racers seemed genuinely giddy about riding through this pool of water and mud. Smiles all around.  Two hours later, another pair of gloves later and many laps around the course later, my body was succumbing to the exhaustion of the race, and my arms to the weight of my camera, long lens and flash combo.  I made a mental note to use a shorter/lighter lens and no flash next time.  Maybe a point and shoot, I thought.  Obviously I was becoming delirious.

When I started editing my images I could see that I had made some equipment choices that might not have been ideal for the weather conditions and that I didn’t cover the race as thoroughly as I thought I should have.  I chalked it up to fatigue from the effort I had put into my race.  Should I push that hard every race?  Probably I should, but then I worry that my photography will suffer.  Wow, what a dilemma.  I have two races left to solve that conundrum.

Getting my new Brodie Romax really muddy. Photo © John Denniston 2011

To see more photos visit my Flickr site. If it’s a great blow-by-blow race report you want, read this from the race organizer.

Read more.. Monday, November 14th, 2011

Available Light

Green everywhere (Josh Weiss of Daryl Evans)

I couldn’t wait until the Escape Velocity GP of ‘Cross in Port Coquitlam.  I had just acquired a new CX bike last week and was itching to try it out on a real course.  The parcours at Lions Park was well-suited to my style of riding, not too many steep pitches or long, leg-numbing straight stretches.  Jak New and the GarneauEvolution crew did a great job of designing the course on a relatively small piece of real estate.  There were plenty of tight, technical twisty bits and some nasty pea gravel to run (or ride) through.  My Brodie Romax performed remarkably well and I felt better than I had in my previous races this year.  I think the adrenalin rush of riding a new bike in a race for the first time might have had something to do with that.  I still finished close to the bottom, but again was able to overtake my new nemesis du jour,  Margaret, since Maggie C-L was a no-show.  She’s apparently resting up to whip my behind at Local Ride’s Pumpkin Cross in a couple of weeks. Both these young ladies amaze me in the way they have already mastered so many of the techniques required to race cyclocross.  My twenty year old son raced for the first time in two years and finished second in the Cat. 4 group.  Youth!

Photos were my next priority and since the light was so pleasing, diffused with just enough brightness to create some contrast, I left my strobes in my bag, cranked up my ISO to around 1600 and started shooting.  Everything seemed very green.  The grass, the moss-covered trees, Kim Steed, everything.

Kim Steed

In order to keep riders sharp, I always try to shoot with a shutter speed at 1/1250 or higher.  The higher the better, and I just keep adjusting my ISO until I get the desired  speed.  Of course when you get these photos into your post editing software, some sharpening and noise reduction are required, but I always feel comfortable shooting at 1600 ISO or even 2500.  Not having to set up strobes (flash units) allowed me the freedom to walk the course and find more shooting positions.

The Elite/Masters start

I think Andrew Pinfold thought I was crazy standing inside the tape to get this shot of the Elite men’s start.  They went by me at about 40 km/hr!

Sven Sturm

Kevin Noiles

Bleach by-pass preset from Nik Color Efex 4 and tweeks in Lightroom (Josh Weiss)

I have been experimenting (actually playing around) with some trial versions of different software including Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to see what results I can get with different digital filters and presets.  I have been using these in conjunction with my standard image editing software, Lightroom.  Some of the effects I can achieve would take me hours in Photoshop and I’m just not that interested in spending too much time on a “look”.  Let me know what you think.  You can see a similar effect, with off-camera lighting, here.

That’s it for now but you might actually see a non-cyclocross post from me here next week.

Read more.. Tuesday, October 11th, 2011