Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pond Skimming at the Canyons

After a bit of a letdown at the aerial jumping and even worse at the half pipe competition (so boring, no pictures) we found what is perhaps the best event here in Park City. We rode up the gondola at The Canyons ski resort and watched the annual pond skimming competition.

There were about 100 competitors. They each dressed up in a costume, some quite elaborate. Then they skied or snowboarded down the hill, went off a tiny jump, and tried to skim across a pond that was 100 feet long and filled with very, very cold water. Insane! Hilarious! Perhaps the best was a large clown on a snowboard that made a perfect cut and drenched the entire panel of judges. Others included vikings, Santa, Sponge Bob, William Wallace, a trash can, Pooh and Tigger, a bride and groom from Beetlejuice, a box of wine, a princess, an elf, ZZ Top, a ninja, and a girl who filled out her bikini quite well.

There were so many pictures that I decided to post a slideshow instead. It is worth a minute or two to watch. To see bigger pictures, click here. This was unquestionably one of the most entertaining things I have seen in quite a while.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Arial ski jumping - a more interesting view

Julie and I went to the Utah Olympic Park to watch some ski jumping. It wasn't as impressive as several of the competitions we have seen, but there were a few Olympic caliber competitors.

Some go very, very high.

The amount of twisting, flipping and grabbing they can do before landing is impressive.

But perhaps most interesting was when things didn't go exactly as planned....

This wasn't bad.

This was definitely worse.

Hell, you can't even tell where this guy went.

My personal favorite.

The worst fall was from one of the female competitors. She took a vicious fall.

The amazing thing was watching her pop up, go up the hill and get her ski and then promptly ski to the bottom. Being young is wonderful. Being young and athletic is better. Being flexible seems to be the key though.

The three winners in the men's group. It was being televised for the Versus network.

And as we left and walked up the hill, we got to see a bit of the younger males from Generation Huh? Notice the ski pants falling off their hips. They were tugging at their low riders all the way up the hill.

I wanted so very badly to see this guy trip.

A good event, but not a terribly impressive level of competition.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A photo kinda day

The Salt Lake Tribune has a birding column once a week. This past week they talked about the Sage Grouse and a birding trip on Saturday to visit a lek. A lek? This is a grouse gathering spot to pick up hot dates. It's kind of like the bar in a cheap hotel. The female grouse hang out, waiting to be impressed. The men get all spiffy and try to attract the women. I thought this would be a great photo opportunity, but didn't want to go with a big group.

The bad news is that the lek is only happening from the crack of dawn until the sun just barely gets a good start. Given that we live about an hour away, Jasper and I had to get an early start. This was a quick photo of the moon as we arrived at our destination.

The best shots came right at the very end of the activity. The sun was up as far as it was going to get which makes it a lot easier to get a picture that isn't blurry. Try shooting a 400mm lens in near dark without being able to use a tripod.

OK, start by fanning the tail and puffing up a bit.

Now, duck the head and puff out the boobs. Use the wings to look even bigger.

Pop those man-grouse boobs, puff out as big as possible, and give it all you've got!

If that didn't get her, she must not be worth it. Head off for other things.

Having a truck, a dog, tons of camera gear, and momentum, I decided to head over to the middle of the Great Salt Lake and visit Antelope Island. The first interesting thing I found was a life bird for me: a Chukar. There was a pair of them, but they ran so fast in random directions, I could never find a way to get them both in one shot.

Then I saw the antelope. Here is a small herd a long ways away. I am shooting this fully zoomed in with a 400mm lens and a 1.4 teleconverter. It is a good foot of lens.

Then I found one a bit closer. Still a long, long ways off.

Then I got ticked off. I found another one and spent 45 minutes slowly stalking him. It was literally step, stop, step, stop. This got me closer.

But with 45 minutes of painful, slow motion, I got a good shot. He's lucky I bring a camera and not a gun. By this point, I probably could have just thrown a rock and hit him.

The final animal I photographed today was the bison. If they are there, the main challenge is just trying to get the lighting right on something that dark without making the rest of the picture a blinding white flash.. I always struggle with this.

But what do you do when a full grown bison rolls over and wants his tummy rubbed?

What a ham!

It was a long day. Jasper and I drove 200+ miles over nine hours. He makes a great companion. He sat completely quiet, mostly with his head out the window about 30 feet from a bison, just sniffing as much air as he could suck in. He is a remarkable dog for wildlife photography. He's just so happy he got to go for the ride.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A whole new tool for photography

As a computer person, it has always ticked me off that every useful software tool seems to work by itself, not tied into any other. As a photographer, I am happy to see that this is getting changed in a BIG way. It gives us a whole new way to look at photographs and where they were shot. First, look through the pictures and enjoy them (or not) for what they are. Then pay special attention to the text at the end. That's the cool new part.

To start with, take one dog and his new red ball.

Add a ton of energy....

The result is a blinding flash of dog.

When the snow is firm, he can really get going!

Ah, now we come to the target, the red ball. What happens when you are running at 30 mph and get close to the target?

You lunge at it, and fly right by.

Hit the brakes hard!

Pivot, for a much more controlled attack.

I have taken a lot of these, but I just can't resist the snowball chasing dog with such a gorgeous background.

Now for the new stuff. I recently got a device that attaches to my Nikon D200. It is a little GPS that tells the camera exactly where it is. The camera is smart enough to record that as part of each picture. This is called Geo-tagging. More software is aware of these geo tags and ties them into mapping software. I uploaded these pictures from Picasa to Google Web Albums (with one click of a button).

Click here to look at the web album.

At the bottom left corner of the page, you should see a box called Photo Locations. Click View Map. You should see a boring map, but with little pictures showing where each photo was taken. Hitting the plus sign will zoom you in a bit.

Now, much more interesting if you have Google Earth installed. (If you don't, you should. Perhaps the coolest freeware on the Internet today). Click "Back to Album View" at the top of the map. Back in the Photo Locations box, click "View in Google Earth". This takes a bit to download the instructions to Google Earth and start the program. Now you get a much better view of the landscape, with the little pictures overlaying it. You can click on the pictures to see them. You can zoom in an out on the landscape. Also, there should be a box (mine is on the left) called "Places". Each picture is listed under Temporary Places. Click on a picture and you can see exactly where it was taken.

Play with this and you will be amazed at all you can do. Finally, things working together nicely: camera + GPS + Picasa + Google Web Albums + Google Earth. Yeah!

By the way, our house wasn't quite done when the Google Earth picture was taken.

Skiing at Snowbasin

Julie and I went skiing over at Snowbasin with our friends and neighbors, Bill and Loris. Snowbasin is about an hour away, north towards Ogden. This was where I got some of my better fall pictures this past year.

Here is Bill looking out into the valley.

The scenery looking up was as pretty as looking out at the valley. This was our view from our deck table at lunch.

Now this one you HAVE to double click on to see larger. If you look close, you can see ski tracks heading down into the rocks. Then you can see the tracks at the bottom where they landed what is probably a 60 foot cliff jump. Damn!

A shot of Julie, styling down the slopes. I've noticed that in almost every skiing picture of Julie, she has a big smile on her face. If you look close, you can tell that the snow coming off her skis isn't the famous fluffy Utah powder. Welcome to spring skiing and heavy afternoon snow/slush.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Close, but no cigar

Damn giraffe kicked my butt. Thanks to all who voted for my moose picture in the Nature Conservancy's photo contest, but the giraffe and bird teamed up for the big win. I knew I should have Photoshopped an eagle onto the top of the moose's antlers.

Final page:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Today's Quote

"Build a man a fire and he stays warm for one night. Set a man on fire and he stays warm for the rest of his life."

Very thoughtful.

Another fine day

We had about a foot and a half of snow over the past few days, but the skiing is much more like spring conditions. At least it keeps everything white and pretty. This is a picture od the Daly chutes at Deer Valley. Double-click on it to see it larger. You can see how many people have been skiing down through the chutes.

Another view of the chutes. If you look along the ridgeline about 25% in from the left, you can see two dots. Those are skiers.

This is Julie (hard to tell with helmets on). We were skiing on something a bit easier than Daly.

In some areas, the trees were packed with some combination of frost and snow. It was very pretty.

The next few days should warm up and start the melting phase again. Welcome to spring.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Playing with my mind

An e-mail flurry occurred recently with a collection of pictures of an albino moose and its two calves. The pictures were supposedly shot recently in the Round Valley area of Park City. Of course, I would love to grab some pictures of this moose and went off in search of, assisted by my specially trained moose fetching dog.

Turns out to be one of the few dozen (billion) hoaxes out on the Internet. The pictures are real (versus Photoshop), but they were taken in Whitefish, Montana. I started digging more when I didn't find them and I started thinking "why haven't others seen this moose?"

Live and learn.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Man's best friend

A joke from a friend:

A dog is truly a man's best friend. If you don't believe it, just try this experiment. Put your dog and your wife in the trunk of the car for an hour. When you open the trunk, who is really happy to see you?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Don't mess with the moose

OK, we know this already makes sense and we know they can be dangerous, but now we really, really know it. There is a family that lives about 150 yards down the hill from us. They let their two dogs out to roam a bit every day. The dogs play a bit, then come right back. Two days ago, one of them didn't return until hours later. He was beaten to a pulp by a moose and died the next day. As he was off without a human, there is no telling what created the conflict with the moose, but having seen Jasper chase one, I can imagine the moose being quite ticked off.

Everyone around here owns dogs and we all take advantage of the open space. Perhaps we need a local moose alert level, like "going to DefCon 1".

Think a good thought about Rupert the dog.