Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jasper found some moose

While we were out for our morning exercise, Jasper ran across two moose. The good news is that he was so focused on the ball we were playing with, he didn't even see them. I got him turned around chasing the ball the other direction before they got upset. After taking him back to the house, I grabbed my camera and headed back up the hill.

There were two, although it is hard to tell them apart in these pictures. My best guess is a mom and a one-year old.

They have to work hard for any food they find. It has to be so difficult to gather enough food to keep such a large animal alive in such cold weather.

They are pretty in an odd sort of way.

And how do you know when you are probably too close? Even with a long lens, this probably fits. This shot isn't cropped at all.

They were very patient with me, and I with them. It took about an hour of quiet stalking to get my shots. Even then, it is incredibly hard to get clear shots in these Gambel Oak thickets. They are almost always behind something and it is tough to maneuver through all the snow without upsetting them.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cross country skiing

Avoiding the crowds of Christmas week at the ski resorts, Julie and I headed over to the corss country ski track.

Gorgeous day and great exercise.

Next we try skate skiing.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Merry Christmas

We had a pretty low-key Christmas this year. No traveling at the holidays. No house guests.

Lots of the locals make a habit out of skiing on Christmas morning, but with all the people in town this week, we figured it would be pretty crowded. We headed to Park City with our friends Miriam and Greg, getting there at 9:00 to beat the rush.

Rush? What rush? We had the ski hills to ourselves. It was cold, but the skiing was nice and the lift lines were non existent. What was supposed to be 2 hours became 4, followed by lunch.

The resorts are still struggling with how to make the best skiing experience without our usual amount of snow. It was really odd to see the groomers out moving snow when the resort is open to skiers. Notice the line off the back of the machine. This keeps it from rolling down the steeper slopes.

The pets were a bit bummed about us leaving them at home for Christmas. The cat recovered when we opened our presents and let her play in the boxes and wrapping paper.

Miriam and Greg came over in the evening and we cooked our Christmas meal together. It was wonderful and a nice end to a nearly perfect day. The nearly part comes from me whacking my knee on a mogul run. It's tender today, but nothing serious.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our little neighbor

I only got one quick (slightly out of focus) shot before he took off, but this fox was out in our front yard. He had been sitting, listening to the ground, almost certainly hunting for mice. He has fluffed out quite the warm coat.

I was actually a lot quieter than the camera.

Julie suggested putting some food out for him, but I'm not sure what you feed a fox.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cross country ski day

During the winter, our local golf course and club house become the center for cross country skiing. Today they did a "locals appreciation day". For $15, we got rentals, a track pass, a one hour lesson and lunch.

I went over with the three lovely ladies below: Loris Benson, Julie Joyce, and Miriam Mason. Everyone did really well and we all left with the intent of getting out more often.

Me, standing next to a pond that has eaten several of my golf balls.

When we were getting our lessons, they didn't mention anything about dodging geese.

This seems like a great alternative to running during the winter. Today I did classic skiing. I want to go over and try skate skiing. Then I hope to pick one and try to get good at it.

Glad to have missed it

When you are a Mountain Host at Park City, you have some good days and some bad. Most of the bad ones come from cold, windy weather, but they can also be driven by external events. For instance, what if a half dozen bus loads of inexperienced teenage snowboarders show up? Or what if one of the lifts stops working?

Hmmm, let's take that last one and run with it a bit....
  • Instead of a small lift, let's make it a high-speed quad.
  • And let's have it be the first day that lift and terrain are open, so lots of people want to come ski there.
  • And we'll pick one of the very few lifts at the resort where the bottom of the lift is down low in a valley, over the ridge from the resort base.
  • And let's make sure the lift is really dead, so that instead of running it slowly to get everyone off, you have to rope each and every person off every chair.
  • Oh, and because it is in the valley, you have to get people down an access road that isn't for skiers. The access road leads to a real road where you have to bus everyone back to the base.
Can this get worse?
  • We can add the GM of Killington, a sister resort as a passenger on the lift.
  • Oh hell, let's make sure the head/owner of POWDR Corp, which owns Park City and six or seven other resorts, is also on the lift.
It was nice skiing with some friends over at Deer Valley yesterday and missing the whole event!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Neighborhood lights

Our neighborhood is beginning to mature. One side effect is more people are decorating their houses with lights at Christmas time.

This is our deck railing filled with icicle lights.

We have a fair number of trees in the front yard, but I only decorated two. This year I switched to the new LED lights. They eat less power and last longer.

Some neighbors made their decks look festive.

Some went all out and had professionals wrap their house in lights.

Then there is this poor little Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Very sad.

When I finished taking pictures of the lights, I decided to try a shot of the stars. After a few experiments, I found some pretty cool effects with a 2-3 minute exposure and some trees.

I hope to get out and take some more like this. Seems like there are some really nice photos to be captured. Just a matter of learning how to get them.

The good and bad of winter

Our friends Miriam and Greg are in town. I skied with Greg on Thursday and today Julie, Miriam, Greg and I all skied over at Deer Valley. It's always fun.

One the darker side of winter, snow then warm, then cold, equals icicles. They can be a bit of a headache.

Or a bigger headache. Notice the full sized door for perspective.

... and winter has only just begun.

Hey east coast people, send us some of your snow!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Julie and I are pig proof

Now that the queues have cleared, we finally got our chance to get a swine flu vaccine. We even got our choice of shots or nasal. We both went with shots, although it really didn't seem to matter.

Better safe than sick.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yeah snow!

Since early November, we only had 8 inches of snow, and that was measured over at the resort. Dry, brown and sad.

Over the past two days, we had 28 inches of snow. It makes all the difference in the world. The ski resorts are happy. I'm happy. Jasper is way beyond happy.

Julie and I went snow shoeing yesterday because it was still snowing hard and we figured the skiing wouldn't be all that good. We talked to Bill Benson, who spent the better part of the day on the mountain and he described it as a skiing disaster. Skiing in deep snow in low visibility on a shallow base can test even the best of skiers. Lots of people out there weren't the best.

A lesson: don't let the camera flash when it is snowing. The flakes light up much brighter than anything else.

The snow comes up to Jasper's chin. The only way he gets around is to hop like a bunny.

Today the snow was much better for skiing. It had settled a bit and you could see. We got some great powder runs in as they opened new parts of the mountain. That's Julie and Loris Benson.

And to end, a very easy Where's Waldog?

He's the black lump cruising through the snow that drifted to head height. He would leap up for air every once in a while. Does anyone know of a doggie snorkel?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Speed skating at the Utah Olympic Oval

Another stop in my travels around Utah shooting the incredible variety of entertainment. This week it was a trip down into the Salt Lake valley to the Utah Olympic Oval. One of the positive results of holding the Olympics in town is that you have all these "leftover" facilities.

There is a series of competitions called the Speed Skating World Cup. This is the last competition of the series before the 2010 Olympics. These are the best skaters in the world and many of them were trying to qualify for their country's team.

How fast were they? I watched four events. They either broke two or three world records and another half dozen national records. They talk about this oval as being the "Fastest Ice on Earth". It is. The high elevation and low humidity means thinner air. Thinner air means lower resistance.

So, I got to see the best skaters in the world, breaking records left and right, for free. The entire event was free to the public. Go figure.

Not only that, because I was there Friday afternoon instead of the busier weekend sessions, I was able to access the ice in ways that I shouldn't have. By wandering around with an "I belong here attitude" and a decent camera, I was able to go where only the athletes and professional photographers should be. I wandered around the oval, just feet from the ice.

The challenge is how to shoot decent pictures. In general, indoor lighting and fast moving action simply don't go together. It is extremely difficult to get enough light so that you can use a fast shutter speed. A normal 1/60th of a second gets you something like this.

Cool, and kind of artsy, but only for a picture or two. Then you actually want to see what the blurry things are.

The next few shots are of Shani Davis. He won both gold and silver medals in the 2006 Olympics in Turin. He is FAST! He did ok in the 500 meter race, but crushed his own world record in the 1500.

And now for some odds and ends, mostly odds.

At the end of every race, a pair of Zambonis came out to resurface the ice. I guess it makes sense, but I wasn't ready to see them come rumbling out.

While the ice was being repaired, we got to listen to School House Rock. A great opportunity for a local group of kids to get a gig.

And finally, my ongoing case of lens envy. The pros all have their monster, light-sucking, high speed, fast focusing lenses. Are they helpful? I had 600-700 pictures that were either blurry from motion or out of focus (slow lens). Of course, for somewhere between $6,000 and $12,000 I could get one of the spiffy lenses.

It is hard to see, but the guy on the left has a lens I had never seen before. Not sure what it was, but I am quite sure you couldn't snag it for $12k. I would guess $25k.

As I keep photographing different events, I slowly get better and better with a camera. Practice makes perfect! ... or at least it makes improvement.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I was doing my mountain host job at Park City today. The temperature never got above 10. Two days ago I blogged that tonight's temperature was supposed to be -1. Not ones to leave well enough alone, they have adjusted it to -14. Pretty sure that is the coldest we have seen since moving to Park City.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I give up

Here is what our streets look like.

Here is what the sidewalks look like.

There is just no way in hell I can train for a marathon. Running on ice is scary. When the ice melts to slush, it gives new meaning to the definition of unpleasant. When there is salty, 20 degree slush on a layer of ice, I have to quit.

So I am canceling my trip to Phoenix in January. I hope to keep in shape this winter by skiing, show shoeing, cross country skiing and some indoor biking. Perhaps better condition in the spring will lead to faster marathons during the summer and fall.


How Tequila works

A very clever picture sent from a friend, Bill Benson. I've stayed away from massive tequila binges for years, but I can confirm that the physics and optics in the picture are spot on.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A wee bit chilly

Our normal winter low temperatures tend to be around 10-15. We are in a bit of a cold spell. The forecast:
  • Last night: -2 (actual)
  • Tonight: 4
  • Tuesday: 1
  • Wednesday: -1
  • Thursday: 2
Throw in some wind and the wind chill factor will be well below zero.

Finally on Friday we should see a warm front, with a low of 12 and a high of 24. You shouldn't live here if you mind the cold.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Bobsledding gone bad

Yesterday's blog entry included some successful runs. This is the worst of what I saw.

A nice start. Looks good and the Canadians are fast.

The driver hops in successfully.

Everyone else starts to pile in.

Three out of four seems ok.

The challenge is how you ctach up with a sled that is accelerating down the ice in a hurry.

On, but not in.

Instead of his normal view of the driver's back, this looks like a much better angle. Unfortunately, the 80+ mph travel though highly banked turns might make this ride a bit rough.

He got in just before the first turn, but they had a terrible time for the run.

Everyone was laughing. Photographers, officials, athletes, .... The flailing made it look terribly awkward and wonderfully entertaining.