Cape Cod and Head of the Charles

I’ve had to travel to Boston recently for work, about once per month for a few months now.  I rarely get out to the East Coast, so this has been a treat for me.  Everything is just a little bit different and exciting, even the subway – the “T”.

It’s not really in Boston though.  I work and stay in Cambridge, across the Charles River.    As a bit of foreshadowing irony, my hotel room always has a great view of the river.  The crews are already out there rowing at dawn and are still going when I come back in the evening.

After finding out that my stepdaughter qualified for a race in the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta (the biggest regatta in the world!), I was thrilled that the weekend would coincide with a business trip.  My wife and I decided to make a bit of a vacation out of it and traveled out on the Friday before the races.  Since Saturday was for masters only, we chose instead to spend the day on Cape Cod, an area to which I’d never before been.

Of course there were lighthouses and seascapes and salty old locals hiding dark and ancient secrets, but the primary mission was to get lobster rolls.  We had a tip for the best offerings in Chatham, but that place was closed for the season.  Another tip lead us to another closed spot, and then eventually we learned that lobster rolls were just not to be had after Columbus Day.

Disappointed but undaunted, we ended up getting some delicious lobster salad at a local market and making our own lunch out of it.  After eating, and drinking a tremendous amount of New England coffee for which we did not care, we went sightseeing in Chatham and saw some amazing houses.

I could go on for pages with all the pictures of the postcard-perfect homes on the Cape.  Perhaps there’s another post idea in there, but for now I’ll just mention that an inordinate amount of homes on the Cape have names, some of which are some’at baffling.

Eventually we drove the entire length of the Cape, and the weather couldn’t have been nicer.  It was a spectacular Fall Saturday on Cape Cod.

On to the regatta!  We had to get up very early and leave our hotel in Hyannis.  It was a bit of a drive into Boston, and we had no idea what to expect at one of the largest spectator sporting events in the world.  Parking in that area is tough on a good day.  This was not a good day for parking.  But we managed to arrive on-site before the sun was even fully up and found a decent garage where the price wasn’t totally outrageous.  We had enough time to walk the entire course up to the Eliot bridge, where the carnival atmosphere was already in full swing.

That’s the Anderson Memorial bridge pictured above.  My camera and I ended up between it and the Eliot bridge.  The river was beautiful in the early morning light.  The bridges and foliage were spectacular.  The architecture is historic, of course, and we walked past the Harvard boathouse.  Being a junior in high school, the stepdaughter wouldn’t be rowing against their crew this year.

After walking the course, I found myself a great shooting position.  I have no control over the direction of the sun, and if the rowers are facing away from it, then all their faces will be in silhouette.  Normally there’s nothing I can do about that.  The Charles River, however, has so many turns in it that I could judge where the sun would be for the races with which I was concerned and position myself accordingly.

I setup on a bend where I could see the boats coming at me.  With several hundred entries, it wasn’t a given that I’d know when someone I cared about would be going by.  Unlike other regattas I’ve been to, they wore their bow numbers on the back of the bow position rower.  This made it much easier to see who was coming.

As soon as the boats passed me, I could photograph their faces in great light.  For me, this is key.  I already know what the racing shells look like; I don’t need or want a million pictures of boats.  I want to see facial expressions – passion, determination . . .

. . . yawning.  It’s a long stretch from the launch to the start, and things can get a little boring along the way.  This is my stepdaughter’s 8+ heading toward the start of the 3 mile course.

While the 8+ was navigating to the start, a quad on my stepdaughter’s team was racing by.

Eventually my stepdaughter came by.  There are 9 people in the 8+ boat.  Here, you can see the coxswain encouraging the crew to the finish.

This is just passed the 2 mile mark, so the crew would be pretty worn out by now.  And they still have about a mile to go.  Rowing is a grueling sport that takes as much mental toughness as it does physical skill and endurance.

Her boat came in 6th, out of 85 entries (in that one event!), and qualified for next year’s regatta.  I know they were hoping to medal, but that’s still a very good finish for the biggest regatta in the world.

So it was a pretty good race and trip overall.  Hopefully we’ll find a way to get back there next year.

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Zion National Park In the Spring

In the Spring of 2019, my entire family took a road trip from Washington, through Oregon and Utah, eventually to southern Arizona.  We then headed out to San Diego and drove up the Pacific Coast back home.  We had with us 2 toddlers, a baby, and, for part of the trip, 2 teenagers for the 17-day, 4100-mile journey.  This is part of that trip.

We could have planned this better.  Zion National Park is huge and diverse, and there are a lot of things to see and do.  It would be best experienced over the course of several days that included hiking and, perhaps, some camping.  We did none of that.  Instead, we allocated one day and spent most of that inside our car.

Also, it was overcast.  And we weren’t there for either golden hour near sunrise or sunset.

So, we could have planned it better.  Even so, there were still some impressive views from the road.

And we did get out of the car several times during our drive.  Since we didn’t feel it was fair for the kids to be stuck inside a vehicle the whole day, we hiked in a little bit off the road and found a nice and secluded stream.  Of couse, we weren’t prepared for this either, so, being a secluded area, we let the kids trip down to their undies and splash around in the water.

Opposite the little stream, there was a fairly shear wall of rock that Tommy decided to climb and get stuck on.  It all happened so fast, and none of the adults present were dressed to ford the stream and rescue him.  So, we figured that’s where he’d have to live from now on – on the side of a rock wall.  Fortunately, he was able to get himself down.

Spending “the day” at the park did not preclude the kids’ need for a little downtime.  So we interrupted our already limited visit with a return to the b-n-b for some naps.  We returned to the park later in the day and this time hopped on the tour bus that took us deeper inside.  Earlier in the day the lines to ride the bus were way too long to make this a reasonable option.  In the evening of a kind of crummy-weather day, we got right on.

Claire was especially looking like Cindy Lou Who at the time.  She loved riding the bus, and since we basically had the whole thing to ourselves, she could spread out a little bit.  We got out at a few of the stops to try to maximize our tour before there was no light left.  I forget which stop at which we got out and walked around quite a bit.  Our day was getting kind of long at that point, so it was a mellow time.

By the time we got back to the parking lot, the clouds had cleared enough to get a little bit of sunset light.  I’m not sure I’d describe it as a spectacular sunset in Zion National Park, but the sun was, in fact, setting and we were still inside the park.

After Zion, we drove south to Sedona.  The landscape of southern Utah into northern Arizona is probably some of the most beautiful in the country.

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Bryce Canyon in the Spring

In the Spring of 2019, my entire family took a road trip from Washington, through Oregon and Utah, eventually to southern Arizona.  We then headed out to San Diego and drove up the Pacific Coast back home.  We had with us 2 toddlers, a baby, and, for part of the trip, 2 teenagers for the 17-day, 4100-mile journey.  This is part of that trip.

We approached Bryce Canyon through Dixie National Forest.  As much as we wanted to reach our destination for the day, we had to stop for a while and check out this gem.

We were a completely full car at this point, and our two teenagers hiked to the top of hill beside the highway.  That’s them waving at us in the picture below.

As beautiful as this place is, it was only an unplanned stop on our way to our planned destination of Bryce Canyon.

We probably could have spent hours just exploring this one area, but we’d only allotted ourselves a few hours total for Bryce, so we had to move on.  My advice for anyone else undertaking a trip like this would be to give yourself much more time than you think you need at each stop.  Throughout the 2-week trip, we should have reduced our stops by half.

As we approached Bryce, we passed through the famous arch in the rocks, and I was allowed to wait by the side of the road until there were no cars passing by.  Also, it didn’t escape our attention that there was still plenty of snow laying around the landscape.  We’d seen the amazing red rocks of Northern Arizona before, but never imagined their majesty juxtaposed with white snow.  Bryce Canyon was breathtaking.

We also didn’t know how similar the landscape of Southern Utah is to our beloved Northern Arizona.  I’m probably not the first person toe liken Bryce Canyon to a miniature Grand Canyon.

The time spent here could have been more challenging with the kids because it was sunny but fairly cold.  This was supposed to be a trip out of the Pacific Northwest gloom into the Southwest sunshine.  Unprepared as we were, we didn’t know that it would still be snowy in this part of Utah.  Fortunately we happened to have warm (enough) clothes for the kids that we kept having to put on a take off throughout the day.

At four, two and not-quite-one, the kids aren’t much into sightseeing.  I’m not sure they understand why we adults like looking at trees and rocks and stuff for as long as we do.  Still, they were pretty patient, as far as young kids go, and even posed for pictures with us.

Leaving Bryce, someone in our group had the idea that there was something special waiting down the highway away from our next stop.  I suppose it depends on what your definition of ‘special is, but there was definitely not any particular attraction waiting for us.  At this point we were tired and hungry and still a few hours away from where we needed to be for the night, so it was kind of tense for awhile.  When we finally decided to stop and head back toward town, we were still in the middle of incredible natural beauty.

Our destination for the night was a Bed-n-breakfast near Zion National Park, and it was about 80 miles away from where we were.  Although night was already fast-approaching, we had to stop and eat first.

We ended up at a place in the city of Bryce called Ruby’s Inn, where baby Ben picked up a book and read some useful tips for the rest of trip.

Eventually, after dark, we reached our day’s resting spot.  The next day we got up early to head out for that day’s activity.

But that story will have to wait for another time.

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4th of July, 2019

Last night was one of my favorite nights for photography of the whole year.  The 4th of July is the one time I get to shoot fireworks, and I look forward to it very much.  We always get a spectacular show here on Vashon Island; the only variable is where I get to shoot from.  This year, we were invited to a client’s house on the island with a close, direct view of the launching barge.  Before the official show even began, the next-door neighbors were setting off huge shells of their own.

I wasn’t sure if that dock would be a welcome foreground or annoying distraction.  That’s up to you, I suppose, but I like it.

The biggest challenge this year was that there was almost no wind.  This means that smoke built up as the show went on, and I think that takes away from the color and clarity of the bursts.  Actually, there was already a pretty good amount of smoke between me and the show because of the neighbors’ pre-func celebration.

You’re not seeing all the smoke in these pictures because Lightroom’s new(ish) Dehaze feature works very well for reducing its appearance.

This year marked the first time that Tommy (now 4) actually sat through the show. He’s come close before but always lost his nerve at the last second.  He stayed through the whole thing this year and really enjoyed.  As a bonus, Claire (almost 3) and little Baby Ben (who will be 1 in two days) also watched the entire show.  It was a full-family affair.

Once again, Vashon Island’s little fireworks show did not disappoint.  I’ve never been out to see the display at the Space Needle, and at this rate I probably never will.

If you want to learn my technique for shooting fireworks, please feel free to check the little tutorial I put together. It’s totally free!

How to Shoot Fireworks

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Spring Season for Crew

The Spring season for crew has all but come and gone now.  It was another fast and busy couple of months that flew by.  Like last year, it started with our club’s own regatta, the Burton Beach Invitational.  This would be the second annual occurrence of that prestigious event.

It was cold and wet and a very long day, but another success.  Only one rower went into the water this year, better than last year’s three rowers.  So that was another improvement.  Of course, no one was actually injured, and all the other events went off without incident.

Our club is quite a bit bigger this year, with several new, younger rowers.  We have eighth-graders through high school seniors and no lack of enthusiasm on the parts of either rowers or parents.

At different points during this season, our club sent rowers to New Zealand, China and Canada.  Our family and rower didn’t make it to any of those international events due to other commitments.

In preparation for Regionals, we were once again invited to the Vancouver Lake Scrimmage.  This is the same course as the NW Regional Championships, and the event is one week before that, so it’s a great opportunity for our team to practice.  And the weather couldn’t have been better.

Even though it’s just for practice, it’s still a 2k course and can be challenging for our youngest rowers.

Next, we went back down to Vancouver (city in Washington State) for the actual NW Regional Championships.  It’s a very different atmosphere from the scrimmage the week before.  For Regionals, there is an ocean of people at the lake, with events starting every few minutes for the entire weekend. The weather was threatening rain almost the whole time.

Last year our club sent a pair to Nationals, so of course that crew was competing again this year.  Once again they qualified and will be a stronger force at Nationals this year.

We had a women’s single qualify as well, so we’ll be sending 3 rowers to Sarasota for the National Championships.  Technically, Regionals is the last regatta of the Spring season.  Even though the season feels short, it is emotional.  When it’s over, there is both a sense of relief and loss.  Here’s a shot of some of our parents capturing a group photo of the rowers.

Next up is the National Championships in Florida, which I will unfortunately not be attending.  After that, our rower will be home for only 2 days before heading out to Connecticut for the entire summer to train with the Junior National Team.

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