Victoria residents like to make use of the water for their activities. While we were there – and despite the weather being far from friendly – there were plenty of people out on the water. Their choice of activities varied. We had some stand up paddle boarders, there were kayakers, canoes and what looked like dragon boat teams but maybe that isn’t the right term for this type of boat. Wherever I was wandering, there was always someone out on the water. They managed to avoid the ferries and floatplanes without too much trouble!
The arrival of an NHL franchise in Seattle has prompted the rebuild of the Key Arena. Part of Seattle Center, Key Arena is a pyramid structure. It did not have the capacity for supporting an NHL franchise so a major rebuild was undertaken. The roof structure was kept but everything else was rebuilt. They gutted the place and dug down into the ground to effectively double the capacity of the facility.
It opened in mid October. There was a pre-opening event with the Foo Fighter playing but the official opening was a Coldplay concert on the Friday followed by the Seattle Kraken home opener on the Saturday. On the Sunday, they had an open house for people to come and check out the arena. There was no likelihood of me missing something like that. However, the weather was not looking great. They had a market and some bands outside but the rain also decided it wanted to be there. This was not a problem inside the arena but it did make the outside a bit less appealing. Still, it was fun to check out the new event space.
The ice hockey arena was open to view rather than covered up for other events. There were a couple of players working on the ice for a while but it was mostly empty. The Zamboni machines did come out to polish the ice though. There are plenty of interesting food and drink spaces around the venue. Pricing will be what you expect of a sports arena but they did look a lot nicer than you might see at older venues. The structure of the building has been preserved to some extent and you can see interesting shapes in the roof line. Outside it is easier to appreciate the old roof structure. Inside they have all sort of space for lighting and show installations and there is acoustic treatment for the roof to make it work as a concert venue.
It is now renamed the Climate Pledge Arena. The group that is supporting it is significantly backed by Amazon. They have designed the location to make use of renewable resources as much as possible and it is supposed to be incredibly environmentally sound. No doubt that will annoy some people – if you are annoyed by somewhere not polluting somewhere, have a think about your priorities. The venue already provided good income to the city and the new operators have to provide that income to the city whatever they achieve. This is a nice change from the usual approach of cities subsidizing major sports franchises. We shall see how they get on.
After our hike around Whatcom Falls Park, we headed down to Boulevard Park between Fairhaven and Bellingham to have our lunch. We sat by the water watching the activities out on the water. While we sat eating our sandwiches, someone came zipping along the shore on an electric surfboard with a hydrofoil. They were certainly pretty quick and headed off in to the distance. It was a while before they came back the other way which leads me to believe these things must have a pretty decent battery capacity. To any surfers reading this, have you given one of these things a go?
Back to my time shooting bike racing at Shelton for this post. Today I am focusing on wheelies. Powerful bikes are able to pull wheelies without any trouble but, while racing, that is not something that people try to do. However, while accelerating away from the start or from a slow corner, it is not unusual for the riders to get the front wheel off the ground. It is usually pretty brief so you aim to get it quickly.
When the races are over, it is a different story. As the riders run a final lap after the checkered flag, if they see you watching or holding a camera, it is not unusual for them to pull the front wheel up for an extended period. It makes for a cool shot if you are ready. These shots are a selection of wheelies O got during my (exceedingly hot) day out shooting the racing.
Having looked through the catalog of images after finding the elevated view of Victory Field, I came across the shots I took when I went with some work colleagues to a minor league game there. It was a lot of fun although I have no idea how the game was. Watching baseball at a stadium is an enjoyable experience that happens alongside a baseball game as far as I am concerned.
The sun was setting as the game got underway and we had some nice light in the sky. I took some HDR and panoramic shots which I have been able to reprocess using the latest versions of Lightroom as opposed to the one available at that time. I also got a few shots of the players at work and had a wander around the perimeter of the field to see how it looked from different angles. Looks like I was using a rather wide angle lens at some point too.
It is quite amazing to me the cornering that motorbike racers achieve. When I am out on my bicycle, I am always wondering how well the grip will hold up in tight bends at speed but I am not anything close to the cornering angles these guys achieve. Sure, they have a prepared surface and custom rubber for the tires but even so, it is amazing how they push them to the limits (and occasionally beyond).
Watching them come through the corners, it was a regular thing to see the knee pads down on the surface of the track. Some of them adopted a far more aggressive approach, though, and the occasional elbow could be seen getting down to the surface. I wonder how that feels through the leathers and whether it is a good feeling or an unsettling one.
To see these guys coming in to the bends and then heading away from you with the bike and body cranked so far over and the throttle being modulated to keep just enough power on to maximize the speed out of the bend was so impressive. Riding motorbikes has never been something I have been terribly interested in but watching someone that knows what they are doing extract so much from them was very cool.
I was scrolling through some shots of ships when I came across these pictures of the baseball stadium in downtown Indianapolis. It sits next to the football stadium and is just south of the hotel we were staying in on a previous trip. There was an evening game underway, and the fading light provided a lovely view of everyone having an evening at the game. I have been to Victory Field for a game on another visit when some of my work colleagues wanted to check it out. I do have some pictures from that trip but perhaps they can have their own blog post.
Photographing motorbikes means trying to get the shutter speed nice and low to make the background blur out and give the strong impression of speed. When you are a distance from the track, you might have to go quite low in the shutter speeds to get the effect you want. There is an alternative. Get really close to the track. Even with quite a high shutter speed, there is plenty of blur. Indeed, the chances of getting a sharp shot get quite low unless you take the speed up a bit (or shoot a lot and go with the probabilities saving you).
I went to the Turn 5 location at Shelton a couple of times while I was there. The marshal station is right in the apex of the bend and it is slightly above track level. Standing beside it gives you a view down on the riders as they come by. I tried it out once in the morning. It was good to get some practice but the light was behind the riders so it wasn’t ideal.
I went back again later in the day when the light was slightly more favorable. I shot with both a long lens as they were approaching and with a wider lens as they passed right beneath me. The speed with which they corner means that the panning becomes more of a whip motion and it is hard to pull off reliably. Plenty of efforts were made to try and get a good shot of the rider while conveying the sense of speed.
Motorsports are dramatic enough when things are going normally but there is also the scope for more drama if things end up going awry. I saw a few of the riders end up on their sides as they came in to a sharp left hander with too much speed but these were normally relatively benign affairs with some bruises and scratched up panels on the bikes. However, early in the day, I had one more dramatic event.
I was up near Turn 5 when I heard something going wrong. I had the camera up already and the bike and rider came into the viewfinder without me really controlling things. I did then manage to track them as they headed off into the grass separately and at some speed. The bike cartwheeled around while the rider slid and rolled. He did not spring back to his feet and it took a while for the marshals to get to him and to help him up.
He walked gingerly to the marshal station to await someone coming to pick him up later. While he seemed basically intact, he certainly didn’t seem well after the incident. I didn’t hear about his condition so I hope he was okay after a bit of time to recover.
An old friend of mine from Chicago runs a website that covers a lot of motor racing. He asked me whether I would be interested in shooting any events that are out this way and I was happy to do so. The first good opportunity came up when MotoAmerica held motorbike racing at Shelton. I had never been to Shelton before. It is the other side of Olympia from us so not a long drive but not that close. Until this event came up, I had no idea that there was a motor racing circuit there.
Called Ridge Motorsports Park, it is a nice circuit which doubles back on itself quite a bit and makes use of some significant terrain changes. At the end of one straight is a sharp left handed which immediately drops off the side of the hill and transitions in to a right handed and then a left 180 that brings you back to the start finish straight. It reminded me of the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca.
Unfortunately, the race weekend was the same weekend that the Pacific Northwest experienced heat unlike anything it normally sees. The temperature at Shelton was 105F. Since I was spending the majority of the day outside walking around the track carrying my cameras with me, this meant I was drinking a ton of liquid. Fortunately, I could get restocked at the media center and the marshal stations also had coolers with plenty of drinks available so, while it was hot a tough, I wasn’t running out of drinks.
I have shot car racing in the past but this was my first time with bikes. They were interesting to shoot and I shall probably have some other posts about specific things I shot. One thing I found out as I went through the shots, though, was that only a few types of shot work. When shooting at the chicane, I would shoot them as they entered, transitioned and left. The transition shots looked interesting in the viewfinder but were nothing on screen. The sequence would be good video but, without the context of the motion, a waste of a shot.
Some other angles had a similar level of boring about them. You need to convert the motion and the intensity of the action. Seeing how far over the riders are lying during the corners is something else as well. It is hard to believe that they can maintain traction when so far over. Longer shots were appealing to get a different perspective, particularly when riders end up pulling the front wheel up as they power out of corners. However, hot asphalt is not your friend over longer distances so, if you want a sharp shot, you have to be close. That did have the upside of meaning there was no point lugging the 500mm around with me in that heat!
It was a bunch of fun to shoot and I would happily do it again. Dropping down to really low shutter speeds was a must for most of the shots. I used a polarizer all the time in order to avoid the aperture being super small (showing all my sensor dust) and to also address the harsher reflections that shooting in the middle of the day brings. I think a return to the Ridge is also worth a go.