I recently bought some replacement valve cores for my bicycle tires. I notice that part of the core was bent so decided to replace it. It is a quick job to change the core over and, prior to throwing the old core away, I figure I would play with the macro lens. I first too a picture of the still assembled core trying to angle it to show how badly bent the part was. Then I figured I could take the core apart altogether. Another focus stack and I could show the parts separated. I love the detail you get of the metal surfaces when you shoot macro.
For decades, the dominant feature of the Seattle waterfront has been the Alaskan Way Viaduct. This carried Route 99 from the south side of the city along the waterfront before diving into the Battery Street Tunnel and then popping above ground to continue to the north. It was a double deck viaduct with the northbound traffic on top and the southbound traffic on the lower level. The viaduct suffered damage in the Nisqually Earthquake and further investigation showed just how vulnerable it was so the replacement process commenced.
The replacement is a tunnel. Building the tunnel under the city was not an easy task. A tunnel boring machine named Big Bertha was brought in to cut the tunnel. Unfortunately, at some point it struck a hard object which damaged the main bearing for the cutting head. A hole had to be dug and the machine extracted, repaired and reinserted. This added years to the project but finally, in January 2019, the viaduct was closed. A three-week period was set aside between closure of the viaduct and opening of the tunnel to allow reconfiguration of the approaches at each end.
On the weekend before the tunnel opened for traffic, WSDOT held celebrations. A fun run took place on the Saturday and the Sunday included a bike ride. This included riding both directions through the new tunnel as well as both directions on the old viaduct. I signed up to take part. Tons of cyclists also took the opportunity and the event was sold out well in advance. The number of people mean things were pretty crowded and it could be congested at times. The long descent in the opening tunnel section could have been quite fast but it wasn’t possible to speed along given how many people there were.
The new tunnel sections were nice and well let. We actually rode quite a distance south after popping out near the Coast Guard base in the harbor and the wind was in our faces but that meant the run back was a lot easier. The second part of the tunnel had to be a climb given the descent we had made originally but it wasn’t too bad. Then we turned and were directed on to the streets to enter the Battery Street Tunnel.
This was a far more dismal experience. It is a dark and dirty tunnel and I was pleased to get through it quickly. We actually went through it the wrong way and we went south on the northbound part of the viaduct before diverting off and coming back on the lower level. One last run through the dirty tunnel and we had completed the ride. As I exited, plenty of riders were just starting. It would have been possible to do it all again but I was happy to have done it and decided it was time to go home. Later that day a serious (for Seattle) snow storm swept in so we had been lucky to get the ride done without any disruption.
My friend Ben Kristy is a keen cyclist and his son has been competing well in various cycling events. As a result, Ben has been to a number of races and has shared a bunch of pictures of racers competing. This all triggered in my mind some cycling shots that I got quite a while back. Chicago held a criterium race series once a year for a number of years. I have no idea whether it is still taking place but I did go and watch it one year.
The races were held in Grant Park and made use of the roads around the park including Michigan Avenue. There were different classes or race and various age groups. Plenty of people came out to watch things but it wasn’t too crowded so it was possible to move around to see things from different locations. I had only shot cycling a couple of times before and never had I previously thought about what shots I wanted. Then I had just taken pictures of whatever was going on from where I was standing.
This time I tried various locations to get different perspectives on the riders. I tried getting low down and being both inside and outside the turns. Getting something that conveyed the speed at which they were going was what I was interested in. This is now quite a few years ago. If I were to do it again, I suspect I would have tried a bunch of other things but these shots I what I came out with on that day.
When we still lived in the UK, I took part in a charity bike ride. The ride was from London to Paris and was in aid of the Royal British Legion. Spread over 4 days, the first leg was from London to Dover and over on the ferry to Calais, the second leg was from Calais to Abbeville, the third was Abbeville to Beauvais and the last was Beauvais to Paris. The first leg was not a lot of fun. Eighty miles through the south east on some busy roads when you were pretty much left to your own devices was not too relaxing. The trip through France was a totally different story.
For our whole ride through France we were escorted by motor cyclists. It was like being in the Tour de France. As we approached, the traffic pulled aside and the motor bikes cleared our path. Red lights and stop signs meant nothing. In each town at which we stopped, the town would turn out to provide us with food and wine (not a good idea when there is a big climb straight after lunch) and entertainment. Everyone was unbelievably welcoming and we were constantly being cheered along by anyone we passed.
Each town we stopped overnight in would have a parade. The remembrance ceremony each time would be a really well supported event and I felt like I knew the Marseillaise by heart by the end of the trip. The first two days were eighty miles each, the third was a slightly easier seventy miles and the last day was under sixty. I had always thought of northern France as quite flat. I will never make that mistake again.
The final day was pretty impressive. We rode through the outskirts of Paris coming through areas I had heard of before but never visited. Then we were running in to the center of the city itself. The run up to l’arc de Triomphe with all of the traffic was an amazing feeling. The whole group together with our police escort stopped Paris traffic. We rode around the monument before parking our bikes and then walking up the Champs Elysée before holding a final remembrance ceremony under the arch itself. Quite an impressive event and one that really meant something after the effort to get there.
I recently read a very interesting book on flash photography specifically for Canon shooters. The book was by Syl Arena and he obviously has put a lot of time and effort into developing his technique and understanding the way the Canon flash system works. I don’t know whether a similar book exists for the Nikon shooters out there but, while a lot of the specifics in this book relate to the Canon technology, a lot of the techniques and concepts are equally applicable and might make the book worth a read.
Anyway, having read this book once through and picked at it a number of times for specific sections, I have become quite enthusiastic about experimenting with high speed sync and making the action pop out of the shot while de-emphasizing the background. Some of his examples had included skating and there is a skate park not too far from me that I am interested in trying out at some point soon.
However, the start of my experimentation has actually been some biking. A little way north of me in the city is a park called Clark Park that has some routes laid out by the local cyclists. The area is called The Gardens and is a partnership between the riders and the city. The routes include jumps and berms and I decided to try and check it out to see whether I could get any good shooting opportunities and to see how well I could implement some of the ideas in Syl’s book.
I contacted one of the guys who helps organize things and he was very welcoming about me coming down. I headed down one Sunday when a bunch of them were getting together. Unfortunately, the weather had not been good that week and the ground was wet under foot. Everyone was grabbing shovels and working on developing some of the runs. I grabbed a shovel and a wheelbarrow and got to work too. It has been a while since I did anything at could be considered real physical labor and the blisters and aching muscles that I had the next day were a testament to my easy lifestyle!
There was no riding that day and in the following weeks the weather was not helpful tending to dump a ton of rain every few days making it hard for anything to dry out properly. That combined with my own other activities meant I didn’t get a chance to go back for a while. However, finally the stars aligned again and I got to head back.
A bunch of guys were already there when I showed up and were starting to get some runs in. The jumps are very dramatic to look at and I suspect more dramatic when you riding toward them. There are a sequence of jumps along a run so the guys get up some momentum as they go. It all looks really cool.
I had a couple of flash units that I was triggering with an IR controller. This is something that is considered unreliable outside but, since we were under tree cover, it proved to be reliable provided I was pointing the right way. I did bring a long cable connection as a backup but didn’t need it on the day.
The guys were happy to try a few things for me as I experimented. I shot a lot of flash on the jumps and around a berm along with some ambient light shots. The tree cover meant those needed the ISO cranked way up but, even then, it was hard to get a good shot. However, some of them gave a good sense of the motion. I shot in manual with the exposure dialed down to make the background less apparent and then used high speed sync at about 1/400th of a second to illuminate the rider. This seemed to work quite well although I did end up taking the flash exposure compensation down to -1 stop.
I balanced the two flashes 2:1 with the foreground getting the greater proportion of the light in the rider’s face and the fill coming from behind. Next time I shall experiment a bit more with this. One of the tricky elements is finding a good spot to locate the flashes since the jumps are steep and slightly broken up at the edges. I had one flash on a Gorillapod and the other on a bean bag. The Gorillapod was the better solution and I will have to get another one at some point.
One other thing I experimented with while I was there was mounting a GoPro video camera on the hot shoe and shooting some video at the same time. This worked out okay but the sound of the shutter firing on the camera below tends to be a dominant sound. Some editing will be necessary with the music to blank that out. When I have done that, I shall put something up here.
For additional shots, go to the gallery at this link.