Red Star Enduro

What can I say about the Red Star Enduro, the lates race put on by Arkansas Enduro Series, except to say it was:

hot, muggy, humid, buggy, in the middle of nowhere, muddy trails, a slight goof with the first stage (the timing module hadn’t been placed where it was supposed to and so the stage had to start over again), beautiful light, quiet except for the cicadas, a too close encounter with a rattlesnake by a couple of riders (they’re fine, thankfully, except the snake attacked one of their bikes, biting clear down to the metal), a copperhead gently prodded off the trail on another stage, full creeks that the riders had to ford, and did I mention that the trails were muddy? And that the race was held on one of the hottest days of the year so far?

BUT!

It was fun as always, friends hollering out greetings as they rode past me, me cheering them on as I clicked their picture.

Just another party in the woods with bikes and friends.

Next up (and I’m pretty excited about this one) is the Coler Enduro. Talk about a party!

Bella Vista Enduro

The third installment of the Arkansas Enduro Series took place this last Sunday at the Back 40 mountain bike trails in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Much like the previous race held at Mt. Kessler, this race was hot and sweaty, but not quite so humid.

Dave and I got to Base Camp around 7:30, where there was a sleepy feel in the air. Voices were hushed as riders and friends and well wishers gathered together in small groups to discuss bikes, the upcoming stages and Life in general. I ran into old friends, hugs and quiet laughter were exchanged, finishing up with “good luck” fist bumps. I wandered over to the food tent, where the cooks were slinging eggs and bacon and setting out fresh pots of coffee. I’m telling you, the smell of scrambled eggs mixed with freshly cooked bacon hot off an outside grill is one of the best smells in the world.

Dave and I wrapped up at Base Camp and climbed in his car to head to the first stage we wanted to cover. It was one of those trails that was only big enough for a bike, meaning that once we picked out our spots, we were pretty much stuck there until that stage was over. He took a spot near the start of the stage, whereas I hiked a little further down to a pretty severe switchback and settled in for the duration.

Within minutes of setting up, my shirt was drenched and my camera was slippery to hold. I had a small hand towel with me that I used to wipe my hands off and my camera, but by the time the first stage was over, that towel wasn't much use anymore, seeing that it was just as drenched as I was. But I was having fun, using my wide angle lenses and my fish eye lens, a lens that I don’t utilize enough, and shooting in full on sunlight was a real treat, seeing that nearly every other race we’ve shot had been in heavy shade.

But something that I really loved during this particular stretch of the race was getting up close portraits of the riders as they emerged from the woods and into the sun. Seeing the looks of concentration, a little fear, trepidation, tongues clinched between teeth and even a few grins, made me feel like I was a part of the team.

After the first stage was over, I walked down to where Dave was and we trudged back to the car, both of us overflowing with talk about the riders, the heat and the call outs we received from our friends as they whizzed past us, the whole time slurping water from our quart-sized water bottles.

We decided to break for lunch and have a bit of an A.C. break before heading to our final stage, Stage 6, which people back at Base Camp had told us was full of rock gardens and berms and was fast and flow-y.

And it was. The stage was rather short, but it was very flow-y, very shady (which was a welcomed relief by now) and very “berm-y”.

In short, it was very fun to shoot.

I walked up to where David was shooting just in time to see a couple young men that mean a lot to us, @brycewatson.9 and @turtle_boss (a.k.a. Bryce and Austin) come ripping down the trail.

Bryce finished fifteenth and Austin finished third in the Junior Men 17 & Under division. We met the boys during last year’s season, and our friendship with them and their families have gotten closer this summer. In fact, this Saturday, Dave and I are headed to Montana to shoot the Big Sky Enduro where the boys will be racing. We wanted to cheer them on and take their photographs as they come flying down the trails. We’re all excited, to say the least!

Next up in the Arkansas Enduro Series is Red Star!

Highlights

The hummingbirds have been out in force. I counted four of them this afternoon, dive bombing each other out of the magnolia and pine trees by the patio. I’ve been having a lot of fun sitting outside after dinner with my camera, attempting to photograph them. They’re such fast little creatures, squeaking indignantly at each other, always on the look out, never resting. They’re one of my favorite things about summer.

So are these guys.

Dave and I have photographed a couple bike races over the last couple weeks, and we have another one coming up this Saturday. It’s been hot, but the cool shade along the bike trails helps out immensely.

I love these next two pictures. The dirt of a hard days’ work at the tire shop where Joe works combined with the gentle cupping of the blueberries in his hands; the strength and defiance of Meghan’s stance during a practice session atop a parking garage one evening a few weeks ago. I had these ideas in my head and my kids helped me make them come true.

There’s just something about water that speaks to me. Being around it, being in it, hearing it gurgling or roaring near by triggers something inside me. I’m not sure what that thing is, but I turn into an excited little kid on summer vacation. Time seems to stand still and happy memories of days spent cooling off and playing at the city pool as a kid fill my head.

I took a trip out to a local kayak park last Friday and happily waded about, shooting this kayaker having his morning work out. I think David and I are going to paddle board down this river as soon as our weekends become a little less busy. I stayed for an hour and shot nearly 1,000 frames.

Like I said, I lose all sense of time when I’m around water.

David and I have begun planning our summer trip to Montana. We leave July 27 and will be gone for almost two weeks. Some mountain bike friends of our are riding in an enduro race being held in Big Sky, Montana and we thought it’d be fun to go up and photograph them. We plan on cutting up through Kansas and hitting western Nebraska (an area that we’ve been curious about, thanks to photographer Bill Frakes, whom we both follow on Instagram), before crossing over into Wyoming. From Wyoming, we’ll hit Yellowstone Nat’l. Park and Grand Tetons Nat’l. Park before finally reaching Big Sky, Montana. This’ll be our first trip sans children, our first Big Trip, in almost 26 years.

And it’s a good thing because our trip list consists of all kinds of photo gear, tripods, a fly fishing pole, a mountain bike, cooler and running gear!

But first, there’s the Bella Vista Enduro Race, a senior portrait session, hair cuts, a doctor appointment and everything else that daily living requires.

But oh, we are counting down the days!

Mt. Kessler Enduro

The second installment of the Arkansas Enduro Race took place this past Saturday in my hometown of Fayetteville.

It was hot.

It was humid.

It was hazy.

Severe thunderstorms and torrential downpours were moving in from the west.

Did I mention that it was hot?

I guarantee you that everyone was wishing for a lake to jump into by the end of the race.

But everyone, I mean, everyone, was in good spirits, happy and out for a super good time.

And the day didn’t disappoint (and the storms held off till the next day, thank goodness).

Dave and I got there about 7:30 that morning and hiked into our spots, ready to photograph the participants. I had gone out the previous afternoon and hiked the entire course (a total of nine miles and over half of which was uphill) and Dave had ridden the trails on his bike previously, so we were pretty familiar with the course already, but of course, I pick the stage that I was least familiar with and wound up hiking up and down the trail trying to find the start, when all of a sudden the first riders begin appearing, so I hunkered down where I was and just started shooting. I never did find the start or the end of that stage, but it didn’t really matter because as I kept hiking upwards back to where I began, I came across a better spot that afforded a view of a great little rock garden section where the riders had to pick and choose how to ride over the rocks without falling over. That little spot quickly became my favorite, so I pulled up some dirt, got my water bottle settled in next to me, leaned back against a small sapling and got cozy, firing away with each passing rider.

Dave and I had agreed that we’d leap frog the stages, so after I finished up on Stage 2, I made my way over to Stage 5 and began working my way back down the mountain, stopping at pre-picked spots to capture the riders as they raced by me. It was fun having the race out at Mt. Kessler, the same place that I trail run and hike with the dog. The trails for the race, however, were pretty new to me, since I mainly stay on the older trails on the northern part of the park. I saw bluffs and views I had never seen before, but I also saw parts that were still familiar to me from six and seven years ago when I first started frequenting the hiking trails. These new trails were beautiful, the dirt packed down nice and smooth, great to ride on and great to run on, too, I bet.

And then all of a sudden, the race was over. These events are funny in a way: they start out chill and laid back, everyone still trying to wake up, then the race begins and the pace is fast and furious, spectators calling out “encouragement” (heckling, but all in good fun) and cowbells being rung; then it’s all over and the laid back atmosphere takes over again, but I think it’s more from sheer exhaustion and recovering from riding lickity-split over rocks and roots than the chill vibe from the early morning. At any rate, Fayetteville’s Mt. Kessler debut race was a vast success, with some good friends of ours making podium for the first time (for a list of winners and the race results, click here.).

Next up is Bella Vista on July 21. Hope to see you there!


















A Dog, A Creek & A Camera

I have long admired pet photographers. They somehow manage to speak their subject’s language, capturing beautiful photographs. A couple of my favorite animal photographers are Sonnentier Photography and Dog Breath Photography. One makes stunning portraits of Labrador and Golden retrievers, while the other makes portraits featuring the animal’s more quirky side.

Adding to my desire to learn better pet photography was this video that David sent me a month ago about a Labrador breeder who lives in the South. Watching the fun these dogs were having while being trained to hunt and the cinematography that the video featured really made me want to go out and try my hand at making some incredible photographs of our own black lab, Langley.

Saturday evening, David helped me load up Langley into the back of my car and we drove over to a lovely creek across town that I sometimes run along. It had easy access for her to get in and out of, which we’re having to look for more and more due to the arthritis in her hips and her, ahem, advancing age. It was a hot and muggy evening and the water felt good to all of us as we waded in and began working together.

I had brought my flash along, always trying to become better at artificial lighting and also knowing that there were going to be parts of the creek that were going to be in deep shadows, which just a little pop of light would work quite nicely.

I think the hardest part of the shoot was just getting Langley to come straight at me, charging through the water and making terrific splashes as she came galloping towards me, which was the mental picture I had in my head. She’d start off okay, heading straight towards the spot that David threw her Dokken Duck (a training toy she’s had since she was a puppy. Not that we hunt, but we bought it on her breeder’s recommendation as an excellent water toy and Langley doesn’t let anyone else carry it but her, that’s how much she loves it.), but then the duck would start to drift in the current and she’d veer off course.

KAP_0284.jpg

Needless to say, we had lots of do overs, but in the end I got the shot I was going for so it was more than worthwhile

And what more beautiful way to spend an early summer evening in June than wading around a creek with a husband, a dog and a camera?

Eureka Springs Enduro, Day Two

Remember when I asked you to stay tuned for the second day of the Eureka Springs Enduro, like two weeks ago? Sorry for the delay, but I finally have the second installment ready for you to read.

The second day of the race began with an urban portion. Yep, riders rode their bikes from the top of Eureka Springs all the way down to the bottom of town, descending down stairs, green spaces made muddy from the previous night’s downpours, and the twisty turn-y streets that make up the eclectic town. The race actually began at the Crescent Hotel, a Victorian hotel said to be haunted.

Hmm, maybe that’s why David has never taken me there for a long weekend.

Crowds were gathered along the streets cheering every rider on as they careened around corners, some wearing looks of intense concentration, some times look of sheer terror. There were a few hecklers in the crowd, but the teasing and heckling was all in good fun, causing laughter amongst the onlookers.

The race then moved over to the trails at the Great Passion Play, a long standing attraction that Eureka Springs boasts. I can barely remember going there when I was little while we were visiting my grandfather once, but it’s quite a place. And to make it even more of an attraction, the great folks at Jagged Axe Trail Designs have built over 15 miles of beautiful dirt trails for bikers and hikers alike, complete with big, wonderful trail markers - - - you know, if you ever get turned around while out scouting the location before a race or something.

Ahem.

Anyway, Dave and I staked our claims on the trail and started shooting away as the riders, one by one, streaked by. The sun was out, the sky was crystal blue, the crowds were noisy and the cowbells were being rung. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the Arkansas Enduro Series, 2019, than how that weekend turned out to be.

Next stop on the tour . . . Fayetteville!