Monday, March 9, 2020

Are You Lost?

It has been some time since since I found myself in such big places. I seem to get lost too often and re-surface with very little frequency.

Kiting on Cirque Peak - Patrice Bance photo.

I get lost in my work, I get lost in planning, I get lost in setting goals, I get lost in stress and I get lost in all the neat and shiny stuff that I think I'd like to someday do. Sometimes I get lost for a long time and I make excuses for why I don't need to be found, I'll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes.

And that is just another reason why I should be on the surface more and only get lost when I need to. There are far too many of us leaving this rock and not by choice. Too many regrets left over for us who remain; we still shrug it off and believe it's just what happens to other people. Being lost for too long is the story of sleeping your day away and having only the twilight of your life to tell stories to people who don't care.

So, it is good to resurface in big places. With people who keep drawing you back to what is real and heavy and what matters most. The sky is crushing down on you, the mountains push up, the wind flows and everything that is urgent in your life is obliterated from your core.

Only the most important things will slip back into your mind and you begin to remember why you do this. You remember that being in these big places shuts out the noise and increases the signal. That signal is the people you care about (including yourself), the moments you have left, and how you used your time.

So go ahead and get lost. Just remember you actually live at the surface and the big places are where you need to be.

Monday, February 17, 2020

What Doesn't Kill Me Makes Me Stranger (Stronger?)


There seems to be a lot of it lately. Is it the major life-change I have been going through the last two years (more like 19)? Is it the abrupt  change of direction in my work / professional life? Sure there are a lot of things going on big and small that can cause stress and cause me to go to my drug of choice, or freeze in my tracks because I don't know what to do.

I don't want to sound like I feel sorry for myself, because I don't. Not even a bit. There are a lot of people right now going through tough situations, both personal and professional. I see friends dealing with Cancer, family suffering from terminal disease and so many more out of work and wondering how they will take care of their families. Again I have some major things I need to deal with right now but I won't start by feeling sorry for myself.

I can't say it's not frustrating though. This year I promised myself I would get back into registering and running some Ultra races here in Alberta. My first one was for today and I was smart and dedicated. I have been running a lot since January 4th, created a smart plan and tapered perfectly. Lots of energy and conditioning was good. My forever pace HR has never been lower. What I didn't plan for was getting sick. For the last 24 hours anything I ate has been coming out of both-ends and by 5am this morning I was on empty.

There is a lot of work and time that goes into running a 50km plus race so I had to show up and toe the line. I actually didn't feel too bad when I got there but I woke up with a 97 HR (resting should have been more like 50) and didn't think it would be a big deal. Problem is, running for 5 hours plus is an exercise in depleting resources and I was starting with an empty tank. I actually started out good and was maintaining the 5:30-5:40 / km I trained for but after 2 km I looked at my HR and I was at 165!!! For me that is low-zone 5 which means I only have about an hour of that zone all day, saved for hills and making up time.

Not today. I stopped at 10km and had not even dropped below 165 for the last 55 minutes. A friend ran by and checked in on me and suggested I finish the last 3K to the aid station which I did. But by then everything hurt, like a growing fever, my muscles ached and my head was pounding. I was done. I returned to the start and chatted with Gord, letting him know I was DNF and drove home with my tail between my legs.

It's times like this that I put a lot of pressure on myself and normally get down and frustrated that I did so poorly. Even as shitty as I felt I wondered if I should have walked. A long drive home and the monkeys in my mind assuring me I wasn't cut out for "hard stuff", all I wanted was to crawl in bed and turn off the world for and hour.

Two hours later I woke up in a cold sweat and aching in every joint and back into the bathroom, still nothing staying down. Maybe I was really sick and the stomach bug was kicking my ass and I didn't just give up? Maybe I didn't really make mistakes but just had to deal with factors out of my control? This will be my first DNF and I had to figure out how this is going to affect me from here on out.

And that is just the key right there isn't it? What do I do with this? It's not a life altering moment like some of the events in my life the last two years. But it is another example of some adversity that I have the chance to make something from, or let it just slow me down in life. Do I take this thing that did not go my way, stick it in a pack and carry it around with me? Along with the other crap I carry on my back that weighs me down and breaks my spirit just a little each day. Or do I look at it for what it is, take the time to grieve about it, journal it, forgive myself and others, understand that it is now in the past and I can learn from it or even modify my present life so that I no longer carry it?

I used to joke with friends that my, "give-a-shit" was broken and that those things that once bothered me no longer held their sting. It's easy to not care but that doesn't deal with the baggage on my back. These days I still get upset, hurt, frustrated, scared, and affected by the rocky terrain in life but it doesn't take long before I make the decision to deal and accept the situation. Life is short and for too long I held on to the very things that burn me so what is the point? These days I know how to grieve, and I know that I need to accept and move on if I want some peace and be able to take one foot out of my past. I prefer to stand with both feet in the present and I cherish a little bit of peace in my day even if it's just a 20 minute sit-down with a coffee.

"This To Shall Pass", runs through my head all the time and it is true. The adversity we go through can leave a scar or it can be a big stone with all the others in the pack on your back. I would much rather run my fingers over a deep scar and remember where I got it, learning from it, instead of breaking my spirit by carrying the load for years. It has taken a long time to learn this, but I am here now. Stranger than ever and getting on with my life before the next one hits.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Catching Up After A Year | This Awesome Life

Hard to kick this thing back into gear after 14 or so months without a post but you have to start some-wheres. So here goes....

   There really is no excuse for the past year other than the fact I took another full time job (I'll touch on that in another post later) so that and a few side gigs have made me selective with my time. There is also a few years in there since I started where my head wasn't really in the game and it has been hard for me to be creative. But at the moment I am feeling quite good and physically and emotionally I am in a pretty good place. And if I try to nail down a reason for this all I can say is that at some point in your life you need to ask yourself if you really want to be miserable or do you want to be happy? Lots of pot-holes in the road (especially as we get older), so I've just decided to drive around them and not grumble when they can't be avoided. Now to catch up on a few things....

   As quite as it's been I have actually done a fair amount of work this year that has made the rounds but some I couldn't really show until recently. Starting in January of this year I worked in a series of recipe videos for Coca-Cola USA through my agency LPI Group. That was an awesome job working with a great crew on set. I was managing all camera and lighting and was the DOP/camera for the project. Very cool to see how the vision came out in the final pieces, quite a bit of work but the kind that I love.

 Dave Proctor and me after the early morning shoot.
One of the images for the OUTRUN RARE campaign.

   Back in May I had the chance to support Dave Proctor in his OUTRUN RARE campaign to run across Canada to highlight rare disease. My assistant and I met Dave West of Turner Valley in the mountains where we got some amazing shots of him in action. The images we captured went on to be part of Dave's tour and were seen everywhere including a nice wrap on his support RV.

   Also in May I ran my first ultra for the year (second one ever) and managed to place 31st in a very large group. I trained hard for this one and was smart about rest and nutrition leading up to the race. It was an amazing experience and as hard as it was, I found I could enjoy myself every single km.

After long boat rescue on the Red Deer River.
 My buddies kid Luke at the Harvey Passage Calgary.
 Made the 6 'O'clock news talking about safety at the Passage.

   I did get some kayaking in with my regular paddling partner including a good boat rescue on the Red Deer River. I have had no time for anything but training for ultras so what little time I had open I decided would be to get back into the water. This included the new Harvey Passage in Calgary where I am getting comfortable again in the boat and in the waves.

Jessica and me after bombing some hills in Calgary.

   Beginning of August I went street luging in Calgary. Yep, dusted off the old sleds and took a young woman from Northern BC on some trails in Calgary. Turns out her very-cool uncle built her a sled from one of my custom blanks so she could have some kind of speed outlet back home. Apparently the alternative was a 15lb plastic toy so we got her on to the real deal. This girl has no problems going fast and just this morning I got a message from her that she has made it up to 75km/hr on her luge. Whicked!

  Last week I ran my second Ultra for the year, this one a 60km mountain race called IronLegs. This is one of the best races around due to the fact it is very grass-roots but so well run. You can tell how good a race is by the attitude at the aid stations. Great support on the race and the course was the hardest I've done. I decided to run it in Luna sandals and as hard as that was I'm glad I did. 10,000' feet gain in elevation and 10 hours on course its was brutal but conditions were decent and I managed to again enjoy myself through the whole course. I think this could be just like life. If you can smile and still be happy when things are tough, maybe you don't really suffer as much as some do. I couldn't imagine going through so much stress and emotional battle and wanting to quit the whole time. I think I may have had that attitude at one time or another and I never want to be there again.

   So now that I am caught up I think I'm going to try to post cool stuff I am doing a little more often. It's great reminder of what I have done and experienced and is a good motivator to just do something a little more in this life.

   What are you doing and how are you handling things when life is an uphill slog?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Balckfoot Ultra 2017 (report) | Ultra Runner?

Well I did it, this weekend I ran my first 50km cross-country race in barefoot style. Hard to believe right now other than the fact my legs are very sore. I can't complain though, for all the time and work that went into this I am happy so many things went right.

On November 25th (last year) I signed up for the BFU which was taking place on May 27th, 2017. I knew I had some time to prepare and already had a good running base from the previous year. In January I started my mileage and through most of the 21 weeks I stuck to it. In February I started having some ankle and knee issues and my friend Majo Srnik offered to put me through a gait analysis to show me what I was doing wrong. I figured I was just too busted up but after spending a few hours with Majo I soon realized that I was just pounding my body to oblivion.

Majo tuned up my technique that night and for the next few days I felt amazing and was immediately faster. However Majo also mentioned that in order to sustain long distance with a good pace I needed to start slow. So I dropped back down my pace and stayed with my MAFF level for a few months. Within weeks I was getting faster again and felt pretty effortless. Infact since Majo showed me the natural (barefoot) style I don't think I have had one bad run yet.

The next few months I started with a pair of Luna Origen sandals. Just like the Born To Run book with the Tarahumara Indians, I was going to learn to run free and natural and throw off the general hindrances that the commercial running culture seems to eat up. By May I had 200 km in my Origens and was loving it.

About one week to go before the race I noticed I was starting to have a little swelling in my ankles and they were getting stiff. I guess I can't be surprised as Majo suggested I get a lot more mileage in the sandals before my race but I really wanted this one to be special. I may not have had quite enough time in but I felt mostly ready and had a back up pair of trail gloves if the sandals were to harsh for the first 25km.

Race day come up quick and I thought I would be more stressed than I was. I was actually very "at peace" the days before and morning of the race. I think honestly it was because I did everything I was told, I took every piece of advice I was given and I ran every km I was supposed to before my race (750km since January 1st). I had no guilt and I had prepared all that I could.

My good buddy (and one of my longest friendships) was out to run with me so that was cool as well, to make it a special event. Tod and I started our race at 9am and spent the first couple kms just trying to get our legs and finding a good pace. It was a little hard at first, Tod was feeling strong and wanted to run fast. I don't blame him, with all the other runners and the excitement you just want to go hard.

The course was nice and dry and the flooded areas were not bad at all. A few bridges had been built this year and even after Wednesdays day of storms the course was very dry. It was a hot day though so you had to just keep a decent pace and get lots of fluids at each station. I loved the stations on this course, everyone was so great, cheering us on and there was a lot of food. Tod and I both used my home-made Pinole recipe and Mas Korima for fuel. I was told to carry my own and I am glad I did. I did use some Vitargo between a few stations but it was mostly a sticky-mess, didn't mix well and was more of a pain in the ass then beneficial. So once we came in at the end of the first loop I ditched it for the Mas Korima.

At the start of the second loop I switched my sandals to Trail Gloves (Merrell) so that I wouldn't have to worry about the broken toe on my left foot (old injury) rubbing when walking uphill. While on the first loop I kept hearing Brayden Hiltz saying, "death by a thousand hills' in my head. I had received some great advice from Brayden and he had joked about the constant barrage of hills. And was he ever right. I think the total elevation gain for the two laps was about 596 meters so it was important to conserve energy on the uphills. Even Majo had said that you only make up your pace on the downhills so why run up? Gord (from Gords Running Store) had mentioned as well that, "if you can't see the top of the hill then just walk it". Good advice that worked. Not only was I trying to conserve my energy but I'd be doing it all again on the second lap.

The last 5 km of the first lap Tod started having some painful cramps and spasms in his thighs so we had to slow down a bit and soon into lap two it was clear he was in too much pain to continue. With nagging injuries the last few weeks it may have just been too much. We parted ways before the first aid station and I started picking up the pace to make up some time. I was actually feeling great until km 34 when I started to heat up. The midday sun was out in force and the air pretty still at this point. The guys at the station at 36km could see that I needed a cold shower so I got the 5 gallon bucket cool-down. I can't tell you how happy I was, I felt fresh again and the next 4 km over the big open hills and course peak was very manageable.

Again at 40km I was starting to heat up and I noticed my hands had swollen up like I was wearing gloves. I could not even close my hand into a fist. I also noticed I had to pee really bad but tried a few times and nothing. I had read something about this online and wondered if I was having the issue. I was drinking a lot of water but not sure if any was going into my system. I was burning up bad and getting very dizzy at this point so started walking to clear my head. Strangely enough it was easier to run than walk but I was so dizzy that it was hard just to start running each time. I really had to dig st this point. Andy Reed (another amazing ultra runner and friend) had told me, "patience for the first 3rd, persistence for the second 3rd, and grit for the last 3rd of the race". No doubt it was all grit.

There is a point where I had this internal battle with myself. I felt like shit and just couldn't take the heat. I wanted to stop but at some point I just stepped outside of myself and made the commitment to not stop. I told myself that stopping would make everything go in reverse and the last 750 km and all the work I had done would be a total waste. If I couldn't run I'd walk fast, I wasn't going to stop for a rest.

Finally I saw the fence line for the last station and I started trotting down the hill. When I came in to the station I asked for a cold bucket shower and when the girl there dumped it on my I realized I had to sit down quickly. She told me to go to the chair in the shade while I ate a bit of fruit. A minute later I came back to the table and the medic there mentioned I did not look good. He checked me over and said I was osmotic. Basically a lack of salt was causing me to retain fluid but nothing was going into my organs (as I understand it). He told me I was done but I said I was finishing so he gave me a glass of salt water (and told me to take it easy for the next km), I grabbed some bacon and started the home-stretch. The bacon was tasty but this time I could not swallow it so I just chewed it for a few minutes before spitting it out (yeah sacrilegious I know).

I was about 4 km from the finish, my watch had been buzzing "low battery" for the last hour and I was wondering if it was actually my own physiological warning light. "3.5 km to go" I said to myself and started to see in my mind everyone who helped me to get here (Ryan Kershaw, Majo Srnik, Andy Reed, Ryan Lees, Gord Hobbins, Brayden Hiltz, Peter Estebrooks, Michelle Barton, Jay Kinsella to name a few). I decided if I'm going to finish I'm going to finish well. So I started running again and kept it up, hearing the cheers and cowbells at the finish was such a great feeling. I knew I was done, I had a smile on my face, my wife and friends meeting me at the finish and I left everything I had on the race course. 7 hours and 29 minutes on the trail for the day and I don't have one regret. I know a few things I might do differently but overall I am very happy with my first race.

The whole time on Saturday I was thinking why would anyone spend so much time preparing to punish themselves over such long distances? What motivates someone to even try to be competitive or even try to push their own limits again and again? And would I do this again? I think those questions have now been answered. I am no longer the person I was last week, or last month. I have spent 6 months preparing to go way past my own physical boundaries to get to a place I only imagined I could. My perception of distance has changed, I have proven to myself I can manage a mental shit-storm, and at 44 years of age I can still evolve as a person and human. I am happy here, I love to run, and I want to see what I can do next.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Great Ideas | Commercial Lifestyle Photographer

In December I had the opportunity to work with a large commercial construction company who was holding their annual Christmas party at the Aero Museum in Calgary of all places. What a cool place to have a party! Once I got talking to my contact we came up with the idea to shoot a fun stylized portrait setup with each group in pilot and bomber outfits to match the war-era aircraft. It took a bit of planning but my contact Nicole worked hard to find the costumes and with the right lighting setup we pulled it off.

Fun at the Aero Museum in Calgary.
I ended up using 4 speedlites on manual settings. One large overhead softbox to fill in the front directionaly. Then one bare speedlite on either side of the group to give it some hard raking side-light. Then one single speedlite tucked in behind the aircraft to light up the canopy.

Full group setup with large kit in the outside hangar - very cold that night.
I love it when a client wants to do something different and we get to come away with more than just the standard stuff. Looking forward to more of this in 2017.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Commercial Work | Commercial Lifestyle Photographer

Recently, local health and nutrition coach Ramona Kossowan approached me for some new image assets for her social media channels and website. Ramona seemed to have a good idea of what she wanted and I was excited to work with her as she had a great attitude and some of the work was going to challenge me in the lighting department.

Like I mentioned, Ramona has a great attitude and it was fun working on the headshots in studio.

Next we setup a very small and portable kit at her training facility. The idea was to get a commercial illustration of the kind of work she does and still maintain good professional lighting. Ramona and her model didn't need much direction so I was free to manage how to control the light in such a large space.

The biggest challenge was finding a location for the kitchen shots and try to give a bright healthy look that made you feel like the room was filled with  sunlight. The space Ramona found was awesome so it was just a matter of pumping it full of light without blowing her out. This was one of my favorite jobs so far this year, exactly the type of work I love to do.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Quick Primer On Day To Night Curve With The Pulse by ALPINE LABS

I wanted to quickly throw a post up for a few of my friends as it would seem the Pulse by ALPINE LABS on Kickstarter was very popular. So here goes...

The settings screens are not very explanatory and in my opinion just very simple for someone who understands the day to night slope. The unit automatically manages the slop, you just need to estimate a few points on the timeline.

Click for larger image.

The Promote Control setup is very different so I will keep this specifically for the Pulse setup.

1. Make sure your camera is on, set to manual and set a shutter speed / aperture combo that looks good (take a test shot). A scene in the shade or overcast day is good around 1/20 f-8 @100iso.

2. Plug in the Pulse unit to the camera and switch to "on" (I won't explain how you should be composing the scene but I will tell you unless you are working with ND filters you should not be pointing into the sun).

3. Turn on the app, search for device, once connected go to timelapse screen.

4. Your first screen is your interval (obvious setting) and "duration". The Duration is the full time from A to D above.

5. Upper right menu will bring you to the "exposure ramp" menu. Click enable and make sure it shows start/end shutter and start/end iso.

6. Your Delay is A to B length to set. Your Duration is B to C length to set. And your run out will be whatever time left after after A to B to C is completed (based on Duration set in step 4 above). Don't overthink it, minus A to C from A to D and you have your runout time.

Some thoughts:

Many sites will tell you 30 minutes is a normal sunset slope length but I have found in central Alberta 40 minutes is better. Dusk seems to hang here for a long time after sunset. To estimate your start time just consider B as the "actual" sunset start time for that day in your location (use an app or the web). Then just work backwards. Your starting shutter speed should always be at the beginning of your timelapse, once the ramp starts (B) it will work along the curve until it hits the end of sunset/twighlight generally around 40 minutes later. At this time you can let it runout for an extended time and it will be the shutter speed you figure looks great in that condition. Usually in the city with bright lights or sometimes you have to make your final shutter longer if you are shooting dark sky and stars,

Best way to get some good numbers to start is to go out the day before and take exposures (WITH THE SAME F-STOP) at 20 minutes before sunset, 1 minute before sunset, 30 minutes after sunset, 40 minutes after sunset, and again at 50 minutes after sunset (ideally where you want your final ending shutterspeed to be).

Note on ISO: If you are using 10 second intervals and your exposure lengths are ending at greater than 10 seconds (for example), you can set your "ending" iso to one stop faster (100 to 200) to give like a 10 second @ 100iso a shift to 5 seconds @ 200iso.

Biggest down fall to this unit is you WILL have to use LRTimelapse software to manage the flicker that will appear later on during the encoding process (this happens because the camera sets the shutter speed in steps and less like a high resolution curve or slope. Each time it steps-up you see the jump in exposure and resembles a flicker in post). You should be using it anyways with your workflow. I normally don't need to with the Promote Control. Overall the price is right for this unit and the form-factor is small. With a little software know-how, this unit can create some decent results.

Feel free to find me on facebook or email me for questions. Happy shooting