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CrossFit Open Photography 2019

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Lens: Canon 135mm f2.0 L. Aperture: f2.0. Shutter: 1/640. ISO: 1000. Xplorer 600 strobe to camera right

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The CrossFit Open

CrossFit Open 2019 is in the pages of history. Every year CrossFit Incorporated and Reebok host the CrossFit Games in an effort to find the “Fittest on Earth.” You can learn more about the Games here on the CrossFit Games Wikipedia page. One cool thing about the Games is that anyone can qualify. The initial qualifying rounds are held at each individual CrossFit Box. “Box” is the term for a CrossFit facility that distinguishes it from your ordinary, everyday “gym.” The Open lasts for 5 weeks, one workout per week, typically held on Friday evening.

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Why I love CrossFit

Many people benefit from CrossFit in many different ways. It’s not all about the super, muscle-bound, elite athletes you see during television coverage of the Games or on YouTube videos. For me personally, I benefit from strength training to help alleviate the pain associated with osteoarthritis resulting from the surgical steel orthopedic hardware in my pelvis, femur and lower back. If you don’t know that story, you can read about it on my About Chad Foreman  page.

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Lens: Canon 85mm f1.2 L. Aperture: f1.8. Shutter: 1/640. ISO: 400. Strobes with magmods, camera right and background.

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CrossFit Contribution

As a photographer, part of my contribution to the CrossFit community and my local box, AFC CrossFit, is that I photograph the Open each year. The Open is a special time of year for the CrossFit community. It’s the time when all of the athletes push themselves to a whole new level. It’s a time to really test your progress from the year. For me, it’s a great opportunity to practice photographing athletes at their game.

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Improvements for 2019

My biggest change and improvement for 2019 was two-fold. I shot the entire Open with fixed, also called prime, lenses. Also, I used a lot of off-camera flash to create dramatic lighting.

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Lens: Canon 85mm f1.2 L. Aperture: f2.0. Shutter: 1/640. ISO: 200. Xplorer 600 to camera right and one backlighting her.

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Fixed vs. Zoom Lenses

In the world of lenses there are two main categories: zoom and fixed. Zoom lenses have an adjustable focal point that is attained by rotating the barrel of the lens. Think of the term “zoom in” when talking about getting closer to the action. Many sports photos are shot with zoom lenses because the athletes may be coming towards the photographer, like a running back charging for the end zone, and the photographer needs to change the focal length by “zooming out” in order to fit the athlete in the frame. The focal length is the distance from the rear element of the lens to the sensor. The smaller the number, the larger the field of view. Examples of two popular zoom lenses are 24-70mm and the 70-200mm. The measurement in millimeters is the focal length and the two numbers indicate the zoom range of the lens.

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Fixed Lenses

Fixed lenses have one focal length. Popular fixed lenses include the 50mm, 35mm, 85mm and 135mm. These are the four lenses in which I shot this year’s Open. You might be wondering “Chad, why would you cary 4 different lenses that you need to change in the middle of the action?” That’s a very good question that I thought you might ask. The answer is two-fold. Just like everything else in life, especially relationships, everything in photography is a compromise. A give and a take. You can have this but you must sacrifice that. There is no one, perfect lens for all things.

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Lens: Canon 50mm f1.2 L. Aperture: f2.0. Shutter: 1/640. ISO: 400. Strobe with Magmod sphere to camera right.

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Lens: Canon 50mm f1.2 L. Aperture: f2.0. Shutter: 1/640. ISO: 400. Strobe with Magmod sphere to camera left.

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Lens: Canon 85mm f1.2 L. Aperture: f1.2. Shutter: 1/500. ISO: 100. Strobe with Magmod sphere to camera left, strobe with Magmod bounce to camera right.

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Optical Image Quality

Fixed lenses are called prime lenses because they have the best image quality. There is a certain look attained with a prime lens that is very distinguished. The reason for this is that in order to change the focal length in a zoom lens, there must be multiple glass elements that slide back in forth within the lens. Any time light passes through glass, it gets a little bit distorted. Less pieces of glass equal less distortion.

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A Wider Aperture

Fixed lenses allow for a wider aperture. The aperture is the opening in a lens that allows light through it. This opening is adjustable and measured in stops that are indicated with an f-value. The smaller the number, the more light comes through. The aforementioned zoom lenses only open up to f2.8. My prime lenses open up to f1.4 and two of them, the 50mm and 85mm open up to f1.2. That’s two additional stops of light which allow me to use a faster shutter speed, which is crucial for capturing sports action. This is also crucial because the CrossFit box is very dark with a black floor and gray walls. Not so optimal for photography.

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Lens: Canon 50mm f1.2 L. Aperture: f1.2. Shutter: 1/800. ISO: 640. Strobe with Magmod sphere to camera right.

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Shallower Depth of Field

An additional benefit of the wider aperture achieved with prime lenses is a shallower depth of field. The depth of field is the plane of view that is in focus. A prime lens at f1.2 is going to have less in focus than the zoom lens at f2.8. The advantage of this is that it puts the focus directly on the athlete. The background is less important and therefore, out of focus. The down side of this is that it can be very easy to get your athlete out of focus. If those eyes aren’t in focus, the shot is lost. Nothing else matters.

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Off-Camera Flash

CrossFit Open 2019 was also an experiment for me to use more off-camera flash. Off-camera flash means taking your flash, or strobe light(s) off of your camera and using a remote trigger to fire them. The advantage of taking your light off-axis to the camera is that it uses shadows to create more depth. Our eyes are tricked by light and shadow to create more depth in an image. On-axis light has the effect of flattening everything out and making it look plain and dull.

I did a lot of experimenting with light by placing my strobes at different angles. Sometimes I was trying to outline a side of the figure to define muscle tone. Sometimes I backlit the subject for a dramatic appearance.

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column_inner][/fusion_builder_row_inner][fusion_imageframe image_id=”3420|full” max_width=”2100px” style_type=”” blur=”” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”none” lightbox=”yes” gallery_id=”crossfit-open-2019-blog” lightbox_image=”” lightbox_image_id=”” alt=”crossfit open sports photography blog 08″ link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]https://chadforeman.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/crossfit open photography blog/crossfit-open-sports-photography-blog08.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_builder_row_inner][fusion_builder_column_inner type=”1_1″ layout=”1_2″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” hover_type=”none” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” box_shadow=”no” box_shadow_blur=”0″ box_shadow_spread=”0″ box_shadow_color=”” box_shadow_style=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=””]

Lens: Canon 85mm f1.2 L. Aperture: f1.2. Shutter: 1/640. ISO: 640. Strobe with Magmod sphere to camera left.

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What do you think?

Did you enjoy learning about my lens selections and why I chose them? Do you find off-camera flash fascinating? Are too  many of these pictures not tack sharp enough for your viewing pleasure?

Please let me know in the comments below.

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Categories
Kayaking Sports Photography Whitewater

Freestyle Whitewater Kayaking the New River Dries

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Josh Collins performs an Air Screw: @contsquashua

[/fusion_title][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container][fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” hundred_percent_height=”no” hundred_percent_height_scroll=”no” hundred_percent_height_center_content=”yes” equal_height_columns=”yes” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”2_3″ layout=”2_3″ spacing=”yes” center_content=”yes” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_imageframe image_id=”2161″ style_type=”none” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”none” lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” alt=”” link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]https://chadforeman.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/kayaking-corey-lilly.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_title margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” size=”3″ content_align=”center” style_type=”default” sep_color=””]

Corey Lilly @clillyvisuals performs an Aerial Blunt

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Rains Make Waves

Heavy rains along the East Coast of the United States in the first week of August, 2018 brought a surprise spike to the rivers and a special treat to the freestyle whitewater kayaking boaters of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Typically these volumes of water are reserved for the heavy rains of the late Winter and early Spring but heavy rains storms thought otherwise. Normally this section of river is dry, which is why it is called “The Dries.” It is my personal belief that climate change is the reason storms are becoming more sporadic, unseasonable and intense.

The New River is the largest watershed East of the Mississippi. It begins in North Carolina and flows North through Virginia and West Virginia, merging with the Gauley to form the Kanawha, into the Ohio river and eventually the Mississippi. As it travels through West Virginia, elevation drops created by centuries of mountain growth and erosion form large, standing waves which are ideal for whitewater surfing.

Freestyle Whitewater Kayaking is probably the least understood of all the “extreme sports.” Most people without a background in whitewater have no idea what those kayakers are doing in those little, tiny boats. They’re bobbing and bouncing and flipping around and diving down into the water. A person on their very first whitewater rafting trip will gasp “are they in trouble?” The answer is no, they are not in trouble. Quite the opposite in fact, that person is having the time of their life.

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container][fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” hundred_percent_height=”no” hundred_percent_height_scroll=”no” hundred_percent_height_center_content=”yes” equal_height_columns=”yes” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_3″ layout=”1_3″ spacing=”yes” center_content=”yes” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_imageframe image_id=”2156″ style_type=”none” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”none” lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” alt=”” link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]https://chadforeman.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/whitewater-kayaking-shane-groves.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_title margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=””]

Shane Groves performs an Aerial Blunt: @shanegrooves

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Kayaking Evolution

Whitewater kayaking has evolved immensely from its recreational birth in the mid 1970s. I find it refreshing to know that some of those kayakers are still paddling the New and Gauley rivers of West Virginia, today in 2018. However, most of them are not out on the enormous waves of the New River Dries in today’s lighter, smaller and more agile freestyle kayaks. Most of the freestyle kayakers are the young guns of today’s whitewater generation. They are taking whitewater kayaking to the next level.

When I started kayaking in 1997, freestyle kayaking was just about to explode. People were discovering acrobatic moves that could be performed in a whitewater kayak. Vertical rotations, known as cartwheels, were the hottest moves of the day. Kayaks evolved in design at a staggering pace. Designers and manufacturers discovered knew ways of making advanced moves easier and more impressive.

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Paul Griffin performs an Aerial Blunt

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Video Boaters at Play

At that time I was a full-time video kayaker and my goals in life were to see how many cartwheels I could link together in one ride. Lines formed at the surf spots and could be in excess of 20 people long. There were 18 rafting companies and almost all of them employed 3-7 full-time video kayakers. People went back to the river after they worked on the river just to go to the local play spot and “throw ends.” (Kayaker jargon for doing cartwheels.”

There are noticeably less and less freestyle kayakers on the river today. Fewer and fewer people are coming rafting every year and therefore fewer and fewer people are developing an interest in whitewater kayaking. As there are fewer and fewer kayakers, the ability levels of these kayakers continues to grow to unprecedented levels. There may only be 5 or 6 kayakers at the wave, but these boaters are making big moves. Nowadays it is not uncommon to see these kayakers performing vertical aerial moves on the wave. Moves like the “air screw,” “aerial blunt” and “space Godzillas” (I don’t even know what a Space Godzilla is) are the hot ticket items of today.

I must say I’m proud to be friends with the pioneer kayakers of the 1970’s, the Gen-X video boaters of the early 2000’s as well as the young guns boaters of today. The world of kayaking is a small world after all.

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”2_3″ layout=”2_3″ spacing=”yes” center_content=”yes” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_imageframe image_id=”2162″ style_type=”none” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”none” lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” alt=”” link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]https://chadforeman.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/air-screw-michael-buechler.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_title margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” size=”3″ content_align=”center” style_type=”default” sep_color=””]

Michael Buechler performs an Air Screw: @littlemike304

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Categories
Kayaking Landscapes Whitewater

Autumn Leaves River Photography

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Lost Paddle Rapid

October 22, 2017. Kayaking buddies enter the 4th drop of Lost Paddle of the Gauley River the last day of Gauley Season, 2017. It was a warm, 80* day and the leaves were just beginning to change. This is also a little bit North of the New River Gorge and it seems like the colors start to change a little earlier up there.

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_3″ layout=”1_3″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” dimension_margin=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_imageframe image_id=”1978″ style_type=”none” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”none” lightbox=”yes” gallery_id=”autumn-leaves-2017″ lightbox_image=”https://chadforeman.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2017 Autumn Leaves/Autumn Leaves 2017/chad-foreman-autumn-leaves002.jpg” alt=”New River Gorge Autumn Leaves Sunset over the Dries” link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]https://chadforeman.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2017 Autumn Leaves/Autumn Leaves 2017/chad-foreman-autumn-leaves002.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_text]

Dawn of Autumn

The sun rises over the New River Dries on October 24, 2017. An unseasonably warm start to Autumn and a lack of rain had us waiting a little longer for the changing of the colors in the New River Gorge, WV. I was on my way to school but I just had to pull over and grab this image. I was late for my World Religions class at West Virginia State University, but I still got an A for the class.

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Piece of Cake Rapid

Lower New River. November 3, 2017. Autumn Leaves Journal: The leaves have started to peak. It was a little late this year with the unseasonably warm temperatures and the lack of rain. On October 31 the temperature finally dropped and it rained quite a bit. The leaves changed, practically overnight. On this day I went kayaking with my neighbors, Tennyson, Josh and Nick. That’s what we do in West Virginia. We go out and play in the New River Gorge.

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New River Gorge Bridge Autumn Leaves

November 3rd, 2017 and the leaves in the New River Gorge are just beginning to change. It was unseasonably warm and dry for a long time, then we started getting rain on October 28 and the temperature dropped considerably.e earlier up there.

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Upper Railroad with Train

Autumn Leaves Journal 2017: On November 5th the leaves were in full peak. When it rained on Halloween and the temperature dropped, the colors came out. On this one particular day, it was the perfect photography day. Stormy clouds were passing overhead throughout the day. There were patches of sunlight in between. Fortunately, I had my truck at the takeout and could spend the whole day photographing the New River Gorge. It was the peak day for this year’s leaf season.

I was digging this view of Upper Railroad Rapid from river left. I’ve never been at this particular spot and while I was there a train drove across the bridge.

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Frog Rock

Autumn Leaves Journal 2017: The series continues, with almost all of my best pictures from Autumn coming from November 5th. The pattern of the leaves weren’t anything like the website predicted. This particular day was filled with so much color. Not just the leaves, but the sky was changing constantly throughout the day. We had stormy clouds and light whispy clouds, just as in this picture. This was the third rapid I got out to photograph and there would be two more. Golden Hour arrives a little early in The Gorge because it sits 800 feet below the mountains.

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Hook 99 Rapid

Looking Upstream from Hook 99, a rapid on the New River Gorge. On this day, Golden Hour hit around 6pm. The light shining through the clouds was just what I wanted. I was approaching Hook 99 rapid when I turned to look upstream and I just had to get out of my boat and make a record of such a beautiful sight.

I stayed at this spot for almost 45 minutes and shot 64 images. This is a composite of 7 of my favorites. There’s a lot of debate online these days about photographers wanting other photographers to be up front about their claims as to whether an image is a composite or a single frame. Maybe you’ve seen the debate about Peter Lik’s image. What a bunch of crap. Who cares? Art is art. An image is an image. Yes, this is a composite. I make composites because my camera’s sensor does not have a range to record all of the colors of nature and compositing is the closest I can get. There, take that pixel-peepers! Lol

To be clear, Hook 99 Rapid is not where Mark Harmon died. I’m sick of raft guides telling that to their guests. Mark Harmon was one of the pioneers of canoeing the New River. He flipped his canoe, which had the number 66 on it, and wrapped it around a rock in this rapid. While the canoe was upside down it looked like a 99. Hence, Hook 99.

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Twilight on Autumn Leaves in the New River Gorge

My final picture from the Autumn Leaves 2017 series. November 5th was the epic, quintessential photography day for me this year. Every time I thought the light was going to disappear, it got better. Just as the sun began to set beyond the rim of the New River Gorge, the light became absolutely surreal. It was one of those times where everything just glowed. All of the colors were brighter and more vivid. Every leaf in the gorge looked like it had electricity flowing through it.

I was in between Upper and Lower Kaymoor rapids and I just had to pull over immediately to get some documentation. This was one of those surreal moments that just begged me to use my fisheye lens. I have this 15mm fisheye lens that I bought in 2009. I hardly ever use it. It definitely calls for a special occasion. Interestingly enough, I hardly ever bring it out on the river because space in my dry bag is at a premium. For some reason I had it on this day and it truly fit the bill. This was the picture that really capped off an unusual fall.

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Epic Photography Days of Autumn

November 5th was the epic Autumn Leaves photography day for me in the New River Gorge. This year I decided I wanted to record the weather patterns and temperatures from my perspective. Not very scientific, but simple.

In fall of 2016 I was on my way to the Gauley River to go kayaking. It was after Gauley Season, the first week in November. About the same time as this in 2017. The weather patterns were very similar. I’m driving to the takeout to run shuttle and listening to the radio station. The DJ says “with a high of only 70.” Only 70?! In the first week of November? Are you for real?

I remember as a kid that if Halloween came and we didn’t have to wear a jacket, it was amazing. It was the luckiest day of the year. 70 degrees would have been unheard of.

I don’t know if climate change is a real thing or if we are just in the midst of a cycle that is bigger than our manmade instruments can measure. Either way, it’s worth documenting. Thanks for reading.

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Categories
Sports Photography

Olympic Weightlifting Meet

Olympic Weight Lifting is a sport. Also called weightlifting, it has been an olympic sport since 1896. In today’s society we typically think of sports as team sports. Football, basketball and baseball are regulars on the television. These sports are extremely popular and thus can generate a lot of revenue in advertising that both takes advantage of their popularity and perpetuates it.

CrossFit Coach, Kristen is always in perfect form. Here she is in her Snatch movement during the meet.
CrossFit Coach, Kristen is always in perfect form. Here she is in her Snatch movement during the meet.

Most people don’t typically think about individual sports until they’re watching the Olympics or flipping through the X-Games. However, sports like weightlifting are popular, not just as a sport alone, but as training exercises to condition athletes for power and strength in other sports.

Coach Cary looks strong during her Clean and Jerk lift at the meet.
Coach Cary looks strong during her Clean and Jerk lift at the meet.

Competitors are scored on their ability to perform 2 movements, the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk, and compete with others in their given weight class. They get 3 tries at each weight to successfully complete the lift. Their score for the meet is the combination, in weight, of the two lifts.

This olympic weightlifter expresses power and control during her lift
This olympic weightlifter expresses power and control during her lift

Active Fitness Center CrossFit in Oak Hill held their first-ever Olympic Weight Lifting meet on October 28, 2017. This was a non-sanctioned event. Olympic Weight Lifting meets can be sanctioned by USAW (United States of America Weightlifting) and if they are, results can count towards national competitions.

Six women and six men participated in the Halloween Havoc at Active Fitness Center CrossFit in Oak Hill. While there weren’t enough competitors to fill multiple weight divisions by each gender, the lifters joined in together in the spirit of friendly competition and camaraderie.

CrossFit Coach Eric with the power tongue
CrossFit Coach Eric with the power tongue

Some talked about the difficulties and challenges presented by lifting in a competition. When lifting on your own, you have as many attempts as you want to get the weight up over your head. In the competition you only have 3. Another factor is the crowd factor. There was a nice-sized showing of fans for the event. All of them were seated right there in front of the competitors, watching. It can be quite intimidating to try to perform the lift in front of a crowd of spectators who are all looking at you.

Seth Gunnoe lifted more weight than anyone. Here he is with 300 pounds above his head.
Seth Gunnoe lifted more weight than anyone. Here he is with 300 pounds above his head.

Seth Gunnoe, who won the award for “most weight moved” told me he and Waylon, the owner of AFC CrossFit, plan to go to Columbus to compete in a USAW-sanctioned event. One interesting thing Seth mentioned to me was the accessibility of this type of competition. In more mainstream sports like football or baseball, it can be extremely difficult to get your chance to play in the big game. However, in weightlifting, all you need to do is show up and perform the lifts. You lift the most weight, you can move on to the national events or even the Olympics. Just that simple.

Camaraderie in the competitive spirit. The Halloween Havoc olympic weightlifting meet contestants.
Camaraderie in the competitive spirit. The Halloween Havoc olympic weightlifting meet contestants.
Categories
Football Sports Photography

Fayetteville Football Senior Night

Fayetteville Football Senior Night Game was last night at Fayetteville High School. The Pirates hosted the Summers County Bobcats. It will be my last night shooting high school football for 2017. Rain was in the forecast. It was unusually warm. I dressed for cooler weather and was surprised at how warm it was well after the sun had set and rain was approaching.

I spent my Friday daylight hours kayaking the river, collecting photographs of the colorful leaves in the New River Gorge. Add on a football Friday Night and you’ve got a great photography day.

If Fayetteville doesn’t make the playoffs this year, it will likely be the last time these seniors ever suit up for a football game. I still remember being in the locker room my senior year and listening to our coach tell us that we need to recognize the importance of that moment.

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Fayetteville High School quarterback, Tristan Coots plows through the Summers County defense.

You don’t think about that kind of thing until you’re older. Those memories get more and more valuable because they become further away. The stresses in life at that time, the things I was worried about, I don’t even remember. If I was upset with somebody, I don’t know now, but I do know that I’ll never get to be in that moment ever again and the truth is, we don’t really know how special an occasion is at that time.

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This Fayetteville defender will probably remember this sack for the rest of his life

It is entirely possible that I may never photograph a high school football game ever again. Hopefully not, but we never really know what the future holds. That might be one of the reasons why I’m a photographer. A picture lets us capture a moment in time that we will never see again. The styles of the clothes, the hair, the weather on that day, they all play a part in our memories and have a strong effect on our nostalgia.

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The Summers County ball carrier is brought down by a host of Fayetteville Pirates.

Fayetteville’s head coach, Coach Moneypenny, approached me during the game. He says “You take 9000 pictures at every one of our games and I haven’t seen a single one.”

I laughed and said “Yeah, I wish I could take more.” I didn’t have the heart to sound patronizing to the head coach by saying “The best ones are in the newspaper and the rest of them are on the Register-Herald website.” Not cool.

Coach asks “You still live on the corner of Maple and Sarah?”

“How do you know where I live?” I didn’t even think he knew me at all.

“I’ve been tracking you for years.”

“Uh oh.” I semi-joked. Not sure what that means.

This town is even smaller than I thought.

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Fayetteville High School head coach: David Moneypenny
Categories
Kayaking Sports Photography Whitewater

Bridge Day 2017

Bridge Day 2017

Bridge Day is a celebration of the New River Gorge Bridge. The bridge was completed in October of 1977. Every year, on the third Saturday in October, they close down the bridge to vehicular traffic and for one day it is legal to BASE jump from the bridge.

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A Bridge Day jumper guides his deployed parachute from the New River Gorge Bridge

This is a big deal for a couple of reasons. First, the completion of the bridge meant that traffic no longer had to go down the steep, winding roads into the New River Gorge, across the “Tunny Hunsaker Bridge” and then back up the other side. That journey can take up to 30 minutes or longer. Bridging the enormous gap reduced that commute to 30 seconds.

Building the bridge now made route 19 a major throughway for shipping and travel between I-79 North (heading to New York and Canada) and I-77 South, heading to Myrtle Beach and Florida and I-64 East: Washington D.C. and I-64 West: St. Louis Missouri. This has brought a lot more traffic to our area and also boosted tourism, West Virginia’s greenest economic resource. Coal produces the most money but we won’t talk about that right now.

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Most BASE jumpers land on river left in the New River Gorge after they jump from the bridge

Second, BASE jumping is legal for one day. BASE is an acronym for Building, Aerial (as in antennas), Span (bridges) and Earth (like cliffs.) Ordinarily, it is illegal. Gee, can’t figure out why? But for one day, it IS LEGAL. This is celebrated by many BASE jumpers who travel great distances to be here. Many skydivers make their first BASE jump off the bridge because of the controlled environment. It helps prevent accidents.

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Some BASE jumpers touch down in the New River after their jump from the New River Gorge Bridge

In my opinion, BASE jumping is like drugs. People are going to do it regardless, so you might as well make it legal and save the police some work.

Bridge Day brings hundreds of thousands of people to our small little town of Fayetteville, which is largely dependent upon the tourist dollar in a seasonal area. It’s a nice little booster shot in the pocket book right before the winter break.

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River rescue crews, who are raft guides on the New River Gorge collect wet BASE jumpers

Bridge Day is also the unofficial end of the commercial rafting season here. Temperatures are starting to drop and the kids are back in school. People just aren’t coming down here for a winter wonderland whitewater adventure.

To me, Bridge Day is a fun day to reflect upon this season, but also seasons past. I think about all of my fun memories. I’m always going to see friends out on the river. That’s a fun time too.

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Me, hanging on my favorite Bridge Day rock, checking out the jumpers, enjoying a frosty beverage

This year I hung out on my Bridge Day rock. It will be my 3rd year in a row on this particular rock. It’s a great vantage point to watch the action.

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Kayaking with my friend, Mariah on Bridge Day in the New River Gorge.
Categories
Football Sports Photography

Oak Hill homecoming

Last night was homecoming for Oak Hill. You gotta love it. As I walked into the stadium and across the football field, the floats were lined up on the track, on display for all the fans and the community that wasn’t able to see them in the parade.

There’s something about the fall that brings that sense of nostalgia. The warm sun and the cool shade. The crisp, Autumn evenings. The scent of the trees as they loose their chlorophyl and begin to change color. The earth is more pungent. One thing I like about shooting football games in Fayette County, West Virginia, is that they still play football on natural grass. There’s nothing like the smell of the grass and the dirt below it this time of year.

The band marches onto the field and makes a hallway for the players to charge through on their way out on to the gridiron. Gridiron. What a great word. It sounds just as tough as football itself. When I was in New Zealand, the Kiwis all called American Football Gridiron, because, well for some odd reason they call soccer, football. Weird.

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Oak Hill band members make the tunnel for the players to run through.

Football season makes me think of my coach, Coach Podlasiak. Plaz for short. Coach Plaz was awesome. That man had a greater effect on me than just football. Coaches tend to do that. They’re that adult, outside the family, who helps you learn stuff and apply discipline, yet, there’s a factor of friendship and respect that is unique to that relationship. Coach Plaz was also my track coach. Track was my other favorite sport. I was a pole vaulter. From my youth, growing up next to Capitol University, I used to watch the collegiate pole vaulters and I knew one day that I was going to do that.

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Coach Blankenship instructs a player. This coach will have a huge effect on this player’s life.

These days there aren’t as many pole vaulters as there once was. My own alma matter, Bexley High School, doesn’t even have pole vault. Neither does Oak Hill. It’s sad. The remains of a pole vaulting program are still on the field of Oak Hill. That’s a disgrace. We used to haul our pole vault pits in and out of the shed every day because we didn’t have a cover to leave them out overnight. It made us stronger and better vaulters.

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The remains of a pole vault program that no longer exists.

Back to the football game. I’m not really a sports reporter and I have to leave at halftime to get these pictures to the Beckley Register-Herald before 10PM. Unfortunately, it appeared like Princeton was going to run away with more than the ball. They were up 21-7 at the half.

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Oak Hill Red Devils, Vincent Lopez and Khalil Gray, put a stop to Princeton’s Devon Sibley.

Princeton didn’t just dominate the game, they dominated the stands. Their band was every bit as good as Bexley High School’s band, and we have a GOOD band. A band that’s a college-level marching band type band. Princeton’s band was that good too. They were playing Green Day’s “On Holiday!” I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. Cracks me up because when I was in the high school band, we played songs from my mom and dad’s generation. Oh goodness.

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Ta’than Gray of Oak Hill pushes forward for a few more yards.

There is only one grand stand at Oak Hill, another cool thing about local, small-time football. When Princeton scored, it was every bit as loud as when Oak Hill scored. Between the cheerleaders, dance team and drill team, Princeton must have had 50 high school girls cheering on their team and doing coordinated dance routines while the band played. It was almost as if Oak Hill surrendered the “Home Team” advantage.

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Princeton defenders tackle Oak Hill’s Ta’than Gray.
Categories
Kayaking Whitewater

Gauley Season

For a kayaker in West Virginia, Gauley Season is a special time of the year. Those who have never touched whitewater are unaware of the significance. However, in the whitewater world, everyone knows about Gauley Season. From the Kennebec and Dead Rivers in Maine to the Arkansas River in Colorado to the banks of the Kern and the American Rivers in California, people are singing Gauley praises and spreading the lore of Gauley Seasons past.

Most rivers in America, and the world for that matter, are getting low this time of year due to seasonal lack of rains. Yet, the Gauley River is fed by Summersville Lake, a manmade lake. In the Summer, the lake is for recreation but after Labor Day the lake needs to be lowered to the winter pool in preparation for winter rains. The dam was built by the Army Corps of Engineers from 1960 to 1966. When it was completed, an agreement was made that the whitewater industry would be guaranteed releases every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday for a 6-week period beginning the Friday after Labor Day. This 6-week period is known as Gauley Season.

What makes the Gauley River so special?

The Gauley features 5 big, bold, class V rapids: Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring and Sweet’s Falls. Rapids are rated by degree of difficulty from class I to class V. Many other rivers have class V rapids, but one thing that makes the Gauely’s class V rapids so good is that they are just challenging enough to be difficult, yet not too overpoweringly intimidating to scare people away.

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Rafters drop Sweet’s Falls, class V rapid on the Gauley River in West Virginia.

The adrenaline rush and satisfaction from successfully negotiating a Gauley class V rapid is exhilarating. Yet, those rapids are also very forgiving when your line is not as tight as you wanted. Swims and flipped rafts happen a lot out there, but the Gauley is forgiving. She allows you to learn from your mistakes so that you can return a better boater. That’s not to say that she is without her dangers. The dangers are real, but life has inherent danger too.

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A rafter takes a swim at the bottom of Sweet’s Falls, a 14 foot, near-vertical waterfall on the Gauley River in West Virginia

The Gauley also has lots of class IV and class III rapids interspersed between the big 5. These rapids maintain the flow and rhythm of an upbeat river trip. They keep things happening and give you plenty of enjoyment in between the biggies. They also provide contrast in a way that is not dissimilar from the slower, quieter parts of a song to emphasize the loud, screaming guitar solos. It’s interesting that the big 5 have a nice spread between them. It’s an ideal pace. There are pools of water in between the rapids but a steady current moves your boats through them at a pace that is just slow enough to give you time to catch your breath, take in the scenery and enjoy a group laugh or chat about the big rapid you just ran.

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Stephen Wright, of Jackson Kayaks, performs a “Loop” at Geek’s Wave on the Gauley River.

Epic Kayak Play

Kayakers flock to the Gauley because of the epic play. “Play,” in kayak terms, refers to river features that are ideal for freestyle moves in a kayak. Most common form of play is “surfing.” The river creates hydraulics that are formed when water fills a hole in a riverbed and then curls back upstream. This upstream force will hold the kayaker in the hydraulic. Add more water, or a differently shaped hole, and that hydraulic turns into a standing wave. Much like a wave on the ocean, a kayaker can surf the wave. The Gauley has some really nice hydraulics and surf waves. What makes them nice is that the features are very distinguished and consistent. This allows you to “get to know” the hole and learn to use it’s features to your advantage.

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Crystal Gustin, of Jackson Kayaks, surfs her kayak on “Geek’s Wave” on the Gauley River

In addition to the magic of the Gauley River itself, the season brings it’s own splendor. It’s like a big family reunion. Friends who only come in for Gauley Season are in town. You get a chance to catch up with these friends and enjoy the Gauley together. Many people we don’t know show up to enjoy the Gauley. On Gauley Fest weekend, the banks of the rivers are lined with boaters from all over. That’s just a good reminder of what an amazing place we have here.

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The Animal Upper Gauley Race. The 25th Annual race brings kayakers and rafters from all over.

This picture is from the Animal Upper Gauley Race. That race is special to me. I’ve raced maybe 10 times since 1998. Nowadays I try to go every year. Racing is special all in its own right.

Categories
Football Sports Photography

Oak Hill Football hosts Mount View

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Oak Hill hosted Mount View for the third week of High School football. It was a warm evening compared to last Friday’s chilly temperatures from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey. It’s weird that a hurricane coming from Texas can bring cooler temperatures up North but it did.

Oak Hill has a very impressive band and drill team plus cheer leaders and majorettes. In a county of small towns and small schools, it’s interesting to see the size of the football teams and bands and drill teams and cheerleaders fluctuate in size, strength, and ability.

Another interesting observation about West Virginia football is how far the teams will travel. Mount View traveled an hour and a half drive to get here. They had a large fan contingent too. I was impressed with how many fans made the drive.

One other thing about small school West Virginia football is that there oftentimes isn’t enough bleacher space for both sides of the field. So the away team’s fans will sit on the far end of the home team’s bleachers. It makes for an interesting sound of cheering for either team.

It’s a bummer these pictures have to be in to the Register-Herald by 10 pm. I wish I could have stayed for the whole game. This was a really good game. It was back and forth in the lead for the first half. Oak Hill came out strong with a touchdown, but then Mount View answered with two. Then Oak Hill scored. Then Mount View scored a touchdown. Mount View doesn’t have a field goal kicker so they went for two and got it both times. Oak Hill answered with a safety to tie it up at the half.

I’d say the energy of the fans rooting for their teams has got to be the best part about high school football. It’s really got a special feel to it. These are people’s kids and their friends and their friends’ kids and people they all grew up with. It’s neighborhoods of friends and neighbors and people they’ve seen around town their whole life. It’s bigger than just the game of football.

 

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Categories
Football Sports Photography Uncategorized

Fayetteville Beats Valley

The Valley Greyhounds traveled upstream to play the Fayetteville Pirates. One of my favorite things about photographing football on Friday nights is that I once again get to feel that pre-game excitement. It’s game time. All of my practice time is going into effect and this is when it all goes down.

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Fayetteville Quarterback, Tristian Coots, leads the Pirates on to the field. Chad Foreman for the Register-Herald.

Being assigned a Fayetteville game is a home game for me. I live 10 minutes down the street from the football field. I am going to know some of the fans in the crowd and maybe a few of my friends’ kids are students. It’s really exciting and the only thing better would be if I got to photograph my Alma Matter, the Bexley High School Lions.

There are only 23 players on Fayetteville’s team. I was talking with someone before the game who said that consolidation of schools is inevitable. It’s a hot topic of discussion around here. People who grew up here are loyal to the school where they learned. But numbers are shrinking year after year and there’s not enough money to keep them all open. There may come a day when these small-school rivalries don’t exist. Players may be driving an hour to play a Charleston high school like George Washington or even a school up in Morgantown.

I show up an hour before the game to get some ambiance shots. They like those at the newspaper because they really round out the whole high school football experience. Things like band pictures, cheerleaders doing their thing, majorettes, fans in the crowd. It’s all about the total experience.

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Jordan Scarborough leads the Fayetteville High School band on to the field.

It had rained all day Friday as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey made their way through the area. I was looking forward to some muddy, sloppy pictures but we haven’t had that much rain recently and the ground soaked it all up.

 

 

 

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Valley Greyhounds defender attempts to bring down Jordan Dempsey with a diving tackle.
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Valley Greyhounds running back charges over the Fayetteville defense.

Unfortunately, I can’t stay for the whole game. I have to leave at halftime in order to get all of my pictures to the paper before 10 pm. The first half was a pretty good match. It was a low-scoring, defensive game with a few breakout plays. Fayetteville led 8 to 6 when the teams left the field at halftime. They held off the Greyhounds for a final score of 22 to 14.

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Quick Football Photography Selfie
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Fayetteville head coach, David Moneypenney, congratulates John-Daniel Franklin after he recovers a fumble in the first half.
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A Valley Greyhound pops Jordan Dempsey up off the ground.

GO PIRATES!

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The Fayetteville Fanatics cheer on their team.