Sep 28 2009

Day 170: Sledding in the 70s

by andrew

A couple days ago we made the short trip up to my grandmother’s cabin in the mountains to turn off the water (before winter brings the threat of busting pipes) and take care of a couple other chores (like eating the chocolate zucchini bread Renee made and drinking coffee on the deck overlooking the meadow and the Rockies). When we got there we discovered that there had been a decent amount of snow a few days prior, because all the meadow grass was matted down and there was still a bit of snow left despite a couple warm days since the precipitation.

Turned out to be the perfect day to go sledding in warmer than 70F!

Speaking of photos, here are a bunch more as I am catching up:

A few days ago I headed into the mountains with my dad and mom in search of some fall colors to photograph. We found some, but not as many as we’d figured would be up there already. Still, we got some amazing shots and had an incredible time. It was the perfect weather and lighting all day long:

Working my way backwards, we had a wonderful time celebrating our niece’s 2nd birthday in Winnipeg before we headed west and south again (I know I already sent this to some of you):

In the “hey that was a long time ago” category, here are some shots of The Dredge I explored back in August if you are even remotely interested in the exploration of the old, decrepit, abandoned, wrecked, decaying remains of human endeavor and technology:

Also in August: the Rempel Family Gathering near Dauphin, MB:

So, there… that gets things a little caught up photographically speaking.

Yesterday Bennah and I broke out the mountain bikes and had some awesome trail rides… we had been planning the adventure for weeks, and it was a blast to finally get on the dirt. There are some long and excellent trails that weave through the city while managing not to feel like the city. I am definitely going to have to take the cameras back there and get some shots and video.

Sep 3 2009

Adventures with Andrew

by andrew

Introducing one of the media threads I hope to maintain periodically: Adventures with Andrew.

I was in REI a couple months ago in Missoula, MT and this little guy caught the corner of my eye – the HERO camera ( It caught my eye because my dad had told me about it just a few weeks prior and sent me the link. It was easy to justify the purchase because I wanted to see if I could also use it to produce acceptable stock video clips using it’s rudimentary time-lapse features. Yes – the business angle.

In fact, some of my initial experiments have already been accepted at Shutterstock, for example:

Those were all shot using the HERO camera. I’m in the process of submitting them at a couple other stock footage sites, and I’m looking forward to squeezing more stock-worthy content out of the little camera. But enough about business… this particular introduction is about having some FUN with the new toy.

So, I had this idea to start up a little series of episodes connected by a particular theme along the lines of exploring some strange places and attempting some adventurous (i.e. crazy) escapades… and I’d capture chunks of the adventures and edit them together into fun little YouTube clips. Of course, they would have to be called something cheesy like “Adventures with Andrew.” Maybe I’ll even start taking requests for Adventures through comments here and on YouTube… for example, if you give me a crazy (but it better be good) idea of something to try or somewhere to go, I’ll shoot the adventure with the HERO cam and you can have your very own made to order vicarious adventure with me. You’ll almost feel like you were there!

And then again… maybe the world is not ready to go on Adventures with Andrew yet. But I guess we will find out. I have several more episodes that I’m still editing to post, but here is the first one in all its glory.

A few interesting facts about this particular adventure:

  • Location: West Cost, USA near Lincoln City, OR
  • Time: very very early
  • Water temperature: not as cold as the ocean itself (at least 55F)
  • Air temperature: about the same as the water
  • Gear: Vibram Five Fingers Footwear, swimming suit, dry bag, t-shirt, fleece
  • Original video length shot: over an hour, but most of it was really boring, just crawling through overgrown bush on a steep incline that you can’t tell was steep on the video

Adventures with Andrew Episode 1: Exploring the Foggy Forest Timber Playground

Andrew swims across a river to explore an otherwise inaccessible overgrown wasteland of fallen trees and wild bush. He climbs, hangs, jumps, crawls, walks, and slides over the seemingly impassable terrain. Join him on the very 1st Episode of Adventures with Andrew. Ok. It’s cheesy, but you love it.

Aug 23 2009

Day 134: July Photos and Twitter

by andrew

So, I’m still working on a bunch of media updates for the blog… videos… The Map (which is giving me some headaches)… all kinds of great stuff. And I had originally intended to put it all out at once, but I figure I better pace myself since everything takes so long to edit and upload. So, here’s a window into what our July was like:

Click through to go through the gallery in order… or just watch random moments from our July right here. There’s nearly 200 photos in that gallery. And, as if that wasn’t enough, I had to give our family time in Neskowin, OR a separate gallery of it’s own since there were so many photos from that week with my brother, sister + her family, and our parents celebrating their 40th anniversary:

You might have also noticed the Twitter feed that I added a couple months ago near the top of the side-bar to the right. It automatically updates whenever we save a new post here, whenever I upload new photos from Lightroom to SmugMug, and whenever who knows what else my geekiness will think to wire up. Once in a while I even update it manually. If you like Twitter, you can follow my feed directly here:


Jun 16 2009

The Race Project

by andrew

The Race Project… OE21G… Adventuring… it has many working titles at the moment. The short version goes like this:

For nearly a decade now, one of my close brothers (of which I have many among my spiritual family) has been teaching an Outdoor Adventuring course at a private, faith-based school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Incorporating the necessary provincial requirements, the course qualifies as phys ed credit for the students and teaches them fundamental survival skills like navigation, fire building, shelter making, team dynamics, etc. They spend a lot of time during the year practicing what they learn. They go hiking and camping in a remote area during the Fall Camping Trip. They build quinzhees and spend a night in sub-freezing temperatures on the Winter Camping Trip. And the year is peppered with biking trips, obstacle runs, urban night hikes, and the like. At the end of the year they have a final written exam and a final practical exam.

The practical exam has evolved over the years, but it has always been modeled after the fine tradition of adventure racing (e.g. Eco-Challenge). The amazing part is that these are 9th, 10th, sometimes 11th grade students completing roughly 100 km / 62 miles entirely self-powered (on foot and bike) during a 36 hour period; including a campcraft phase during which they have to build and sleep in their own tarp shelters. Held at the beginning of June each year in Canada, temperatures can still hover close to freezing. Each student team races against each other and against a veteran team (Bravo) that ran the race as students themselves several years ago and has been coming back for the fun of it since then. They have to navigate their way through roughly 30 checkpoints armed with their compasses, cardinal-based riddle-like instructions, and an appreciation (usually begrudging) for their instructor’s sense of humor. The checkpoints take them through a surprising variety of terrain from urban environments and open road, to bush-whacking through provincial parks, across muddy landscapes, and wading (or swimming) through river-like flood-ways. These are just some of the challenges they face. In addition, the instructor placed several handicaps on team Bravo this year to even the playing field as much as possible (for example, they had two 90 minute penalties, an additional checkpoint, and found all their bikes disassembled at one of the transition points).

A while back another close brother of mine and I got it in our heads that this course (and all the real, bigger than life characters that surround it) would make an excellent documentary. So, for the last year and a half we’ve been exploring how to pull it all together into a coherent project. Part of the exploration has offered me the privilege of chasing the teams through the course in 2008 and 2009 grabbing as much footage and photography as I can on the run.

I’m really cutting my teeth on any semblance of video experience through the exercise and pushing my photography skills as well. One exciting thing for me personally, as I wade through all the material that I collected at this year’s race just over a week ago, is that I am noticing a huge improvement in both the footage and the photos. I think a big factor in this is that I was here ahead of time, which made it possible to help the instructor set up the course. I knew were every single checkpoint was and (more or less) how the teams would approach and leave. Also, having gone through the whole experience last year, I had a subconscious working model that helped me anticipate where great clips or shots might be likely to emerge.

In all this, though, I know that there is a bigger story to tell, and it almost seems murkier now with 2-years-worth of solid coverage. Each class and each year has its own independent theme tying everything together for that particular group of students. Start adding the years together, however, to define something as big as the overall course, and the story-telling challenge grows exponentially with each additional year considered. One area that is significantly lacking in our coverage are the background stories of the students themselves – their families – their other interests – and the events that shape them throughout the whole year in the class. Now that we’re mobile, I’m hoping that we can start to fill in a lot of the gaps.

One thing that bears mention, and I saw this emphasized for me personally this year in a profound way: the efforts and sacrifice of the support teams that make this race and the course itself possible are immeasurable. Renee and the kids supported me being away for several long evenings while we were setting up the course, and then they followed me / drove me around / rode around in the truck for two days straight while I chased the shots. The instructor’s family supports him in similar ways throughout the entire year. And the parents of the students entrust them to a very worthwhile course that has very real dangers. Bennah, my oldest son, also helped take some excellent photos at times and places that I simply couldn’t be all at once. Seeing all of that in a new way this year really impressed on me the desire to make this a significant stream in the documentary’s storyline.

Here are a few of the photos I took from that amazing weekend adventure (see link below for a gallery of many more photos from the 2009 race with details of this year’s story in all the captions):

Here’s a gallery of photos from the 2009 race. [NOTE: The 2008 and 2009 Exam Race galleries are password protected out of respect for the student’s privacy. You can email me for the access codes, or get them from Mr. Dave directly.]

Other fun / related resources:
Here is a Google map of the whole course for 2009.
Here are some of the photos from the 2008 race.

Apr 19 2009

Week 1: Review in Photos

by andrew

Feb 18 2008

Winter Mulch

by andrew

We came across a most curious sight on our drive up to / through Pennsylvania this past weekend. Right along 104 there were these immense mountains of mulch steaming from the decomposing process and a front-end loader taking smaller piles and putting them onto bigger piles. It was truly amazing… perhaps all the more interesting because there was still some stubborn patches of snow clinging to the surface in spots. I didn’t really have the time that I would have liked – such as 8 days or so šŸ™‚ – to truly document the spectacle properly, but in the few short minutes I had while my family waited in the truck, I jumped out and fired off a few quick rounds. It was hard to decide which one to post, but this captures the essence. Sadly, none of the shots I grabbed captured the enormity of these mulch piles, nor the precarious position the loader was being driven into. The pilot literally drove this thing up the steep side of these piles to drop a new deposit on top. It was expertly accomplished, but I thought for sure the giant machine was going to tip and come rolling down the mulch mountain right at me.

mulch loader

Jan 23 2008

[Good Guys…0 | Bad Guys…1]

by andrew

Suspicious Sunset

This was the picture I was taking after bailing off my bike ride home from the metro today when a lady not-quite shouted across the road “Who are you and why are you taking pictures?” About a year ago, when I decided I was going to get serious about pursuing this photography thing that I was enjoying so much, I knew I had a LOT to learn, but I never would have imagined the persecution that would come with it. Ok, I’m being dramatic, because if I had my druthers I’d hardly interact with people… ever… well, there are a couple exceptions, but you get the idea.

I tried to inject a little excitement into my reaction this time – “The sunset! I’m a photographer and I’m just taking a picture of the sunset. Do you want to see?” I approached her and could tell she was starting to let her guard down a little. We chatted for a bit, I showed her the shot, and she explained why she was suspicious even though I had already guessed as much. Apparently that “private” neighborhood (which had the misfortune of being directly under that sunset at that moment) had seen its share of suspicious characters driving through taking pictures of people’s property. I told her I had no problem with her asking what I was doing and said I was sorry to cause her any concern. I hope I left her with the impression that people taking pictures aren’t necessarily up to no good.

It’s not just the terrorists. Other evil morons are picking away at that fabric of a reasonable society through their stupidity, selfishness, and greed. I never blame the people who challenge me when I’m taking photos in public. It’s not their fault. I might hold a grudge for two minutes if they’re rude about it, but I’m always aware that the blame really falls at the feet of those who abuse our freedoms; providing the impetus for authorities to take away (and the populous to surrender) our normal expectancy of independence and openness in our own society. How much sense does it make to give away something so that it can be protected!!!??? Hello? It’s all fine and dandy that our freedom is protected, but when it doesn’t even belong to us any more what good does it do?

I photograph in DC a lot, so these kind of challenges are something I experience often (I’m a little too interested in things other than the monuments to blend in with the tourists). I find it incredibly ironic that some people get completely bent out of shape because I like to take pictures of interesting things in public places when their picture was taken a million times that day by the bastions of security cameras peppering the city buildings and streets. Just look around some time when you’re in a big city: overhangs, street corners, building walls, every dark half-ball shaped thing the size of a grapefruit is a camera, and of course there’s the older, more obvious long brick-shaped ones. Shouldn’t we be objecting to having our picture constantly taken all the time like that? Oh, right, but it’s for our protection. And not for commercial use anyway.

Do I hate security cameras? No. I’m making a point. We are just as quick to throw the rights of others away as we are to throw our own rights away. Sometimes I’m surprised by how quickly that is, that’s all I’m saying. Then again, what if I was a bad guy and Joe Citizen never reported me? There are always so many sides to everything. I guess I just never would have thought that the steepest learning curve in photography would be the people skills (especially when people are the last thing I’m interested in photographing). I want to learn how help people see in ways they’ve never seen before. I’m getting a lot of practice anyway… one day maybe I’ll be able to turn a confrontation into another person’s excitement at opening their eyes wider to the world around them just as easily as I pointed my camera at the sky and pressed the shutter release tonight.

Jan 22 2008

Freezing with Geese

by andrew

With temperatures in the 20s (and a bit colder at night) over the weekend, I knew yesterday would dawn with some potentially interesting ice to shoot. There’s a marsh just down the road, and while it is not a remarkable landscape, it always feels like it could yield some interesting photos at any given moment. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed at 6:30 am on a day off and noted with some annoyance that I was already 30 minutes too late to get any pre-sunrise colors already unfolding.

It was 18 degrees and colder with windchill. I pulled on some crazy arctic boots that I had all but forgotten about until the night before. Scrounging for some cold weather gear I found them burried in a bin in our “storage room.” They had been issued to me in Minot, North Dakota during my Air Force days, and they kick some serious butt… water tight with thick wool liners, they feel like they weigh 10 lbs each.

Sure enough, the marsh was frozen over quite nicely. I was originally intending to explore the ice with my camera during the shifting colors of early light, but the Canada Geese quickly became my primary pursuit when I saw the scene they presented. I spent the next hour and a half inching closer bit by bit, sliding my tripod across the shallow ice, trying to squeeze evey last bit of distance out of my longest lens that maxes out at 300mm. I would have never even tried this without the boots, because I knew I was bound to break through in spots, and sure enough I did, but they kept me warm and dry.

As it was, the best photo I have to show for it doesn’t even look like I got that close. The geese were on to me. No matter how slow I went or how often I paused, they had a way of inching further away and settling back down again. I was almost in pain for want of a 2x extender or a decent 600mm (or better yet, both) to adequately capture the amazing sight. But as it was, I was able to keep from spooking them completely by taking it easy, watching and listening for their “warning” mode calls, and stopping when they noticed me until they were comfortable with my new position.

What amazed me was the sight of these geese, sleeping on the ice in well below freezing temperatures. And as if that wasn’t enough – and this is what I really wanted to capture but couldn’t with my short range – their feathers were covered with a significant layer of frost. They didn’t seem to mind much though. No wonder we make blankets out of their down.

Ice Geese