In 8 Pics: A blog-type series dedicated to narrating the odd collections of photos I gather as I roll through the adventures of my life. Click to enlarge. Or visit the full gallery and respective album for more.
Volunteer, Volun-told, Or Just a Good Cause?
Nearly every year — or perhaps actually every year, but who’s keeping track anyhow? — since moving back to Edmonton we’ve made the mid-September trip one hundred and fifty kilometers south, back to the city of our formative youths, to lend a hand with the local Terry Fox Run.
Do you know anything about Terry Fox? If you are Canadian, you should. The guy is a national hero; in fact, when I was flipping through my brand new passport last week, I noticed that his image is now embossed onto the international consciousness through the classic photo of him on his cross-country run right there on page 31. Thirty-some years ago the guy, having lost his leg to cancer, set out to run coast-to-coast –before that was the cool thing to do– to raise money to combat the disease that would change his and so many other lives, and would ultimately cut that life all-too-short.
Each year, all sorts of people gather in local events, large and small, to run a bit, raise some money, and maintain that awareness and the memory that defined it. My mother-in-law got involved years ago after loosing friends and family to cancer, and for the last few years has been the head-honcho-madam-organizer for the Red Deer event.
And we do what we can to lend a hand: usually that makes me the official event photographer, for whatever that is worth, plus general all-round lackey for loading, cleaning, and go-fer-ing.
And for the last few years, I’ve been juggling those responsibilities with full-on event participation: in other words, I snap some photos, lace up my shoes, run the ten-ish klick run, and then return to the main show to snap some more photos.
I was going to do something similar this year: snap, run, snap. After all, I’m still in awesome running shape after my recent marathon, right?
But then life got in the way: my Achilles tendon –or something in that vicinity– has been a little sore, we were having a busy, rush-filled weekend, and y’know, I kinda just wanted to take a day off. So, I didn’t run it.
Instead, I loaded up my camera pack, strapped my GoPro camera to my chest, and buckled up my inline skates.
The Wheels on My Feet Go Round and Round…
Remember those? Brand-name = Roller Blades!
I don’t inline skate much anymore. It used to be my deep and abiding love: in fact, back in Vancouver I was skating home from work on a fairly regular basis, navigating the mean streets of the city, through some residential areas, up some daunting hills, around some fearsome traffic, and covering nearly eight kilometers of slightly dangerous commuter roadways to get from uptown Vancouver to our little apartment in Burnaby.
But, yeah, the blades have been gathering dust: I put them on a couple times each summer, sure, but usually they are relegated to the back of the closet.
Not this weekend, however: I was thinking of getting some more interesting photos of the Terry Fox event. Every year, I huddle at the start line with everyone else, snap some low-action pics of prepping-runners stretching and warming up, and then –bam– race, camera goes away, and the next pics are of more idle runners, post-run, eating hot dogs and milling about waiting for the prize draws.
An Alternate Event Plan Develops
So I started thinking: on blades I could do two things. First, with my GoPro I could attempt to get some awesome high-def video of the course and the actual run. And second, by leapfrogging the runners and bikers along the course, I could hunt out some photogenic locales, plant, and get some on-route race pics. Neither of these were images we’d nabbed in the past.
And it worked out so much better than I could have hoped.
The sun was out. The people were smiling and friendly. The light was perfect. The scenery was contrasting and beautiful. And I didn’t take any sort of spill on my skates rendering either me or my camera equipment prone and injured on the ground… a real possibility given my aforementioned lack of recent practice.
I hit record on the GoPro and followed the crowd out of the gate and down into the river valley. I wasn’t capturing continuous video for two reasons: (a) I was breaking for photo-ops and (b) I still don’t trust the camera fully to not corrupt the video file of anything more than a five minute stretch of recording… sorry GoPro, my trust is still weak after a few unfortunate media losses. Either way, I wound up with about forty minutes of various-length 1080p 30fps video, and –with the camera in simultaneous photo mode– one shot every five seconds for a total of about five hundred completely random pics, some of which are actually not too bad.
I also made four strategic stops on route and planted for some oncoming-runner pics.
My first stop was the footbridge, while the runners were still quite fresh.
My second stop was along the river path where I found a pretty little spot with some of the turning foliage forming a canopy over the path, with strategically placed beams of light illuminating some well-timed images.
My third stop was on the old train bridge, a converted trestle footpath that is a favourite among photogs –in fact, we had some wedding pics done there ten years ago– where the shadows and contrast made for some interesting perspectives.
And my final stop was atop the one big climb hill, a power line tower looming in the background and some still-enthusiastic runners and bikers prepping for the home stretch.
At the end of the day, the choice to play full on photographer –rather than the half-and-half volunteer-come-participant– resulted in some photos that I’m very happy about and an experience that was worthy of trading in a training day on.
Lotsa Pics, Lotsa Vids, Lots Fun
I mean, sometimes you just gotta do something different and get your mind into an unfamiliar space: old blades, new city, same event, neglected hobby. From that kind of mix, interesting things can occasionally blossom.