sport

Covering the Chuckanut 50K Ultramarathon

Saturday was fun. Got a nearly last-minute phone call to cover the Chuckanut 50K Ultramarathon for The Bellingham Herald. The 31.5 mile race was phenomenal to shoot, but a logistical nightmare.

Sandaled Feet:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Jason Loutitt, 40, of Vancouver, B.C.,  ran the entire 50 kilometers in socks and sandals during the 2015 Chuckanut 50K in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Loutitt won 4th place overall with a time of 3:53:58. © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Jason Loutitt, 40, of Vancouver, B.C., ran the entire 50 kilometers in socks and sandals during the 2015 Chuckanut 50K on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Loutitt won 4th place overall with a time of 3:53:58.

The race started in Fairhaven, went onto the Interurban Trail where it paralleled Chuckanut Drive, then split into 4 different courses on Fragrance Lake Trail checkpoint, those then wound back to that same checkpoint with the final leg as the reverse of the first.

Around The Corner

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Competitors turn the first corner after leaving the 2015 Chuckanut 50K start at 6th and Harris in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Competitors turn the first corner after leaving the 2015 Chuckanut 50K start at 6th and Harris in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015.

The start was easy. Just waited for the runners to begin coming at me. I did plan on shooting wide while using a flash to light them as it was dark and gray. So I got on the ground and worked a few images.

Setting His Timer:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  David Laney (92) of Ashland Ore., yellow shirt center, sets his time as he leads the pack from the start line of the 2015 Chuckanut 50K at 6th and Harris streets in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Laney won the race with a time of 3:40:27.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – David Laney (92) of Ashland Ore., yellow shirt center, sets his time as he leads the pack from the start line of the 2015 Chuckanut 50K at 6th and Harris streets in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Laney won the race with a time of 3:40:27.

After shooting the start, I drove to Cleator Road and waited for the first group of runners so I can get some on one of the trails. While waiting, I tested out the exposure settings my Nikon SB-810 Speedlight mounted on the paper’s D3s. But I could not find the rear curtain sync. After about 10 minutes, I headed to the checkpoint.

Pretty in Pink:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Care Nelson of Victoria, B. C., runs along the Interurban Trail during the 2015 Chuckanut 50K in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Care Nelson of Victoria, B. C., runs along the Interurban Trail during the 2015 Chuckanut 50K in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015.

At the checkpoint, a group of 100 supporters and spectators cheered each racer as they ran by. I liked the camaraderie so I stayed and shot the cheering.

“You Paid for This?”

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Trudy Marino of Ferndale, left, cheers runner Benjamin Perri of Seattle as he nears the first checkpoint at the intersection of the Interurban and Fragrance Lake Trails during 2015 Chuckanut 50K in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Marino says she was waiting for her friend Jesse Lenley as he was competing in the ultra marathon. © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Trudy Marino of Ferndale, left, cheers runner Benjamin Perri of Seattle as he nears the first checkpoint at the intersection of the Interurban and Fragrance Lake Trails during 2015 Chuckanut 50K in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Marino says she was waiting for her friend Jesse Lenley as he was competing in the ultra marathon.

After about half an hour, it was time to head back to the finish line. There was a good hour and a half wait until the first runner finished. His finish was not as fast as his other races.

Exhausted!

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  First place winner David Laney of Ashland Ore., left, is comforted by his girlfriend Jana Suddock, right, as a medical technician asks questions about his condition after he completed the course with a time of 3 hours, 40 minutes and 21 seconds in the 2015 Chuckanut 50K in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Laney won with a time of 3:40:21 and continues to hold the course record he set in 2013. © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – First place winner David Laney of Ashland Ore., left, is comforted by his girlfriend Jana Suddock, right, as a medical technician asks questions about his condition after he completed the course with a time of 3 hours, 40 minutes and 21 seconds in the 2015 Chuckanut 50K in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Laney won with a time of 3:40:21.

One this I make sure I get: reaction. Whether that reaction is good or bad, I try to get it. Plus, I look for congratulatory moments.

First & Second

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  First place winner David Laney (92) of Ashford, Ore., left, is congratulated by second place winner Andrew Benford (410) of Flagstaff, Ariz., after the two completed the 2015 Chuckanut 50K  in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Laney won with a time of 3:40:21 followed closely by Benford with a time of 3:40:34. Laney continues to hold the course record he set in 2013. © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - © Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – First place winner David Laney (92) of Ashford, Ore., left, is congratulated by second place winner Andrew Benford (410) of Flagstaff, Ariz., after the two completed the 2015 Chuckanut 50K in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday morning Mar. 21, 2015. Laney won with a time of 3:40:21 followed closely by Benford with a time of 3:40:34.

So a big tip for everyone out there: Learn your camera settings and what buttons to push. I’ve never used flash on the D3 so I was in the dark as to where to set the rear curtain synch. If I had cell service, I would’ve googled it.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

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Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Paul Conrad is an award-winning, nationally and internationally published freelance photographer living in Bellingham, Whatcom County, Wash., north of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe.

His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.

His specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Ski to Sea: A Challenge to Cover the Cross Country Biking Segment

I was cold, muddy, sweaty, and exhausted when I walked into The Bellingham Herald’s newsroom. My feet were soaked, my pants from my knees to my boots slathered in mud, and every bone in my body ached.

It was a good day. A very good day. Shooting the Ski to Sea endurance race with hugely satisfying.

Energizing For His Turn

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Ian Murray of Canmore, Alberta, hydrates prior to the start of the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Ian Murray of Canmore, Alberta, hydrates before the start of the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday afternoon May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

It began about 10ish when I arrive at Hovender Homestead Park in Ferndale. My job is to cover the sixth leg, cross-country biking, of the race. I was so early, only volunteers and a few hardy racers were there. Although the race was officially underway, there was an expected wait of nearly two hours before even the fastest racers would arrive.

Free Inspections and Tune-ups:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Josh Poulsen with Brown Dog Bikes of Belligham adjusts the front derailleur of a bike while giving courtesy inspections during the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Josh Poulsen with Brown Dog Bikes of Bellingham adjusts the front derailleur of a bike while giving courtesy inspections during the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday afternoon May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

While waiting, I chatted with race officials and volunteers. One of the topics of conversations was how high the river is. Usually, the canoers had at least 100 yards of a sandbar to land on for the exchange to take place. However, this year the landing spot was less than 10 yards of shoreline which would make it a tough challenge when more than two or three canoes arrived at one time.

Age is NOT a Barrier:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Nick Bauer, left, and Jim Bauer carry their canoe out of the Nooksack River to begin the cross country 3biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Nick Bauer and Jim Bauer carry their canoe out of the Nooksack River to begin the cross-country biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday afternoon May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

Although I’ve shot many endurance races and competitions when I worked at The Aspen Times in Colorado, Ski to Sea was a completely new thing for me. So the day before the race, I talked with Andy who gave me a few tips on shooting that particular leg:

Up & Over The Bars:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Larson Loeb of OOO-UM-GOW-AH flies over his handlebars as he attempts to ride over obstacles at Hovender Park during the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Larson Loeb of OOO-UM-GOW-AH flies over his handlebars as he attempts to ride over obstacles at Hovender Park during the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday afternoon May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

  1.  Arrive Early
  2.  Shoot the first men’s and woman’s teams as they handed off the timer
  3.  Drive along the bike route and look for angles
  4. Go to Squalicum Park where there is some good vantage points and compositions

Incoming Canoers:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - "Boats & Hose" team members Collin Murphy and Andy Millard paddle towards the end of the canoe leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – “Boats & Hose” team members Collin Murphy and Andy Millard paddle towards the end of the canoe leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

So, I arrived early. While there talked with people and figured out what was going on. Shot what I could of the begging leg of this segment.

Next, I drove along the route finding fields to photograph as the riders went through. I stopped along several spots but found only one that resembled them biking something that looked “cross-country.”

Easy Riding:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham - Dan Garrison of Team Mandelbaums traverses on open field along Labounty Road in the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Ferndale, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham – Dan Garrison of “Team Mandelbaums” traverses on open field along Labounty Road in the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday afternoon May 25, 2014, outside of Ferndale, Wash.

After half an hour of that, I went to Squalicum Park. Unfortunately, the winding trails usually ridden by the bikers were closed due to construction of new baseball/softball diamonds. But I was able to find a corner they came around at a pretty good speed, so as they rode past me, I used panning to capture that sense of speed.

Speed Demon:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Stephanie Ludlow with Team Anteverted Hipsters screams around a corner in Squalicum Park during the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Bellingham, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Stephanie Ludlow with the team “Anteverted Hipsters” screams around a corner in Squalicum Park during the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday afternoon May 25, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

A few tips on panning:

  • Panning takes a bit of practice, but it’s easy to do. First, plant your feet parallel of the direction of travel that your subject is going. Next, use a slow shutter speed and tiny aperture. The key is you want the subject sharp with the background/foreground blurred.
  • You begin following your subject and then when the subject is almost directly in front of you, begin firing off a few frames. The reason you wait is so you can center your subject in the frame and judge its speed better so you get a good image.

After leaving the park, I was driving along Squalicum Parkway and noticed the bikers riding an abandoned set of railroad tracks. As there was nowhere I could park, I drove slow to see if I could find a trail that led to them.

Huffing Up the Last Hill:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Kevin Bowman, right, with 676-GARY crests a hill as Emily Hirsch-Burdick with SFH-GET TO DA DOCTAA! begins her climb along Squalicum Parkway during  the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Bellingham, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Kevin Bowman, right, with “676-GARY” crests a hill as Emily Hirsch-Burdick with “SFH-GET TO DA DOCTAA!” begins her climb along Squalicum Parkway during the mountain biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday afternoon May 25, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

At the end, I noticed the bikers coming up a small hill pushing their bikes. I parked just before that spot and checked it out. I then went to check it out and noticed the long tree tunnel the riders went through.

Tunnel Vision:

©Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Megan Struther with Gates Of Hell, right, rides past Christie Duque of Aint No Mountain High Enough as she carries her bike along Squalicum Parkway during the cross country biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Bellingham, Wash. Duque broke her chain riding the rough railroad tracks along the road.

©Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Megan Struther with “Gates Of Hell,” right, rides past Christie Duque of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” as she carries her bike along Squalicum Parkway during the cross-country biking leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race on Sunday afternoon May 25, 2014 in Bellingham, Wash. Duque broke her chain riding the rough railroad tracks along the road.

So I spent a few minutes shooting this beautiful composition of the bikers riding through this section of trail and then pushing their bikes up the muddy hill. While shooting it, I noticed one of the riders carrying her bike. Her chain came off the front sprocket due to the rough trail.

It was an incredibly fun and satisfying day. Which probably explains why I was so tired at the end of the day. That or the 5 miles my pedometer says I walked.

For more photos from this section of Ski to Sea, view this slide show on The Bellingham Herald website: Ski to Sea Cross-Country Biking.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

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