Monday, August 26, 2013

March Madness Photo comp recap

This March-June, we both entered Darin McQuoid's March Madness photo contest. This contest is based on an old online photo contest that The Range Life blog used to host. I remember seeing the original once or twice and wishing I was cool enough to have something to enter. Well, years have passed, and now the contest is revived and lo and behold we are cool enough to have a ton of photos to enter.

Throughout the competition, Darin provided commentary on the photos and results. The decisions were based on five votes: four judges and a popular vote. Darin was not one of the judges, so his commentary is unbiased and very interesting to read through. I've included links to his commentary at each stage of the competition. It's worth checking out. I've also linked to the site so that you can see what photos we were competing against. I can't repost the other people's photos without permission, of course, so you have to visit the original contest site to see them.

I can't wait to compete again next year. Ok, here's how it went down:

Natalie's bit to say:

Leif has so many cool photos that he didn't get a chance to show off because he got booted out early (oops, spoiler).  It was so much fun to showcase our photography via this competition and I can't wait for next year! All in all, I'm pretty proud of being the only female participant and to have made it so far in the comp (3rd/4th out of  32! see descriptions of the photographers- first fourteen, second fourteen, last four spots), beating out renowned whitewater photographers such as Mike Leeds while winning myself a sweet new WRSI helmet and a subscription the Canoe and Kayak Magazine.  Thanks Darin for putting on a great show, even if it lasted 5 times as long as it was supposed to!

Round one:

Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results
Natalie's Entry

Natalie's alternate color version not entered

Natalie's Commentary:

This shot of Leif was taken in the lower canyon of Rio Nevados in Chile this December while we were there for the Grand Prix (see Going to Grand Prix, Back from Grand Prix, Stage 1 Gol Gol, Stage 2 Puesco, Stage 3 Nevados, Stage 4 Futa boatercross, Stage 5 Futa marathon).  I really love boating in tight narrow steep gorges and I felt that this picture really captured the feeling of this drop. I debated a long time about whether to submit the black and white version or the color version.  Leif convinced me to submit the black and white.  After reading Darin's comment "the blacks are crushed too much for my taste " I realized that the blacks were blacker on a lot of computer screens other than my own.  And upon further reflection, I agree with Darin rather than Leif.  I think Darin would prefer the color version below that I did not submit.  Anyway, I breezed into the next round with this gem. 

Leif's entry

Leif's Commentary:

This is Natalie ducking a log on Stovepipe on the Little White Salmon (see past posts: Hood Classics, and Welcomegiving). I debated only a little bit before submitting this photo. It's one of my favorites, if not my favorite photo, and I considered holding it in reserve for later rounds. However, looking at who else had signed up for the comp, I decided that it would be silly to hold back and get eliminated. Better to spend it all early and make it farther than to get eliminated before starting. Imagine my surprise when I got ELIMINATED by Tom Janney!

Wild card:

Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results

Leif's Commentary:

I can't remember who this was, but the waterfall is Casuela Sucia near Pucon Chile. This had been one of my photos that I had considered for round one. I ended up putting it in for the wild card round after consulting with Natalie. Basically it was the most unique of my photos. The cool circular vignetting from the trees, and the weird lighting (I had to crank on this in lightroom, but it ended up looking pretty good) made it pretty different from what I thought other people would submit. After seeing the other wild card photos, I was definitely biting my nails. I knew some of the photographers from their photos, like Ben York's shot of Dan Menten boofing the shit out of this huge bump thing on Fantasy falls, or Xavier Engle's shot looking downstream into a very ominous-looking Turnback canyon. I expected to see Ben York and Adrian Treggonning bump me out, if not any of the other sick photos, but I somehow advanced and got myself back in the game.

Round Two (Sweet Sixteen):

Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results

Natalie's Entry

Natalie's Commentary:

This is a shot of Leif on the M-wave was one that I originally never thought too much about. A few years back we printed it out and put it on our wall.  During the photo comp I realized that I was not tired of looking at this photo on my wall and thus it was worthy of entering.   I think what I like most about this photo is the depth. The bushes in the front provide interesting framing and foreground while the river behind him guides your eye to the Montrose hills and then further back to the snow capped peaks in the background.  I also really like how the right side of the channel is in shadow while the left is in full sun, and the clouds aren't too bad either. It is hard to get a unique interesting playboating shot and I felt that this one would stand a chance against all the other  nail biting steep creeking photos that I knew I would be competing against.  I was right and I breezed into the next round, again.

Leif's entry

Leif's commentary:

This is Natalie on a slidey drop on Crapo creek (pronounced cray-poe, not crap-o) on the day between my bachelor party and our wedding. This run turned out to be a huge challenge because of wood (look how tiny that creekbed is), and was the third time in four days that we ended up hiking out in the dark. I picked this photo because I was proud of using a little control over the depth of field, and getting all artsy with some composition, showcasing the weird moss that was growing there after the fire that had swept through a few years earlier. I was pissed when I ended up in another tough bracket and got eliminated for real.


This is one of my all time favorite photos.  It has also stood the test to time on our wall.  I think that Leif should have won this round (and Darin agrees with me!), but I guess it is hard to vote against the aqua colored water in the Steve Arns competing shot (bracket A).

Quarter Finals:

Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results

Leif, Marcus and Maria enjoying Skook (see Skookumchuck)

Seth Chapelle on Triple Falls, Southeast (4 days in Southeast)

Natalie's Commentary:

Since I got to submit two photos for the quarter finals I decided to go with variety, a tight and a wide shot.  I really like both of these images.  They both capture the feeling of the moment.  The first portrays the magic of skookumchuck narrows when it is sunny and not raining.  Although Darin would prefer not to have any other boaters than the one on the wave, I think that it would no longer make you feel like you want to be there spending a sunny day with your buddies.  The photo of Seth Chapelle on Triple Drop in the Southeast really is unique.  The lighting, perfect exposure of the water and utter concentration on Seth's face is amazing.     Most other photographers variety consisted of a vertical and a horizontal shot of some creekboating.  This set of photos really set me apart from the others and I again breezed into the next round.


Darin's post of the competitors

Darin's post of the results

Dan Rubado, Entry Boof on Oh Be Joyful, Colorado.

Leif, Short Sands, OR

Natalie's Commentary:

Although I was nervous about going into the next round with the above two photos I went for it anyway because I liked the pairing.  I liked the unknown excitement of the first photo, Dan boofing into the abyss, paired with the calming knowledge that Leif is leaving the power of the big surf behind him at sunset.  I also really liked the idea of pairing two photos with very different color palettes, one sharp and bright, the other soft and muted.   I was nervous because scenic non-action shots had not done well in the competition so far.  I was right to be nervous, I didn't advance. While writing this post I came across the strong photo pictured below that I didn't even remember about during the competition.  I think that if I had paired this one with the photo of Dan, I would have made it into the finals.  But C'est la vie.

Leif, Rio Nevados, Chile.  


Funny story: in the photo of Dan on OBJ creek, he is in the process of falling over and rolling off the lip. It wasn't too funny at the time, but now that a few years have gone by, I am quite amused by the serendipitously awesome photo that came out of Dan eating shit. It was really weird. He just had one of those rare days where you're not on your game. He had flipped on Daisy creek earlier that morning, and after this "roll" he decided to call it a day. I think it was the only time I've seen Dan miss a line in an important way. For your entertainment, here is another amusing shot of one of our friends making a slight miscalculation:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Conor Flynn.
Maybe that one would have been a good one to submit. As Natalie said, C'est la vie.

Hypothetical Finals:

The actual finals

The actual finals results


The following four photos were ones I picked out in case I made it past the last round.  Truth of the matter was, I was getting a little thin.

Leif on Glenwood wave, Colorado.

Leif on Mamquam Falls , BC (see just passing through )

Dave Schmidt makes an O as he watches Leif get chundered on Spiral Staircase on the Slave River. (search Slave River on our blog for multiple posts)

Adrian Keirnan (the man behind whitebox magazine) on Triple Falls, in the Southeast (4 days in Southeast)


We spent a lot of time picking out possible shots for finals, since we were going to be leaving email access before the semifinals results were announced, and we had to be ready for Natalie to advance. At the time, I thought we had picked out a very nice set, going for a lot of diversity and emotion (even a little humor).  We had our friends give us feedback and advice at a party we were having.  However, looking at the actual finalists, I see that the unified set that works a single theme is probably a stronger entry, and takes better advantage of the format. That's certainly not an angle that I've considered before, either in a contest context or in other posting contexts. I usually form a group of two or three photos because I can't pick a single one out, not because the group works well together to cover more facets of a single theme or idea. This is fertile ground for artistic expansion.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Double Duo Date, Slave River

We've been talking about it for years.... a top to bottom no portage Slave River Rapids run (Fort Fitzgerald to Fort Smith, ~20 km). In the past, we've been turned off by the longish stretches of flat water that we'd have to paddle in our cramped playboats. Enter option Duo with camping and double date (minus the wine that I forgot to pack). It was a perfect two days of paddling, ~5 hours on the water + priceless hours hanging out on the rocks with our very close friends and Fort Smith locals, John Blyth and Gen Cote. We didn't take many photos, but I feel like the ones that we did get really captured the flavor of the outing.

The team(s) at Fort Fitz

John and Gen catch some air off of Rollercoaster

Gen and Nat

Leif and Nat at Twinkies

John and Gen on Twinkies
John being John.

John's a little bummed that Natalie burnt the veggies

Wow.  Just Wow.  I'm just a little scared.

Inspired by Come Down to the River, circa 1990

So beautiful and peaceful.  Nothing like a minimalist camping trip to put life into perspective.

Next time, fireworks from Wyoming baby!

We really should start selling this stuff.  Any takers?

The swimming channel, Pelican Rapids

Our double date turned into a triple date when, in the morning, we met up with Jason and Helen Panter, who hiked in and camped on the opposite side of the river from us.

Triple date girls walking the plank
We made it!  Leif only tried to get Gen stuck in a hole once!

In case you're interested in the lines we took here was our route (use this Slave River rapids map for reference):
Cassette Rapids-The Slide, Outrageous, Alarm Clock(John and Gen)/Rockem Sockem (Leif and Nat), Rollercoaster
Pelican Rapids-Three fates, Twinkies, Pratfall, Stage Dive
Mountain Portage Rapids-Turnpike, right side of Maelstrom, Crazy Train, Avalanche, Land of the Giants
Rapids of the Drowned-The Finger (just river right of Where's Will?), Arms Race, Big Wave

 Some exciting kayaking moments that didn't make it onto the article:
John and Natalie getting completely airborne off of a wave in Avalanche.
Leif and Gen (we switched wives for the second day) getting a stern pirouetted in Land of the Giants.
John and Natalie getting tubed in Land of the Giants.
Leif and Gen's unintentional surf/ stuck in the sticky hole in the Arms Race.
Topping off the day with dinner for six (chinese) at the Pelican restaurant
Honestly, we looked better off before the food arrived.

 For all you kayaking couples out there, I really highly recommend an overnight double date. The last one we went on was down Deer Creek (IV Cali run) in 2010 with our other very close friends, Alex and Alex, who are getting married this summer.   I briefly mention it in my past post: Bringing it Home.

 For everyone who always wanted to come to the Slave but weren't sure about logistics, Leif and I just bought a house that we are turning into a kayak hostel during the summers. Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in coming up!  It really is one of my favorite places in the world and in my opinion way better than Uganda (been there) or the Ottowa (haven't been there so I have no grounds off which to make this statement but I have a feeling that it is true).

Just a little place

With a big ass yard for tents

And a sweet space to hang out and cook