Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011, european heaven (pt 1)

Contrary to what the title suggests, I (unfortunately) did not spend all of 2011 in a European heaven. But I'm limited by rhyming options this year, so I'm going with that. It's hard to believe that this year is over...a part of me still feels like the Olympics (in February 2010) were just yesterday. They were not. Anyway, I am at least a little more organized than I was a this time last year, due to missing Challenge, so I figured that I would start my year-in-review posts. Considering that I posted all three of them in February last year, this is a huge improvement.

Trimming the Tree
I kicked off the New Year sitting on an Amtrak train in Jackson, Michigan, craning my neck to see fireworks from the window. A last-minute gap in my work schedule allowed me to join Christina and Jules in Michigan after all, but by the time I knew my schedule and could buy a train ticket, the one that would have allowed me to ring in the New Year with them was out of my budget. So I arrived in Royal Oak after 1am, and they picked me up on their way home from the New Year's party that they had attended. We had a stellar couple of days together for our belated Christmas.

I also went to a Charlotte Martin concert in January!
CharMar is one of my absolute favourite musicians, and I had not seen her perform before. The show was incredible. She débuted many of the new songs from her album Dancing on Needles, and I fell in love with "Warrior," which I am still patiently waiting for her to release as a B-side...

Of course, the main event in January was, once again, the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. They were in Victoria, BC, this year, so the trip was looking like it would be quite expensive, at first. I managed to save money by flying into Seattle and when one of the skating families found out that I planned to stay in a hostel, they found space for me in their rooms. Skating families are fantastic! Flying into Seattle also meant that I had a great excuse to fly in a couple of days early, so that I could spend some time in Vancouver with Lori! Of course, it rained the whole time, but she had tons of Road to Avonlea episodes available on PVR, so all was not lost. After 2 days with L$, it was off to Victoria! I was busier at Canadians than I have ever been, since I doubled up on coverage and was working for both and GoldenSkate. It was exhausting, but exhilarating, and I'm still so relieved that the pieces fell into place for the trip to be a possibility.

Day 1: Grueling 15-hour day at the rink for novice short programs, the junior ladies short, where I snagged this amazing Ina Bauer shot of Julianna Sagaria, and junior dance practice.
Julianna Sagaria

Day 2: Another 15-hour day for novice free skates, junior pairs short, and the novice medal ceremony, which was way after bedtime for some of the kids on the podium. The novice dance event was my favourite to shoot all last year, because the top 6 or 7 teams were so talented and had such wonderful free dances. I hated that it was the first event to end this week! So one of the standout moments of the day was Madeline Edwards & Zhao Kai Pang's championship-winning novice free dance. They also set a new Canadian record. I love this shot, snapped a couple of seconds after they hit their end pose, because it's so easy to tell how thrilled they are with their skate.
Edwards & Pang

Day 3: Three junior programs, but I was able to sneak out after the junior free dance to head back to the hotel early, eat an actual meal (and not just a bagel slathered in Nutella), and catch up on photo organization and submissions. Photo of the day is Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams in their first-place short dance. They also won the title the next day, which meant that their coaches & my friends went 3-for-3 on the national dance titles below the senior level. Awesome! Anyway, I had the privilege of shooting Nicole & Thomas quite a few times in their début season, but this shot might be my favourite.
Orford & Williams

Day 4: Finally, the schedule worked in my favour! I shot senior dance practice in the morning, and then I had time to get out of the rink and breathe. I met some of the novice dancers & parents at Roger's for sundaes, and embarked on an amusing turbo-shopping adventure to find a black skirt for Maddie, before heading back to the rink for the junior free dance, men's free, and medals. Photo of the day is Kelly Oliveira & Jordan Hockley, a team I loved watching for several years. I didn't have any idea then that this was my last time to photograph them as a team. I sure miss those smiles! At IDC, we called them our prozac team, since they always gave such a bubbly performance.
Oliveira & Hockley

Day 5: First day of senior competition! However, the POTD is from practice, since I knew that I wanted this shot of Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, and I knew that I needed an angle that I wouldn't be able to get from the media seats during the competition. The first time that I saw their short dance, via a tiny feed on my computer, I knew that I wanted to get this shot at Canadians. I had missed it a couple of times in practice the day before, so this was my last chance, and it was one of those moments where I knew that it was perfect the instant that I clicked the shutter. Love those moments!
Weaver & Poje

Day 6: Two of the senior frees, ladies and pairs. POTD is, without a doubt, Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford's reaction at the end of the free skate that would propel them onto the podium and send them to Worlds. I think that even people who don't know the backstory can understand what this moment meant to them, but for those of us who have watched Meagan's career unfold over the past decade, well, it probably means a bit more.
Duhamel & Radford

Day 7: Canadians comes to a close with two incredible events, the free dance and the men's free skate. In the free dance, Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier and Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje were so fantastic and so close that I almost forgot that the headliners had withdrawn earlier in the week. In the men's free skate, Shawn Sawyer and Patrick Chan delivered the most incredible back-to-back free skates I have ever seen, finally topping Chris Mabee and Jeff Buttle in 2005. (No offense meant to Chris and Jeff, I still adore those moments, too.) It's funny—during the competition, I am so focused and so worried about my action shots, and initially, those are the ones that I look through first. But months after the event, when I go through the photos again, it is almost always a photo from the emotional reaction that jumps out at me...
CroPo Vanessa & Paul's reaction in the kiss & cry, when they found out that they'd won the Canadian title. Again, I had no idea that this would be the last time that I would see this familiar scene.
Shawn Sawyer
...and like Shawn Sawyer's extended celebration at the end of his free skate. I think that his flawless performance surprised even himself, and for me, it was the most incredible moment of a wonderful week. And I don't think I have ever left an event more exhausted than I left Victoria.

February kicked off with a big, white, fluffy bang. Chicago had its worst blizzard in something like 30 years. People who didn't listen to repeated warnings and tried to drive home on Lake Shore Drive were stranded until the wee hours of the morning, but I didn't mind the blizzard much at all, tucked inside my house, watching the snow drift all the way to the top of my patio door while I sipped hot chocolate and probably ate Nutella.

Fortunately, the blizzard came the day that it did and not a day later, because just two days after the dumping, I was on a flight east for my second skating event of the year. The eventual destination was Oshawa, Ontario, for EOSIC, but since I'd forgotten to make my plane reservation while I was at Canadians, I ended up flying to Buffalo, taking a bus to Toronto, and taking the commuter train to Oshawa. Quite the ordeal. I wasn't too excited about the actual competition at first, since it was a StarSkate event, and I did not know most of the competitors. But of course, once I was there, I had a great time shooting. I especially enjoyed the Triathlon event, which I had never shot before, since I got to follow the same girls through three phases of the competition. A few highlights:

Francesca Joanette
Francesca Joanette, one of the most expressive skaters in the junior bronze event
Sheridan & Gunther
I even got to shoot some dance! Here's Chelsea Sheridan & Alex Gunther in the pre-juvenile Fiesta Tango.
Casey Barber
Casey Barber, gold triathlon skills
Marisa De Souza
Marisa De Souza, bronze triathlon interpretive; this Chicago program is one of the only skates that I still remember at the end of the year, such a joy to watch
Rebecca Marcinek
Rebecca Marcinek, gold triathlon free skate

I don't think I did anything interesting the rest of February. At least, I didn't take any photos. I wrote a lot of Olympics-in-review and year-in-review posts in February, so I'm guessing that it was cold and I stayed inside all month.

March kicked off with beautiful weather. I remember this because I left my coat in the car when I went to a concert on March 3, and I did not suffer from frostbite or hypothermia as a result.

Made Avail
The show was Made Avail's CD release party, but they invited Superchick, and that was why I was there.

Matt Dally
Specifically, because I grew up in church/school/jazz band with the Superchick bassist, Matt Dally. I was hoping to see more folks that I knew there, but the only person I knew besides Matt was his mom, who was running the merch table. I'm also remembering now that I think I promised to send her photos, and I don't think I ever did...perhaps I should see if I can find her email address. Anyway, Superchick always puts on a great show, but this show was even more fantastic because the lighting was just perfect. I got so many great shots, most of which have still never seen the light of day.

The following weekend, I went to see Stars on Ice with my mom. This was my 10th event (or so) of the season, but this was my mom's first time seeing live skating since Disney on Ice with Girl Scouts, circa 1993. I was excited for the chance to take her, but a little worried that she would hate it. She didn't, though, and she even wanted to talk about who was good and who wasn't on the drive home. Our seats were crap (sometimes Stars on Ice gives the photographer a good seat, and sometimes they can't be bothered; this was a 'can't be bothered' day), but Mom was willing to scootch at intermission.

Joannie Rochette
Mom and I were both most excited to see Jo, who was definitely on our "good" list.

Sasha Cohen
I can't remember if Sasha jumped or not at that show, but she was into the dramatic flair, at least, and I really enjoyed this shot.

Evan Lysacek
I was also thrilled to get a dramatic!Evan!spin! photo, and even more thrilled about the angle. Perfectly in front of the SOI sign! Tell me again why they haven't hired me as their official photographer yet. Haha.

At the end of the month, Mom went to a conference in San Francisco, and asked me if I would go with her. I couldn't turn down an almost-free trip to one of my favourite American cities, so off I went! Unfortunately, a sunny California weekend was not in the cards for us, but we went out in between the showers and made the best of it. We went to SFO in 2007 for Thanksgiving, and it was the first trip that I took with a "real" camera. I was anxious to get better shots this time, now that I have a bit more experience, and I even sprung for a wide-angle lens rental. I typically rent with BorrowLenses, and they are based in SFO, so I was able to do a local pick-up 3-day rental. Awesome!

Day 1: Scoped out the walk to Mom's conference and also picked up my lens rental. Introduced my mom to the magic of eating quick meals at Whole Foods, instead of at a sandwich shop. Took the ferry to Sausalito and spent the day walking, drinking cappuccino, and browsing art galleries. Dinner in North Beach, walked back to our hotel just off Union Square.
Ferry Views
Great views of San Francisco on the ferry ride!
Ferry Building
And I fell pretty hard for both the Ferry Building and wide-angle photography.

Day 2: Mom's conference started, so I was on my own. Met up with Tina for lunch at the Ferry Building (Blue Bottle Coffee & Cowgirl Creamery & Scream non-dairy ice cream!) and wandered the Saturday market, too. Walked and photographed all afternoon, through the Financial District, Chinatown, Nob Hill, and Union Square. Met up with Mom after sessions ended, and went out for sushi.
Ferry Building
More Ferry Building photography
Stockton Street View
View from Nob Hill, looking north down Stockton Street, all the way to the bay
Union Square
I also decided to try HDR more on this trip, and here's one of the crazier results. I don't know, I really like something about the effects on this shot at Union Square.

Day 3: On my own most of the day again. Took the cable car to Ghirardelli Square (I would do this every day of my life if I lived there, I feel), then continued west to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Presidio, where I thought that I would see the Golden Gate Bridge, but I did not. Treated myself to froyo twice. Photographed Alamo Square once the afternoon sun went away. Paid homage to the Full House house. Met up with Mom, and had dinner at the fabulous Hyde Street Bistro, which I found a Yelp, and which I later read about in a travel magazine. Guess I picked a good one!
Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is other-worldly!
Alamo Square
My effort at the postcard shot. Much better than the 2007 attempt, but still not zingy enough.

Day 4: No photos, since I had to return my lens on the evening of Day 3. During Mom's morning sessions, I walked around Union Square some more, but the real highlight came at lunch, when I brought her to the Blue Bottle Coffee shop on Mint Plaza. Most perfect cup of coffee ever. I can still taste it.

Much of April was spent finishing my last lit class ever, in which I wrote a killer paper that compared the two most recent film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility to the novel. It was a good way to end my lit class career. Of course, even with concentrating on school, it's not like I could deal with staying home all of the time.

So once again, I spent the second weekend of April in Ottawa, shooting the Gloucester Spring Skate. I had fun shooting the interpretive events and a lot of cute little ones, but I did not have fun when my shutter died. It had been acting funny for most of the day, and at least I had my backup 20D close by. Until that one died, too. Oups. So I had to spend the second day shooting with Phil's backup Nikon. Everything felt backwards, so it was challenging, but I made it through. And at least we didn't have to close up shop on one of the rinks. Of course, it was just about the last thing that I needed. I sent the 50D off to get fixed as soon as I got home, using the money that I made from the competition, but I still haven't been able to afford to fix the 20D. It also seems silly to fix a 20D (soooo 4 models ago), but I am having a hard time imagining being able to afford an upgrade. Everyone cross your fingers for me for more photo sales and freelance work. But anyway, a couple of random shots I liked from Gloucester:
Cute kid in hat
Cute kid in pink
Beyond the photography that weekend, I had a wonderful weekend with the Ottawa family, and as was the theme of the year, I didn't realize that it would be my last event with them. I am really missing my regular trips to see my "Canadian li'l sis."

Right after the semester ended, I was off to Toronto for the annual Canadian Stars on Ice weekend. We went to the usual Friday night show at the ACC, which I photographed, of course.
Kurt Browning
This program of Kurt's wasn't my favourite (I am getting a little tired of voiceover programs), but it was quite photogenic.
Another photogenic one was this quirky ensemble number that reminded me of the way SOI used to be, pre-budget cuts.

We were feeling a serious lack of energy and commitment from the skaters during the show, so for the first time in a long time, we didn't feel like going to another Canadian show. Jules, Christina, and I skipped Hamilton and spent our Saturday in Niagara-on-the-Lake instead. Christina took us to some touristy sites we'd never seen before, like the world's smallest chapel:
and we feasted on a Whole Foods picnic in the park before doing some photoshooting on Lake Ontario. Note to self: when the plan is to save money and skipping eating in a restaurant, buying picnic fare at Whole Foods with the girls doesn't actually save money...but it sure is tasty!
The Girls

And that's it for my first four months of the year. I'm expecting the summer months to take some time to put together, so I hope I'll have that post ready by January. No promises, though. ;-)


  1. I still wish you could have been in Halifax in 2007 for those Chris Mabee/Jeff Buttle back to back skates!!!! LOL

  2. I can't believe it's time for year in review posts! HDR shots are so fun, I love how they look 3D, I need to experiment with them more.