Champ Spotted!

Champ is taking advantage of the high water in the lake to make the rounds to businesses he can’t normally reach. Here he is outside the Vermont Lake Monsters front office down at the King St. ferry dock in Burlington.

Champ, Lake Champlain's lake monster, is back in his element.

He’s not very bashful right now and hung around for a few portraits while I was walking around the waterfront.

For those of you that haven’t made it down to Perkins Pier to see the flooding, here are a few shots of what it looks like now. According to NOAA, the lake is at 100.7′. I’ve heard reports that it is supposed to crest 101′ and with 80″ of snow remaining on Mt. Mansfield I have little doubt that we’ll get there.

Normally, these benches are a nice place to watch the sun set and be safe from waves. Today, you’d be hard pressed to get out there without hip waders.

For comparison, here’s what it looked like last March. The dark line on the water is the Burlington breakwater which is completely submerged right now.

An early March sun sets behind the Adirondack mountains and Lake Champlain.

Unplugged Half Marathon

Note – all of these photos and many, many more are available on SkiPix.com. If you ran, you should hop over and check it out. There are prints, posters, magnets, and even digital downloads if you want to use these on Facebook.

This past Saturday, Run Vermont organized the 5th Annual Unplugged Half Marathon along the Burlington, VT waterfront of Lake Champlain. 600 runners pre-registered for what can be a questionable day by the lake. Some years, we get freezing temperatures, cold winds, and even snow. This year, it was in the mid to upper 30’s at the start and it got downright warm once the race was under way. Even standing at my first location, I was able to take off my jacket, roll up my sleeves, and enjoy the sunshine.

The course is the same every year, as far as I’m aware. It starts in Colchester, just over the Burlington line (aka the Winooski River) where it makes a quick loop through some neighborhoods before joining up with the Burlington Bike Path and heading due south along the lake shore. This is the third year I’ve photographed this event and I try not to shoot the same location twice in a row. This year, I was drawn back to the bridge over the Winooski where the curved lines make for interesting framing and the sun really highlights what a beautiful day we had.

Most of the events I photograph are filled with a relaxed crowd, out to have a good time, but this one seems exceptional. Some people will run through the “photo trap” with arms around their running partners,

some smile & chat

make a point to wave hello and / or thank me for being out there (it really is my pleasure)

or suggest that world peace is the answer (at least, I think she was saying that and not whirled peas.)

When I moved to Oakledge Park to take some photos by the lake with Burlington in the background, I came across this group of fans cheering for someone’s mom if I remember correctly.

They certainly caught the runners’ attention as they came through the park!

Near the end of the race, they really encourage you to finish strong.

No, seriously, the truck drivers that go through there did an amazing job navigating the fans, runners, and cones. And the runners knew the trucks didn’t really want to run them over.

Thanks for putting on another great race, Joe!  I’ll see you next year.

Winter releases her grip on Vermont’s fields

This time of year is special in Vermont. Most of the country is talking about how nice it is to have spring; farmers are planting crops and flowers are in bloom.  Here in Vermont, we might have snow on the ground or we might have 60 degree days.  This week, we had both.

On my drive home yesterday, I had to pull over to the side of the road to photograph Mt. Mansfield basking in the late afternoon sun with the golden, just barely uncovered, fields in the foreground.

It reminded me of the trip that Tawny and I took to Iceland a few years back. It was April 29th, and the landscape looked very similar. Snow in the hills, golden grasses and fields clinging to the volcanic earth. It was all very beautiful; I’d love to see it in both full summer and winter.

I love living in a northern climate. Sure. Sometimes it’s hard that the days are shorter than most of the country, that we have feet more snow to shovel, that you sometimes don’t see your neighbors for weeks at at time because it’s too cold to venture across the street. I think it makes you appreciate the change of seasons. I’d get bored if it was always perfect weather all the time. Plus, it’s hard to ski when it’s 70 and sunny (though I’m told that Vermont’s headed for 60 this weekend and there’s still plenty of snow in the mountains!)

66th Stowe Derby: Race from the Top of Vermont

Note: All of the event photos have been posted to SkiPix.com and are available for purchase.

It was another successful year for the Stowe Derby. Some 793 racers took on the challenge of a 2,602′ descent over 12.5 miles on cross country skis. That may not sound bad until you look at the course profile and realize that nearly 2,000 of those vertical feet are descended in the first 3 miles as skiers race down the Toll Road on Stowe Mountain Resort.

But I get ahead of myself. Before the insanity begins, the short course competitors start on the Stowe Recreation Path. The mass starts with long skinny skis on your feet is a different kind of chaos but most everyone starts with a smile and the competitors eventually string out into a long line marching towards the finish.

It’s pretty easy to tell who’s in this race as a competitor

and who’s just out to have a good day on snow with a few hundred friends.

This little guy’s only 5 years old and he’s already competed in more Stowe Derbys than I have.

Back at the top, I usually start to get settled as the racers are warming up. A half dozen racers usually ski down two or three turns to get a feel for the snow and the course and then turn around  to hike their way back up to the start. When the ski patrol comes through to sweep the course, it’s time for the chaos to begin.

The first racers usually clean the upper corners well. Their legs are fresh and usually they’re experienced enough on skis to manage the hill and loose snow.

It doesn’t take long before the trail claims its first pieces of gear.

and provides us with some spectacular falls.

I may be wrong, but I think you’re missing something, #143. Nice job staying on your feet, though!

When you watch a few hundred skiers come around the same corner, you start to get a feel for the technique or line that contributes to an explosive fall. Sometimes you get surprised, though. #179 looked like he was headed for disaster and then finished his turn with perfect form. I hope the rest of your race went well!

Sometimes, you can’t help but laugh at some of the falls. I’d feel bad except for the fact that most of the racers laugh as they’re going down as well.

After a crash, they pop back up like kids and skate back into the thick of the race. With 5 people starting every 30 seconds, you don’t have long to collect yourself before getting run over!

In past years, I’ve seen people on heavy telemark gear, full-on alpine touring bindings and snowlerblades, but this was the first year that I saw someone on a snowboard. Well, kind of; last year three or four snowboarders popped out of the woods and onto the race course oblivious to the fact that there was a race going on. At first I thought that’s what happened to this guy until it registered that he had cross-country ski poles in his hand. Tawny said she saw him go by at her location, so he made it the whole 12.5 miles on a splitboard. That’s some dedication.

About 1k from the finish, it’s a much more conventional cross-country race.

Well, except for those people that ski by with broken gear on their back. Way to keep Vermont green, #3! (And it’s not even Green-Up Day.)

I’m not sure where Gumby started – you’d think I would remember the big green guy passing me at the start…

As if one run down the mountain wasn’t crazy enough, the Stowe Derby has heats for Freestyle and Classical styles. In between runs, they run a cat down the trail and groom it flat. With a modern, shaped alpine ski, it’s easy to lay down railroad tracks on this easy slope.

but I can’t imagine doing it on skinny skis!

This doesn’t look good! Believe it or not, he pulls it off and continues past as if he did this on purpose.

This is my favorite expression of the day.

Again at the bottom, most people are all smiles as they’re approaching the finish. Dirk is no exception.

I checked in with Tawny before moving to the finish line. She was hard at work at the blind corner, as usual.

As racers reach the finish line, they have to cross one last bridge and round a corner to a cheering crowd.

It’s not uncommon for people to fall within feet of the finish line. Sometimes it’s a sprint for the finish gone wrong, other times it’s plain old fatigue.

I hear this was #795’s first Stowe Derby. I hope you’ll be back again to do it next year!

All of these photos and more will be available for purchase on skipix.com soon.

Congratulations to all of the competitors and a big thank you to the Mount Mansfield Ski Club and all of the volunteers, sponsors, and other organizations for putting on another great race.

If you’ve read this far and you’re one of the racers above that I’ve featured crashing, send me an email with your bib number. I’ve got something for you.

Happy Babies

I was going through some photos recently and came across these pictures of a friend’s baby. He is one of the happiest, most adorable, easy going babies you’ll ever meet. Tawny & I went over for dinner not long after he was born and decided to throw the cameras in the car. I don’t photograph a lot of babies, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. He was pretty cooperative, though, smiling every time we asked.

I love the way this first photo shows the connection between father and son.

Vermont Family and Baby Photography

Vermont Family and Baby Photography

Vermont Family and Baby Photography

Vermont Family and Baby Photography

His parents think this look is his “time to take over the world” look, but I think he just looks overjoyed to have his photo taken. :)

Vermont Family and Baby Photography

Vermont Family and Baby Photography

Vermont Family and Baby Photography

A photographer in Burlington, Vermont