Thursday, May 20, 2010

photographing the Amgen bicycle race

After a year hiatus in Patterson, the Amgen Tour of California, the nation's premiere cycling event, once again passed through the city for Stage 4 from San Jose to the downtown Modesto finish.

When I first heard that the Amgen was returning to Patterson after rolling down Del Puerto Canyon and Mines' road from the hills to the west, my mind began to think of all the possible vantage points I may want to photograph the race from. A fellow from a helicopter company gave me a call at the Irrigator asking if I wanted to go up and get some aerial shots. Who wouldn't want to go up in a helicopter right? Well, for $350 an hour I had to pass him up on his offer.

As race day May 19th was upon us, and final preparations were being put into place, I found myself in Modesto on the main stage of the Gallo Center for the Arts at 10:30 a.m. where they had a media center set up.

It was my first time in the Gallo Center and the facility was nothing short of impressive

While waiting for my media credentials, Modesto Bee photographer Joan Barnett Lee noticed me and we struck up a conversation. I had met her previously when I was interviewed for a position there, but couldn't be guaranteed enough hours, so I tried to pass the job onto my girlfriend Lori Marklund, whom Joan also remembered. I informed her that Lori was working for me that day at a vantage point we had scoped out the day before in Del Puerto Canyon, and she told me that Bee photographer Bart Ah You was going to be getting aerial shots via a Cesna airplane.

For a brief moment I had almost wished I had taken that helicopter guy up on his offer, and although I like the images that Bart produced, after seeing them, I have to say that I'm glad I stayed on the ground... well, sort of on the ground.

With the help from the City of Patterson's bucket truck, and friend Cody Manning, we got these aerial shots much like those when the Amgen rolled through two years ago. This is typical Patterson, 100 year old palm trees, Apricot trees in an orchard to the left and the historic center building at the vanishing point of Las Palmas avenue behind.

Excited fans cheer on the side of Las Palmas avenue as the peloton of riders passes by.

This photo, that my girlfriend Lori Marklund helped me take, required quite a bit of planning to accomplish. I had always noticed how one certain boulder along the Del Puerto Canyon roadway in the Minnear day use area always seemed to hang onto the hillside, looking as if it would fall from its place at any moment, and some how I wanted to incorporate this into a shot. So we went up the day before, and scoped it out to see if it would work. From the roadway where the cyclists are pictured I could see that through a clearing of trees and bushes there was a barren spot of hillside across the creek that looked like would probably be a good vantage point to incorporate the riders and the canyon's Wile E. Coyote boulder.

The hike to the hillside clearing wasn't as easy as it at first seemed, but no pain no gain right? The vantage point and composition of the photo was decided, and Lori agreed to return the next day before the race came through.

Back in town, on the circle, where I had another of the cities' boom lifts situated, excitement was building in anticipation of the riders.

A few folks were using team Radioshack banners as makeshift umbrellas as the sky began to drop some rain.

Tina Dudley from Oak Valley bank on the circle, helped keep us all current on the racers while we watched the live feed from inside.

The first group of break away sprinters roll through town while members of the Red Hat Chicks cheer them on.On the other side of town, the peloton of cyclists with Lance Armstrong (center) pushes its way fervently down Las Palmas Avenue between Las Palmas School and Patterson High.--photo by Kendall Wright/Patterson Irrigator

From my slight aerial position, I photographed the image at the top of this post as well as these images of the break away riders and the peloton passing through Plaza Circle and on its way to where Cody was positioned in the bucket truck. Notice the green helmet from the spectator at lower right? Gotta love those Patterson Vegetable Company green helmets.

This photo shows the peloton, and the traffic held up behind on Hwy 33, as well as the blue genie boom lift (doh!)

The break away riders reach Cody Manning on the edge of city limits.

And the peloton and entourage of team vehicles stocked with extra bicycles follows shortly there after.

Nice wide angle of the 100 year old Canary Island Date Palms, nearby Apricot orchard, and peloton of riders as they leave city limits.

And the racers continue on towards the Modesto finish to hopefully return another day.

After quickly compiling all the images and selecting those to be submitted to the copy desk editors (seven submitted, and three used) for a deadline held specifically for the Amgen, Cody Manning and I were back off to Modesto to see what else may be going on.

Everything was pretty much shut down by 5:30, but we made our way into the media center mentioned earlier to see what and who we might see. Everyone was busy working away on their laptops, but in the lunch room, folks were socializing and I got a chance to talk with former Modesto Bee photog Al Golub. He had worked with the Bee for many many years and it was quite interesting to hear his point of view on a craft that we both know so much about. He is quite set in his ways and completely denounced film photography, but then said that he still uses his film photos; then talked smack about the famous black and white photgrapher Ansel Adams, then later said he helped spread his ashes with the family of Ansel on Mt. Ansel Adams when he died. Intersting guy Al is, full of stories, and very pointed points of view, but still a wealth of information and experience when it comes to photography.

Well, recapping on the day, I was quite satisfied with the images that team Irrigator produced, and while I may not have had a helicopter or a Cesna plane, I still got a variety of aerial and ground level shots with the help of a few polite requests and some dedicated friends of mine, thanks again to all who helped.

Friday, May 7, 2010

fire in the hills

It's fire season again in Patterson.A vehicle accident along southbound I-5 near the Patterson exit sparked a blaze that was fanned by evening winds into the hills.
I first heard and saw emergency response vehicles driving to the vehicle accident while I was photographing a baseball game. When I saw the smoke I figured it was time to leave the game and get to the hills.

Encroaching flames were visible from Del Puerto Canyon road.

Flames and smoke visible from Sperry ave.

Fire Chief Kinnear assessing the flames and communicating via radio to helicopters, bulldozers, and fire trucks from Jeff Arambel's hill top orchard.

Traffic backed up to near the Westley exit.
Scattered remnants of the wreck that started the blaze photographed the next morning.
A few charred peach trees, but all in all I think the trees will make a full recovery and maybe receive some added nutrients from the black ashes of the fire.
After photographing the fire, it was back to the high school and still time for the second half of a contentious girl's soccer match against Livingston.

not feelin' the 5th

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo isn't quite for everyone, as this Pattersonite demonstrated on Wednesday May 5th with his fist-pumping, American and Confederate flag display on his Ford Ranger.

Photographed along south 9th street near Las Palmas avenue 5-5-10