Lori Carey Photography

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon - Total Lunar Eclipse

I had to battle clouds and a lot of moisture in the air to photograph last night's total lunar eclipse so some of the frames aren't quite as sharp as I would like. When the moon first entered totality it went completely behind the clouds and I was afraid that was going to be it for the night, but all in all I'm fairly happy with how my sequence turned out.

Click on the photo to see it larger.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Shoot from the Hip: Spider Holster Review

DISCLOSURE: Spider Holster provided me with a Dual-Camera SpiderPro Holster system for testing and review purposes.

As soon as I learned that I was going to be spending a week covering the King of the Hammers off road race for Nitto Tire and DrivingLine I began planning what gear I would need to be able pull off a week-long shoot in the remote desert environment. The event is held in the Mojave Desert every February, in very extreme terrain and extreme conditions. There are races all week long leading up to the toughest one day off road race in the world, a 180 mile race course that includes high speed desert racing and rock crawling on some of the toughest trails that California has to offer. I shoot in the desert all of the time and I frequently shoot rock crawling, so I had a very good idea of what the job would demand. I knew I would be working very long days in very dusty conditions, would have to do a lot of hiking and would be scrambling up and down steep cliffs. The dust and wind meant that I couldn't change lenses out in the field but I would need both a wide angle and a telephoto lens. I knew it would be physically challenging, and I knew that I had to be able to keep up with the guys.

I was honestly dreading the need to carry two cameras all day every day while scrambling up and down cliffs and walking several miles a day, and I knew that once my back and shoulders started feeling the strain I would be done. I use Canon L glass and those lenses are heavy, especially my favorite 70-200mm 2.8 ISM USM beast. It's not a lens that you want to wear around your neck or even over a shoulder for more than a couple of hours. When I scramble up rocks with a camera over my shoulder the lens frequently bounces into rocks if I don’t hold on to it, and I really wanted to have my hands free for balance. When guys carry two cameras in the field they typically sling them across their chest, one across each shoulder, but that look is not at all comfortable or flattering for women!

I also knew that carrying a camera bag would be less than ideal for this job. Too much time is wasted taking cameras out of the bag and putting them back, the bag gets heavy after hiking a full day let alone an entire week, it throws off my center of gravity when I am climbing on rocks, and I don’t like leaving my bag sitting out in the open when there are other people around while I am off shooting. A backpack is good for hiking in but not good when I am actively shooting and moving around.

Specatator at King of the Hammers off road race, Johnson Valley
Johnson Valley, California, home of King of the Hammers off road race

I decided that moving the weight to my hips was going to be my best solution and I began researching belt systems. My biggest concern was that most of this type of gear is not designed for a woman's body, and what works for a 6 foot 200 pound male doesn't always fit and feel right to a 5'5" size 6 woman. I posted inquiries on social media to see if any women photographers had any recommendations but I couldn't find anyone who had even tried a belt and holster system. The Spider Camera Holster had caught my eye for several reasons and I tagged them on GooglePlus to inquire about the fit for women. They assured me that many petite women use their system and love it and offered to send me one to test out.

When I received my SpiderPro Dual Camera System I was immediately impressed by the build quality. I am very tough on gear and rely on products that can stand up to my level of abuse without falling apart. The stitching on the sturdy belt is very well done and the machining of the all metal holsters and plates is beautiful. I suspect the belt was adjusted before it was sent out to me because it was a perfect fit right out of the box. I strapped the belt on and put my cameras in the holsters and cautiously ran around the house to test how secure the cameras would be. I was impressed by how well the cameras remained close to my body when I ran, that they didn't interfere with walking and I immediately loved having the weight on my hips instead of my shoulders. It only took me a few minutes to get the hang of quickly holstering and re-holstering my cameras without looking.

Me wearing Spider Holster

The true test was race week. I hit the ground running as soon as I arrived and headed out to cover the Backdoor Shoot Out, an extreme rock crawling competition in a canyon (and up a waterfall) Monday night. I immediately realized the benefits of my Spider Holster as I cautiously navigated my way through rocks up and then down into the canyon in the cold darkness to get into position. I watched three men slide several feet down the hill when they lost their footing and I was glad I had my hands free for balance because it was treacherous. I kept the holsters in the locked position and never once had any concern about my cameras dislodging. Here is a grab shot I took as I worked my way down to give you an idea what it was like out there.

View from the top during Back Door Shoot Out, King of the Hammers

After five hours of shooting in the 25°F darkness I went back to my trailer and stayed up all night processing photos so we could upload daily content. I had a short one hour nap before I was back out at 6am for the daily media briefing and more shooting. I had just started my week and was already suffering from sleep deprivation. Heading out the trailer door the next morning I was so relieved that I didn't have to lug around a camera bag or sling cameras over my shoulders.

A typical day would start with something like a 6am photo shoot with the entire Nitto Tire race team at the bottom of Backdoor Canyon, then jumping into my Jeep and heading out to the lakebed for some high speed racing in time to catch the first rigs coming through, then back in the Jeep to navigate the rough desert terrain to one of the remote rock crawling trails. After finding a place to park my Jeep I’d hike into the canyon to find a good spot from which to shoot. Mixed in were press conferences, media briefings, driver interviews, long nights spent in my trailer processing the day’s shots and very little sleep. I was physically drained but never once worried about how much heavy gear I would need to carry around. I hardly noticed the weight at all with my cameras on my hips.

Me shooting high speed racing on the lake bed during King of the Hammers. Even in a kneeling position the Spider Holster kept my 70-200mm lens in a safe and comfortable position well off the ground. Photo courtesy of Doug Dienelt of DRD Images.

I didn't remove the straps from my cameras because at times I was shooting from precarious perches on the rocks and I wanted the security of having the strap around my neck while shooting. This meant that the straps were hanging loose when the cameras were in the holsters but I would usually just tuck them up. I like my holster so much that I am seriously considering changing to a wrist strap.

My first day of using the holster in the field I found myself constantly checking my cameras to make sure they were secure but by the second day I had learned to trust the system. After six days of hiking, climbing, kneeling, sitting and even running for safety when the dust cloud suddenly overtook the area and we needed to get to a clear area ASAP, everything on my Spider Holster was still tight and secure. I kept the lever in the locked position when I was hiking and climbing and in the unlocked position when I was actively shooting. I made sure to check and tighten the camera plates every night as part of my regular gear maintenance, but other than that I hardly even gave it a thought besides how wonderful it was and how much I loved the sense of freedom!

I feel a bit like a gunslinger, ready to shoot anything (with my camera of course)!

Before I started wearing the Spider Holster I had some concerns about having heavy cameras banging into my hips and thighs as I was walking and leaving sore bruises. I had no reason to worry; the cameras are held securely and do not bounce around. The SpiderPro Holster Pad also helps protect your body (as well as your clothes), making this a very comfortable system.

Like many people, I was under the impression that the Spider Holster is not compatible with Really Right Stuff L-brackets/plates. That was true a few years ago, and when I did my research on the internet I found a lot of forum posts discusses the lack of compatibility. I mistakenly thought that the Spider Holster Arca-Swiss compatible clamp was just for compatibility with the Arca-Swiss quick release on my tripod ballhead and that it would still require me to remove my RRS L-bracket, so I didn’t worry about obtaining the clamp. Apparently enough of us weren't willing to give up our L-plates for the convenience of a carrier system and SpiderPro designed their Arca-Swiss clamp to work with the L-plate a few years ago. It seems that many photographers are not aware of this because people were giving me suggestions for workarounds (which were too cumbersome for my practical use). I know that L-bracket compatibility is the biggest thing preventing many photographers from switching to a carrier system and I hope to be able to review the Arca-Swiss compatible clamp soon.

Not knowing that option was available to me, I figured I would just need to use the Spider Holster plate when I was shooting the races, and switch to my L-bracket when I was shooting anything that would require a tripod. During race week when I needed to use a tripod to do the Nitto race team shoot in the dark at Backdoor it was very easy to swap the plates out because Spider Holster brilliantly designed the plate to also store the allen wrench. If you've ever spent time hunting for the correct allen wrench, or like me tend to lose small objects, you’ll appreciate the genius of this design. When we finished the shoot it took me less than a minute to swap them out again. Having the allen wrench handy also makes it easy to re-tighten everything when doing your routine daily gear check and maintenance out in the field.

You do need to be careful when laying your camera down on a surface because the pin(s) protrude from the bottom so the camera doesn't lie flat. The pins also mean that your camera will need a little more room in your camera bag. That's a small price to pay for the freedom you'll gain.

I know that I never would have been able to keep up the crazy pace throughout King of the Hammers week without my Spider Holster. It let me work longer and hike farther with less fatigue. I used my holster again while covering the Tierra del Sol Desert Safari a few weeks ago. When I “lost” my ride in the mudhills and had to hike up and down a series of very steep hills to catch up, I again realized how much easier and more comfortable it was with the weight on my hips instead of on my neck and shoulders. I know that I am going to love using it when I am hiking for landscape photography too.

The Spider Holster system handled everything I could throw it at during the toughest shoot I’ve ever done and performed like a champ. I can’t even begin to explain how liberating it is. It is truly a game changer for me and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Goodbye March!

Ever have one of "those" months? That's how March was for me and I'm happy that it is finally over.
I just realized that I haven't posted all month and I really want to get something posted before the month is over...three hours and counting as of right now so here goes:

March started with torrential downpours the first weekend of the month. Of course that's when I had to cover the 52nd Tierra del Sol Desert Safari and as I drove through flooded roads and saw a half dozen overturned vehicles I thought I must be out of my mind. But the weather was better in Ocotillo Wells...at least there was no rain. The wind was brutal and with all of the vehicles out there the dust storms had the area in white out conditions at times. Not my favorite conditions for shooting! And once again I lost my ride through the mud hills when I got out to shoot (note to self: if I ever shoot at the mudhills again bring a flag for the Jeep or at least remember to grab the handheld radio and a couple bottles of water before jumping out to shoot) and I ended up hiking at least a mile up hill down hill up hill down hill before I hitched a ride with a very nice man in a sweet no-doors 2DR through some wicked stuff (thank you soooo much!!) and made contact with my husband via radio to arrange a meeting spot. All in all the trip went fine and the sun even managed to show up for a while during the trail run.

Almost white out conditions at the Truckhaven 4x4 training facility in Ocotillo Wells during the 52 Tierra del Sol Desert Safari

But I did some damage on the trail. A few months ago I had a problem with a rear spring failing on the trail and had to replace that. Everything seemed fine on my last few trips but this time we got into some super off-camber sections and my rear track bar bracket started smashing into my left rear shock and crunched it. That put an end to any serious wheeling. I had several people look at it and no one was able to figure out what caused the problem. The only suspension component I've changed in the past six-seven years has been the rear springs. So I had to rearrange my schedule a bit and get the Jeep in to Rebel. They said my rear track bar is too short and my axle isn't centered properly. I still don't completely understand why that hasn't been a problem in the past with all the wheeling I've done, but now I'm waiting for a new track bar and new rear shocks to come in. I'd rather spend $1000 on upgrades to my Jeep than on repairs to my rear suspension(or put toward photography gear) but it is what it is. One by one I'll just keep replacing the original lift kit parts. If I sound a little cranky it's because there's more to the story and I've had my fill of it.

While dealing with all of that it seems that I was one of the accounts compromised in the recent Yahoo security breach. I was on-line when I got hit and immediately shut down, then started taking all security precautions but it was too late. Yahoo claims that a third party database containing user names and passwords was hit with a coordinated attack. They refuse to tell me why a third party was in possession of database containing user names and passwords, and they have refused to tell me who the third party is. I have reasons to believe it is Facebook and that's why they are being so quiet about the incident. I think the damage was limited to the hacker obtaining all of the contacts in my address book, and they are now spoofing my e-mail address to send spam to everyone, including many .mil addresses. I am extremely cautious about internet security so this whole thing really makes me mad.

I was running multiple virus scans using multiple products to make sure my machine was clean and I kept having problems. My anti-virus software would suddenly shut down, quick scans were clean but deep scans would stop running at a certain point. I couldn't run a root kit scan. I had to seek expert advice and we spent days working on it, and along the way my hard drive decided to give up! I had just run a chkdsk on my hard drive the week before because it was almost full so I did some clean up andran through some standard maintenance and it was fine, so of course it would die at the worst possible time for me. I keep multiple backups of everything so that wasn't a concern, but reinstalling an OS, all of my software, digging up license keys, and then remembering all of my user preferences was not something I was in the mood to deal with at this point. It took fifteen hours and I was holding my breath the whole time, but fortunately I was able to clone the drive onto my new drive. Then back to virus scanning to make sure I didn't clone a virus onto my new drive. I lost two weeks of productivity dealing with all of the associated problems.

So now my machine is clean, I didn't lose anything, my yahoo account is still spamming thousands of people on a regular basis, the parts to fix my Jeep will be in Wednesday, and I am really looking forward to April.

Tierra del Sol Desert Safari
This is how it looked when we started the trail, and yes I was shooting through the windshield!

Tierra del Sol Desert Safari trail official Jeep
My husband thought it was funny that the trail officials had the most beat up Jeeps. That's because they are well used! I want a trail guide with experience, not a clean shiny Jeep.

I just love checking out all of the different Jeeps and the way people customize them. It's a great way to get ideas.

There were lots of trucks on the trail run but many had a hard time because the long wheel base wasn't well suited for the trail conditions.

My coverage of Tierra del Sol Desert Safari is on DrivingLine and there are even more photos in my gallery.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How did I get such an insane point of view on Wrecking Ball?

Jake Hallenbeck on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers
Jake Hallenbeck on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers

How did I get such an insane point of view on Wrecking Ball during the ULTRA4 King of the Hammers race? I tucked myself into a spot that usually only Go-Pros go! Seriously! The course safety officials knew where I was and were okay with it, although they were keeping a close eye on me to make sure I stayed safe. But the BLM came to do a site visit to make sure everything was safe and they weren't exactly excited about where I was. I wasn't ordered to move, I was asked politely to reconsider the safety of my spot because the BLM wasn't comfortable with it. I didn't want to be the source of any tension between the BLM and Hammerking that might jeopardize the future of the race so I moved to higher ground. I won't say exactly where I was, there are a few people who saw me (and I know that Levi Shirley's co-driver spotted me because he pointed right at me in the shot). I will say that the safety personnel and the recovery team out on Wrecking Ball were the coolest guys ever; they knew I was getting some wicked shots from down there! At least I got most of the leaders from that position before I had to move. Thanks guys for helping me climb back up quickly when I needed to move.

Randy Slawson on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers
Randy Slawson on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers

Erik Miller on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers off road race
Erik Miller on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers

Derek West on Wrecking Ball at the 2014 King of the Hammers off road race in Johnson Valley, California
Derek West on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers

More insane shots from Wrecking Ball in my 2014 King of the Hammers - Wrecking Ball gallery.

Still processing photos and uploading as quickly as I can, the LightRoom workflow is throwing me off pace a bit. I've been using Photoshop for 17 years and my workflow was second nature. I have to think too much with LightRoom, but I know that once I get it down pat my overall workflow will speed up tremendously. At least my web host finally worked out their problem and more than twelve photos show up now!

Monday, February 10, 2014

All in a Day's Work

Lori Carey in a helmet

How do you dress for work haha? To interview the youngest competitor at King of the Hammers, 15 year old Melvin Wade IV, I put on a helmet and went for a ride in his UTV racing rig! He's an awesome kid and I had so much fun riding out to the lakebed in Johnson Valley for a mini photo shoot for our story. The clashing bright yellow vest is my hi-viz media vest. (Thank you to his Mom, Lisa Wade, for grabbing this photo of me looking so stylish!) Check out my story and photos Meet the Youngest KOH Contender: Mel Wade IV on DrivingLine.

Wow was King of the Hammers crazy!! I worked 18 hour days out there, everything from the Backdoor Shoot Out Monday night in 25 degrees perched on the side of a cliff of loose rocks (I watched quite a few people slide several feet down the side but drinking may have been a factor) to a 6am photo shoot back at the bottom of Backdoor with the entire Nitto racing team (6 cars and drivers/co-drivers), a few trips out to the lakebed for high-speed desert racing then jeeping through Johnson Valley to get to obstacles that other media couldn't reach, and time on the short course to cover Qualifying, Power Hour, and race starts and finishes. And then up all night processing photos to provide daily content for DrivingLine.
It was a brutal schedule and by Saturday morning I was exhausted, but I had a fantastic time because I was doing what I love best to do!

In addition to catching up with some old friends I met many fantastic new people out there. On Wednesday I shot Qualifying next to Chris Collard, the Editor-in-Chief of Overland Journal (swoon) and got to chat with him for several hours. Shooting for Overland Journal one day is an aspirational goal of mine of course! They have the most gorgeous imagery, and Chris was a super nice guy. On Thursday and Friday I teamed up with the awesome Doug Dienelt of DRD Images because we both wanted to avoid the media crowds and I had the vehicle to get us where ever we wanted to go. Doug is a great co-pilot/navigator, a fantastic race photographer and an all-around super guy. Doug was also one of the "strangers" I was sharing a trailer with. Thank you for making the week so much fun (AND productive) Doug!

Also got to spend a little time Friday night hanging out with the crew from 4 Wheel To Heal, the organization I volunteer with. They brought eleven wounded warriors out to King of the Hammers for the week. Thanks to the support of the off roading community they were able to get the guys out on the trails a few times and I could tell by the smile on everyone's faces that they had a fantastic week. Thank you so much to everyone who gave them help and support. I was feeling guilty about not being available to help out but they had no shortage of love and support, and even a few minutes on the main stage in Hammertown!

What else....? My head is still spinning. I shot about 10,000 photos during the week and am still working on finishing up the processing. My webhost is having issues and even though I am uploading to the galleries only twelve or so images are showing. Not happy about that one bit. And this was my first time using Lightroom on location. When I imported the catalog to my main computer it seems that I lost the edits I had made on several images that were posted on DrivingLine throughout the week, so I have to re-edit all of those.

And of course a big congratulations to Loren Healy, winner of King of the Hammers. Loren is one of the Nitto drivers so it was a very exciting (and busy) day for all of us. Nitto had three drivers in the Top 6, so it was a fantastic week for my client. Here's a shot of Loren at Wrecking Ball.

2014 King of the Hammers winner Loren Healy on Wrecking Ball

More coming soon...