Griffith Park by night

Living the in the vast sprawl of Los Angeles, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the crowds and the freeways.

The other night a friend and I took a long hike all around Griffith Park to view the lunar eclipse.

I’ve hiked in Griffith Park before, usually under a hot sun on a clear day, but at night the park takes on a whole new feel. It’s more quiet, more empty and more wild. We heard birds calling in the distance and kept our eyes peeled for coyotes or snakes (fortunately we didn’t see either, although there were a few times when an errant tree branch appeared quite serpentine in the moonlight).

It was nice to be able to hike in the cool air, to look at the vast city below with it’s sparkling lights. Above the city helicopters flew low, planes flew high, the moon rose brightly until the vail of the eclipse – the reflection of all of earth’s sunrises and sunsets painting the moon amber and red.

We hiked about 6 miles, from 7pm-1am. I kept all my photo gear, snacks, water (and some bourbon) secure in my Lowepro backpack, and stayed warm with my favorite Terramar base layer.

I didn’t get any great photos of the moon that night, but I did get a few of the view.

This was my first hike by moonlight, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Griffith Observatory over downtown

Griffith Observatory overlooking Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles Skyline

Downtown Los Angeles by Night

Blur over downtown LA

A long exposure photo with motion blur

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LA County Air Show

 

A quick post with some photos from the LA County Air Show up in the high desert last weekend.

It was a beautiful clear day and it was really cool to see some of these amazing machines wiz by.
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How to run

A friend of mine just told me that she’s running her first half-marathon later this year, which got me thinking about any advice I could give her. I ran my first (and second) half-marathon this past year and I learned a few lessons along the way through research, asking friends and through my own personal experience. Some of them may seem like common sense, but I believe if anyone commits the time and effort, than anyone, regardless of fitness level or age, can enjoy long distance running.  Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Get motivated. If you’re thinking about doing a long race, you probably enjoy running. But if you’re going to train for a long run you have to realize that you’ll need to train at times when you don’t want to. In other words, those mornings when the bed is so warm and the thought of getting up seems like the worst idea ever, that’s when you need to get up and put your shoes on and get outside. Often the anticipation of getting started is the worst part. Nike’s marketing people coined a phrase long ago that sums this point up: when you’re doubting if you’ll have time to run or if you think you can skip a day: “Just do it.” If you can run when you don’t want to run, you’ll succeed in training and building up longer distances.

2. Get proper gear. Obviously you’ll need some well fitting shoes. I also love dry-wick shirts and comfortable shorts. They make dry-wick socks if you are running on hot weather you might like them too. I run with a hat to keep the sun and sweat out of my eyes, some people prefer sunglasses or a headband. You may also want a case for a phone or ipod, headphones that won’t fall out, sunscreen or reflectors if you’re running at night. These items are an investment, but worth is if you use them often to be comfortable.

3. Get distracted. Running is very much a mental game. On long runs you’ll have a lot of time, so if you’re alone you’ll need something to occupy your mind.  That could be music, an interesting podcast, or just thinking things through on your own. Whatever you do, you don’t want thoughts of doubt creeping in. The last thing you want to be thinking about is slowing down or taking a break. I find it best to just sort of zone out and get lost in some music or a podcast and let the time go by.

“If you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do… the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”
-General George S. Patton

4. Stay fueled and hydrated. I used to run on an empty stomach thinking it was the best way to effectively exercise. It is not. Just like a car need fuel, the body needs something to burn if you’re going to maintain a high level of activity for more than 20 minutes or so. There are all kinds of useful products to fuel athletes these days and you’ll have to figure out what works best for you. I’ve found a banana, oatmeal or a cliff bar 20 minutes before a run gives me a good start, if I’m going for more than an hour I might grab an energy gel for some sugar and electrolytes. I also drink at least 24 oz of water before each run, and carry a bottle to sip on as I go. Most people don’t carry water, but I enjoy having it handy for the duration and even to refill at water fountains at parks and along paths. Simply put – fueling your body and staying hydrated will allow you to run further, faster, and more comfortably.

5. Find camaraderie. It’s tough to find people who run the same distance, pace and schedule as you, but there are lots of apps and websites where you can find friends and stay motivated together. Nike+ for example is an app I use on my iPhone that tracks my runs, but also allows me to see what my friends are doing. You can even create “challenges” between groups, for example a group of friends and I recently had a challenge to see who could run a total of 26.2 miles in four weeks. There are also running groups and clubs in many areas. And these days there are so many organized races you can sign up for, from 5k to marathons and beyond, and it can be fun to run in a huge crowd with spectators cheering you along.

6. Sign up for a race. I’ve found that once I’ve signed up for a race, the deadline helps me mentally and physically prepare for that specific goal. Knowing that I’ve made that commitment helps me realize that it’s real, and by spending money on a race there’s an incentive to not flake out and quit.

7. Create an stick to a schedule. There are tons of resources online for runners, including training programs and schedules that can help keep you on track. I found a good system to me was 2 short runs, 1 cross training day and 1 long run per week, with miles added on each week as I got closer to race day. I put all the miles into my calendar and I would receive a text reminder each day with my goal. I found this to be an easy way to keep track of where I was, and where I needed to be. Of course you could also use a paper calendar or any other system, just make sure you stick to it.

8. Find your pace. I’ve found there’s a big difference between running and jogging. While I loose my breath easily and have a hard time keeping up a fast pace, when I get into a comfortable pace I feel like I can jog along for mile after mile. I’m sure this has to do with heart rate, fitness level and form, but it’s important to realize that it’s ok to go slow and steady – as long as you just go.

9. Recover properly. Just like the body needs fuel to burn during a run, it also need proper nutrition after a run to recover. This can mean getting your sugar levels back in check, eating some carbs and protein, electrolytes and of course lots and lots of fluids. A throbbing dehydration headache later in the day can be a huge motivation killer to running, and the best way to avoid them is by taking care of yourself after a long run.  Personally I like a big fruit smoothie (1 banana, frozen strawberries, almond milk, low fat yogurt, whey protein powder). Sometimes I’ll drink coconut water or chocolate milk, fruit juice or even a beer. Your body looses a lot when you run, and if you don’t give it something back it won’t be happy with you.

10. Plan for the finish line. After all the training and all the running you cross the finish line and grab a metal, some snacks, and take a few photos – now what? Well your legs, feet, and pretty much everything else will be exhausted and you’ll be a smelly mess. I strongly recommend some flip flops and a change of shirt for when you’ve finished. It may not seem like a big deal, but a dry, clean shirt really does make a difference to your comfort level. Although most races provide snacks, you’ll want to find a big meal after your race, so either have something prepared or have a plan for a local restaurant. After that, all thats left to do is take a satisfying shower and a rewarding nap.

 

My uncle, myself and a friend enjoying a beer after the Los Angeles Rock and Roll Half Marathon

My uncle, myself and a friend enjoying a beer after the Los Angeles Rock and Roll Half Marathon

Getty Center in HDR

I visited the Getty Center this afternoon and was really impressed by the architecture, garden, views and museums.  It’s a really great resource for the City of Los Angeles and I recommend both visitors and residents check it out. Bonus points – it’s free!

Anyway to try something new I took some photos to edit into HDR or High Dynamic Range photography where several exposures are blended into one to create different effects such as more color or detail or more even light. Sometimes they can be subtle, other times extreme. These images are the first HDR images I’ve made with multiple exposures, but it’s a technique I’d try again in certain situations.

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Slice of the LA Fashion District

I did some xmas shopping this year in Los Angeles’ Fashion District, a sprawling complex of storefronts and warehouses near downtown where people buy and sell all kinds of stuff. It’s a real experience to walk through, one I recommend, especially Santee Alley.

Here are some photos I snapped after I finished shopping. They’ve been treated with a Photoshop Action called Winter Breeze which can be downloaded here.

 

Slice of the LA fashion district(click to enlarge)

15-Minute Phone Photography Excersize

I was motivated tonight to take some photos with my iPhone 4 while on a break at work. Earlier I’ve viewed a some interesting videos, specifically one about using ‘light’ as the subject of photography for a quick 15-minute exersize. Below are some of the pics I took around the Staples Center and LA Live.

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Paragliding in Santa Barbara

Last summer I made my first visit to Santa Barbra California and I was blown away by the beauty of the entire area. I’ve been all up and down the east coast from Maine to Key West, all over Florida, the gulf coast, San Diego to Big Sur, and I’ve spent some time in the Pacific Northwest coast but Santa Barbara might be the most beautiful part of the country I’ve seen. Big, majestic mountains surround the charming and clean town.  Picturesque palms line bike paths and parks, sailboats fill the harbor and there are wide, bright beaches everywhere. Combine that with near perfect weather and the vibrancy that comes along with a few local colleges, and you have a pretty special place.

Palms at Sunset in Santa Barbara

Palms at Sunset in Santa Barbara

It was biking along one of those palm lined paths one day when I I looked up to see a few people flying above one afternoon, suspended below a parachute like contraption and gently gliding back and forth above the beach.

This, I thought, looks likes fun.

When they landed I asked them what they were up to and how to get involved. Here’s the definition according to everyone’s favorite source, wikipedia:

Paragliding is the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders: lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure.[1] The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing consisting of a large number of interconnected and baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by its suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.

The guys explained there was a company that does training for beginners right up the road, and to check out there website. So that day I learned more about Eagle Paragliding, did some more research and started to get excited.

A few months and a few emails later and my buddy Mike and I made the trek “up the hill” at Elings Park to join Eagle Paragliding for a full day lesson.

View of the Sky and the Pacific from the top of the hill at Ellings Park

View of the Sky and the Pacific from the top of the hill at Elings Park

After filling out a ton of paperwork and waivers, we got fitted for gear (helmets, radios, harnesses and wings) and the instructors demonstrated how it all works together. In it’s simplest terms, you strap your legs, waist and chest into a big, padded backpack that’s connected through a series of cords (risers) at the hip to a wide parachute style wing that inflates when you give it a pull into the wind and provides the lift you need to stay air bound. You control your speed and direction with pressure on these hip connections and also by pulling on hand levers that act as “brakes”.

We watched the instructors inflate the wings a few times by running forward and maintaining the right amount of pressure and force on the wing, then we each gave it a shot a few times.

Strapped into the harness, getting a feel for the risers, brakes and wing

Strapped into the harness, getting a feel for the risers, brakes and wing

Building "the wall" with the wing.

Building “the wall” with the wing.

Getting the wing ready to fly takes a lot of practice. One method for spreading it out evenly is to let it catch the wind for a second to “build a wall” before letting it lay flat on the ground before takeoff. But one of the trickiest parts was keeping control of the wing once it left the ground. It seemed very touchy – one second its floating evenly the next second its a wrinkled ball of nylon and string all bundled up. But after practicing we got a better idea of how to control it by feeling the pressures and making slight adjustments.

We then sat at the forward edge of the hill and had a preflight briefing. Here we talked about take off, flight plans, turning in the air and landing. At this point, after training for about an hour and a half, we prepared to make our first launches into the sky.

At this point I’m thinking to myself, is this safe?  I thought I had a good understanding of how it all works, but the idea of flinging myself into the air, completely reliant on this equipment and my own abilities to control it was a little daunting.

But, like the kid at the top of an intimidating sledding hill or the teenager behind the wheel alone for the first time: At some point the only way to learn is to do.

And so, we did.

Inflating the wing

Inflating the wing

Running toward the instructor at full speed until the wing lifts and inflates with air, we push forward until the wing speed and our speed match, push forward until it’s even and steady, and push until it creates enough lift that your feet leave the ground and you’re suspended 6 inches, 12 inches, 6 feet, 20 feet above the air.

And then, you’re flying.

Getting up to speed

Getting up to speed

Feeling the lift and take off

Feeling the lift and take off

Floating towards the Pacific

Floating towards the Pacific

 

Stepping into the foot rest and harness

Stepping into the footrest and harness

Enjoying the views, making turns

Prepping for the landing approach

Prepping for approach

Touchdown

Touchdown

Once you’ve made your first flight, your only thought is to gather your gear, get to the van as quick as you can for a ride back up the hill and do it all over again!

My buddy Mike in flight

My buddy Mike in flight

We did about 6 flights before lunch and about 6 after, and had a great time.

It was a really good chance to try something new and unique, enjoy nature and push our bodies to try something we’ve only seen James Bond or Batman do in the movies.

I think it’s also good to do something every once in a while that scares you a little bit. Find the edge and cross it. It’s not often we do that these days, but I think its important to figure out what your capable of. That, and its just fun.

Anyway, big thanks to the good folks at Eagle and my buddy Mike for joining and taking some photos.

Time to get off the computer for a bit, but stay tuned!