Racing at the Alpenrose Velodrome


I’ve been an avid cyclist for a couple of decades now. I’ve participated and spectated almost every kind of bicycle race, but until recently I had never had the chance to watch track racing at a velodrome. This is mostly due to the small number of velodromes in the US, which is around 28 (for comparison, the United Kingdom also has around 28 velodromes, but is less than 1/10 the size of the US).

Around the turn of the last century (1900), velodromes and track racing were much more popular. In fact, many people don’t know that it was huge in New York City, regularly appearing at the Madison Square Garden:

“Another notable use of the first Garden was as a velodrome, an oval bicycle racing track with banked curves. At the time, bicycle racing was one of the biggest sports in the country. “[T]he top riders [were] among the sports stars of their day. The bike races at Madison Square Garden were all the rage around the turn of the 20th century.”[4] Madison Square Garden was the most important bicycle racing track in the United States and the Olympic discipline known as the Madison is named after the original Garden.”

While we were living in Portland, I had the chance to attend the regional championship races at Alpenrose Velodrome. Alpenrose is an outdoor track, made from concrete. It is on the property of Alpenrose Dairy, a family owned dairy business.

Trying to follow the races is not always easy the first time you are at a velodrome. There are different (and confusing) formats with individual races, team races, points races, and specialty races such as the “Keirin” and the “Madison” in which pair up in a tag-team format. Riders “sling” their teammate forward to facilitate alternating sprints that keep the pace very high during typically long races (30 km or 19 miles, or more, compared to 3–10 km or 1.9–6.2 mi for most other races).  Since partners can trade as often as they like, this is a very busy race format, with half of the racers racing and half circulating around the track at any time.

The really great thing about these races, from a photographer’s standpoint, is that you are free to roam almost anywhere you want. You can’t get on the track itself, but you can be within a few feet of where the riders are passing by. This makes for some really great chances to show the excitement and intensity of the racers. It’s also interesting in that sometimes the racers are going as fast as humanely possible, but other times they are not quite going all out and are looking around at their competition and trying to figure out their strategy.

Here are a few more images from the weekend:

img_4489-2 img_4537-2 img_4605-2Thanx for listening!!


My Experience with Stock Photography

This post is in reply to a discussion from another site that I was involved with concerning my experience with stock photography….or more specifically, selling stock photography.

First things first. I am represented by The company that started the downfall of stock photography pricing as we know it. I know photographers in general have nothing good to say about istock. For a long time, I was one of them.

This post is not going to address anything about the stock vs. microstock business model….or about how things aren’t what they used to be…..or how I’m helping to kill the market for imagery. These arguments have been around a long time, and I’m not really interested in rehashing them…..

About ten or fifteen years ago, I became interested in getting involved in selling stock photos. I sent images off to every stock agency out there, and was turned down by all of them. It was hugely frustrating (of course, looking back now I can easily see why). Around the same time istock had started, and was undercutting the big stock agencies by huge margins….and gaining a huge segment of the market. I cursed them, seeing that they were cutting into my future earnings (if I could just get into an agency).

At some point, a friend of mine was accepted as a contributor to istock. We had conversations about what they were doing to the market, but when he started to make a little money I started paying a little more attention. Eventually, I applied to istock to see what it was all about. It should be noted here that way back then, it was pretty easy to get accepted – take a test and submit three images that needed to be technically excellent.

Eventually, I started getting images accepted into their collection….and lo and behold, I had a sale! Back then, istock was very different from other stock agencies in that you had instant visibility to your sales (no other stock agency had that ability). I started to sell an image every week or so, making anywhere from twenty five cents to a couple of dollars each time. The more I uploaded, the more I started to sell, and the more money I made. First my goal was to make some extra beer money, then it was my lunch money every day…..and eventually, my truck payment. After that, I aimed for the big time – I wanted to make my mortgage payment (it was around $1000.00 at that time). It took me a couple of years, but I got there. All the while, I was uploading images. Not a lot…..I had maybe a few hundred images over the first few years…..but they kept chugging along. I should add that most of this time, I was on staff, so this was “extra” money that was coming in.

Then, I lost my staff job (I lost the house, too). Suddenly, istock became a lot more important…..

Not only was it my main source of income for a short period, it gave me something to do during the day. It was my “job”. The reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Since then, I’ve been freelance, then back on staff a couple of times, and am currently freelance.

Over the last five years, my stock income has dropped around 50%, even though my number of images with them has increased around 300%. Not a very good return. A lot of people will think it stupid to continue.

I have a few reasons for continuing my relationship with istock:

1. It gives me something to do during the weeks that I’m not working. And, keeps me from going totally crazy when the phone hasn’t rung in a few weeks.

2. It keeps a small amount of $$$ coming in, no matter what else I do.

3. In a few years, my wife and I would like to take a year or two off to drive around/through Central and South America. The work that I put into stock now will pay dividends during that trip in that we’ll still have something of an income while we are traveling.

4. It keeps me involved. When I was younger, I worked with sooooo many photographers that let their passion die when photography became their job. Photographers that shot during the day, and then never picked up a camera any other time. Photographers that worked at the Getty Museum, but never cared to see any of the amazing work that was on exhibition.

5. Stock photography is something that I can, and will do the rest of my life.

6. Eventually, a number of my images have been picked up from istock by Getty Images (they bought istock a while ago), which lends a little more credence when I talk to other photographers.

Stock photography can also be very vexing. The best images don’t sell (at least mine don’t), but random ones do. Here is a great example:

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 9.44.33 AM

Here is a page from my istock account with info for a picture that I took of road construction. I was bored and sitting in my car, and thought “wth”……I jumped out and took the shot. If you look at the bottom, it shows that image being downloaded over 300 times. Yeah……I don’t get it either.

It’s not a horrible shot. It’s in focus. Ugly flat lighting. Shot close to wide open so it has some depth. One of those shots that you would never think would sell once, much less 300 times. But here’s the thing…..It fills a need. There aren’t that many photographs available of road construction signs. Around 2000 on right now. And this one comes up on the first page. Search placement is huge….if one of your images comes up on the first page of a search. It will sell. Doesn’t matter how good or bad it is.

So there you have it. That’s my story. When I was assisting, I talked to a photographer that was making almost 200k in stock….in his spare time…..and I don’t think that was unusual. There are still guys out there making that, but they have specialized and that’s all they do. Nowadays, it’s simply one more revenue flow that helps me to make a living doing what I love.

Thanx for listening.


Lighting Test with Cyclist


I have a love-hate relationship with fill in flash. I love the way that it separates a subject from a background. It helps add depth, lightens shadows. Lot’s of pluses…… But, I hate the way it’s so obvious. You normally get a very distinct shadow, or drop shadow, coming off the back of the subject, or to the right/rear if you happen to be shooting vertically.

If you are not familiar with this technique, it’s normally used when a subject is backlit (or maybe sidelit….or just plain underlit) outside. Normally you would get deep and dark shadows across their face or the part of your subject that is facing the camera….but with fill flash, you use your flash or strobe to “fill” in those shadows so that your subject is more evenly illuminated. Nowadays, a lot of DSLR’s and even point and shoot cameras have a Flash Fill setting that will give you the desired effect.

There are a few ways to get around the dreaded drop shadow that is the normal telltale sign of fill flash. The easiest is to simply point your flash at the ceiling or a nearby wall (if you are inside) or use a bounce reflector that hooks onto your flash (if you are outside). These work somewhat, but they don’t always eliminate the shadow. They also cut about two stops of power off your flash. And, if your flash isn’t adjustable directionally, you are out of luck.

A fellow photographer, Jim Bastardo, was telling me that he had started using a ringflash for some indoor lifestyle/party shoots that he had been doing. It didn’t have the obvious look of an on-camera flash, and didn’t necessitate him having to light an entire party scene to be able to move through it photographing lots of people. That got me wondering about other uses for this tool that is normally used for macro photography. A ringflash (or ringlight) hooks onto your camera and actually surrounds the lens so that the light seems to be coming from directly behind the lens….thereby eliminating any shadow.

I had purchased one, and was looking for a good way to test it out. I really enjoy combining auxiliary lighting with fast moving adventure sports, and  came up with the idea of shooting a cyclist on a road bike during a descent of a hill. I really wanted the photograph to have the feeling of speed, and there were two ways to achieve this.

1. Have the cyclist ride past me while I was on the side of the road and use a “panning” action to photograph him as he rode by. This would work but I was figuring on having to take 20-30 shots to get something that I would be happy with. That would mean my model would have to ride by me 20-30 times, then stop, turn around, and ride back uphill for the next attempt. Most of my friends are pretty good sports, but I figured that would really be pushing the limit……

2. The other option, and the one that I decided to use, was to sit in the back of a car with my camera and have the cyclist follow me down the road. I contacted my friend Justin Jensen who said he was up for modeling for me. I also asked my girlfriend (now wife) Jennie if she would be willing to volunteer her car and her driving skills.

We gathered at the top of the road to our local ski resort, and the three of us had a discussion on how to keep us all safe. Jennie had to drive with one eye on the road and one eye on the rear view mirror making sure that Justin was still behind us and that I hadn’t fallen out of the car. Justin had to keep approximately the same distance from the car the whole time and listen to me as I yelled instructions. I laid on my stomach in the back of the Subaru with the hatchback open and held my camera out, sometimes up to my eye, but sometimes as low as I could get it to the ground to get an aggressive angle.

I thought we might have to make 2-3 trips up and down the mountain, but in the end I was really happy with what we got during our first descent. We kept our speed between 20-25 MPH, and I shot at 1/30 of a second to get a little bit of blur in the background, but minimize it on Justin. The ringlight functioned perfectly, actually working as a keylight as we had waited until we were totally in shadow so that I didn’t have to fight the sun coming from different directions as we made our way around the switchbacks.

As you can see in the photo, Justin is illuminated a touch brighter than the background, which really makes him standout. There also isn’t any shadow coming from the ringlight, thereby eliminating any hints about how it was lit. There is a nice amount of blur in the foreground/background to give the feeling of speed. All in all, everything worked out perfectly and I was extremely happy with the results.

Thanx for listening.


Human Remains in Ntarama Church – Rwanda


Did you see Hotel Rwanda ( If so, you are most likely aware of the Rwandan Genocide that took place back in the mid 90’s. If you haven’t seen it, you might want to check out this – for some background……

In short, misguided civil and moral upheaval resulted in systematic killing of over 800,000 people by their family and neighbors, along with the assassination of Rwanda’s President. Most of these murders were undertaken with machete’s (they didn’t want to waste money on ammunition), and dead bodies that didn’t rot in the sun were dumped into mass graves.

Over twenty years later, and Rwanda is still dealing with the aftermath of this (

There is plenty to read about what the United Nations did or didn’t do during this time to stop what was going on. There are also a lot of parallels to what has been going on in Sudan. I’m not going to get into the politics of either situation here. What I would like to do, is tell you about the photograph above, which was taken in Rwanda in late 2006 while I was on a trip there……

Over a few weeks in Rwanda I was able to visit three different Genocide Memorials in and around the capital city of Kigali. One was the “official” memorial, complete with an audio tour and signs in english. The other two, however, were more simple….and in my eyes……much more powerful.

Ntarama Church was one of the churches where people fled because they erroneously felt that they would be protected. In the end, most of these people perished.

We arranged for a driver to give us a ride to the memorial, which is a story all unto itself….

When we arrived at the church/memorial the gate was locked, but a local woman/caretaker came and let us in. There was nobody else at the memorial, and we walked around in an eerie silence. There were no signs and no stories. There were no windows or lights, just sunshine filtering through elaborate bricks arranged to allow for air flow. Large holes in the concrete wall of the church shows where grenades exploded. The floor of the church was littered with personal belongings of victims that have remained since the massacre. In the rear of the church, wooden shelves held hundreds of human skulls.

Skeletons and bones were still being unearthed, and this bag had recently been dug up. They were to be cleaned up and added to the shelves with the others.

At the time, I was shooting a Nikon F3, with T-Max 3200, and printed this image using the “lith” process.

Another blog with more details:

As you can see from their images, some changes have been made at the church…..


Covershot for Bestop by Mark Waldron


This image was captured during a shoot for Bestop in Moab Utah.
We have been shooting for Bestop for many years and have been on some great jeep trails with them on past shoots but this was one of the best! We were down in Moab for a Jeep Jamboree in February, as you know it can be 75 degrees and sunny or 15 degrees and snowing. We had scheduled a trip with Dan Mick aka “Father Time” the best guide for off roading in Moab. We were lucky enough to have picked the right day for this shoot as the day before it rained and the day after snow showers. These two jeeps had the newest tops at the time and Bestop wanted to showcase them out on the trail. We didn’t take off until 9:30 that morning because a couple of employees from jeep decided to tag along and test out a cool Israeli military 5 cylinder diesel jeep. Needless to say we got some killer images of these jeeps doing some crazy stuff, none of it they can use because “all 4 wheels must be on the ground” according to their lawyers. We got to the end of one of the trails that had a fantastic view of the valley and the Colorado River in the distance. The guys from Jeep let me climb on top of their jeep to capture this image as the clouds and light just worked out perfectly for about 5 min.