Florida Kite Boarding

Off the east coast of Florida, near Pompano, there is an area of the beach designated for kite boarders. On a windy day, the kiters are out in force, ripping through the waves at 20 knots per hour or more, and then lifting off the surface of the water to heights of 25 feet plus.

Kite surfing became popular right after the new millennium and has replaced traditional boardsailing (windsurfing) because of its versatility, i.e. not having to deal with a mast and boom. The secret is in the kite. Nominally a parabolic wing, it is inflated with air, so that if it hits the water it won’t sink. There are lines to deal with, but the harness helps keep them from tangling.

The board is approximately three feet long and is not unlike a snowboard — the rider is similarly locked in with stationary boots. Skegs on the bottom of the board help give it forward motion, but the kiter uses the edges of the board “carving” the water to change direction. The kiter can also pull up out of the water to jump waves, do 360’s, etc.

The colorful sails and acrobatic kiters make for great pictures, but it is difficult to show their impressive speed. One way is to “pan” with the rider and blur the water, another is to show jumps and tricks in sequential images, but the best way is with video.

5D Kiteboard Clip  My main camera, a Canon 5D shoots 1080p HD video, but without several pieces of additional video specific gear (like neutral density filters, a follow-focus knob, an audio recorder, a larger monitor and shoulder frame), it is difficult to create high quality imagery. Click on the link to the video I took of kite boarders with the 5D. Note in my video that the kite boarder goes in and out of focus because I was viewing the video on the small LCD screen on the back of the camera. Also as I had no tripod, the wind became a factor.

As part of this trip, I attended the Miami Short Film Festival (tag line: It’s Miami, it has to be shorts.) Because more and more of my assignments require both video and stills, I was anxious to see a demo of the new Canon EOS C300 video camera. It was announced in Hollywood in November 4 and will be available in January. It was a treat to see it, touch it and ask the questions that needed to be asked.

My take is that the camera will be a tool of choice for the serious videographer. It has several drawbacks, namely no headset for the operator, the Canon codex (another one that has to be supported), the incoming audio is connected through the handle on top of the camera and although detachable, you would rarely want to, as the camera itself has no mike capabilities.

But weighing a little over three pounds, capture at 50 Mb/sec and a top end of 20,000 ISO (not a misprint), it has to be reckoned with. The price is rumored to be $20K, and if that is true, it will be a rental unit for many of us. A $10K-12K price point would have Canon selling many more units. They did stress that this was the first camera in a line of cine cameras for the company, so stay tuned.


At the Workshop – It Didn’t Rain on Our Parade

At my fall Horizon Workshop http://www.horizonworkshops.com/workshops.html?cr=80 October 28 – 30, the weather turned real nasty on Saturday, with temperatures in the mid-thirties, winds and driving sleet, which does not photograph. We saw it coming, and through emails during the previous week, the workshoppers and I discussed what to wear and what to bring in preparation for the inclement weather (e.g. no umbrellas, as it is hard to hold an umbrella and a camera at the same time).

I shifted some of the events planned for Saturday to Friday and Sunday and hoped that on Saturday we could proceed with Plan B. Photojournalists on assignment often need to do this, as the landscape changes regularly. The projected title of my fantasy book is, “You should have been here yesterday, we had a parade and a big rainbow, and today it’s raining.”

On Saturday, after a breakfast powwow, we went to Winbak Farms http://www.winbakfarm.com/about.asp ,  a horseracing operation near Chesapeake City. Upon arrival, we asked if they would be working the horses on the track, and the answer was that “This kind of weather makes both horses and people sick.” But they graciously said that we could photograph in the barns.

On Friday night, we had photographed the Ghost Walk in Chesapeake City that is held on the weekend near Halloween. Knowing the Saturday Ghost Walk would literally be a washout, I gave a crash course on Friday night on how to change the exposure for the student’s flash so that they could do combination available light/flash pictures (right). This technique came in handy in the dark barns at Winbak.


The students did an excellent job of “seeing” and went beyond the obvious fact that the barn held approximately 40 trotters and pacers. They focused on the details, producing surprising pictures that give great insights on the horses and the operation.







One warning I passed on was that extreme wide-angle lenses were not the best to photograph horses as it distorts their bodies and you can see why in this picture, where the horse’s head is larger than his withers.

By talking to the horsemen at the farm, the workshoppers learned many fascinating details about the business of breeding horses. The best comment was when one student confided afterwards that she had always been afraid of horses and now that fear was in the past.

Students for the Fall workshop were: Lori Weber, Robert Ullrich, Jamie Simpson, Frederick Gantz, Virginia Phillips and Angela Oates.

These workshops are a revelation for me as well. I look forward to teaching the one in April 2012.

On Tour

Recently, I had the honor of being a visiting artist at the Southwest Wisconsin Fall Art Tour. http://fallarttour.com/ Held the third full weekend each October, the Tour features some of Wisconsin’s best-known artisans who open their studios to allow visitors a unique, behind-the-scenes view into how their work is created.

During the three-day event, I sold prints of the work that you see on this website., Other artisans included painters, sculptors, potters, weavers, jewelers, woodworkers, mixed-media artists, and more.

The weather cooperated for the Tour, and we had over 300 visitors at the No Rules Jewelry Studio in Lone Rock, WI http://norulesjewelry.com/ , which featured my work and that of my sister Maya Madden and her husband, Wayne Farra (pictured below). Clients come from Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and other nearby locations to see their latest designs and learn how they create their one-of-a-kind jewelry.








I was able to introduce my images to a steady stream of visitors. My nephew, Andrew Dryer (did I say that this was a family affair?), helped out and took the pictures of us presented here. He is an accomplished cinematographer working out of Chicago. http://vimeo.com/andrewdryer

Most popular images in terms of sales were a badger (natch!) , “The Watchman” from Zion National Park, and the Wisconsin image of two Sandhill cranes pictured here.

Many visitors said that they would visit my site and purchase, but perhaps this is the new exit strategy, because most of my recent web sales are not from this group. Perhaps they will reconsider when they come to the Fall Art Tour next year!