In Hope To Inspire

Awhile back now, my best bud Brett got me into running long distances on trails. I had always enjoyed running, but I rarely did it. He always jokes about 'Sofa to Summit' and that has always somewhat been our situation. Nothing has changed over the years, except my own sense of what I realize the human body and mind are capable of achieving.

Liz Pollak setting a solid pace on the  NUT 50k

Liz Pollak setting a solid pace on the NUT 50k

Last September, I ran the Equinox Ultramarathon in Fairbanks, Alaska. It's 40 miles long and was my first solo foot race (I did the 3-person relay marathon with Brett and his wife Christina two years prior). I hadn't run in three months before the race and I was horribly sick three days prior to the start. In the spring and early summer, I had run only four times, at 7, 13, 16, and 27 miles each, after a cold Fairbanks winter. I finished the ultra feeling great, in 7 hrs 51 min. I was very sore after, but relatively speaking, not at all a wreck.

Finish line of my first ultramarathon last fall.

Finish line of my first ultramarathon last fall.

Since the Equinox, I moved to Eugene, OR, and lost a commute to work in working from home, which means, before this past weekend, I had only run 20 total miles in the last nine months since the Equinox. Life happens. Oh well. My very accomplished buddy, Brian from LA, had long before convinced me to run the North Umpqua Trail (NUT) 100k with him in June, since I had done fairly well with the Equinox. The plan was for me to train, something I apparently still don't understand.

Thursday and Friday before the race, I was (again) horribly sick. A bad cold had zapped me, hard. I had called in sick to work and told Brian I was going to let him and our buddy Josh (also a runner who came to race) take my truck and go, while I sleep all weekend. After picking them up, I was starting to feel a little better and by early evening, I was packing up to go with, maybe with hopes of waking up feeling good enough to, at best, plod along for 50k (31 mi).

Night before the race.

Night before the race.

As the night progressed, all symptoms except deep coughing and a totally blocked nose were gone - it was indeed a hard-hitting 24 hr bug. I slept fitfully, yet hard, and woke feeling somewhat better and that I had no reason not to run, thankfully. I saw them off at the start of their 100k and drove to the start of the 50k, asking to drop down since I was sick and hadn't been running. Not a problem. Off I went. 'Sick on the Sofa to Summit' was my own mantra, once again.

Running felt good. I instantly felt as if I was running out my sickness and remained that way all day. I felt I had power in me, a 180º from the previous two days. The trail was narrow and poison oak reached across it from both sides. I hung back a bit, intentionally only passing when others stopped... until a handful miles in, at the first big steep hill. I was feeling great, so I took normal long walking strides up it, passing a bunch of people taking half steps. I gained a big open trail in front of me and found more people of my own pace. Soon, I found not only a pace but a set of clothing that matched mine. I (strangely) instantly knew it was a pace I not only should, but could, keep all day, as hard as it might be, but I knew it would change my day from just trying to finish to actually trying to race. I settled in.

NUT 100k & 50k profile

NUT 100k & 50k profile

The only other foot race I've done (Equinox), I mostly ran alone. My pace was probably highly varying and it was certainly slowing throughout the race. Even with rough, while running math in my head, I could tell it was precipitous. On the NUT, however, I had found an experienced runner and now my day's pacer in Liz Pollak, a vet from Bend, OR. Soon, Ashley Gerber from Eugene caught back up and tagged on, too, commenting on Liz & I's matching attire. We had a trio that lasted the next 25 miles to the finish. Liz was strong, as it was her third 50k and held a consistent and unforgiving, yet realistic, pace all day long. Ashley was an accomplished marathoner on her first ultra and was full of excitement. I knew that these two would not only pull me along the trail, but also be motivators to not slow down and walk the rest, as I'd probably, and then did, feel like doing. I also thought that if I kept up with them setting the pace, I could try and at least provide some continual positive motivation to keep up the pace and enjoyment of the race, especially for Ashley's first ultra.

After a handful of miles, and me still coughing hard, Liz turned around and asked if I was ok and said if I start coughing up blood, I have to stop. Fortunately, I wasn't quite that bad and didn't get there, either. The coughing got a bit better throughout the day, but not much. I was just glad I was out there and not still feeling awful and horizontal on the couch, like I kinda wanted to be anyway.

Drinking straight from a trailside waterfall. Photo by Ashley Gerber.

Drinking straight from a trailside waterfall. Photo by Ashley Gerber.

After about 20 miles of keeping pace with the two, I was starting to get quite sore and wanted to just walk, but something in me kept saying that I could keep up 'til the finish, even if it hurt. I realized, at 32 and having felt a slight slowing down the past couple years, I was feeling I still had some fight left in me from my youth and ability to push through huge physical challenges. It was a great feeling and an urge I couldn't silence. Every time Liz started running after the trail mellowed out again from a hill, both Ashley and I muttered a soft 'damn it.' Alas, we were having a blast together, pushing and pulling each other along to a finish stronger than each of us would have done alone. What a great feeling and opportunity a race brings.

20-some miles into a 50k and smiling. Always.  Photo by Paul Nelson Photography

20-some miles into a 50k and smiling. Always. Photo by Paul Nelson Photography

After a very hard, nearly all uphill 50k course (and a UTMB qualifier!), we finished the 50k right on each others heels (video), just as we had been for about a marathon distance before, in just seconds under 7 hours. Like at the Equinox, I jumped with joy over the finish line. Once again, I was pretty damn sore, but not a train wreck. Happy, I was, to say the least!
My official stats: 28th out of 80 finishers, in 6 hrs 59 min 51 seconds. Not bad, I think, for now only having run 154 miles in the last 13 months, 71 of which were the two ultras.

The sub-7hr trio at the finish.

The sub-7hr trio at the finish.

Brian (below) and Josh finished the 100k ultra in awesome times of 13:45 & 14:45! What an effort! I am so happy I went along, and both helped and watched them finish so strong.

The North Umpqua Trail is one of the most stunning places I've seen in Oregon. Around almost every bend, all I could say was 'Wow!' So why go any faster? I already didn't feel like I took it all in quite enough, as the trail was rough and required strict concentration, even though my gaze did wander quite often. The place deserves more time - backpacking probably.

Maybe I don't train for 'events' because then I'd get hooked on going fast, ie, hurrying through a place, which goes wholly against my 'Stay sane, Sleep outside' mantra. Why rush through a place, only to finish and wish you were still out there? I enjoy slowing down maybe more so than going fast at times. Either way, I'm sure this isn't my last foot race, as it was so much fun and also really mind-blowing to find out how much farther even I thought I could push myself beyond what I thought previously possible, all in hopes of inspiring others to do the same in their own lives.

You have no idea what you are capable of until you go out and wholeheartedly give it your all, way more than you think 'your all' is. We are all awesome inside and that includes you. Don't miss your chance to live and feel it.

Cheers to Brett, Brian, Josh, Liz, Ashley, the NUT race, all the finishers, and to doing amazing things by pushing yourself. See you on the sofa 'til the next summit.

Well earned.

Well earned.

Follow Your Heart

This is Ross.

Ross. Downtown Eugene, Oregon. Fuji X70.

Ross. Downtown Eugene, Oregon. Fuji X70.

He's a self-proclaimed crappy guitarist, an HVAC worker, and a soul-searcher. His girlfriend recently broke up with him and he wasn't getting rich, so he hit the road and is trying to find himself. He & his buddy & buddy's dog were gonna hitch-hike out today, but it's pouring and no one is gonna wanna pick up two wet dudes and wet dog. Plus, his buddy's fancy banjo was just stolen. We talked for almost a half hour about society, hardship, and good souls. He's a good guy and not looking for handouts or to take anything without a fair trade, human to human. He's going after something in himself and the world. He's on his way to Ohio to see family and then Atlanta to see his mom, with plans to come back, after seeing the world and finding deeper meaning of life.

At the end, he asked me why I stopped. I said he had a different aura about him. He was approachable and a genuine soul. What I forgot to say is that just like Shawn Biessel & I were talking about recently, I was walking around the street guided by my heart, not my mind or my eyes. When I came around the corner, I immediately knew I had to talk to him. First thing I said was to ask if he wanted a donut, which he replied,  yes please. He likes custard filled lemon donuts. I got us each one for while we talked.
Thanks for the photo and conversation, Ross. Safe travels, my friend.

Whatever we all do with our lives, may we follow our hearts. He is and I'm glad I did, too.


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Thinking Like a Mountain on the Street

As part of my ongoing Project 365+1, I thought I'd share a story from yesterday, the 99th day.

InFormation. Downtown Eugene, Oregon. (c) 2016 Josh Spice

InFormation. Downtown Eugene, Oregon. (c) 2016 Josh Spice

Standing just down the sidewalk to the right of the frame, I had been replying to a friend's deep comments on Facebook for a handful of minutes, while watching the world go by. People were walking all around, and some quite interesting ones at that, but I wasn't real drawn to trying to capture any of them. And I was in no rush. Being almost 6 pm, the light was low angle and there were large areas in shadow. Something wasn't right and I just felt out of place. I hadn't been downtown shooting street in quite a while; maybe that's why.

I decided I'd cross the street and go to the other end of the block and shoot at the bus depot, which was more open to the sky and better lit. When I crossed, right through the image frame above, something told me to stop, so I did, still in the street. I saw this guy coming down the block and somehow immediately knew I had to have it.

The framing and his placement was already in my head. I turned on the X70 and held it up, just to verify my placement, and it was perfect - distant to capture the whole spread, but close enough to get the detail. As he walked, to my surprise, he kept his head glued to his cell phone. It was actually all coming together and I felt a rush of excitement through me - kind of like a hunter gets buck fever when they see a big rack on a deer.

I snapped when he was centered and a mirror image of the silhouette behind him. When I chimped, only then did I notice the contrasting angled light to center of frame and his white shirt on the black silhouette. It was perfect in my eye and I knew right then I had gotten my shot. The funny thing to me is, as you recall, I had been doing exactly what he is pictured doing - staring at my phone, just ahead of him, out of the frame, leaning up against the wall. I went from making a scene to making the scene. I stepped 'out of the picture' to capture, in essence, what I had been doing, just with better framing and environment.

Walking around after taking this, I was very sedated in shooting. I only saw two shots after this, one I took (my wife & I - almost doesn't count in a street shooting sense) and one I didn't - across the street and headed the other way when we were heading home. I chalked it up as seeing was just as important as capturing.

I don't often stop shooting after I get what I feel is a solid keeper when everything comes together, but for some reason today, I had that feeling strongly. With a background and schooling in ecology, conservation, and hunting, I was again the hunter, but this time it was not the excitement of the big rack, but about Thinking Like A Mountain. When the street provides to me, I feel the need to not push it and take too much away from it on any one day. When it gives me a good scene, I make it, thank it, and move on, leaving it's grit and flare, while only taking but a fleeting moment.

How do you feel when you shoot street?
 

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Fuji X70: Beyond the Specs

You can find reviews of the Fuji X70 all over the place, mostly talking about it's user-friendliness and incredible image quality in such a small, pocketable size. With over a month almost exclusively shooting the X70 for my Project 365, I'd like to touch on some of the more experienced based things I've learned about this camera that make me love it so much. And, a couple things I wish were more like the X-T1 & X-E2 I also shoot with.

Fuji X Photographer  Dan Bailey  shooting the X70 in a brutal Oregon coast rain storm

Fuji X Photographer Dan Bailey shooting the X70 in a brutal Oregon coast rain storm

1. It's not WR, but it's TINY

This means I can put it in any pocket or space to protect it from weather or damage. For the beach storm above, I had it in my rain jacket's chest pocket, which is really small. When biking, I put it in a Revelate Designs Feedbag with a cuben fiber stuff sack for when it's raining. The X70 is so small, I actually am concerned it might bounce out of the Feedbag, which fits bike water bottles. In all actuality, I'm still trying to figure out how to best carry this little tank. It's too heavy for a shirt or pants cargo pocket and a little too big for a front pants pocket...

 

2. The tilting LCD acts as a 'tripod'

The shot of my bike and I above was taken with the camera sitting on the ground, angled up. Pull out the multi-angle tilting LCD screen and it is strong and stiff enough to act as its own tripod, of sorts. Pretty sweet feature. Probably not the only camera that can do this, but the X70 certainly does it really well.

 

3. USB charging

In the car or from a USB battery pack, solar panel, or even the wall plug-in, power can go straight into the camera with no battery adapter or charger needed. Uses micro-USB, same as my Samsung phone, for convenience of only needing one charging cord for both devices.

 

4. Fast AF

Standing only 18 inches away from the rufous hummingbirds, the X70 had no problem zone focusing on the quick-moving birds, seemingly despite their best efforts to move as much as possible. I've found the X70 only hunts if the scene is quite dark and low contrast. Auto-macro mode isn't as 'auto' as I'd like to experience, so for stationary close ups like flowers, I usually switch to manual focus, set it to it's minimum focusing distance, and move the camera accordingly. It tends to want to focus farther away than it is able to. 'Tis but a minor complaint.

 

5. It's Discrete

I got the X70 in black, as I didn't want it to be a flashy device. It's small enough that people either don't notice it when you're shooting or they pass it off as nothing to get flustered about, unlike a bigger camera & lens. Multiple times, I've been bold in public with it and no one notices or cares. I don't like upsetting people with taking a photo, so I like that. I still ask for photos, but not as much as when I carry my X-T1 & X-E2.

 

2016-03-03 07.09.36 1.jpg

6. I have to mention its sharpness

Dare I say it out-resolves the X-T1 & X-E2? I'm no pixel-peeper, but all I'm saying is there are no worries about image quality with the X70. No need to say any more.

 

I shot this photo upside down and then flipped it in editing.

I shot this photo upside down and then flipped it in editing.

7. The grip

For such a small camera, it sure has a really confident grip to it. The thumb knob is perfect size, without hardly sticking out from the body, and the front piece is shaped and textured perfectly. I have a wrist strap on mine, but have no worries about quickly grabbing the camera and doing a no-look shot behind me while riding. Nice job, Fuji!

 

8. The Left Side Button that's not

On the left side of the body, from the photographer's perspective, there is a rubber, flush with the body surface button that takes (easy) intention to depress. I have it set as the self-timer, which seems perfect to me. What a great idea, Fuji. Kudos.

My personal button layout is as follows:
Movie: Focus Mode
Delete: ISO select
D-Pad: L/R/U/D Focus point
Fn: Wifi (might change, as I do wifi in image playback almost 100% of time)
Left side button: Self-timer

 

9. Digital Teleconverter

Like having three cameras in one (kind of), the built-in digital teleconverter is pretty darn good. It's more than just digital zoom, as some extra processing happens to the 35/50mm images, but quality is still high. I don't really use it, but the thing I like most about it is that when I do, the camera resets to 28mm on shutdown/startup. No need to worry about accidentally bumping the easy to move lens ring and taking a bunch of photos in digital teleconverter mode before realizing it. Another great idea, Fuji.

 

Do you see the Devil?

Do you see the Devil?

The things I don't like so much

1. Always +1/3

It seems like no matter what the scene & lighting, the X70 likes to expose 'properly' at +1/3 exposure compensation. I've shot in RAW & JPEG and it doesn't seem to matter... hmm.

 

2. Left D-Pad Button

The left button on the up/down/left/right pad around the Menu/OK button is hard to press, as it's so close to the LCD. Now, in all honesty, it's proximity to the LCD is actually not the problem, but the fact that the LCD sticks outward from the body just a little bit, creating a tight 'corner' to get your finger into in order to press the left button. I actually wish Fuji made the X70 just a tad thicker so the tilting LCD would sit IN the body, not just barely stick out from it. Minor gripe.

 

3. Movie Button

The movie button is in a good spot, just in front of the exposure compensation dial, but because it is squeezed into that tiny space on the top plate and it does not stick up from the top plate (ie, flush with surface), it is incredibly hard to press the button. This is a situation where it IS too close to a 'corner' and hard to press because of it... or the button needs to stick up like the buttons on the back of the camera do. Also a minor gripe... just frustrating when you try to use that movie button assigned to a different shooting function, like focus mode. It's in a perfectly fine spot if it just was a bigger button.

 

Final word

Before I got the X70, I was using the X-M1 with the 18mm f/2 & 27mm f/2.8. I had come from SLRs and the X-T1 & X-E2 and was worried about losing the creative vision I feel I have looking through a viewfinder. After about two weeks using the X70, I forgot about this completely and I think I'm doing just fine without one. I still love using a VF when I have one, but with the X70, I'm more compelled to move the camera to where it needs to be to get an engaging shot. It's not as good as or worse than having a VF, just different. Go take photos and let the camera become an extension of your hand, which I feel the X70 has already. It helps, I'm sure, that I had previously felt this way about my 18mm f/2 lens.

With only three minor (very picky) complaints, I'd say the X70 is my most favorite camera I've ever used (and it's not even an interchangeable lens body!). Home run, Fuji. I can't recommend this camera enough. I just really wish Fuji made an 85mm focal length version! THAT would be the ultimate adventure camera kit.
 

Thanks for reading!
Stay sane. Sleep Outside... with a camera!

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Dan Bailey Visit

Dan Bailey and his wife Amy were in need of getting out of the poor Alaskan winter Anchorage was having and made a shout out on Facebook, "Who should we come visit during our anniversary trip downstates?" I was the first to respond, so they came to Oregon and stopped by for a couple nights, before flying back to Alaska. I hadn't seen them since last year's Knik Glacier bikepacking trip. Dan is also a Fuji X Photographer and the main conspirator of my switch to and love for Fuji X cameras.

Dan Bailey on the Oregon beach with the  Fuji X70 , shot with my X70.

Dan Bailey on the Oregon beach with the Fuji X70, shot with my X70.

Dan brought me a Fuji X hat!

We of course had to go shooting, at least for a little bit, the first night. A potential aurora show helped to get us out, admittedly.

Double Superstars: Dan Bailey shooting the stars reflecting off water with his Fuji X-T1. Shot with my X-T1.

Double Superstars: Dan Bailey shooting the stars reflecting off water with his Fuji X-T1. Shot with my X-T1.

With temps in the sunny 70s in Eugene, we thought a camping trip on the Oregon coast beach sounded like a good idea. Halfway there, clouds overtook the sky and at the beach, it was under 50 and blowing rain. Alas, a day at the beach is a day at the beach, especially at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

We walked and ran barefoot for a mile up the beach, with the wind and rain at our backs before I said we should turn around, as the storm turned into a real gale and driving rain. We were completely soaked, but warm enough from running.

While not water resistant like the Fuji X-T1 or X-Pro2, I was thankful for my X70, as it's pocketable, including the tiny chest pockets on rain jackets. Pull it out for a photo and quickly stash away, no real need for WR. I wish Fuji made a 50 or 85mm version.

Retreating on our beach walk, back to the car.

Retreating on our beach walk, back to the car.

Frostbite enjoyed the day out, running in the sand and chasing beach birds (on a long leash).

Frostbite enjoyed the day out, running in the sand and chasing beach birds (on a long leash).

Thanks to Dan & Amy for the visit and getting us out despite the conditions.

Check out Dan's work at  DanBaileyPhoto.com

Check out Dan's work at DanBaileyPhoto.com

Jen  braving the gale.

Jen braving the gale.

All images taken with the Fuji X70 unless noted