Tag: Joe Viger

The Picture Says It All

Always on the lookout out here for different perspectives and angles, and when we can get it, a peak behind the curtain for an event, process, etc. That’s exactly why I was excited to see Joe Viger’s blog post about a couple of shots he took of Nacho Hernando from the Granite State Snowshoe Championships.

With all the shots Joe takes, it’s easy to wonder just how he thins out the memory card to go from raw materials to finished product. What’s he looking for? What does it mean to him? In Joe’s words:

When ever make a photograph that I’m pleased with, I always look at it as a gift.  It doesn’t matter what type of photograph it is.  There’s a million examples.  The sun aligned and the light was sweet on the field of lupine. The baby looked at the camera and smiled.  The fall colors were peaking on the ridge as the morning fog burned off.  The model looked up and let her soul shine through her eyes.  These are all gifts that I’m fortunate enough to have recognized and preserved with my camera.  I say thank you to the universe and feel filled with gratitude every time it happens.  Mother Nature, the person, the weather… whatever… has given me something precious.  As a photographer, I value what those photographs say and the feelings they inspire.

Nowhere is this idea more apparent to me than when I’m photographing sports.  The athletes are generous with their gifts of winning, accomplishment, strength, endurance, inspiration and so much more.  I always feel privileged to have these amazing people in front of my lens.  I try hard to capture everything they are in 1/1000th of a second.

This past weekend I photographed the Granite State Snowshoe Championships.  I made a lot of photos that I’m really happy with but two series of images stand out to me.  In both frames, Nacho Hernando looked into my lens, showed me how he felt about his performance and gave me the chance to capture the story of the race.  The image on the left was made in the first 10 minutes of the race and Nacho was in the lead.  The photo on the right was about 35 minutes later and things had changed.  Jim Johnson, the race winner, had passed two minutes before and Nacho was now in second.  In both cases, whether he knew it or not, Nacho was giving me the photograph.  And like all the images I make, I’m thankful for that.

Viger Granite State Snowshoe Nacho DuoThose two pics side by side tell the story all by themselves, but it’s still great to get Joe’s take on it. Reading that really struck a chord with me because I had been thinking of some photos that Joe had taken during the US Snowshoe Championships back on March 1st.

That race had beaten me up pretty badly and before we even finished the climbing that constituted the first half of the 10k race, my goose was cooked. Over 1,100 feet of snow covered climbing was probably 1,000 more feet than I was in shape for and I was (for all of you people familiar with a certain mountain race) in an Upper Walking Boss kind of distress. Only difference is that instead of being near the end, here I was only half way through (and on snowshoes).

Something clicked once I got onto the groomed ski trails taking us back down. Perhaps it had something to do with running by that husky that started howling (my power animal?), I don’t know, but my legs regained some strength, the competitive juices started flowing and I hauled ass down the mountain feeling GREAT. I was catching everybody in sight (and some that had been out of sight) and was just pumped up. I got to the bottom of the switchback, almost done, saw Joe taking his shots and made a gesture in the moment that I thought conveyed my feeling. This is what I thought I was doing in my head:

Viger snowshoe nationals hernando
BUT…this is what I actually did:

Viger snowshoe nationals narcisi
Yeah, not exactly close. That’s Nacho in the first one, and his doesn’t look as awkward. It’s hard to ham it up for the camera when you’re still not confident that you’re not going to trip over your own snowshoes as you try to surge toward a finish line on exhausted legs. It’s fun though; I highly recommend it. For a closer, side by side look:

Viger Hernando Narcisi Snowshoe
Yeah, priceless. Can’t wait until we get the new Level singlets in. That sleeveless t-shirt just ain’t cutting it for race day.

Wheeler Wins in Whitaker Woods

The Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble hosted its largest field ever on Saturday. This was especially impressive because for some, including myself, the status of the race was in doubt due to rain that hit the week of the race. I was so concerned with reports I had heard that I had to contact race director Kevin Tilton to see what the deal was. When I told him that I had heard there was no snow up there, his reply of “Erroneous!” was enough to convince me to still make the trip.

Maybe what was on the ground wasn’t quite snow, but the ice and “crunchy snow” (as heard in the video below) mix made for a very fast whip through Whitaker  Woods. Some tweaks to the course were needed so it ended up being about 3.5 miles instead of the usual 4.

Nick Wheeler pretty much skated through the icy course, looking like a natural on the snowshoes even though he hadn’t done a race in a couple of years. “I kind of forgot the pain of it, so I wanted to see what the pain felt like again.” Well, how was it after all these years? “It was exactly like I remembered,” replied Nick.

wheeler johnson viger whitaker
I bent down to double knot a shoelace, which was exactly when Kevin started the race. Even while tentatively making my way out in the pack, I could see Nick and Jim Johnson shoot out to the front. “It was pretty much Jim and I from the start and we stayed together for the first mile,” said Nick. It was after that mile where Nick started to separate himself from the three-time defending Whitaker Woods champion.

Nick ended up running a 22:04, which was comfortably ahead of Jim’s 23:16. “I’m telling you that was the worst beating I’ve had in a snowshoe race probably except for Nationals,” said Jim. It’s not to say the Jim didn’t have a great time despite suffering his first ever loss in this race, but in the end it was only “as fun as a beating could possibly be.”

Kristina Folcik-Welts ran a 28:07 in securing her win, and she was about as dominate as Nick was. Kristina had a 46 second lead over runner up Melissa Donais (28:53). The battle in the women’s race, like the one in the men’s, broke open just after a mile. I witnessed it…well, part of it.

The course crested a hill and brought the runners to a point with a spectacular view of Mt Washington off in the distance before the icy turn onto some treacherous single track. You wouldn’t have thought it was that treacherous by the way Kristina (aka Dangergirl) attacked it. Kristina took off down that path like Wile E Coyote on crack, with an Acme rocket booster on his back that may or may not have had some Iranian nuclear “energy” funding behind it. It was sick. In the blink of an eye she was out of site.

folcik welts donais viger whitaker
Melissa had a bit of lead going into that stretch but Kristina has a knack for those icy single tracks. One runner’s weakness is another runner’s strength, and even early in the race it turned into the big break.  ”She (Kristina) knows I slow down on the single track, especially when it’s downhill because I am so clumsy and I’m so scared that I’m going to fall and break a leg,” said Melissa.

The section contained at least one turn that was so tight it brought runners a bit off the course when trying to make it. Yet somehow Kristina was able to cruise through it and take over. “It was actually on that section I could hear her and I’m like ‘Oh no she’s going to pass me!’ and sure enough she did, right on the downhill,” recalled Melissa. Surprisingly tactics like that aren’t why Kristina is known as Dangergirl. It’s mainly because she falls all the time, according to the Dangergirl herself.

I was cruising along in the second mile and feeling good about my own race when I heard “come on, you’re the third woman!”. I turned to clarify that I was in fact a man, when I noticed Leslie Beckwith breathing down my neck. Try as I might, I didn’t have it in me that day to withstand that barrage that was Leslie on snowshoes. Leslie ended up being the third women, running a 29:15. I locked in on her and came in just after her in 29:24.

The top masters runner of the day was Dave Dunham who impressively came in third overall with his 24:59. For the effort Dave won himself a container of Tilton-made baked goods. You have to be present to win, Dave! I helped myself to the spoils of his triumph and damn, they were good. Definitely worth sticking around for.

For the ladies, the top masters runner was Robin AllenBurke of Acidotic who ran a 35:34 and placed 36th overall.

My goal for next time: don’t finish so far behind Dunham where he has time to come back and get a picture of me in the race. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know Dave does it with the best of intentions and he’s incredibly supportive in doing so. However, there’s a part of me that thinks that it’s an epic form of trash talking. It’s right up there with all of the epic trash talking in movies (American Flyers comes to mind) only it can be done without saying much if anything at all. If your rival comes up to you after a race and says “Hey I got a nice shot of you finishing” then what can you say? Well, not much besides damn. If I were to make a sports movie, I’d have to include that in there. Someone would get Dunham’d. Hopefully it’s not me next time, but I probably didn’t help my cause by eating his cookies. Damn.

narcisi dunham whitaker
Photos courtesy of Joe Viger Photography, except for the last shot of me. That was by Dave Dunham.

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