Posts Tagged ‘Canon EOS 1DMkIV

16
Jan
17

Snowboarding and Skiing In Japan – Jetstar Asia Magazine October 2016

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After my two trips to Japan in early 2016 I was briefed by Jetstar Asia Magazine to produce a travel article about  snowboarding and skiing in Japan. My words and photos ran as a four-page feature article in the October 2016 issue of the inflight magazine for the Singapore-based airline, which is seen by 350,000 passengers each month. As a bonus, I was pleased to be able to sneak in a photo of myself and Mary G, and also of my brother into print. Please take a read of the text from the article, and I hope it inspires you to travel to Japan too…

POWDER PERFECT

Whether you have just one day or more on your itinerary, hit up Japan’s ski fields to get your winter fix.

The Land of the Rising Sun is every snow-lover’s dream: think consistent dumps of light, dry powder, terrain that ranges from the easy to the epic, as well as world-class backcountry riding and ski runs through the trees. And with easy bullet-train access from Tokyo or Osaka to some of the best skiing on Japan’s main island of Honshu, the only decision you’ll make is: how long is your snow holiday going to be?

SUPER-EXPRESS DAY TRIP: GALA Yuzawa

El Rad enjoying the view.

El Rad enjoying the view.

If you’ve only got a weekend in Tokyo, you can still fit in a quick day trip. GALA Yuzawa is located roughly 200km north of Tokyo and is famous for having its own bullet train station at the base of the mountain. In fact, Japan Rail can transport you in high-speed style from Tokyo station to the resort in just 75 minutes. Step off the train to rent some gear next to the platform, collect your packagedeal lift pass and then walk straight onto the gondola without leaving the building. How’s that for instant gratification?

Once you’re set up, you’re sure to love what’s on offer: Yuzawa has beginner, intermediate and advanced ski runs across its 17 pistes that can all be accessed by 11 lifts. You can also buy a combined lift pass to access two connected resorts – Ishiuchi Maruyama and Yuzawa Kogen – for even more variety. The top of the resort is 823m higher than the base, giving you a plethora of vertical metres to ride. Plus, Yuzawa receives almost 12m of snow on average each winter.

So next time you’ve got a spare day in Tokyo, grab a bento box breakfast on the early shinkansen (bullet train), hit the slopes at GALA Yuzawa by 8am, then celebrate back in Tokyo with yakitori and Asahi beer in the alleys next to Shinjuku station (after changing trains at Tokyo station). And for ski novices, GALA Yuzawa has a snow sports school with English-speaking instructors.

Nozawa Onsen is arguably Japan's most picturesque ski town, particularly when it dumps.

Nozawa Onsen is arguably Japan’s most picturesque ski town, particularly when it dumps.

SHORT SNOW TRIP: Nozawa Onsen

If a day isn’t enough to satisfy your snow craving, Nozawa Onsen provides the ultimate Japanese snow experience over a few days. It’s about two hours from Tokyo by bullet train and bus and is the quintessential Japanese ski town. It is one of the largest ski resorts in the country – an all-in one resort where the runs funnel back to a quaint, historic village. A maze of laneways hides more than 100 traditional restaurants, as well as bars and Western eateries. It was the famed 13 historic soto-yu public hot-spring bathhouses that attracted visitors to Nozawa before Austrians introduced skiing to the locals in 1912. Now, it’s the snowboarding and skiing that keep the town buzzing in winter.

Beyond the historic temples and shrines, tucked among the towering cypress trees on the edge of town lie almost 300ha of skiable terrain and 50km of runs with a huge kilometre of vertical drop.

For authorised tree riding (skiing through wooded areas), head to the top of the resort where a large section of forest is accessed by two lifts. Being that high means the powder stays light and dry and the trees are powder-coated a shimmering white.

If fresh, groomed runs are more your thing, Nozawa has wide leg-burners, steeper high-speed runs and winding forest trails for all abilities. You’ll find one of the better terrain parks in Japan, with small to large jumps, rollers, some rails and a fun half pipe. If you don’t ski, explore the labyrinth of shops and eateries in town and the picturesque shrines and temples nestled in the forests nearby. Then, don a yukata (traditional dressing gown) and geta or zori (clogs or sandals) and stroll through town to take a steaming dip in one of the famous Nozawa onsen.

Radman and Mary G getting lost in translation at Cortina.

Radman and Mary G getting lost in translation at Cortina.

A WINTRY WEEK: Hakuba Valley

A world-class ski destination, the Hakuba Valley, three hours from Tokyo, has been attracting serious snow lovers from all over the globe for at least 70 years. With more than 200 runs, including some of Japan’s steepest, and 140km of pistes accessed by 135 lifts across 11 separate resorts, it’s easy to see why some consider it the jewel of the Japan Alps – and then there’s the huge 14m of annual snowfall.

Happo-One Ski Resort is the main resort in Hakuba, and it provides all levels of skiing and snowboarding, as well as abovethe- tree-line alpine terrain and The Happo Banks Snow Park. Head to the top of Happo: a 30-minute hike up the ridgeline gives you backcountry options for kilometres down to the valley.

The view atop the Alps is mesmerising, and the endless powder turns on offer are hypnotic. Book yourself a mountain guide with all the backcountry avalanche gear and you’ll be in for a day you will never forget. Afterwards you can kanpai those powder grins and goggle tans with an icy cold beer from one of the traditional pubs, or izakaya, in Happo Village.

For some of Japan’s best tree riding, trek to the Hakuba Valley’s northernmost resort, Cortina. It’s a bit more out of the way, but that generally means fewer crowds – except for when fresh flakes have fallen. Cortina has a full-access tree-riding policy.

If you’re not a skier, you can still imagine you’re Eddie ‘The Eagle’ by taking in the dizzying view from the top of the 90m and 120m ski jumps at the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium. Take the easy option of a chairlift up to the museum at the giant structure that was built for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Or, take the hundreds of stairs up and down, and afterwards a steaming bowl of ramen cooked in the natural hot spring water at Happo Bijin will taste even better.

CULTURAL EXCURSION: Matsumoto

If your legs need a break, take the local train from Hakuba station one hour south to the 16th-century castle town of Matsumoto.

From the station, cross the bridge to Nawate-dori, a picturesque laneway of traditional wooden stalls along the riverbank, and try some of the local delicacies and treats. Soon, you’ll spy the towering black-and-white wooden tiers of Matsumoto-jo in the distance.

A slice of Japanese history awaits with a visit to Matumoto Castle.

A slice of Japanese history awaits with a visit to Matumoto Castle.

Construction of the Matsumoto Castle began in 1592, and it was saved from destruction during the late-19th-century Meiji period when Japan went through modernisation. There are only 12 Japanese castles that survive today, and as well as being the oldest, Matsumoto is also one of only two with five visible floors from the outside with a secret sixth level hidden inside.

Look for colourful koi fish as you cross the shimmering defensive moat to enter through the wooden Black Gate and into the fortified bailey. Don’t be too startled if a costumed samurai greets you with a flick of his gunsen war fan and presentation of his jumonji yari spear. Even if you want to give your legs a rest, be prepared to scale the steep and narrow wooden stairways to climb through each lowceilinged floor inside the tower. You’ll glimpse the surrounding snow-capped mountains from one of the 115 archer’s and marksman’s slits – but to feel like a real lord, climb to the highest level and imagine life as a conquering clan. Reality will likely set in as you head back to ground level but by then you’ll be ready to conquer the pistes again.

El Rad trying (and failing?) to blend in with the locals on the train.

El Rad trying (and failing?) to blend in with the locals on the train.

GETTING THERE: Bullet trains (shinkansen) and express trains depart from Tokyo Station in the centre of the city, as well as the nearby Ueno Station, to all destinations in Honshu. Express trains run from Tokyo Narita Airport to both Tokyo and Ueno, and you can purchase all train tickets at the station counters as well as at the airport station counter.

To find train timetables and plan the quickest trip, visit hyperdia.com

The fastest way to get to the Hakuba Valley is a 90-minute bullet train to Nagano, then a one-hour bus to Happo Village. You can also take express and local trains to Hakuba train station.

Hot tip: Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass from japanrailpass.net to save money if you’re going to be catching lots of trains.

 

And below is how the printed article looked. Click on the images to see them larger…

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To see more of Japan, see my blog posts here.

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06
Jan
17

Japan Backcountry Snowboarding Photos – Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen

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In early 2016 I was fortunate enough to tag along on a media snowboard trip with Olliepop films to Japan. I had been to Japan on holiday just a few weeks previously, and we experienced mostly low-tide and marginal conditions at the start of what was to be the worst snow season in Japan for many, many years. But luckily when I returned with Jeremy and the guys on the Olliepop Snorkel Squad trip, we well and truly scored some epic days: typical blower Japan pow and epic tree riding.

Yes, there were also some marginal days in there too – even with some rain – but from the photos I managed to take, it goes to show that with some luck, and making the most of conditions on offer, you can get some really nice shots.

Jeremy Richardson did a great job of hooking up the trip with the assistance of Liquid Snow Tours, and the “action-models/good mates” in Jeremy Burns, Tim Nelson and Liam Peter Ryan worked super hard to get the shots. Thanks, guys.

Below are the action photos I tookin the Hakuba valley, from the high-alpine above Happo-One and over the back at Cortina, and off piste at Nozawa Onsen. Enjoy … and I hope it inspires you to get some turns this summer/winter.

Click the photos to enlarge them in all their pixelly goodness!

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Above: I’d never shot with fellow Falls Creek alumnus James “Singo” Singleton before, but he certainly knows how to shred! 

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Above: Mat Galina always knows where to find the goods and works harder than anyone else I know to get the shots … including the epic photo at the top of this post from the back bowl above Happo-One.

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Above: Jeremy Burns surfing the white waves of Happo-One on our way down to the carpark (and bus stop) at Hakuba 47.

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Above: Liam Peter Ryan (“LPR”) finding some launching pads as we descended from Happo-One to Hakuba 47.

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Above: Tim Nelson stylin’…

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Above: Jeremy Burns and LPR found a side hit out the front of our hotel, and with a van tow-in, the boys gave me an opportunity to use my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra and Skyport flash set-up for the first time. To see more about the flash system, click here.

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Above: We scored the first epic couple of days of the year at Cortina. Tim Nelson (red jacket) and Jeremy Burns (maroon jacket) got the goods.

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Above: Nozawa Onsen is a pretty magical place, especially when fresh snow turns the trees all-white, and Tim Nelson made a mere 10-15 of fresh dust-on-crust look pretty epic.

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Above: Another opportunity to use the Elincrhom Quadra and Skyport at a Bhuddist temple on the edge of Nozawa Onsen. Jeremy Richardson shifty.

And make sure you check out Olliepop Films feature from the trip here.

21
Dec
15

Elinchrom EL-Skyport Plus HS and Quadra Hybrid Test Photo Shoot

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Earlier this month I made the big financial leap to invest in another portable flash system from the Swiss masters at Elinchrom. I sourced two Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Hybrid AS RX powerpacks with Standard (S) flash heads from a US retailer, and the brand new Elinchrom EL-Skyport Plus HS transmitter from an Aussie store. I will be shooting primarily snowboarding with this killer kit, but wanted to give the high-speed flash-sync capabilities a test drive before I head off overseas.

Radich Elinchrom Quadra and EL-Skyport Plus HSThe big advantages of this system are:

  • Lightweight lithium-ion batteries and flash heads: each unit weights just 2kg, much less than the high-powered, lead-battery Elinchrom Ranger RX pack and head I already own – ie super portable in a backpack;
  • Built in wireless receivers in the Quadra Hybrid, which pair with Elinchrom’s transmitters – so no more fliddling with Pocketwizards, their batteries and all sorts of cords;
  • 400ws of power, which should be enough for most applications; but most importantly,
  • The EL-Skyport Plus HS has a new “Hi-Sync” feature that works with either Canon or Nikon cameras (you buy a specific transmitter) to allow flash synchronisation up to 1/8000th of a second! Previously I was flash-syncing at just 1/250th of a second with Pocketwizards. And with this Hi-Sync feature, it now means that I can easily increase the shutter speed to freeze the action, as well as underexpose (and therefore, darken) the background to make the subject “pop” off the screen. This means that you can get much more usable light out of the 400ws of flash power.

So to test, I dragged my brother to the local primary school basketball court in the afternoon. It was a pretty rushed shoot, but really I wanted to get a quick idea of how well this Elinchrom system can capture the action, darken the background, and what the range of the wireless transmitter was. And the result of the test? I love it! Easy to use, great range, quick flash refresh times. It’s going to make all my future photo shoots so much easier to set up.

So for those that are interested, I’ve included the settings by which the photos were taken. All shots were under bright, but cloudy daylight settings, with post-production editing in Lightroom. Click on the photos to see them larger.

For more information about the Elinchom EL-Skyport Plus HS click here and Hi-Sync.

For more information about the Elinchom Ranger Quadra Hybrid AS RX click here.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Yep, the flash works. First photo, making it look more like dark twilight than the bright, cloudy afternoon that it was.  1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/4000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/4000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 800.

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Moody. Testing the range of the transmitter. This was taken about 100m away, through a cyclone-wire fence, and around a brick wall and wooden fence. A few more metres away and the flash didn’t fire. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Turning the tables, handing the camera to my brother and becoming the subject. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Trying to make it rain. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Like Mike? Doing my best to emulate Jordan’s Playground. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

01
Sep
15

The Mile High 2015: Snowboard Photography

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All eyes, and lenses, on 15 year-old Aussie up-and-coming ripper, Josh Vagne during the foggy Mile High 2015.

The Mile High presented by Carlton Dry has become a highlight of the Australian winter, and it draws the best snowboarders in the world to Perisher’s terrain park. It’s not just the World Snowboard Tour International points rating of the contest that brings the best shred boys and girls to Jindabyne, but Perisher’s epic and inventive park built by master shaper, and good mate, Charles Beckinsale.

So many of the international pros I spoke to said how much they enjoyed the freestyle set-up at Perisher – easy access to the mountain, fast laps of the park on the T-bar or 8-seater chair, a fun halfpipe also in front valley and a fun park around the corner on the Leichardt T-bar. They all said that they enjoy their summers in Oz much more than New Zealand, and that Perisher has become “the new Snowpark”. High praise, indeed!

This year I was fortunate to spend two and a half weeks in Jindabyne, to compete in the Transfers Banked Slalom at Thredbo, have a bunch of days riding the resorts, and then working for The Mile High writing the press releases, running the website and taking photos. Unfortunately the weather rolled in for the four days that the contest was scheduled, literally putting a real dampener on proceedings. The competition finally ran on the Wednesday, but due to the misty fog, the last two jumps were excluded. It was a shame, as in the clear days earlier on in my stay, the riders were displaying some seriously mind-blowing riding and uber-inventive lines. But, a result was obtained, photos were sent out and video edits posted … and the all-important WST points were awarded to help set up a bunch of riders for the forthcoming northern comp season. Congrats to Jess Rich, who I shot with back in Tahoe a few years ago, for winning the women’s.

Click the link to read the write up from The Mile High presented by Carlton Dry 2015.

Click the images to open a gallery of some of my photos from my time in Perisher.

And scroll down for a wrap-up video edit of the event. 

ESPN put together a great little edit about the whole competition. Take a look here: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:13525680

And here is the official video:

I can’t wait for next year…

11
Feb
15

X Games 2015 Superpipe And Big Air Photo Gallery

X Games 2015 Aspen Snowmass

What a view! Buttermilk Mountain’s 22-foot perfect superpipe, flanked by the slopestyle jumps on the left, and big air booter on the right.

The X Games is the self-described biggest and most important winter action sport competition … outside of the Olympics, of course. And after finally getting to experience my first X Games just a couple of weeks ago, and seeing the transformed Buttermilk mountain with it’s huge mounds of snow, lighting arrays and TV and spectator infrastructure, I’d tend to agree. The fact that so much is packed into such a small portion of the mountain is quite amazing. One chairlift accesses the SBX track up higher, the slopestyle course, superpipe and big air jump in front of the base lodge.

It was an awesome few days in Aspen, checking out the resorts by day, and the X Games craziness by night. The highlights were seeing Scotty James throw down and Torah Bright securing a bronze medal on the big stage. A shot or two from the trip should make it into Australian-NZ Snowboarding Magazine this season, so keep an eye out. If you ever get a chance to experience the X Games I couldn’t recommend it higher. Yeah, it’s very “Yee haw, ‘Merica rules!” with it’s Navy sponsorship, simplified narrative and questionable judging catering to ESPN audiences and the mainstream spectators (ie it certainly ain’t a core, cool event like the US Open or Stylewars in Oz), and it really does get frigidly cold outside at night. But the huge crowd, the TV razzle-dazzle, smooth running of a legitimately big event and the insane feats of snowboardery you get to witness more than make up for any negatives.

And in the meantime, enjoy these snaps.

Click on the photos below to open up the gallery and read the captions…

And in case you missed it, take a look at Danny Davis’ gold-medal-winning run which he threw down on the last run of the night. Epic.

23
Sep
14

Snowboard Photography From 2014 Australian Slopestyle Tour

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A few weeks ago the director of The Australian Slopestyle Tour called me up asking if I could help out with some media services for both The Mile High by Carlton Dry at Perisher and Stylewars at Falls Creek. He had me at hello …. beer!

It was great being back in the epicentre of the snow scene, with the best snowboarders and skiers in the world congregating on Jindabyne for their off-season, and our winter. Charles Beckinsale, had helped fashion an epic and inventive slopestyle course in Perisher’s Front Valley, and with all the big dawgs in town, the level of snowboarding (and skiing) was way beyond what has ever been witnessed in this land. I was primarily employed by Rich Hegarty to help write the press releases and add to social media, but of course I couldn’t be surrounded by all this snow-shredding awesomeness without giving my new-ish Canon EOS 1D Mk IV a work out.

Perisher’s slopestyle course is always a bit tricky to shoot, and I certainly took my best photos at the ol’ stomping ground of Falls Creek’s Ruined Castle terrain park during Stylewars. But it was a nice change to be able to act as a second shooter, alongside ANZ Snowboarding Magazine’s Alex Roberts, in order to cover all the action across the park. And it was a pleasant surprise to see The World Snowboard Tour use my shot of winner Kyle Mack for their news article.

A great two weeks filled with fun and friends … and quite a bit of that free Carlton Dry. It was so good to be back!

For a closer look, click on the photos to open them up in a gallery…

23
Feb
10

Canadians are weird, man!

Wow – there are a lot of loud, drunk and dumb hockey rednecks that congregate en masse down Granville Street. I know that Australians can be unbelievably embarrassing, and the cheap flights of V Australia and Jetstar are just allowing povvo bogans to travel overseas for the first time and ruin the reputation for the rest of us, but I don’t remember Sydney 2000 having such an agressive, teetering-on-out-of-control vibe…but maybe that’s because I was part of the “team” cheering along, and not a foreigner making sure that I smile and high-five the gangs of guys in red, lest I get set upon? Or maybe it has something to do with the brainless way Canadians cheer for their 51st State of America. After 10 days at Sydney 2000 I never wanted to hear “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…Oi, Oi, Oi…” again. In Vancouver, Granville is jam packed with a sea of red and white, random games of street hockey, and chants that start up: “Can-a-da!…Can-a-da!…” Or guy will start screaming “Whoooooooo!” and then another will join in, or it will be “Yeahhhhhhhh!” and another will join in till the street sounds like a riot. Their cheering and chants are even more brainless than ours…and it’s the worst in an around Canadian hockey matches. (But then again, ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!” is pretty uninventive as well.)

And I forgot, I found another difference between Aussies and Canadians at the start of the week: Aussies shout “Show us ya tits!” at Indy/Bathurst/Melbourne Cup, whereas the Canuck chant must be ‘We want boobs! We want boobs!” After the Opening Ceremony a random mosh pit of crowd surfers (with the aforementioned “Whoooos” and “Yeaaahhhh”s) had formed on Robson and Howe Streets, and when a girl was lifted on to shoulders the booby chant started, and wasn’t sated till another girl was lifted upon high for a faux-lezo makeout. An interesting, organic way to celebrate the start of the Olympics I guess?

And I have also noticed a bit of a “bad sportsmanshio” from the home team, whether it be claiming to “Own the Podium”; or bar crowds cheering-on the last non-Canadian (and incidentally American) mogul skier to “Fall, Fall, Fall!”; ripping the flag off the back of some Americans cheering down Granville and throwing it on the ground; or booing former-Canadian Dale Begg-Smith during his medal ceremony. I hope that Aussies would never act such a way – but then again, my impressions might be coloured by the fact I had been getting back to Vancouver exhausted and grumpy each night, hating having to dodge throngs to get home, and seeing the crowds at their drunken worst?

Anyway, right now I’m in West Village, New York, New York! I decamped from the Olympics the day after Torah’s amazing Gold-Medal win – but sort of wish I had have stuck around now. And what a night it was. I was so nervous – so nervous to get the shot after she blew her first run (as night shots are clearly so different looking to the qualification photos), and so nervous for her to score well and get the win. Afterwards, I felt so happy for her and gave her a rousing shout-out and wave from the photo-pit in front of the podium – she waved back…and it gave everyone else who wasn’t cheering like an idiot a great million-dollar-smile shot looking right down the camera. So another shot missed by me. But she was smiling so much and looked so excited that i quickly blew the rest of the 16gig card on “jube” (jubilation shots, so Himbrechts tells me).

I finally managed to get up alongside the pipe – Himbrechts had left his pair of crampons lying around, which I naturally purloined and made the long hike up for the girls’ training and qualifications. Both Holly and Torah rode amazingly well, and went so big. It was awesome to watch up close. It’s hard along the pipe, as you aren’t given much chance to move around or get close to the lip for the regular fisheye shot. So I struggled to get some good shots, but think a couple turned out ok. And still I’m having trouble with my software processing the Canon EOS 1DMkIV RAW files to jpegs to put up on the web – but fear not, Evil Editor, the shots are there and there are some pretty nice ones – I’ll sort it out somehow. So again, all I have are the ones from my regular back-up 1DMkIIN and the candid pocket Sony Cybershot ones. And anyway the best of the Aussie shots I have to save for the mags: they won’t publish any shot that has been splashed around on the net before. So enjoy this small selection of action and behind the scenes.