Iphoneography: USA iPhone Travel Photography

Radich NY-Times Square iPhone Panorama

Someone much wiser once said something like ‘the best camera you have is the one you have on you’ … and as my iPhone 5 is nearly always always in my pocket, it has become my go-to image creator. The quality of the images you can capture are quite amazing for something that also does a pretty good job of acting like a phone … and a computer. And with the outstanding Photoshop Express app, the level of post-production and editing you can do all in the palm of your hand rivals what many amateur photographers do on their desktops.

On my latest overseas trip to the USA my iPhone well and truly got a workout on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Reno. Around NYC I often carried my Canon EOS 1D MkIV, but with the ability to edit on the fly, then directly upload to Instagram and Facebook, I found that I have enjoyed the shots I took with my Apple phone much more. And sometimes having the limitations of a non-optical zoom, 8-megapixel mini-lens makes you think just a little bit more creatively to make the most of those limitations. So take a look at some of my shots, and if you like what you see, follow me on Instagram for more of my iPhoneography.

Click on the photos below to see larger versions…

RIP Chelone Miller: A Legend Lost Too Soon

RIP Chelone Miller. Flying high above the 100 foot-plus mega booter at 2009's Snowboarder Magazine Superpark at Mammoth Mountain.

I didn’t get a chance to know Chelone Miller for long. But what I did get to know impressed me greatly.

At the end of a long and fun 2009 northern hemisphere snow season I was fortunate enough to receive photo accreditation to shoot US Snowboarder Magazine’s Superpark at Mammoth Mountain. It had always been a dream of mine to witness this iconic annual extravaganza of shredding, but with a handful of Aussie and Kiwi snowboarders getting the invite that season, I also had the opportunity to shoot and write a feature article about it all for Aust-NZ Snowboarding Magazine.

Radich_Superpark2009_cabin-2Falls Creek ripper Jade McJanet kindly offered me the use of her old room at Mammoth Lakes as she was already on her way home to Oz. She had a housemate, a guy I had heard a little bit about but had never met – Chelone Miller.

I stayed for a few days in the little log cabin, which even the golden Californian spring sunshine failed to warm. We sat outside on the green grass while Chilly practised his golf swing with his drivers, both of us trying to dry out sodden spring snowboarding boots in the sun because the cabin had no heating. To make the living more bearable we even had to turn on the oven with the door open to try and warm up the lounge and kitchen area! Chilly showed me his collection native American (indian) artefacts that he had found on his many trips bouldering and rock climbing out in the desert with Lonnie Kauk. He told me about his older brother, infamous downhill skier Bode Miller, who was on the outer with the US Ski Team after telling the world he was considering quitting skiing just nine months before the 2010 Winter Olympics. (At Vancouver 2010 Bode came back with a vengeance, winning a gold, silver and bronze to become the most successful American male ski racer of all time). And Chelone also told me about the near fatal dirt bike accident that he couldn’t remember but which left him with a souvenir – a visibly moveable part of his skull nearly half the size of his bead. From the early reports it sounds like on-going complications with this accident caused a seizure that killed him in his sleep.

The impression I got of Chelone was of someone very relaxed, very chilled, very friendly and easy-going … but with an almost unparalleled attitude for gnarliness when he stood sideways on a snowboard. Some of the stories he first told me were almost too hard to believe … until I witnessed him destroy the monster features of Superpark.

Like this remembrance in Snowboarder Magazine says, at the end of the first day of Superpark rumours were running wild about one crazy unknown guy launching off the monster 100-plus foot Loon Mountain kicker with nary a photog or video guy around. I was sort of surprised to hear that it was the mild-mannered Chilly I was sharing a house with, but also mostly unsurprised.

Chelone Miller waiting for the signal to lead Will Jackways and a brave crew of riders into the Loon Mountain monster jump at Superpark 2009.
Chelone Miller (green and blue) waiting for the signal to lead Lonnie Kauk, Will Jackways and a fearless crew of riders into the Loon Mountain monster jump at Superpark 2009.

When I heard of Chelone’s death via Instagram and Facebook yesterday morning I thought that I might have a nice shot of Chilly. But when I saw the shot at the top of the post, with Chilly touching the  rays of the sun, it just seemed perfect. I took this frame at the monster booter on the second day, in between shots I took of Will Jackways for Snowboarding Mag. But as Chilly was a reasonably unknown rider, the shot never ran in print or online. I wish it had.

Superpark 2009 - Chelone Miller and Ryan Tiene. Photo: Sean Radich/radmania.com
Chilly with his 2009 Superpark winnings and an injured Ryan Tiene at the after party.

For some reason I missed the official presentation after Superpark, but was so pleased to discover that Chilly had won the Gatorade Standout award and a wad of cash when I made it to the after party. Since that winter I’ve tried to keep an little bit of an eye on how Chelone was going, and was pumped when I saw his epic photos published in Snowboarder Mag the next season. At the time I met him, Chilly was just receiving some basic hook-ups from Columbia Outerwear, Bataleon Snowboards and Smith Goggles. But after his break-out during 2009’s Superpark, he received some love from within, and outside the industry. Chelone was a snowboarder’s snowboarder – someone who goes big, all the time every time, and yet does it with the minimum of fuss. You can see from these videos what a ballsy rider he was.

Arbor Snowboards’ profile video:

Some commercial work for Jeep in 2010.

My thoughts and sympathies go to his close friends and family.

RIP Chelone. You were a legend.

Here’s a nice tribute video posted by The Ski Channel.

Chilly flying high in full colour.

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.

SBX at Cypress

The first Monday of Vancouver 2010 was the beginning of a loooong four days (hence no more updates till now). After Sunday late-night drinks it was a 6am wakeup to try and get on the 7am Media bus from the MPC up to Cypress in order to get onto the actual SBX course. It was pitch dark when I woke…which made it all the harder to get out of bed, but it was a pretty spectacular sunrise across the water from Lionsgate Bridge.

 Annoyingly, the Cypress media/photo crew had been really restrictive about access to both the pipe and BX track, and about deadlines for access. But after jumping though a million hoops, I was finally strapped onto my board and riding down the side of the course. It felt so good to have the camera bag on the back and to be able to slide on snow again…although it had been only 6 days since I was last up at Northstar. It was great to see Chumpy destroy the course (well, the 2 or 3 turns i could see at a time) and hear about both his fastest time qualification runs. I was hoping to move from location to location between rounds in the afternoon finals, but the VANOC nazis were out in force. Fortuately, I was right near a CTV cameraman who let a few of us look over his shoulder at the live feed of all the action down the course. Without this, and not being able to hear the PA commentary so far away at the finish-line, I would have had no way of knowing who was progressing through each heat. It was a shame Chumpy and Damon couldn’t progress further, but they should both be proud of the gung-ho attacking nature of their riding.

VANOC had a huge ‘fail’ with the location of the Olympic Cauldron, which is nicely located on the water…but surrounded by an ugly, temporary-looking cyclone wire fence! Each morning there are thousands of tourists clogging the streets around the Main Press Centre (MPC) and International Broadcast Centre (IBC)  – right next to the Cauldron – who leave disappointed with the view and (lack-of) photo opportunity. It’s a shame they couldn’t get something so obvious right, amongst the other problems of the Games. I managed to check out the scene on the way to Womens SBX. It was rainy and cloudy down in Van, but much, much worse up the hill. But after a couple hours postponement and delay, the girls hit the track. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Steph Hickey with a bigger smile on her face than in the start gate for her first qualy run. I was feeling pretty beat by the time of the Womens finals, and stayed  in the warmth to watch the action on the media centre TVs. And with all the halfpipe practice scheduled for the evenings, with the early SBX starts and late partying nights I was pleased to discover that I wasn’t the only one tring to snatch some catch-up sleep wherever I could. After witnessing Lindsey Jacobellis’ brain fade on the second-last jump at Torino 2006, I was hoping she would find some redemption, but again a split-second escape cost her gold (and any medal this time). Boardercross is a pretty harsh sport.

I borrowed a brand-spanking-new Canon EOS 1D MkIV body to shoot some of the SBX, but for some reason my software won’t let me process the RAW files into jpegs. So here are just a few shots taken on my ‘back-up” 1D MkIIN (and pocket Sony Cybershot). I hope to get it sorted soon and put a greater variety of shots up…but checking out the local paper after the first day of snowboarding, clearly i’m doing it all wrong. Himbrechts has started doing agency/newspaper work so this must be what he’s aiming for: a ‘soft’ (due to super cropping) out-of-control “man-in-the-sky”. I must say, it was interesting to see how out of control the riders looked a lot of the time. But I guess with such a challenging, gnarly course and pushing for every bit of speed the aesthetics of your riding are furthest from your mind – the opposite of what we aim to achieve when shooting for one of the mags.

Let the Games begin!

I had heard photo spots were limited for the Opening Ceremony, and as I think that the Olympics are about sport, not ballet I wasn’t overly fussed if I missed out. However, a couple hours before the kick-off, I strolled past the protesters downtown and into the MPC and asked about photo spots…and was handed a ticket! So that meant I had to race to BC Place to get there in time and get a position in the stand. It was a bit of a mission with all the traffic and crowds to get there…and out front was another sign of Vancouver’s “prosperity”: an old woman sitting in the rain collecting plastic bottles for recycling. What a welcome to the Opening Ceremony.

Once inside, the first person I saw was Himbrechts.

Now that the action has started, the games are on, and the niceties are over! Our two super-agencies, SRM and DHP have had a rivalry for ages, he’s Nikon and I’m Canon, and as he is the enemy I made sure I sat right in front of him. This was great, because just as I realised the snowboarder was going to frontside-air through the Olympic Rings and I didn’t have the right lens ready to capture it, I just sneakily bobbed my massive head in front of Himbrechts super-dooper long lens to also stop him getting the shot! Perfect. Unfortunately, you’ll see here that he still managed to get in a few shots from the night despite my best efforts.

The Opening Ceremony was great and I really enjoyed it.  They made everyone wear all these hospital-bibs so that it looked better on TV, which was pretty funny. You pay all this huge money to watch an event, then they employ your free labour for the world-wide TV production! The only lull was the innumerable teams that came out and paraded around. Those indian/native american/first nation/aboriginal/original tribes/indigenous/whatever-they-are-called-this-year dancers must have gotten so tired jumping up and down and spinning around and around during the parade!

Unfortunately, despite the massive status of SRM (and unfortunately also DHP) we were assigned pretty crap spots far away, and it was a challenge with a long lens and very dark interior (and only being able to shoot at max ISO 1600 on the Canon 1dMkIIN). The big guns at Reuters, Getty, AFP, AP and AAP get the prime spots, and the best shots. It was a challenge to get nice shots – we were both pretty happy with our work…until we checked what the uber-agencies managed to capture. Check-out Fairfax’s gallery here. Those guys have it so sorted – prime spots already assigned, they just fire away till a memory card is full, then hand it to a runner who takes it downstairs to a guy who edits the shots for him, then emails them on so they are online before the Ceremony is even over! So I’ll chalk my night down to a great learning experience and an awesome, fun, general Olympic experience…