Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Some autumn leaf colors belie tree names

So I thought I'd had my one autumn photo fling last Thursday when I dropped into Garfield Park in Indianapolis, producing this post.

But then, while gazing out the kitchen window into my backyard Saturday afternoon, I happened to notice some interesting light play on the leaves on one of my Henry's Garnet bushes and on my redbud tree in the circular garden. I grabbed a camera, mounted it with a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens and headed outside. Garnet bush leaves have a brilliant red color in autumn when the sun strikes it right; the photo leading off this post is a good example ... and is why I grabbed my camera when I saw it.

The redbud tree and I have a fond history, one that goes back to my first year out of college, which I spent editing a weekly newspaper in Columbus, Wis. (Wisconsin is where I lived from about age 3 through college plus the one year in Columbus.) Columbus is known as the Red Bud City, and there is a median on Dickison Boulevard there that is lined with redbuds. Because I was there only a year, I enjoyed the streetlong, annual spring blossom just once. But it was a spectacle I appreciated.

When I moved into my current home, a tree existed in the backyard spot where my circular garden is located today. The tree died about eight years or so after I moved in, so I had it removed. I left the spot bare for several years, then developed the circular garden in the spot. A neighbor harbored a couple of redbuds in their yard, and if you know redbuds, you know they are prolific self-seeders. I find myself pulling tiny new, unwanted redbud starts all over my yard throughout the year. But I left one seedling alone in the circular garden about five years ago, deciding to see if I could grow a modest size tree to regain some backyard shade I lost when the original tree died. It worked.

I find it ironic that the redbud's spring blossoms are pink, not red, and that its pansy-like green leaves turn gold, not red, in autumn. And speaking of irony, the blueberry bush leaves turn (are you ready?) red in autumn as well. I got a picture of one of those as well.

Above and below -- from the redbud tree.

Above: On my lawn but from a tree not in my yard, so it must have blown in from elsewhere. 

A perspective shot (above) of one of my Henry's Garnet bushes, and a closeup (below) of one of its leaves. 

Above: Autumn blueberry bush leaves that are ... not blue.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A night at the racetrack features
a couple of foot races to the finish line

Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind., a community that straddles the Marion and Hendricks county lines in Central Indiana, combined the popular allure of a race track and the mystique of twilight to host its second annual Dragstrip Dash footrace on Oct. 26.

The 5K and 10K runs were the last item on the busy 2013 calendar for the track, whose premier event each year is the Chevy Performance U.S. Nationals drag races. Years ago, the Indianapolis 500 Mini-Marathon hatched the idea to include a potion of the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway on its course for runners for a competition that now is one of the largest half-marathons in the world.

Lucas Oil Raceway advances the concept significantly by mapping the entire 5K and 10K courses on its property, starting runners down the 4,400-foot-long drag strip that hosts the U.S. Nationals before turning and curling them along and around the 2.5-mile road course and 0.686-mile oval track, which is adjacent to the drag strip.

The Dragstrip Drag's inaugural event in 2012 had just a 5K run; this year's event featured the addition of the 10K and a quarter-mile jaunt for kids. Jeff Coates of TrueNorth and Associates handled the photography for the 2012 event. When the raceway expressed interest in having a second photographer on hand because of the expanded competitions and events, Jeff asked me to join him.

Many of the participants stopped to have friends and family snap pictures of themselves with the race course's iconic arch in the background, akin to what you see in the lead photograph above. Many stuck around to enjoy one of the post-race perks -- s'mores.

I shot the race with a Canon 7D and alternated among three lenses -- a Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II PZD VC, a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS and a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L. I used the Tamron for the start of the races, exploiting its expansive zoom versatility to handle the swarm of people coming at me along the dragstrip. Fortunately, there was still enough available light to allow me to use that relatively slow lens. After the start shots, I turned to the 70-200mm lens, which I used exclusively until shooting the aftermath and finish line, which is when I switched to the 24-70mm.

A full gallery of my images from this event can be found at my site at SmugMug. If any participants or their family and/or friends are interested in purchasing copies of photos taken by either Jeff or me at this event, visit this link: Dragstrip Dash 2013.

Above and below: Before the race, volunteers check in participants and prepare ingredients for one of the post-race perks -- s'mores.

Above: As the children ran through their fun run, a couple of the 5K/10K participants warmed up along the knoll separating the drag strip from the oval track.

Above and next two below: Runners are off at the 6:30 p.m. start, led on the bicycle by Don Carr of race manager Tuxedo Brothers. Male participants kept to the right, females to the left. Moments later (first below), a clear men's leader emerges, and another one struggles to stay close, as they vie to claim a special award for the first participant to cross the quarter-mile marker (second below).  

Above and next three below: Participants were of all ages.

Above: At the north end of the road course, runners were greeted by these pumpkins lined along the pavement. When it turned dark, the lights inside the pumpkins also helped runners fix their bearings.

Above and next two below: Runners head south along the road course before making a right turn to enter the oval track. For quite a few runners, the going was still pretty fun.

Above: Once inside the oval, runners curled left to tackle the north chute.

Above and next several below: After emerging from the north chute runners and walkers greeted the water stop crew.

Above and next four below: Runners emerge from the oval's south chute and return toward the hairpin-turn opening that will get them back onto the road course. 

Above: An available light exposure of the finish line and arch, where some of the last participants passed through near the end of the competition.

Above and next two below: The track served as a backdrop for a lot of participant photos, but at the end of the race, the darkness -- and starkness -- gave the grounds a ghost-town-like feel.

Above and next two below: Before the competitions, race crew prepared the barrels for participants to use to enjoy their s'mores.


Above and next four below: The new children's fun run started off activities at 6 p.m. Runners ran an eighth of a mile to a point marked by orange cones before turning around and heading back to the start line.

Above and remainder below: A few landscape shots of the race track.