The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

I don’t do Photoshop. Maybe I’m a Luddite but for me it’s more about correcting minor things in the image. I’ll play with contrast, sharpness, color correction and white balance. Lastly I’ll adjust my exposure settings. I can go up or down two full stops.

I guess what I’m getting at is I prefer to try to capture the image in the camera , not with a ton of post production stuff. Now it could be that because of the type of photography I do and the fact I’m not doing it for a living, means I don’t feel the draw of those tools. No doubt if you’re more about creating art with photographic elements or creating elaborate shots of super models, then Photoshop is your tool of choice.

I shoot on three platforms. Two are active and one is passive. You’re probably wondering what I mean by a passive camera.

For years I’d get constant complaints about not having enough pictures on my blogs about my trips and to be honest I was disappointed about the lack of pictures I was returning with from my trips of some of the tracks I’d been riding on. Essentially, I’d be having too much fun to stop and take pictures. The solution for this was a Sony Action Cam.

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I have mine mounted on the beak of my helmet and while it can take video, I have mine set up to take stills, one exposure every ten seconds. It’s passive because it’s a fixed focus and the camera sets its own exposure. All I do is push the activation button and try to figure out how much battery life I’ve got left. I still miss shots because I forget to turn it on. Which can be a bit disappointing if you’ve hit a particularly gnarly bit of track.

For the most part the pictures are great. It has issues in low light and of course really direct sunlight but then what camera doesn’t. What I love about the Action Cam is the candid moments it captures over and above the spectacular scenery shots you also get.

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It’s a good idea to turn your helmet away from the back of the bike, when you stop to take a piss. Er, I mean stop to admire the foliage.

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Most Action Cameras have a wider field of view. 130 Deg. in this case. It can create some interesting compositions.

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It also catches those moments of reflection.

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And those, “Oh shit!” moments as well.

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This is also an, “Oh shit,” moment.

The only issue I have with the Action Cam is the battery life, which is about two hours. It would be nice to leave it on for the day. Though poring through 64GB of data and thousands of images is daunting.

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My next Camera is Canon G-16 I carry in a front pocket of my riding jacket or the top pocket of my small camera bag. It has a couple of features that I really like. It has a physical viewfinder, so you don’t need to depend on the camera’s rear screen in bright sunlight. It also can shoot in RAW format, which allows me greater freedom in post. There’s also a feature I sort of wish my DSLR had, an adjustable exposure knob which allows you the ability to dial your exposure up or down two full stops. Its construction is solid and it even has a decent physical zoom too.

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The St. Louis Arch.

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I just rode down that thin brown ribbon…

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A hot and sweaty selfie in the Royal Gorge

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It also allows you to capture some of the more out of the way places you visit. And if you’re curious, I took this because it’s one of the most remote gas stations I’ve ever visited. I had to go ten miles out of my way to visit it.

And of course the final Camera is my Canon 7D. It’s getting on a bit now but it’s still a great platform to shoot from. The only issue I have is that when I travel I don’t tend to bring my Sigma 150 – 500mm. It a big bulky and heavy lens and I don’t think some of the terrain I ride across or the conditions I end up shooting under would be good for its health. My standard two travel lenses are my Sigma 10 – 20mm and my workhorse Sigma 17 – 70mm. Occasionally if I remember I’ll grab my Canon 75 – 200mm but to be honest I’ve never been a fan of its slow focusing issues.

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Sunrise on Pike’s Peak. Even at higher ISO I love the noise suppression in Canon platforms.

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I also love the crispness you can achieve.

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It does shoot a mean vista…

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Or you can slap on a Lensbaby and shoot close.

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Whatever I’ve done…

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Whatever I’ve seen…

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From one side of the continent…

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Almost to the other side…

My 7D has been with me for a lot of miles. It’ll probably be with me for many more. I look forward to the things we’ll see together.

Well it and all my other cameras as well.

You can check out my books at steveabbottauthor.com

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Arsing about… I only had to leap across a small chasm to get this shot.

Reputation is everything in film. Your, “Rep,” will proceed you in almost all transactions and while a good rep will move fast, a bad one will move even faster. It is, as I’m sure you already know, a lot easier to get a bad rep than a good one.

Research is a good way to avoid pitfalls. Reading about other people’s experiences or talking to other screenwriters can help you avoid making fatal career mistakes that can cost you work in the long run. I know the industry seems big but it really isn’t and word can really get around.

Which is why I’m constantly amazed at how newer writers will put a script out there that isn’t finished, even in a rough draft sense. Of course they usually don’t tell the person they’re shopping it to that the piece is only half or two thirds done and then it’s a mad panic to get the thing finished. Which of course always produces the finest work.

Of course, it doesn’t help that there’s a lot of, “Spin,” in the industry. Not outright lies per say but you’ll certainly bend the truth as hard as you can. Until a production company says, “No.” Your script is still, “In play.”

So even though I’m not as active in the industry these days, I still wouldn’t submit an unfinished script to my producer, no matter how much he begs for it. Unless he’s got the money in place and he needs to start casting… Oh, and I’ve been paid.

So here’s some things I feel are a bad idea and why.

  1. Showing part or all of an unfinished script.  It might be a great idea. It might be flawlessly executed (doubtful) but it’s not done and the hardest part is that second to third act transition. Get it wrong and you’ve not just wrecked your story but you’ve hurt how you look to others.
  2. Even if you have finished, putting it out there before it’s as polished as it can be. This of course is more for the newer writers. It’s good to be eager but if a script is shoddy in its presentation and full of spelling errors in the first two pages, chances are the whole thing is shoddy and into the round file it goes.
  3. Knowing nothing about how the industry works. It really is inexcusable. There are tons of books out there that cover this. Not having a plan to get your script read and ultimately sold means simply, you won’t sell it.
  4. Not reading every produced script you can get your hands on. How else can you learn how to do it, if you’re not reading scripts that got made into films? Good and Bad.
  5. Not watching every film you can. How else can you talk about film, if you have no foundation to work from. It’s a visual medium, you should study the strong visuals that speak to  you. Believe me, it’s a lot easier to describe an opening scene to a director as, “Like the beginning of Once upon a time in the West,” than faffing about trying to find more common ground. And if they’ve never seen that particular film, worry because they probably are going to suck.

I guess what I’m trying t say here is, craft is king. You should know your craft and the business you wish to enter. If you don’t, it’s going to be a rocky road ahead.

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This has been an interesting year to say the least. Lots of changes have happened and there are few more coming down the pipe and that’s just in the general day to day life side of things. The writing side of my life is always whatever it chooses to be from moment to moment. The trick right now (well always really) is scraping out the time to write from all the other demands on your precious seconds.

It can be difficult to go on some times with your writing. The trick is to push through no matter what. Yes what you’re writing right now may feel like it’s complete and utter shit but many times that’s just that nasty little voice in the back of your head talking. You know the one that’s always so damn critical. It’s not that it’s not right, it’s that it’s over doing the concern thing. That internal back chatter is the thing that will kill your own voice on the page if you let it. The few times I was stuck in development hell when I was screenwriting, you’d go from the joy of having optioned your script to watching some clueless development executive who, “fancied himself a bit of a writer,” follow some ill-defined plan of execution that took the script that they, “loved,” only to slowly bleed to death with ridiculous changes sought to meet a market model never clearly defined. Small comfort when in moments like those you realized just a precedent Kafka really was.

If is one thing I like about self-publishing it’s that I’m the one steering the boat and that is where so much more than money. When I used to hear the phrase, “What if,” it would send me into a cold sweat, because what would follow would be a ridiculous idea for the most part and a rewrite. At a certain point in a development process you feel like every rewrite puts you further and further away from getting any kind of greenlight to your project. And while as a screenwriter your job is to champion your script, there’s only one of you and a whole cadre of them and they’ve got money and you don’t. While I’d love to say that money isn’t a great motivator, it’s a different thing when you’re trying to make rent or buy groceries. Plus getting paid for something makes you a professional and that does your battered ego no end of good. I know it sounds sad, and it is sad but it’s also true. At least it was for me.

Flash forward a few years (okay many years) and the arena of self-publishing gives you that thing you’ve lacked for so long, control. And that is also worth more than money. Of course the downside is if the buck stops with you, everything a happens good or bad you need to own it.

Time management has been a real bear for me this year. There’s a lot of demands both from family and from the day job. I’m not as prolific as I like to be and I’m sure the people waiting for the sequel to Devil’s Gambit feel the same. I swear, I’m really close to finishing the rough draft. Then I’ve got a screenplay to write before I get back into doing the final edit prior to publishing. I will say this, I won’t release anything before I feel it’s ready.

However, if you’re interested in getting a feel for one of the main characters in the new book, you should check out Reliance. It’s the story of why she’s on the run in the first place. And if there’s one issue I do have with Amazon, it’s that much of their search algorithm seem to driven by the cover design. My initial cover featured a man in shadow with a cowboy hat. And while yes, Reliance is a modern Western or as I prefer a thriller placed in a modern Western setting, it is a thriller first. But Amazon chose to place it in Westerns, which has not helped sales. Regardless I’m still very proud of the book and at $0.99 it’s a good deal on Kindle. And if you haven’t read any of my books. I suggest you start with Devil’s Gambit.

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Royal Gorge Canyon 2016

Every trip changes you. Sometimes the changes can be very subtle and other times substantial. A lot of it comes from stepping outside your comfort zone, doing things haven’t done in a while or maybe you’ve never done ever. At the time these experiences may not have seemed like much but their resonance goes deep. As a writer, it’s extremely important to experience life in all its crazy wonder. And even when you are going through a tough or horrible patch, you need to take notes. Not necessarily written notes is certainly log what you’re going through in your brain for later access.

After all a good part of what we do is study the human condition under stressful circumstances if you’ve never known extreme stress, how can you effectively write about it? No I’m not saying everybody needs to go out and buy an adventure bike or get into base jumping, X games or become the next American ninja warrior (though those people are impressive physically). But you should try and step outside your comfort zone and experience new things and new places, and yes, new people. Because you never know where the idea for the next great character’ s and come from.

Every day should have some introspection. I know this is difficult for most of us. Nobody likes looks themselves warts and all especially not when you’re going to call yourself out on your own bullshit. But I’m telling you, it’s an important step. And not to get all spiritual but a certain amount of inner peace does bring clarity. The one thing this last trip left with me was the realization that I had to be more open to things. But I had see yes more than no regardless of how uncomfortable it was going to make me or what physical conditions it was going to subject me to.

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2016 has certainly been an interesting year so far with lots of changes job wise, life wise and must be honest world wise. Realistically who the hell knows what 2017’s going to bring. All you can really do his face forward, keep going, and write from the heart.

I will say this, writing wise it’s going to be exciting. To be honest the calendar year is not really a good way of keeping track of your writing projects. My new book, “Devil’s Ante,” is almost finished, at least as far as the rough draft goes. So I’m on track for publishing in the fall. I’m very excited to start a screenplay project inspired by a true story shared by one of the members of my writing group (inspired enough that I optioned the story from her for film). I’ve done some minor pitching of the story to some people I know in the film industry and excitement is high. “Augmented,” my military sci-fi novel is waiting in the wings for me to get back to it. That’s looking like January for me and of course I’m already outlining the third and final book in my Devil series, “Devil’s Due.” For release next fall. I’m sorry if I’m not as prolific as other writers. Like a good number of us I’m still in a day job trying to keep a roof over my family’s head, food on the table and of course make sure that my adult son with autism as his good life within this community as he possibly can. All that of course takes away for my writing time. I apologize. I’ll try to do better.

Regardless of all that, I’m having a good time here and I’m excited see what comes next and where I’ll go.

Thanks for following along.

If you haven’t already done so and would like to support a struggling writer, you can check out my two thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon. Both are available in trade paperback and for Kindle. I’d love to do an audiobook of either or both but there some issues between the whole Canada US thing. Soon as I figure that out, I’ll move ahead with it.

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On my way back, heading through Kansas I started to see signs for the Mid America Flight Museum in Liberal, Kansas. I’m always up for an aircraft museum and it was right beside the interstate.

I’ve been to some cracking aviation museums in the States and The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton that I’m a member of is one of the best in Canada. So it’s always a bit sad to find a nice collection with some rare airframes essentially mouldering away under a layer of dust and neglect.

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Surprising to see a number of Commonwealth Air Training Plan Airframes in their collection but I got the feeling a number of these aircraft came from individual collections.

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You can see the dust on this Corsair.

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The Corsair has  formidable prop.

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A nice looking Grumman Avenger in a variant that looks to be prior to the advent of H2S sets.

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One of the more famous paint jobs of WW2 on this B-25J

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You never think about the Flying Tigers having spotting planes as well as fighters.

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A Ryan L-17 Navion. I’ve always liked the Ryan airframes.

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Good old Cessna, “Suck and Blow.”

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A sorry looking Tomcat.

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An OV-10 Bronco.

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A F4D Phantom II. How do you tell between every other mark and the J? No Cannon.

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Apparently you’re not supposed to go out on the hardpan but there were no signs saying not to and the place was pretty much deserted. This dilapidated hanger beside the DB Cooper Era DC-10 immediately caught my eye.

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I mean look at all those smashed out windows….

Though it would have to wait until I was done with the static display on the hardstand.

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The last time I saw one of these it was in flying condition. From the looks of the cockpit on this one… Not so much.

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So we’ve got an A-7 Corsair, an A-4 Skyhawk with the hunchback extra fuel tank (on of my favorite aircraft) and an F-105D Thunderchief (though it looks like it’s in a Wild Weasel configuration)

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A nice S-2 Tracker.

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Close up the A-4 looks a bit scabby…

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F-105D

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The other hanger didn’t disappoint for mody lighting…

The museum was a nice break from riding for a couple of hours and I was back on the interstate a couple of minutes after leaving its parking lot.

My two thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance are available on Amazon in Trade Paperback and for Kindle

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Kelly and I had decided to do the hike up to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park that Saturday. It’s a three mile hike from the parking lot and about fifteen hundred feet of ascension. We made sure to hit the park early because even with the sun just up, the temperature was climbing into the 90s. It had been a long ride the day before and we were both a little saddle sore so we took Kelly’s truck. The fact the truck also had air conditioning didn’t hurt either.

I love sandstone. The erosion patterns are beautiful to me and the fact you can see cause and effect of erosion on the sandstone surface as you hike up to Delicate Arch was really cool. You need to take lots of water on this hike. I recommend at least a litre. I carry an insulated bottle that clips onto my camera bag. It makes Kelly laugh because the bottle makes a bell like, “Bong,” sound as I walk. Which turns any hike into a sort of Buddhist march.

The hike is a popular one and we had three tour busses arrive in the parking lot just before we started on up. The trick was to stay ahead of the coming crowd. Which of course we failed at. Some of those older Japanese dudes are fast. Even in tweed coats and wool pants.

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It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.

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Delicate Arch

To get to the arch, you walk up a rock ledge incline about six feet wide, hundreds of feet off of the valley floor. Standard issue as far as this trip has gone. To be honest, I didn’t feel the need to go out to the arch itself. There were a ton of people crawling all over the rock by now and it felt inherently unsafe. If it was just Kelly and I, sure, no problem but with this many people, it was well outside my comfort zone. And just to drive the point home, somebody dropped their bottle of water and I watched it skitter across the rock face and then disappear over the edge.

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The ledge that follows the bowl around to the arch had a steep angle and again was not very wide.

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Kelly’s found his perch.

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No matter what, life finds a way even in the harshest of environments.

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Saw this cool traveling rig back in the parking lot. It had Frech tags on it.

On the hike we met up with a couple who mentioned the Windows, another formation near the park’s entrance. Though a pancake breakfast was calling, we set off for the Windows.

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It’s always nice when the scenery is glad to see you.

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The windows are two separate formations. These are the northern set.

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You couldn’t look much more like a Cobra if you tried.

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A Lion…

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And .an Elephant

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We were out of water and the call of the pancakes was strong. So we left the majesty of, The Arches and headed for the cool confines of a diner in Moab. Sunday we’d both be starting our long tracks home. Two days for Kelly, four days for me.

You can check out my two thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon. They’re available in Trade Paperback and for Kindle.

This time we made sure we were on the mountain at 3:30am. This got us almost right at the Gateway and more importantly, leveler ground than half a mile down the road on a steep clutch killing incline. We were through the Gateway promptly at 4:00am and were well on the way to Devil’s Playground when we were stopped at the lower pit area by an angry man with a beard and a walkie talkie. He shut down everything going up which rightly got some folks really pissed. After about fifteen minutes of looking for somebody with more authority to let people up that somebody was found and traffic once again began to flow. Which is good because we were down to the wire to get to the pit area before they closed the mountain. Five minutes after we got there, the cars were running.

The breakdown for the day was the cars would be running the top section of the mountain and the specials including the electrics were running the middle section which ended at Devil’s Playground and the bike were running from the Race Start to the middle section.

With the early start it was going to be a long day. We’d checked out of the hotel and were going to ride straight back to Moab once we’d gotten breakfast under our belt. It was going to be a long haul.

The pits of course were jumping as teams prepped their cars for the practice run. I took all kinds of pictures of this 914 for my buddy Tom.

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The pits are n exciting place to be first thing in the morning. Yet surprisingly quiet. It’s as if everything is being saved for the road course.

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And just like that, things are off to a fast start…

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Ten seconds later something happened with this car and driver and the safety truck was dispatched.

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Cool to see an older BMW.

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I moved up to a new spot higher up to catch the next round.

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Kelly wanted a shot of him with the road to the peak in the background.

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Looking back at the pit area.

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I reset myself on the lower slope to watch the Specials. It was good to sit in the morning sun though you had to keep turning into it because whatever side was in shadow was freezing.

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Still, the view is pretty spectacular

The electrics were pretty cool though even if most of them were fitted with car alarms because they were so quiet.

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This one however sounded like a jet aircraft.

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I only saw this truck run once but it was impressive.

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And just like that practice was done and it was time to get down off the mountain. We stopped in at Uncle Sams to grab another of their great breakfasts and where I had a if not weird encounter. I’d been wearing my US Army Grey DIGIPAT BDU pants. I like the fact they tie off and don’t go into my riding boots but they are the real deal and they’re damn comfortable when you’re doing long rides and this day was going to be a long riding day. So I’m sitting there in the waiting area and as some guy finishes paying for his breakfast he turn around, sees me, sees the pants I guess, makes the wrong connection in his head and thanks me for my service. I really didn’t have a good response and then he was gone. It kind of set the rest of my morning on a weird tangent. Well that and trying to get out of Colorado Springs which is a total pain in the ass and took a good 45 minutes to get clear of its clutches.

Still once we were free and clear and because we were already in the mountains we had a two pretty major passes to get through before we were back onto the the flat plateaus of Utah. We went back through Royal Gorge and up Highway Fifty. At Poncha Springs though we stayed on 50 and kept onward and upward through two mountain passes, one of which was a bit windy and sketchy. Tar snakes were a real issue almost taking out Kelly at one point. We did make sure to take regular breaks which of course stretched the day out, though we knew we’d be getting in late to the campsite. Of course the time of day did lead to us seeing a pretty fantastic sunset.

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I like the cars, well anything on wheels really but my heart is always going to be with the bikes.

The bikes were practicing on the uppermost part of the course from Devil’s Playground to the Peak. Because of the shape of the mountain, there’s no way to get up to the peak area without using the road or a lot of climbing ropes. However, if you took things slow, you got a really good look at the bike’s and related rigs practice efforts.

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It’s go time!

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All of the racing quads are as custom a machine as can be built.

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This one was one of my favorites as it looks like the bastard offspring of a lawn tractor and an F1 race car.

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The Ducati’s are part of a rider mentorship program to train newer riders on the course and how to run it. This came about because of a number of deaths amongst the bike riders in recent years.

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Here I’ve finally found a good spot amongst the rocks at the side of the track. The light level is good or at least workable. Here I’m shooting ISO 400 at 70mm (112mm equivalent) f4.0

Finding the proper balance to make sure you get good capture with proper speed implied takes a few shots to get right and of course on this type of race, you need to make sure your safety lanes are clear and known.

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It’s shots like these that make the whole day worth it.

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It’s always interesting to see the different approaches to the corners.

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One of the electric bikes. They’re all fitted with a car alarm, so you can hear them coming. I missed the first electric bike because I had no idea what was coming round the corner and they’re gone so quick from your part of the track, if you’re not ready for them, you will miss the shot.

 

 

 

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The Victory Tribute bike…

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Honda’s electric entry

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And that was the end of day one on the mountain. It took about half an hour to make my way back to the pit area. Kelly and I had to stop by the Gateway to strip off our many layers needed at the peak but not so much at the base. We made our way into Manitou Springs looking for a Pancake House. We found Uncle Sam’s Pancake House and of all the places we grabbed breakfast on this trip, it was the best. So god, we hit them up the next day as well. So two thumbs up for Uncle Sams in Manitou Springs.

The next day, the bikes were riding from the start line. Kelly and I decided we’d go back up to Devil’s Playground and catch whatever classes would be on the course up there.

Before I get into the article proper, a bit about my gear. Travelling by motorcycle limits how much stuff you can carry. For this trip I brought only three lenses. A Sigma 10-22mm f4.5, a Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4.5 and a Canon 40mm f2.8 ASM (which I never used). Of course my Sigma 17-70mm was my workhorse lens. As far as Cameras go, I had a Sony HDR-AS100V Action Cam mounted to my helmet for all of my road shots, A Canon G-16 Point and Shoot for the shots I just want to get without having to dig out my mainstay DSLR a Canon 7D. Would my Sigma 150-500mm worked well for me here? Sure but I think the majority of these shots feel as close as they were taken and so I don’t regret leaving my longer lenses behind.

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Waiting for the Sun to rise and the action to start at 5:00am

At a certain point in your life, you come to the realization that part of your brain (probably the bit that covers exposure to dangerous situations) got wired wrong or maybe left out altogether. This is the sort of thing that slides around in your grey matter as you wind your way up an unlit, narrow, two lane road to a place called, “The Devil’s Playground,” 13,700ft above sea level at 4:15am in the morning. The day before, you were riding through canyon and across desert in 110F heat and now with every thousand feet you ascend on your bike, it’s getting steadily colder. In fact I had my heated grips on. Our intial plan had been to stop further down the mountain but I’ve been slavishly following the tail lights of the pick up truck a hundred feet ahead of me and I figured we’d gone to far when the trees dropped suddenly out of sight and everything I could see in my headlights became bare rock and blackness. Guard rails aren’t a huge priority on this mountain. Getting back to the madness thing. I’m crawling up the mountain at 25mph, trying hard to get to where I need to be because at 5:00am you run the very real risk of having a wheeled object moving at high speed rammed up your backside. And while, your loss would be regretted, the time you’d cost the racer, would not be forgiven.

There are certain places that fire your imagination, The Bonneville Salt Flats, The Isle of Man TT, and Pike’s Peak. Where I now stood shivering violently in the pre dawn chill trying to zip up my rain jacket onto Kelly while I struggled to breath a thousand feet above the recommended minimum safe altitude for aircraft without cabin pressurization. I was wearing a T-shirt, a long sleeved shirt, my Titanium windbreaker, and my riding jacket with its liner zipped in, motorcycle overpants over my jeans, cold weather gloves and my neck sock pulled up over my ears and I was still freezing.

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Bundled up for the cold… It’s still not enough…

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Kelly doing his best impersonation of a Babushka.

The race on the day, takes place from Mile 7 on the Pike’s Peak Toll Highway just past the Gateway entrance at the base all the way up to the top of the mountain. 12.42 Miles long but with 156 curves and 4,720 ft of ascension. Practice days are for the drivers to get a feel for the route and for their crews to dial in the cars. Running each entry the full length of the track would limit the practice runs to just one a day. To work around this, the different classes are staged at different sections of the track each practice day. Which makes for shorter runs but at least three of them in the short period of time they have to practice. I should have mentioned, the mountain is closed at 5:00am and practice is over by 9:30am when they open it back up to regular traffic and spectator and competitor alike make the long way to the bottom and to breakfast.

The benefit of The Devil’s Playground is it’s both an end point for one class and the beginning point for another. That morning, we were the end point for the cars and the starting point for the Bikes, side cars and racing quads. Of course I didn’t fiure this out until the Sun was well up.

Everything you do is a measured step, well more like a steady shuffle meant to conserve the limited Oxygen available to you in your blood. I wandered around a bit trying to get my bearings and figure out what I was going to start shooting first and even though there were a limited number of people in the area we were in, Kelly and I lost track of each other almost instantly.

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Media waiting for the action to start.

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The Moon over the pit area. Those four bikes are the 100th Anniversary Pike’s Peak Edition Ducatis

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A closer look. Not sure how effective those tire warmers are going to be in these temps…

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Some tams are the full meal deal, others are a smaller effort but the camaraderie seemed equal across the board.

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Pretty stoked to see sidecar rigs even if this one is still naked…

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The cars start to make their runs up from the middle of the course.

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This racer was a little too close to the inside line.

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Somewhere in there is a Ford Focus I believe…

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A 914 with a decidedly non stock motor but those pics are for the next post up when I got a much better look at this car in the pits.

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GT3 anybody? One of my favorite cars…

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Somebody wants more down force.

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Here I’ve moved down to where the Porta-Sans are in the previous shots. It allows me to sit in the Sun and warm up a bit, plus the new spot gives me a decent place to see two of the corners prior to the hairpin. As I’m feet from the response trucks, I know I’m as safe as you can be at the side of a race line. However, if you look at the far corner, you can see a photographer on the outside of the curve. I can think of no dumber place to put yourself. There’s zero safety factor and you run the real risk of being taken out by the very car you’re trying to shoot.

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This guy had no support truck that we could see. He drove up and down the mountain every day.

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This Audi Quatro was one of our favorite cars.

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Eclipse Racing…

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Looking down at the other curves in the section…

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Staging to go back down the mountain and do another run…

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the first part of what I got to see on Practice Day. I’ll be posting up the Bike’s, Sidecars and Quads next.

You can also check out my thrillers Devil’s Gambit and Reliance on Amazon in trade paperback and for Kindle.

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I promised Kelly I wouldn’t post this up until he was home.

The Schafer Trail. Every bit as freak out scary as it looks. Or maybe it doesn’t look so freaky from above, you have to get on it to appreciate how damn scary it really is. I could barely look left for the first five hundred feet of drop in elevation.

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It all starts out fairly benign.

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These guys in the white truck were right up our ass from the start, so we pulled over and let them by. We didn’t need them chomping at the bit behind us as we worked our way down the trail.

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Pretty quickly you find yourself on the edge of the canyon. Right here, you can see we’re just below the lip.

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It’s loose and sandy with rock mixed in. Some bits are more sandy than others, some bits more rocky. Slow and steady is the only way to handle it. Definitely no Translab speeds on this stretch…

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And this is the easy bit…

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Our first sketchy bit.

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So we had a quick confab…

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Easy peasy, what could go wrong…

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Shit. Sand sucks…

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And we’re not even a tenth of the way there yet…

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Kelly pulled his tank bag back together after we got his bike back up.

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After my experience on Hayden’s Pass, weight was shed. Just the top box with my camera gear. I’ve strapped my water flasks to the back of my seat. As mentioned, water is critical out here.

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The first switchback…

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It doesn’t look that bad.

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Picking the right line is tough. You’re either in loose sand or sand and gravel. Your back brake gets a real workout.

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Vehicles coming the other way are fun and entertaining.

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As you get closer to the bottom, you think to yourself, ok, now it’s going to get easier… Which only seems funny later.

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Kelly makes it down a little bit scuffed. The temps are climbing and we’re both glad we brought plenty of water.

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Barkbusters are a great investment if you want to save your levers in a drop.

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The view from the bottom of the valley.

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And a new wrinkle, solid rock covered in a light scree of sand and pebbles. Bumpy as hell, you just have to drop a gear and give it welly, while the bike bangs and shimmies itself up the grade under you. I was really worried about a stall and dropping the bike on this stuff.

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That’s the Colorado River. If it wasn’t hundreds of feet below us I’d dive in.

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Kelly was starting to overheat so he rode on past to keep the wind moving over him. Shade was scarce and it was closing in on 110F. I’d already gone through one bottle of water.

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More of my favorite surface. My camera hadn’t been turned on for the section we did through a dry riverbed that ran through a short piece of canyon behind us. I should have stopped and whipped out my DSLR but it was a fairly technical section and I was really just focused on getting through it.

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With just enough loose and crappy at its top end to make it interesting.

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Catching up to Kelly.

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Going back up again but this is the type of washboard and gravel I’m used to so I can go a bit faster on it.

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It’s starting to get sandy again.

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The sand is really deep here.

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We stopped for a drink and a confab before continuing on. We walked back to the tree for shade. It’s shade area was littered with horse and sheep dung.

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This gentleman was impressed we were tackling the road on bikes. He liked my tires. Interestingly he didn’t offer any info on what we were going to be running into further up the track he’d just come from. Still, it’s always nice to have a positive interaction on any trip.

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I wasn’t sure what I was seeing on the horizon as t looked like somebody had suspended a bright blue tarp across the landscape at the edge of my vision. It turned out it was the evaporation pools for the Potash factory we’d been steering towards for the last couple of hours.

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And here’s where my helmet cam cut out, which kind of sucks as we had to cross a couple of salt streams  where their sides we just encrusted with salt. About two miles later we were back on gravel and then the road turns back into tarmac. However, we took some time to dip our feet in the Colorado river and cool off.

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