Photographing (and competing in) a synchronized skating competition

A synchro team doing a wheel element with one skater in the middle
This team is doing a “wheel” element — note the three “spokes” — with one skater doing a really cool spin in the middle. Pretty!

Hi team, sorry it’s been forever and a year (pretty much, right?) since I wrote in here. I’ve really missed it, and you. Lots going on with me as usual, so I’m not making any promises that I’m going to be a regular poster again (though I have lots of cool photos to share). Today I want to write about synchronized ice skating. This is my second year on a synchronized ice skating team (and my second year as a figure skater in general). This year we skated to a Star Trek medley, which was super fun.

A GIF of Potassium's team doing an intersection
My coach made this GIF of our “intersection” element from a recent performance

Last weekend, we had our first competition as a team near Vancouver, Canada. It was a lot of firsts for me too. My first synchro competition, my first time skating on international ice, my first competition on international ice and (for you nerdy figure-skating people out there) my first competition getting GOE scores. Wow, tons of firsts.

In other news, I’ve been wanting to try to take pictures of figure skaters for a while. It seems challenging, right? The skaters are moving fast, so you need a high shutter speed to capture them. But also it’s not exactly bright in the rink, so you need to balance that fast shutter speed with some other camera settings to make it bright enough to see what’s going on. I was already dragging around my skating bag and a bag with makeup, clothes, skating stuffies (obviously) and other accessories, so I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to add my fat DSLR to the mix. Instead I rented a Fujifilm X100F from our local camera shop. Cobalt and I have been obsessed with this camera since we discovered its predecessor, the X100S, back in 2014. It’s a compact point and shoot that looks like a film camera, but it produces really nice high quality digital images. It also seems to be really good at taking pictures of people. So I put it (and my ability to learn how to use a completely new camera while also competing in a competition) to the test while we were in Canada.

A synchro team doing a block element
This team is doing a “pivoting block” element.

I have mixed feelings about the results. I wish I had had more time to learn how to use the camera. I got the basic settings (shutter speed, ISO, aperture, etc.) down, but I wish I had known a little more about what I was doing. Oh yeah, also it was my first time photographing figure skating, so I had to learn that on the fly too. What did I want? Shots of teams doing cool things? Individual skaters’ fun facial expressions? What could I realistically get with this fixed-lens point and shoot when I am used to my giant telephoto lens on my DSLR? So many new things.

Team LMSSC Junior does a block element in their short program
The Lower Mainland “Junior” team showing off some fun footwork in their short program

So I thought I’d spend the rest of this post doing two things at once — sharing my takeaways from the competition interspersed with some of my favorite pictures of the other teams. Maybe it’s too much… I apologize in advance. :p

Let’s start with a brief intro to our overall organization, The Washington Ice Emeralds, which hosts multiple teams of all different skill and age levels. My team and one of our youth teams competed at the West Coast Challenge. Here are two pictures from their Pixar-themed program.

Washington Ice Emeralds Youth Team 2 doing an artistic line element
This element is called an “artistic line.” The team is skating backwards right now.
Washington Ice Emeralds Youth Team 2 doing a circle element
Getting into a circle element

Some neat photos from other youth teams below:

A youth synchro team doing an intersection
This team is about to do an intersection. I love their faces.
A synchro team doing an artistic line element
Nice lines from this team!

For our competition, we had to perform the program twice, and then our final score was a combination of our scores from both performances. It was definitely a good learning experience. Canada does levels by age instead of by skill, and my teammates are 19 to 50+ years old, so we had to skate at a higher skill level than we actually are. Since we had a harder program than many of the teams skating at our actual skill level, it put us in a weird place between the two levels. We got fourth place out of the four teams in our level, but we likely would have gotten second place (based on scores) if we had skated at our skill level. Anyway, it was still super inspiring to see all of the adult teams skate and see where we fit in.

Team Sakura skating
Team Sakura (we didn’t compete against them)

Some of my favorite things:

  • During lunch after our first skate, someone came up to us and told us how much they loved watching synchronized skating on television. I actually don’t remember what else they said because I was stuck on the fact that Canadians get to watch synchronized skating on TV!
  • After our second skate, we were walking back to the locker room and we ran into the next team (I think they took first place). Everyone started cheering really loudly for everyone else. I had my stuffed whale shark and my teammate had her stuffed bear — someone on their team had a stuffed chicken. It was a really awesome feeling.
  • Before we went out on the ice, volunteers went around and collected our skate guards in these boxes with convenient skate-guard shaped holes. That way no one accidentally went on the ice with their skate guards on (=a fall, but also embarrassment). The guards were laid out for us when we returned from the ice.
  • Being in awe of some of the amazing skating and talent! I have so many skating (and photo) goals now!
Team LMSSC Junior skating
The Lower Mainland “Junior” team had an “Us” themed long program that my whole team loved.
Team LMSSC Junior skating
So dramatic!
Team LMSSC Open skating
This is the Open team from the Lower Mainland Skating club. They had these crazy dresses…

Zoom zoom

Hey everyone! This past weekend, I had the challenge of taking pictures of dogs in motion! Cobalt and I went on a hike with some friends and their three dogs. I brought my camera along because I wanted to try to capture the pups doing dog-like activities as we went along the trail.

It was a beautiful day for a hike — not too windy or cold — and we took off up the trail. Everyone was chatting and having a good time while the dogs zoomed all over the place. Josie particularly looooved frolicking through the tall grass on either side of the trail.

Bear thought it was pretty good too.

Every once in a while, the dogs would have a pow-wow over some particularly interesting smell.

It looks like Bear only has one leg on the ground in this pic.

And then they were off again.

I loved seeing the dogs’ personalities on display through my viewfinder. For example, here Josie is SO EXCITED about everything, and she needs to share the news with her good friend Bear.

And here’s Sandor showing off how well he can sit so that I will maybe give him a treat? Maybe?

As I write this post, Tarantula is winding her way through my legs. She wants you to know that she’s cute too. But if you normally read my blog, you probably already knew that.

I found this picture on my memory card when I put it in my computer after photographing dogs all afternoon. It reminded me of film photography when I forgot what the first few pictures on a particular roll of film looked like. Ahhh good memories. Anyway, this is Tarantula sporting my scarf and a pilgrim hat Cobalt brought back from a business trip. She’s moderately annoyed with us.

Bee my valentine?

Hi friends!

I don’t have much time to chat today but I wanted to leave you with this fat bee! Last weekend was the first time we’d seen the sun in a while (Holy rain/flooding, Batman!) and Cobalt and I took full advantage of it by going to Carmel-by-the-sea with our friend Mercury and our other friend C! We did this epic hike at Point Lobos to explore the beautiful forest and beaches near Carmel. The trails were very muddy (more like small creeks instead of trails) but it was all worth it for beautiful views of the coast. I found a bunch of fun anemones and crabs hanging out in tide pools too! But today’s picture is a cute bee that I found on the trail. These huge bees were hanging out with some bright yellow flowers, bending them every which way when the fat bees landed. I was amused and had to stop to do a quick photoshoot of bee/flower interaction.


Ahhhh how has it been two months again?! Oh I know… first the holidays happened and then school started up again! AHHHHHH! This quarter is equally as crazy as the first in some ways but also quite different in others. We only have two classes instead of four and we’re writing a few really long pieces instead of a bunch of tiny ones so the pace is quite different. One really fun part of this quarter is that I am working for Big Picture Science, which is a fun sciencey podcast based out of the SETI institute. You should check it out if you are interested!

Back to homework for me…….. :(

Fly away

Soooo this Science Communication Program is epic! I have so much homework already and I’ve only had one day of classes so far. In addition to classes, I am working two days a week at a local newspaper where I get to learn how to report news! Plus, they let me play with their fancy cameras and lenses! I photographed the announcement of Adele Fresé as the new police chief of Salinas and the Salinas High School Homecoming parade.

If you’re wondering how it is to go from working in a lab to working in a newsroom, I’d say that it’s definitely different though I’m finding some similarities as well. Obviously there are fewer pipettes and microscopes but there are other tools of the trade: big fancy cameras, reporter’s notebooks, and digital recorders. Plus there are people! I get to talk to people! Overall, the general feel is the same. I am fairly independent: when I get to work, I make myself a to do list for the day but instead of writing down experiments, I am creating a list of stories! More soon!

Anyway, this weekend was the International Airshow in Salinas and my job at the paper meant that Cobalt and I got media passes to attend the show! I surfaced from my giant pile of homework for a few hours so we could go see planes, monster trucks, and skydivers! I’m sad we didn’t get to stay longer but alas, homework calls. I’ll leave you with some pictures before I dive back in! :)

Potassium and Cobalt inside a plane (on the ground)!
This plane was making all sorts of fun swirly trails in the sky
Swirly! Also the sun was not behaving…. Get out of the way fat sun! You’re too bright to photograph!
The US Army Parachute team or the “Golden Knights” dropped from the sky at the beginning of the show!

Fat plane tail
This is one big plane but it looks like a giant whale mouth swallowing all those people. Nooooooo!

How was your weekend?! In other news, I am exhausted. I have never had to commute to work or school before. It’s different; there is a lot of driving. How long is your commute?

Back to homework….

It’s crazy out there!

My apologies for not posting more recently. I’ve been ridiculously busy both with work (exciting things happening, though not on the graduation front sadly – turns out that science is hard ;) – but I might have some exciting trips later this year!) and with life. Cobalt and I have a new years resolution called “Operation Go For It!” which has definitely taken some planning to put into effect (and we’re still not done yet) but it’s going to be epic. A hint – I just signed up for a French class through a community continuing education program here in Boulder… I am excited. My French is ridiculously rusty (and it’s more like ‘Franish’ because I can’t say a sentence in Spanish or French without putting a word from the other language in there… actually some people might say that my English is like that too, littered with random French and Spanish words… I’m weird). Maybe I will write a full post about Operation Go For It later. Unfortunately, this is just a post to tell you that I’m not dead and now I have to get back to work… :p

Picture: This picture is from my first year of grad school. On a randomly warm day in the middle of a pretty cold winter, my friend P and I went to the park near my apartment to try to fly a kite. I brought my camera because I was documenting everything then (more so than now… I know… it’s hard to believe) and somehow the settings got messed up for this picture P took of me and the kite. I actually like it this way… it totally sums up how I’m feeling right now (excited but also so busy that I am all blurry).

What are you up to? Any crazy schemes for new years resolutions? How are those going by the way? Did you make some earlier this month and stick to them or are they already falling apart? It’s hard

I love soccer

My friend A and I were talking this last weekend about activities that feel “natural” to us. Like an activity that feels so natural to you that you don’t really have to think about what you are doing. You kind of just go. That is how soccer feels to me. As soon as I can feel my cleats digging into the grass as I sprint towards the soccer ball, I am home. Isn’t that a relaxing feeling? I am so in the game that I am not concentrating on what I look like, what I have been worrying about lately, or even how much I suck at breathing when I am running. I am just going. For my friend A, it is horseback riding. What is it for you? Did you guys do anything amazing this weekend?

Thanks to Cobalt for taking pictures of my soccer game yesterday! Look at this awesome shot he got of me trying to score a goal!

Taking our whales for a walk

Wow… it’s been a while since I’ve written. So much has been going on in lab recently that I have really only had time to eat, sleep, and think about science. Whew…. sometimes things get crazy with grad school.
Anyway, some of the craziness ended on Friday when we had a huge lab cleanup to prepare for the big lab move next month. It was ridiculously epic. I was sooooo busy taking care of all the old expired chemicals we found in the weirdest places (thanks to the student I inherited my workspace from… NOT happy with him right now). After all of that, A and I took our giant stuffed sharks on a walk. While we were out playing with my camera and the sharks, one lady walked past us and asked us if we were taking our whales for a walk. A and I just looked at each other for a second and nodded as we passed. Then we burst out laughing… they’re sharks, not whales! Geez! Anyway, we (and the sharks) had so much fun this past weekend so I thought I would share some pictures – up there they are both sitting in a pine tree (obviously). Down there, there’s Fernando trying to eat an out of focus Prius and Gustav and me doing a silly dance…

Did you guys do anything fun this weekend? Have you seen any fun sharks? (Thanks Natalie for the picture last week. Totally made my day!)

Shark Friday

These past few weeks have been super busy for me mostly due to things going on in lab. However, while I was away in lab, my sharks got to have a lot of fun this week. First Banana Shark got to have Orange Julius and pie on Pi Day and then yesterday five of my sharks had the pleasure of chasing me around the apartment complex when I got home early from lab. These pictures were super fun for Cobalt and me to take… I have been planning this shoot for a while now. Unfortunately the sun got in our way a little bit (hence all the crazy flares) but no worries. We just might have to do it again… I had originally planned the shoot to use three people and not just two so we’ll just have to try it again… perhaps we’ll take the sharks to the park! :) I love Banana Shark in this bottom picture…

I hope you have good weekends!

Soaring back to photography

Last weekend was full of fun and friends! We got to see a bunch of friends we haven't seen in a while and there was much catching up. Speaking of catching up, I also got to the chance to catch up with my DSLR (and my photography friends here in Boulder too). My poor Nikon D80 hasn't been on a shooting adventure in ages so this weekend, we headed up a trail by our houses and took our cameras for a spin.
It was interesting trying to get the creative juices flowing after not doing shooting adventures in a while. I definitely have gotten better at using my camera (I was shooting in manual mode the whole time and was decent at figuring out good settings for the lighting conditions around) but I was thinking waaaaay too much instead of just taking pictures! Part of it is that I really want my pictures to have a signature or a particular style. I feel like right now my pictures are just pictures. I want people to look at my pictures and go "yeah… Potassium took these pictures…" but I don't know how to do that. I guess just keep taking pictures… No more months between photo outings for me!

So yeah… this picture. I was creeping up to these birds in a bush (they were totally aware of me so I wouldn't actually call it "creeping" I guess…) and they kept hopping farther away from me. Eventually, they got tired of my seemingly endless interest in them and this one took off, conveniently flying past my friend G on the way. I like that G is not totally in focus, but enough in focus that you can get his facial expression…

What do you guys think? How do you get a "signature" for your art? How do you keep working at your hobby when you aren't feeling super creative? :)