My husband and I have been busy these past few weeks. We had the pleasure to seeing our younger son married to his pretty new wife on the 25th of July; then we took off for a week of traveling through five western states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Our destination was the National State Games of America in Colorado Springs. My dh qualified to play tennis against other amateur tennis players from other states across the nation. We made the trek there in one day, one long day of driving.
After our arrival to Colorado Springs we decided to spend a little time as tourists. We took a drive around for a little sight seeing. We stopped here at Garden of the Gods. I loved the look of the cement made from local aggregates with its reddish hues. It looks very southwest to me, reminiscent of the pottery and all.
It is beautiful countryside in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The views were spectacular. We would have done a little hiking along the trails in the Garden but from the looks of the sky it seemed we would likely get rained on. This Balanced Rock is absolutely HUGE!! I didn't get a very good photo of it myself. I was trying to look around at everything too and not just have my camera glued to block my full line of vision. Sometimes it seems I miss stuff when I'm limiting my vision through the lens. There's an even better view, more a side view as we drove past, of the Balanced Rock if you check out the photo on Wikipedia. You feel dwarfed by its huge size as you drive through these rocks. My photography just doesn't do the park justice. For even better (professional) shots check out the Garden of the Gods Website.
We decided it would be best to just drive through the park. There were numerous lookout posts and stopping points along the way for pictures.
Some of our photos were taken while stopped and just off the side of the trails. It didn't seem wise to go too far as we could hear thunder rolling above us in the clouds. At times the tops of the mountains were obscurred by the clouds.
We exited the Garden of the Gods somewhere and ended up in Manitou Springs, got turned around while trying to find the entrance again from the other side so saw a bit more of tourist shops and such. Eventually we made our way back into the Garden of the Gods and followed the roads back out to the exit that leads toward the Colorado Springs side. By this time it was raining again with thunder and lightning. Most of my photos by this time were all taken from the car. You know you can spot a tourist when she's hanging with a camera out the side window! LOL!
At the opening ceremonies (patterned after the Olympic's opening ceremony where all the participants from around the world parade into the auditorium) there were athletes from 44 different states participating. There were only three players from North Dakota at the opening ceremony to represent our state. Compare that to 500-700 athletes from the bigger states like Texas and California, and over 6000 from the home state of Colorado. It took awhile for all those athletes to parade in. Then we enjoyed entertainment during the opening ceremony from gymnasts, break dancers, aerial acrobatics, a live band and the musical stylings of American Idol singer Carly Smithson. Carly's got a great voice and did a fantastic job with her performance. She sang three songs: two that she did on Idol and the last one she wrote herself. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist wrestler, Henry Cejudo gave an inspirational speach about his olympic training and winning gold. He was the final torch-bearer who lit the olympic flame.
When it came time to play we had to wait out a rain delay. It took some time for the sky to clear, then to squee-gee off the courts and allow them to dry.
We waited in the car. Then we waited near the Director's covered table area. The delay lead to play being shortened to two matches unless there was a tie.
Here you see a picture of my dh on the left with his doubles partners. Rob, in the center, played Men's 3.5 Doubles. Sandy, on the left, played Mixed 4.0 Doubles. All three are from Bismarck.
Rain, rain, go away . . . waiting for the courts to dry.
--[By the way, if you want to see any of these photos larger, click onto them and they'll fill your screen.]--
Alright! This is more like it. Out on the court, we're starting the first game. But from my view through the lens I spot trouble right away. Notice the fence. Now notice my next photos. It didn't dawn on me at first that most of my shots were really good, clear, sharp images of the fence with blurry, obscurred players.
Fence issues! Can't get a good shot of the action. I'm wasting time here trying to get some good shots and missing most of the action while trying to work out this problem. Hardly an opening in the fence at all. Only a narrow 2-3 inch area between the post and the gate. Next I look around for a visual reference to the rest of this fenced court. All sides are fully and completely fenced. Obviously there's a purpose, to keep the ball inside the court. It also manages to prevent me from getting any decent photos. Move back and all I see is fence obscurring the players too much. Gotta keep trying. I'm bound to get some good shots in if I just keep trying. It's a numbers game! The more I shoot the more likely I'll get a few good ones. Okay, think! How can I make them better shots?
Definitely fence issues! Move forward and my view from the viewfinder and the view from the lens are at two slightly different angles. It finally clicks that when I look through the viewfinder I'm actually getting the chain links blocking my picture. Okay, turn on the digital pre-image. Shooting blindly at times as the sun coming from behind the clouds blinds me or reflects off my screen making it hard to see the preview. I look up to see how much of the game I'm missing. What's the score? Are they switching sides? Who's winning? Got to find a better angle. Totally frustrated. Starting to get warmer with the sun coming out - or is it just me frustrated and all.
Sometimes I get lucky. I was trying all I could to get the viewfinder to fit between the chain links. I tried a variety of different camera settings to change the focal length so the fence will blur out and the player stays sharp and still be able to use the flash (since it is still a bit overcast and cloudy with the sun coming out from time-to-time) while holding the camera still enough and focus on a moving ball and active players running around while looking through a lens and simutaneously trying to use my peripheral vision to see which way the opponent was hitting the ball and to which of the two mixed double players will it go? (Yep! That's meant to be a run-on sentence. Artistic license in literary form to express my current frustration). Auurgh!! How do they do it? I'm definitely not a professional at this! THAT'S WHY the paparrazi take so many photos and have those fancy cameras that take multiple series of shots. It's a challenge to get that one prized shot! Okay, nice try. Now relax and watch the game for awhile.
Here are some more random shots. There's that fence giving me trouble again. Okay, stay optimisitc, I can do this . . .
Alright, just fooling around with some more shots. Trying for a better shot through the 2-3 inch space by the gate. Yeah, no fence, but the sun is in my eyes and I'm shooting blindly. Can I fudge after the fact and just say I was trying to get a more 'artistic' angle on it? After all, I just love the play of the light on the court from the background reflecting up. How about those long shadows. Okay. Yeah. I was really aiming at 'artistic' here all along. (Snicker, snicker, fingers crossed behind my back. LOL!)
What about this one? Does this one count for an artistic shot? Or just a bad photo? That fence!!! My arch nemesis on this day! Such a blurry look of concentration. Trust me. It's concentration. But what an 'artistic' shot that evokes feelings. What if I said it's an abstract comment on the game of tennis (or the challenges of photography). The fence . . . the barriers . . . the challenges . . . and working through them and all. It's all about staying focused . . . (huh??) Work with me here - I'm trying to make the best of it. I've got tons of horrible, out of focus photos of the players and some lovely shots of the fence. Thankfully they're all digital photos and I didn't waste a bunch of actual rolls of film!
This could be the winning shot of the day. Little Spike knows how to watch a game. He had his eyes on the players most of the time - just waiting for them to come out from the fence. This pup sure loves his owner.
After the Mixed Doubles match . . . discussing the game . . . the highs and lows . . . some shots were well played, others, not so much.
Resting on the sidelines, reflecting on the game. The opposition had some better moves. They certainly have spent some time on the court. The age difference of playing this father daughter team. Come to find out later he usually practices with local players ranked at 4.0 and 5.0 and she plays in college. Both good, experienced players.
The state games are played every other year. Two years from now the games will be held in San Diego. Since my husband and his Mixed Doubles partner won the Silver medal, they qualify to go on to the 2011 State Games in California.
Prior to the state games, the other big news is my son's wedding. I'm still going through the over 1000 photos I took to photoshop, crop and fine tune them. I was going to post a few here now, but must have reached my limit as I'm currently unable to upload any more. Perhaps I can submit another post tomorrow then add more photos over the next several days. The wedding was very nice and the newlyweds say they are enjoying their time getting to know each other as a married couple. We had the pleasure of being invited for chicken supper the other day. Seems they're getting moved in just fine and getting adjusted to their new house together.
Don't mean to imply the trip to Colorado and tennis are more important than the wedding. The tennis story is just what I happened to lead off with today. Check in again. I'll try to get another post out tomorrow. More wedding photos and info coming soon.