Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dara Torres

Dara Torres earlier this week training at the Singapore Island Country Club. Nikon D300, 18-200mm at 150mm, 1/1000, f/9, ISO 400.

Dara Torres is my new hero. She is a 41-years-old mother and she will be competing in her 5th Olympic games, the oldest swimmer EVER to compete at an Olympic games.

How does she build the fitness needed to compete with athletes half her age and be the best in the world? She has a 2-hour long swim session 5 days a week, and 4 days a week, she spends 1½ hours at the gym, followed by stretching for an hour, 4 days a week. Dara’s training program .

She says the real secret to her success (other than her amazing talent, drive and determination) is something called ‘Resistance Stretching’ based on Bob Cooley’s The Genius of Flexibility: The Smart Way to Stretch and Strengthen Your Body.

Here’s a preview of her upcoming DVD:


I’ve preordered mine!

Update:
Here's a link to a video of Dara Torres demonstrating
Resistance Stretching
.

For more info on Dara and her DVD, please visit Innovative Body Solutions.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Olympics Comes to Singapore

Michael Phelps at The Singapore Island Country Club. Nikon D300, 80-400mm at 122mm, 1/1250, f/6.3, ISO400.

Well, the U.S. Swim Team is here anyway. I went down to The Singapore Island Country Club to get some shots. This is as close as I'm going to get to Beijing 2008.

Phelps ripping it up. Nikon D300, 80-400mm at 400mm, 1/1000, f/6.3, ISO400.

Natalie Coughlin studying her notes. Nikon D300, 80-400mm at 400m, 1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 400.

Phelps in the pool. Nikon D300, 80-400mm at 400mm, 1/1000, f/6.3, ISO 400.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Marc Progin’s Mongolian Odyssey

Biking in the Summer. Gobi Desert, Bayankhongor Province, Mongolia, May 2006. Photo © Marc Progin. Click photo to view large.

To say Marc Progin has a passion for Mongolia is an understatement. Since 1999, he has biked 14,000km over Mongolia, covering the Altai Mountains in the West, the desert sands of the great Gobi to the South, and forested shores of Lake Hovsgol to the North. Typically, he bikes 10-14 hours a day, covering up to 150km each day. He passes through villages, where he stocks up on supplies, but prefers to spend the nights in solitude by a lake or river.

Marc Progin with his bike outside his ger at Camp Toilogt. Marc rode his bike over 2000 km from Ulan Bator to Camp Toilogt. Then he ran the 100km Sunrise to Sunset ultramarathon... and won his age group! Nikon D300, 10.5mm, 1/250, f/9, ISO 200, fill flash.

Photographing mongolia’s haunting landscape is a challenge. Dust is a big problem for digital cameras, especially in Mongolia. Marc avoids this problem by carrying 3 camera bodies with him, each with a lens attached so that he doesn’t have to change lenses. A Nikon D2x with a 17-55mm rides with him in his backpack. In his support vehicle, an assistant carries another D2x with a 70-200mm and a D100 with a 10.5mm fisheye.

Walking in the winter. Dharkaat depression, Far North Mongolia. Photo © Marc Progin. Click photo to view large.

Marc says that getting good pictures is a matter of 50% vision and 50% sweat… and Marc relishes in the sweat. Hard work and harsh conditions don’t seem to faze him. A few winters ago, he spent three weeks with the eagle hunters in the Altai Mountains of western Mongolia. He carried all his camera gear and moved on foot although he did bring in 5 pack animals to carry his assistant, food, fuel and tent. Only 3 of those animals made it out alive.

Kazakh hunters with their golden eagles pose with their captured foxes high in the Altai Mountains of Western Mongolia. Photo © Marc Progin. Click photo to view large.

Age hasn’t slowed him down. He is 63 years old, and recently retired. He doesn’t have a website yet, and is busy with 3 books awaiting publication. Contact him at Marc@progin.com. At the moment, Marc is in Switzerland looking forward to his daughter’s wedding before continuing his Mongolian odyssey.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The MS2S Race

A runner's shoes sitting outside his ger in Camp Toilogt at sunset. Nikon D300, 10.5mm, 1/80 f/3.5, ISO 200.

The Mongolia Sunrise To Sunset is a non-profit 100km ultramarathon or 42km marathon through the pristine wilderness of Hovsgol National Park in Northern Mongolia.

Included in the USD $1500 race entrance fee is the domestic flight from Ulan Bator and subsequent transport to Camp Toilogt, on the shores of Lake Hovsgol. Your entrance fee also covers your weeklong stay at Camp Toilogt with 3 meals a day, free horse-riding (with a guide), free use of the mountain bikes, kayaks, and canoes.

The camp is well managed, the race is well organized, and the course is beautiful. I only ran the 42km event, and so only managed to see less than half of the 100km course.

The musicians playing us a wake-up call at 2:30am. Nikon 300, 18-200mm at 20mm, 1.6secs at f/5.6, ISO 1600.

Race Description

The organizers arranged a wake-up call at 2:30am for a pre-dawn 4:00am start. By the light of our headlamps, we followed a narrow single-track trail through the forest north of Camp Toilogt. We hit the lakeside dirt road around sunrise and followed it to reach ‘Chichee’ aid station at the 12km mark.

Sunrise greeting a runner along the shore of Lake Hovsgol. Ricoh GX100, 5.1mm (24mm equiv.), 1/30 f/4.6, ISO100.

The course climbs steeply over the next 5km until we reached Chichee Pass at 2,300m (7,550ft). From here, we followed the course markings, biodegradable green paint on trees or rocks, which took us along a short ridge, and then descended steeply into a dry riverbed. After another section through lowland forest, which was sometimes wet and muddy, we reached the 2nd aid station called ‘Ongolog’ at 25.5km.

Self-portrait at Chichee Pass at 6:29am. Ricoh GX100, 5.1mm (24mm equiv.), 1/130 f/4.1, ISO 100.

After leaving ‘Ongolog’ the course follows a river valley, and then climbs very steeply through a mossy forest to reach Khirvesteg Pass 2,100m (6,900ft). The third aid station is at 32km, after descending from the pass. From there, it is a 10km run along the dirt road that goes around Lake Toilogt and back into the Camp. That ended my 42km race. I finished 9th with a time of 6:15. For the 100km runners reaching Camp Toilogt, there is time for a quick refuel, and maybe a change of shoes, before heading back down the road to complete the other 58km by sunset.

Running through the marsh between the two passes. Ricoh GX100, 5.1 (24mm equiv.), 1/80 f/4.1, ISO 100.

Laura takes a shot of her watch as she crosses the finish line for the 42km event after 7 hours and 17 mins.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mongolia

Young riders and horses prepare to race at the Nadaam Festival in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Nikon D300, 80-400mm at 165mm, 1/1000 at f/7/1, ISO 200.

Mongolia is the most sparsely populated independent countries in the world. It has a population of 2.9 million. One million of its population lives in its capital city, Ulan Bator. The remainder continues to live a nomadic lifestyle: living under the roofs of their portable gers and living off the land and their animals.

Lighting the stove inside our ger at night. Nikon D300, 10.5mm, 1/2 f/4.0, ISO 400.

Mongolia is a landlocked country between Russia and China. It is roughly 3000km long and 1500km wide, about 3 times the size of France, or twice the size of Texas. The country is generally cold, high and dry; with short summers and long, harsh winters. The north has mountains, forests and grasslands. The south is barren, fragile, and forms part of the great Gobi deserts. Outside of Ulan Bator, there are almost no paved roads. The vehicle of choice is the Furgon, a Russian made 4WD van.

A Tsataan (Reindeer People) girl with her reindeer at Lake Hovsgol, northern Mongolia. Nikon D300, 10.5mm, 1/500 at f/11, ISO 200.

Mongolians have a proud history. Under the rule of Chinggis Khaan in the 12th century, the Mongols united and began a series of conquests that would stretch from Asia to central Europe, forming one of the largest empires in history.

A Mongolian man wearing a traditional Dell. Nikon D300, 18-200mm at 32mm, 1/100 f/4.0, ISO 400.

Why visit?
Despite their warrior ancestry, Mongolians are a friendly people, and will warmly welcome you into their gers. The culture and landscape is unique. The landscape is hauntingly beautiful… and frightening fragile.

When to Visit?
Most visitors come during the short summer season, particularly during the Nadaam festival, overwhelming Mongolia’s few airlines and hotels.

Wrestling at the Nadaam Festival. Nikon D300, 80-400mm at 230mm, 1/200 f/7.1, ISO 200.


Best Memories

The khoomii, or throat singing.

Forgetables
Mongolian food (with the exception of Khuushuur) and no, Mongolian Barbeque is NOT Mongolian food.

Jasmine munching on a Khuushuur at the Nadaam Festival in UB.