juniors take the ice

These updates from Vancouver are taking a few days each to put together, since I'm literally wading through over 1,000 images from each day. These are from Wednesday, the first day of competition at the Canadian Championships, and on this day in particular, I took over 2500 photos! Racing to the press room between events to dump memory cards, 2 GB Extreme III memory cards that only last about half an hour, constantly adjusting for the most intense arena lighting I've ever seen - plus that giant reflective white surface I love so dearly -- it's just a typical day in the life of a skating photographer.

I had a chance on Tuesday night to review my photos from practice, and I couldn't believe how overexposed they were - this usually isn't my problem when I'm shooting skating! So while Lori-Anne, host extraordinaire, chauffeured Jules & me to the arena by way of the longest drive-thru line at Starbucks that I have ever seen, I was texting the amazing and talented Michelle, who has taught me everything I know about skating photography, and most of the things I know about journalism, too. Thanks to the three-hour time difference between Vancouver and the East Coast, Michelle was around, and even though I was in the car and couldn't send her sample photos, she gave me an idea of some settings to try, and I promised I'd try to keep her updated.

The first event was the Junior Compulsory Dance. Internationally, junior ice dancers can be as old as 19 (girls) and 21 (guys), so although there's not an age limit at the national level in Canada, most of the juniors are in their teens. In the compulsory dance, all teams (19 of them, in this case) perform the same dance - they skate exactly the same steps, and the music usually rotates between three or four really cheesy tunes. For this event, the Junior CD was the Cha Cha Congelado, one of my favourite compulsories. It's sharp, the dancers wear bright colours that photograph well, and there are a lot of opportunities to get both faces in a shot. Some of the other compulsories are very difficult to photograph. Two of my favourite shots from the CCC:

Stanislavska & Fieldhouse

Anna Stanislavska & Dylan Fieldhouse were a first-year team, but they gave one of the best performances of the CCC at Canadians. Some people even thought they were undermarked, since they ended up in fourth place. I was a skating fan first, and then I became a photographer, so when I look for my best shots, I like showcasing photos where the skaters look good. There's not a thing wrong with Anna & Dylan here - toes pointed, lines matching, heads up, looking sharp. Anna's flowing orange skirt is just icing on the cake. 1/640, f/2.8, ISO 400.

Harvey & Gagnon

Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon were fifth after the CD, just behind Anna & Dylan. They'd struggled with the CD all season, but not here in their hometown! They were sharp and confident, and earned a great score. This ended up being one of my favourite pictures from the entire week. 1/640, f/2.8, ISO 400.

Harvey & Gagnon - close-up

Same picture, but a close-up, since Tarrah & Keith have such great expression. Every time they stepped on the ice during the week, they just looked so thrilled to be there.

The next event was the junior pairs short program. Junior pairs has the same age stipulations as junior dance, although I'd say that the girls tend to be quite young in junior pairs. Because it's difficult for guys to acquire the upper body strength needed for pairs when they are young, there's often quite an age gap between the two partners. Pairs is difficult for me to shoot, because it's faster and more trick-based than dance. The partners are usually less focused on looking photogenic, too, so along with some difficult focusing issues, there are often some pretty tragic facial expressions! So here's just one, my favourite from the junior pairs SP:

Jones & Jackson

Olivia Jones & Donald Jackson trained in Montréal at one of the world's most renowned training facilities for pairs. One thing I love about the pairs from St-Léonard (the town where the rink is, just outside of Montréal) is that they tend to have excellent short programs that are fun and sassy. Olivia & Don were no exception! 1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 800.

The junior dancers had to skate again on Wednesday, not that long after their compulsory dance. Dancers often get the short end of the stick, scheduling-wise. It's not uncommon for them to compete twice in a day, but that's quite rare for the other disciplines, and for whatever reasons, more often than not, it's the dancers who have to be up at 5 for official practices. Anyway, the second event of the competition for dancers is the original dance. The rhythm(s) changes each year, and this year, it was a folk/country dance. Dancers could choose the country or region that they wanted to bring to the ice, so there was a lot of variety. Three highlights:

Knippel & Britten

The "safe" approach to folk is some sort of Russian/gypsy/EasternEuropean folk dance, since this is a common rhythm for free dances. All ice dancers have at least seen it performed on the ice, and many of them have done a program to it already. I thought that Sophie Knippel & Andrew Britten had one of the strongest overall Russian folk programs in the junior event, and the judges agreed - they were 3rd in this portion of the competition. I just really like this photo, for some reason. 1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 800.

Ralph & Hill

Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill were the 2007 Novice Canadian champions, and this year, they won the junior event - this is not typical, especially in dance, but they're really that good. They chose a South African folk dance, which was an original choice, and extremely effective. They got a great response from the crowd and huge marks from the judges, placing them solidly in first. 1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 800.

Vermeulen & Doleman

This is another Russian folk dance, but I just love capturing big facial expressions like this. Maja Vermeulen & Andrew Doleman didn't have their best performance and were 9th with this dance, but you couldn't tell from this photo! 1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 800.

The fourth event of the day was the junior ladies short program. I didn't watch all of this, since I was trying to stay caught up with sending in photos (I always have great intentions on the first day!). Then, about halfway through the event, Jen & Christina arrived from Toronto, so once I got a text message saying that they were in the building, Jules & I bolted up the stairs to meet them in the concourse, and photographing junior ladies was no longer my first priority. But I did watch long enough to capture this gem:

Rebecca Addison

Now THAT is a facial expression! Rebecca Addison skated a clean short program and led the standings at the end of the first event. This photograph was snapped when she landed her final jump. 1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 800.

Next up: an in-depth look at the Yankee Polka, the senior compulsory dance.


dance practice

My first official day of photography at the 2008 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships (henceforth referred to as "Canadians") was Tuesday, a day for official practices. Since my actual assignment was for dance and I was using a rented lens, I made sure that Jules and I hit some dance practices. We were going to take a bus to Chinatown from the PNE in the middle of the afternoon, but I had to dress nicely for my assignment, so I was wearing some snazzy new brown dress shoes. Unfortunately, said snazzy new brown dress shoes could barely make it a block to Starbucks, much less to a bus stop and then around Chinatown. We ended up going back to the arena (Jules walked, I hobbled), and watched more practices until L-A got out of class and came by to get us.

The practice rink was dark, dark, dark. I never did figure out settings that would work for skating that meant photos that didn't have to be Photoshopped, but the good news is that they turned out decently after some 'shopping. Here are several of my favourite moments:

Gosselin & Lapointe

Clara Gosselin & Sébastien Lapointe weren't among the top junior teams, but they really lit up the practice rink when their free dance music started - the disco version of "Knock on Wood." I love that song. Really love that song. 1/250, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Harvey & Gagnon

Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon are one of the most improved junior teams in Canada this year. More on them some other time - I'm actually working on an article about them for ice-dance.com. I love this photo, because they're both much taller than the average junior dancers, so they have beautiful, long lines. 1/250, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Crone & Poirier

The rest of the photos are from senior-level practices. This is Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier. After winning the junior title last year, it was their first year on the senior level, and they showed up ready to impress. More on them some other time, too - I'm doing a phone interview with them this weekend in preparation for an IDC article on them, too. This photo just makes me laugh - a very intense moment in their tango free dance. 1/250, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Karam & McGrath

Siobhan Karam & Kevin O'Keefe are just so expressive. This is from their free dance, music from Notre Dame de Paris. I love how she beams, all the way up to the rafters. We were in a practice rink, so there were only about 15 rows, but you just get the impression that if they'd been in a massive arena, they'd still be able to reach someone in the top row. 1/250, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Here's where the ill-fated trip to Starbucks and aborted attempt at seeing Chinatown occurred. When we got back to the arenas, we headed over to the main arena, where the lights were on. They were the brightest I'd ever experienced, so this set is a tad overexposed. I'm glad I ran into this on a practice day, instead of at 9am the next morning for the first event!

Girard & Dougherty

Mylène Girard & Liam Dougherty are a new team that had a late start this year, but they picked up momentum heading into these championships. I don't think I sent this photo into IDC because of the blur on her skirt and hand, but I've decided that I kind of like it - it adds to their flamenco flavour. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 400.

Virtue & Moir

In a class of their own at Canadians, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir are one of the best teams in the world this year. I saw them for the first time four years ago. Then, they weren't even able to crack the top ten at the Junior World Championships. Their rise has been meteoric, and well-deserved. 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 400.

Next up: first day of competition at Canadians!


west coast dream

I was so relieved that Vancouver didn't disappoint me. You know how, sometimes, when you're so excited to see something, and the excitement just builds and builds to the point that a let-down is inevitable? Titanic was like that for me. So was Miami. But Vancouver...well, I basically fell in love with it. It's too bad that UBC doesn't want me this year, because I was ready to pack up my life and drive it across the continent without looking back. Ah well. Maybe someday. At any rate, I do hope to be back next year, if not sooner.

So here are some photographic gems from my sightseeing day in Vancouver. Meg played tour guide for us again on Monday, which ended up being one of the only days we had to enjoy the city. Tuesday-Sunday were spent at the arenas, so the rest of the highlights from my trip will be of the event. We didn't get as beautiful of a day as we did in Seattle, and there were some rainy moments, but at least the weather was tolerable, and it was still quite a bit warmer than what Michigan was getting.

Canada Place

Canada Place! It looked important, and I am a sucker for provincial flags, so I took a picture. It's at the north end of downtown, right on the water, and it's a hotel and convention centre, I believe. 1/200, f/2.8, ISO 100.

Train station

This is a rear view of the main train station in Vancouver. I love the architecture of the building, and the contrast of the trees against it, but I do wish the sky had been blue that day. 1/100, f/5.6, ISO 400.

First Canadian Starbucks

In keeping with our theme of "First Starbucks" moments, this is the first Canadian Starbucks, located inside the Vancouver train station. No themed merchandise here - just a small plaque. It's not much more than a kiosk, actually, and I didn't even get a coffee here. Something about being on vacation makes me crave lemonade, and there was a yummy juice place competing with Starbucks inside the train station, so that won. Jules did support this Starbucks, though, so I didn't feel terrible about playing paparazzi with it. 1/100, f/2.5, ISO 400.


Google helped me decide that this is St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church. It's on Nelson St. in downtown Vancouver, across the street from the Sheraton Wall Centre, which was the official hotel for the 2008 Canadian Championships, and where I stayed later in the week. I had to go there on Monday to pick up my media credential, and we did some photoshooting in the space in front of it, when there were a few moments of sunshine. 1/100, f/14, ISO 400.

Robson Street

Oh, Robson Street. We spent quite a bit of time here - including several hours in Chapters, two separate meals at Tsunami Sushi, and half an hour in Meg's car while we waited for a tow truck to jump-start it after the battery died. Here, I managed to grab a shot of the street between cars that features Lush, one of my favourite stores. 1/100, f/5.6, ISO 400.


This is why Vancouver is incredible. Seriously. This picture doesn't do it justice, but just look at that. 1/100, f/5, ISO 200.


I'm not so great at night shots, but I thought that this one turned out okay. There was a windowpane dangling above Georgia Street downtown, so we were caught in traffic for almost an hour. By the time we made it to Stanley Park, it was completely dark, so this is the best shot that I took there, unfortunately. I guess I'll just have to go back. 1/125, f/1.8, ISO 800.

Next up: first day or two of my assignment in Vancouver, so...skating! Lots of skating.


original starbucks

I was doing so well with posting every day, but then spring break happened. I've been a little busy doing some decompressing. Only a few weeks left in the semester, and I have a lot of work ahead of me, so I had to take some time to go back to Chicago, hang out with the mom, see a movie, go to the symphony, and do some shopping. I'm back in Michigan now, though, and the next couple of days are probably going to be fairly focused on schoolwork. Every second counts from now until the end of April.

When I was in elementary school, I often "compacted out" of subjects for a unite. This meant that, since I did well on the test before the material was taught, I spent a lot of time in the front hall and library of my school, doing fun research projects on topics of my choice. I don't think that was the most effective method for dealing with students who were ahead of their classmates, but I thought it was a sweet deal at the time. One of the projects that I did, in about fourth or fifth grade, was on the grand state of Washington. I've been wanting to visit ever since.

I finally had my chance in January. I spent a week in Vancouver as a writer & photographer at the 2008 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships, but since flying in and out of Seattle saved me about $300, I got to spend an afternoon in Seattle when I arrived. My best friend, Jules, went with me, and our friend Meg drove down to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to pick us up. We were there on a beautiful, sunny day - definitely a rarity, especially in January! Meg, a native Vancouverite, was a little chilly, but Jules and I are accustomed to the Michigan winter, so we walked around the city without anything heavier than a sweatshirt. Meg took us to the Pike Place Market, and we also drove by the Space Needle for a few quick photos, although we didn't go up it or anything. I try to avoid things that are taller than two stories.


Veggies! I loved walking through the market and seeing all of the bright colours. Coloured food is so fun. We ate inside the market, at one of the seafood places, and I had some pretty great fish while we watched the ferries cross Puget Sound. 1/60, f/4, ISO 400.

Green peppers

Almost good enough to eat - but I don't like peppers. They do photograph well, though. Outside of the market, there are still a lot of shops with fresh veggies out on the sidewalk. 1/400, f/2, ISO 100.


This was facing south from the market area, but I have no idea which mountain that is in the distance. Perhaps someone can help, since Wikipedia didn't do much for me. I don't know what that domed thing is, either...some sort of arena, maybe. I'm pretty useless, but I can tell you that part of the reason I like this photo so much is because I'm such a city girl and I think highways are pretty. 1/200, f/10, ISO 100.


This is just a random street near the market area in Seattle. We were taking pictures of Puget Sound and the mountains, and then when we turned around, I saw that, and thought it was pretty. 1/200, f/13, ISO 100.

Original Starbucks

This isn't much of a photo, but it represents quite a moment. Possibly the most exciting part of my day in Seattle was visiting the World's First Starbucks. Even the logo is different! I bought a special Pike Place Starbucks travel mug, and the whole experience was heartwarming. Starbucks may be just #4 on my list of favourite coffee establishments, but I still love it quite a bit. 1/800, f/2, ISO 100.

Next: the sights of Vancouver.


winter wonderland

I love winter. I really do. It's the season of cold, and snow, and ice, and all of these things mean that skating season is in full force, which I love more than anything. I love photographing kids in the snow, but when it's the day after Christmas, and the windchill is -40, I learned that my limit for standing at the bottom of a sledding hill with my camera is 30 minutes. Then I have to leave, before I get really cranky, and before my fingers freeze, break off, and make me drop my precious camera.

These were taken at the aforementioned day-after-Christmas outing with my 20D and my 200mm lens. My mom stood next me and I helped her with the settings on her point-and-shoot. It was a good time, and I'm pretty happy with my pictures. I had the camera on manual mode, and I played with the settings for the first few minutes, landing on 1/400, f/10, ISO 400. I probably could have gone down an f-stop, since I had to brighten them a little, but it was a decent effort.


Bradley, the snowboard champ! Look at how pro he looks with his hands out for a bit of balance, but not so far out as to be uncool.

Uncle Bill & Kristin

Kristin gets a push down the steep side of the hill from Daddy.


Kristin goes for a spin on the snow saucer, giggling as it turns to a stop at the bottom of the hill.


Danielle discovered that she preferred the sled with the brakes, but she was still quite brave for following the big kids down the hill!


Close-up of Bradley after a successful run. Note the super-cool transition shades!

Next up: Insanity begins as I try to condense my trip to Vancouver to cover the 2008 Canadian Figure Skating Championships into just a few posts. Eek!


and visions of sugar plums danced in their heads

There are few things in the world that are as beautiful as children at Christmas. Always an important holiday for my family, Christmas holidays were responsible for some of the best memories of my childhood, and I treasure every year that I get to spend with my cousins, watching the magic unfold. In my family, we open all of our presents from each other on Christmas Eve, after dinner, and then on Christmas morning, Santa comes for the kids. I admit, I still got a stocking on Christmas morning until I graduated from high school. I guess my grandparents didn't want to let go, since I was their only grandchild for the first 13 years of my life. Now, my grandparents are gone, but the family traditions live on. For Christmas 2007, my mom and I drove through a blizzard to her brother's house in St. Paul, Minnesota. I was still feeling awkward with my camera indoors, but I did get some nice shots of the kids. I have no idea how to remove red-eye effectively, though, so until I have time to play around with that a little more, some of these photos have red-eye. Next Christmas, the kids are opening their presents in a well-lit room if I have to bring in the floodlights myself.

Aunt Vickie & Dani

The camera settings when I took this photo were a huge mistake, but I love the expressions on their faces so much that I played with it until I salvaged something nearly decent. It could still use some editing, but I'm just glad I managed to get something out of the image at all. I don't even remember what was so funny, but that's my Aunt Vickie, one of my favourite people in the world, with her youngest daughter, Danielle (age 6). Originally - 1/160, f/1.8, ISO 800.


Bradley, age 10, is one of the most chillaxed kids I have ever known. My parents and I gave him this Devin Hester jersey, and all he said was, "Coooool." My mom was worried that she should have just gotten him a Vikings jersey, but he already has one of those, and she thought the Bears touch was neat, since it was coming from us - plus he really does think Hester is the bomb. Then he wore the jersey for two days straight, so I guess he kind of loved it after all. 1/160, f/1.8, ISO 800.


I have never before seen someone so excited about a set of cleaning supplies (toy supplies or not), but that's Danielle for you. And unlike her brother, she's always going to tell you exactly what she thinks about things. She's so silly. 1/160, f/1.8, ISO 800.


My mom and I gave Kristin, age 8, her third (third!) American Girl doll. If you're not up on your AGs, this is Addy. When I was 10, after saving my allowance for two solid years, I bought my first American Girl doll - Addy. So I was really excited that my li'l cuz wanted the same one. If she were here, little-miss-detail-oriented would want me to tell you that she made sure that Addy's eyes were looking at the camera, as well as hers. 1/100, f/1.8, ISO 800.

Next: kids! sledding!


not really home for the holidays yet

On December 22, I went to a skating show in Plymouth, MI that Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto organized as a fundraiser. Belbin & Agosto are the 2006 Olympic silver medalists in ice dance, and since they train in Canton, MI, their Home for the Holidays show featured mainly Detroit-based skaters. I decided to go at the last minute, when an impending snowstorm in SW Michigan pushed my holiday travel plans back by one day. I was able to procure a media pass so I could photograph the show, but they didn't have time for me to get any interviews with the skaters - so they said.

I went with my best friend, Jules, and we a couple of people in the show - from being around skating events and such. We wanted to say hi to them, and since we saw some of the skaters dashing around the concourse (there was both an afternoon show and an evening show - we were at the afternoon show, so this anecdote takes place between shows), we tried to play it cool and hang around. Well, after about 10 mins, when there was no sign of anyone we knew well enough for chat, we decided to peace out. I saw an "exit" sign at one of the arena and realized that if this was, in fact, a door, then it would dump us out a lot closer to my car than the main door would. So we went through the door, around a corner, and right into the room where the skaters were having some dinner. Instant backstage access, and we weren't even trying. So we chatted, I got some quotes for my article, and then the real fun started when we decided to hit the mall, not factoring in the fact that it was the Saturday before Christmas until we started wondering why there weren't any parking spaces.

Home for the Holidays 2007 was my second endeavour into using my 20D in show lighting with coloured spotlights. I got mixed results. Plus, I wasn't too happy with the angle I had during the first half that featured the heads of the people in front of me, unless I wanted to stand the whole time, so I moved for the second half. I liked where I was sitting for the second half until I got the memory card home and looked at my shots. With teams, the best shots usually have both faces in them, but when you're sitting on the end, you don't get a lot of those. Oups. Lesson learned. On to the photos - only four this time.

Samuelson & Bates

This is one of my favourite photos from the show, and it was in one of the first numbers. I don't want to say everything went downhill from there, but maybe it did! Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates train in Ann Arbor, MI, and they were the 2007 U.S. dance champions on the junior level. About two months after this photo was taken, they became junior world champions. This program was sweet, and it featured a lot of innovative moves like this one. 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Cirque Hoop

The show featured one Cirque du Soleil-esque number in each half. In the first half, two acrobats did crazy acrobatic things in a hoop suspended over the ice - with no mats, no pads. It was terrifying, but it made for some neat shots. 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Chock & Zuerlein

Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein were one of my favourite discoveries of the year. I saw them for the first time in August 2007. They have great charisma for a young team, especially one that has only been together for two seasons. A month after this show, they won the junior bronze medal in dance at the 2008 U.S. Championships. They train in Canton, at the same rink as Belbin & Agosto. 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Davis & White

Another team from the rink in Canton, Meryl Davis & Charlie White are one of my favourite dance teams, and I was thrilled to have the chance to photograph them for the first time. Unfortunately, they skated in the second half, when I was sitting on the end of the rink, so I have a lot of photos where Meryl looks great or Charlie looks great, but very few where they both look great. In this photo, for example, Charlie does not necessarily look great, but I think his expression kind of adds to the shot. I like it, anyway. Once again, 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Read or view more of the show here.

Next time: Christmas and the return of those cute kids from my last post!


beginning to look a bit like christmas

I was an only grandchild until I was 13. While I enjoyed the way my grandparents loved to spoil me, family gatherings were always a little lonely, so by the time my uncle's first child was born, I was thrilled about the new additions. My cousins are the closest things I have to siblings; my aunt & uncle are like second parents to me. The problem is that they're in Minnesota, and I'm in Michigan, so I don't get to see them more than a few times a year, if I'm lucky. 2007 was a lucky year - I saw them in September, and then I visited twice in December - once to see the girls in The Nutcracker (Kristin was an angel; Dani was the "clapping mouse") and once at Christmas. These photos are from the first trip, only a week before my mom and I returned for the holiday.


Bradley (age 10), Kristin (age 8), and a friend, Samuel (age circa 5), spent about half an hour one afternoon sledding down a gentle slope in the backyard. Estimated angle of slope: 10 degrees, tops. They didn't care, though. 1/200, f/14, ISO 200.


Sometimes, the best part of sledding is falling off the sled - on purpose. They kept hoping I would chuck my camera aside and join them, but I couldn't make them understand that when I get cold and wet, I turn into my evil twin. No one wants that. 1/200, f/14, ISO 200.


This is Hannah, younger sister of the aforementioned Samuel. My aunt was technically babysitting these kids for her friend, but for most of the time that Hannah was awake, I was helping my cousins pretend to babysit her. I also got some great photos of her, although I still haven't figured out how to work with the lighting (or lack thereof) in my aunt & uncle's house. 1/100, f/1.8, ISO 1600.

gingerbread house

I was put in charge of supervising the annual creation of the gingerbread house. Please don't ever make me frost one of these again. But once I got the roof frosted without throwing the the house through the sliding glass door in the kitchen, and once the kids stopped telling me, "Melanie, you're not good at this; Mommy can do it better," they had a great time finishing the decorations. It even turned out kind of cute. This is my favourite photo from the gingerbread house shoot, because of the way that Dani (age 6) is holding her brother's arm - totally candid. 1/100, f/3.5, ISO 800.


So the kids don't usually listen to me when I tell them to ignore my camera. Most of the time, I get cheesy grins and bunny ears. But sometimes, I get gems like this, while we were frosting Christmas cookies. (My aunt bakes a lot. She's not related to my mom and I.) I have a bad habit of aiming my camera toward their patio door, so the lighting on this isn't what I'd like it to be, but I'm trying to embrace it. 1/100, f/3.5, ISO 400.

Next time: probably another skating show, actually. I'm getting so predictable. But at least I'm really on the ball with the updates, and soon I'll be caught up, and then I can start taking pictures of random things again.


challenge me this

In December, I covered some of Skate Canada's Challenges for ice-dance.com, which are Canada's version of U.S. Figure Skating's sectionals, which I covered two entries before this one. Like the USFS sectionals, Challenge is the qualifying event for the national championships in Canada. There are all kinds of complicated formulas to decide who gets to go to nationals, so I won't bore you with that. The point is that I took some sweet photos, and at this event, I finally embraced the manual setting mode on my Canon 20D. I also figured out how to use it, which led to the embrace of it. Since Canada holds all of its Challenge events for the entire country in one place, over five days, the younger kids generally get tossed into these really tragically-lit rinks, and since I was covering all of the dance events that I could for IDC, I had to deal with some really tragic lighting. Some experiments worked out better than others.

I've got ten photos I want to share from this event, so grab a snack if you think you might need one and get comfortable. You know how I get when I start talking about skating.

Karam & O'Keefe

I had a presentation at school in the afternoon in Michigan, so I left right from school for Mississauga, ON, where the event was being held. The goal: get to the arena in time for Siobhan & Kevin's original dance. This photo: Siobhan Karam & Kevin O'Keefe's original dance. Success! Their Irish folk dance to music from "Lord of the Dance" has been one of my favourite ODs of the season. This dress is also magical. Trust me. It's amazing. Siobhan & Kevin ended up winning the senior dance event, which obviously qualified them for the Canadian Championships. Oh, and this was when I was having serious issues with the settings on my camera and before I learned how to put it in manual mode, so...I almost don't want to write the numbers, but I will, with the disclaimer that this is not how you take good skating photos! 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 1600.

Paul & Cheperdak

Alexandra Paul & Jason Cheperdak finished 1st in novice dance at Western Challenge, sending them to nationals. Their free dance was one of the big surprises of the weekend for me - I wasn't expecting a novice team to be that good! This photo, however, is from their Starlight Waltz compulsory dance. When shooting a bunch of compulsory dances in a row, when every team does the same steps, I like to challenge myself to get a specific shot that might happen quickly or be at an odd angle. For the Starlight Waltz, I kept trying to get this shot. Alexandra & Jason's turned out the best, despite being in a tragically-lit rink. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Duhamel & Buntin

Pairs are difficult for me to shoot, since they're often not as close together as dancers, and since I have the most practice with dance. The only pairs event I caught at Challenge was the senior free program, and this is Meagan Duhamel & Craig Buntin, who finished first. They'd already been given a bye to nationals, but they chose to compete here as a test-run for nationals. Their strategy paid off - they finished 3rd at nationals and were named to the team heading to the World Championships this month. This photo is of their spiral sequence. Craig probably has the best spiral position of all the male pairs skaters in the world. 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 800.


I love playing around with close-ups when shooting skating. The traditional skating photo has all hands and all skates in it, but since I'm usually working with a fixed 200mm lens, this is not always possible, so I've learned to love my close-ups. This is from Myriane Samson's free program to Memoirs from a Geisha. I just love the fanning. Myriane finished sixth here, which gave her a chance to compete at nationals. 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 800. MANUAL MODE yessss!


Dylan Moscovitch's free program is a hoot and kind of brilliant. It spoofs a lot of well-known skaters, and he keeps the crowd laughing while managing to hit some triple jumps. He narrowly missed qualifying for nationals in singles, but he did get to go in the pairs event, where he skates with his younger sister. The standing ovation for this "Robin Hood" program began about 20 seconds before it was even over. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 800.


Fedor Andreev is a national medalist, but he retired from competitive skating in 2005 to concentrate on things like modeling and racing fast cars in Hong Kong, or something. When it was announced that he was making a comeback this year, very few took him seriously - we'd heard similar rumours before. But when he showed up at Challenge with clean triple Axels and passion in his performance, I was glad that the rumours turned out to be true. He won this event by 15 points. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 800.


Since I was covering this for IDC, I did a lot of running between rinks at the Hershey Centre. In fact, I only watched half of Fedor's program, and then I sprinted back to the smaller rinks at the opposite end of the building to continue photographing the pre-novice free dance. Pilar & Leonardo Maekawa skated pretty well, but the important thing is that she gets this fabulous swirl effect with her skirt when they hit their final pose. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 800. Heavily photoshopped, because I forgot to change the ISO for the small, tragically-lit rink when I sprinted back from the main arena.


Okay, this was the #1 surprise of the weekend. Michaela & Scott Botsford are a pre-novice dance team, and pre-novice free dances are not supposed to be this creative, or interesting, or set to music like "Ramalama" by Roisin Murphy. This was awesome. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 1600.


And one more photo from the pre-novice free dance! Sarah Aghai & Peter Ahluwalia jumped from fifth to second with this modern tango free dance. I just love their smiles here - it was obvious that they knew that they were skating their best. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 1600.


The last event that I watched was the senior free dance, which was a lot of fun. Lauren Senft & Augie Hill's free dance to music from Chicago was fun and sassy, and it secured third place for them. I just really wanted to post a photo of them, because Lauren is always so sweet when we see her at events. 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 800.

And if you are dying for more photos or would like to read more technical analyses of the events, they're here.

Next time: cute kids!