Monkey Feet

It all started on the hike to Grinnell Glacier in Montanna.  Pat and I were working our way up the mountain trail with me in my hiking boots that felt like giant led-filled balloons when we passed a couple on their way back down.  They looked impossibly fresh.  They weren’t limping.  They looked relaxed and comfortable.  As I looked down to find footing, I noticed their feet.  Low and behold, they were wearing fivefingers shoes.  I had heard of fivefingers before, but it hadn’t occurred to me people would wear them on the trail.

After limping our way back at the end of the hike with me barely able to put weight on my knees and hips, I found myself wanting to try fivefinger shoes.

When we got home, I bought a pair like the ones we saw on the trail–black neoprene.  Although I didn’t give them a true trail test for many months, they turned out to be a miracle on the treadmill.  My knees and hips felt better than they’d felt in years after the initial adjustment period.

There definitely is an adjustment period!  A whole bunch of tiny muscles in my feet and ankles had to be reborn and developed before I could walk as fast or as far as I had been walking.  But, once I’d adjusted my stride and footfall and developed weakened muscles, I was pretty sure I could walk forever without getting the shooting pains I’d become accustomed to.

Alas, the neoprene was hot.  It was hot indoors and hot in the fall and spring, but not warm enough for the colder temperatures I’d hoped to wear them in.  That led to the trekking pair.  They have a mesh weave that breathes.  Unfortunately, they weren’t made to be drug across the ground on their tops, which is exactly what happens when one is learning to hang glide, resulting in excess wear and tear.  My feet also do not like the tread on those shoes.  If I walk on hard surfaces in them, I get blisters on my big toes.

This led to the much softer and cushier black and gray pair, which I love.  However, they are a little too soft for the trail, which brings us to the orange pair.  They are supposed to have some extra support to protect against rocks.  I’m testing them tomorrow for the first time on the trail.

There are definitely tradeoffs.  Kicking a rock or stepping on something sharp feels a lot different (and not good!) in fivefinger shoes than in hiking boots.   They are also not good in cold and/or wet conditions.  My feet turned to blocks of ice on a short 2 mile walk that started off slogging through mud last November.  I was glad I’d brought my boots for the longer hike we did right after that.  For this reason, I bought a new pair of boots, too, much lighter than my previous pair.  I wish I didn’t need them.

One Light Burning

I talk Pat into sitting for me so I can play with lighting.  Having just returned from 2-for-1 margarita night at Taco Mamacitos, he’s a little more patient than usual.

I want to play with one studio light with an umbrella and I want to try a snoot.  I think it’s a life requirement to try something called a “snoot.”  How often do we get an opportunity to participate in a real-life Dr. Seuss scene?

First, I try aligning the umbrella light with the ambient light.  This is possibly because of the margaritas.  I read an article about lighting in which the photographer “chased the sunlight” with off-camera lighting, but I can’t remember why.  I decide to try it.

The shadow is unpleasant (see first photo in gallery).  Scratching my head trying to remember what conditions call for that setup, I decide to scrap that idea and move on to placing the umbrella very close to Pat at various heights and angles.  I have to move the umbrella many times.

Through this process, I learn why my “great deal” on lights may not have been such a great deal–the power goes no lower than 1/8th.  I have to move the umbrella stand further away to reduce light further, but then I don’t get the effect I want.

I play around and find that raising the light high above my head and pointing it down on Pat gives the most even lighting with a nice shadow under the chin.  However, it’s not exciting.  I play around some more.

By this time, my marriage may be in jeopardy.  I attempt to engage Pat’s inner MacGyver by asking him to make me a snoot.  A snoot is just a tube that goes around a light to basically turn it into a spot light effect.  It might have just as easily been called a snout or a spout.  Totally Dr. Seuss.

Pat, who has no interest in playing model, is more interested in thinking about creating a homemade snoot.  Pat’s idea is to get a PVC pipe, but the size we need isn’t available at the local home depot.  I suggest we create one from a cereal box, but in the end, Pat uses a piece of poster board he happens to have laying around.  This is surprisingly effective.

However, Pat doesn’t want to model anymore.  I have to move my setup to the couch so he can do some work on his laptop while I shoot.  Tisen doesn’t seem to want to model anymore than Pat does.  Add “carpool dummy” to my list of essential equipment for the aspiring photographer.

The snoot creates such tight light that Pat and Tisen don’t fit inside it together.  I’m also at the end of my leash and can’t try different angles–the cords are stretched tight.  I switch back to the umbrella to see the difference (see the last photo).

Pat and Tisen both breathe a sigh of relief when I put the camera away.