Where does a superstar antioxidant vegetable intersect with a wacky winter costume party in northern Maine?  Why at the National Toboggan Championship in Camden, Maine of course. My team, The Blind Squirrels, competed in the event for the first time a few weeks ago and it was a blast. I would point out that this is the only national championship in which a competitor needs absolutely no skills or prior experiences in the sport. We were able to compete ….well… because really the only thing we had to do to be competitive was to not fall off the toboggan, which we accomplished beautifully.

This winter’s big blizzard occurred on Saturday of the weekend schedule and probably resulted in a smaller than normal field of entrants. Nevertheless, there were approximately 400 teams entered in the two, three and four person team events.

Eat More Kale
Eat More Kale

Eat More Kale is a web site for a guy in central Vermont who started a small business printing a few T-shirts promoting the local farming movement. His shirts became popular in the local farmer’s markets and he decided to apply for a trademark for the phrase. That’s when the trouble started. He received a Cease and Desist letter from Chick Fil A who has a slogan called “Eat mor Chikin”. This dispute has now blossomed into a national story as it has been written up by the NY Times, Huffington Post and virtually every other major press outlet in the country resulting in a significant increase in notoriety and business for the fledgling company.

The Blind Squirrels
The Blind Squirrels

The Blind Squirrels are (left to right) Frank Binder, Tom Cox, Sue Guletsky and our team Captain Dave Sessions. We finished about in the middle of the pack for the three person team event and finished 56 out of 210 competitors in the four person team event.  And….we finished first in the senior category!

The Chute
The Chute

The original chute was built in 1936 in this location. Over the years there have been several rebuilds of the chute with the current chute having been built in 1990. It is 400 ft. long and rises 70 ft. The fastest sleds reach peak speeds of 40mph.

King and his Court
King and his Jesters

For a lot of contestants the event is just an excuse to use their Halloween costumes for an extra day during the year. There were some very clever costumes and these guys were among them.

The Pineapple Express
The Pineapple Express

The Pineapple Express not only looked good, but they raced well. They finished 21st in the four person team competition (one of them is missing in the photo)

Dutch National Toboggan Team with the Mayans
Dutch National Toboggan Team with the Mayans

The Dutch National Team (in blue) and the Mayans had the two most extravagant outfits in the competition. One of the DNT members lives in Maine and his three friends fly to the event from the Netherlands each year.

Fun in the Chute
Fun in the Chute

Some competitors regard the event as a serious competition and arrive at the site with a trailer load of equipment, wax, tools, and extra toboggans. Others come with little more than an old toboggan, a dream and a six-pack. Some dress up in costume, bring deck chairs and numerous six-packs and hope the competition doesn’t interrupt their fun.

The Mayans
The Mayans

This team was my pick for best get-up. Look at the make up, elaborate headgear, and jewelry!

A Young Contestant
A Young Contestant

This was a great family event and provided opportunities to photograph kids at play which is one of my favorite subjects.

Two Cuties
Two Cuties

These two young ones were working hard to build their own mini-chute.

Polar Bears going home
Polar Bears going home

Because of the big blizzard on Saturday, that day’s activities were cancelled and the event organizers had to deal with numerous scheduling issues involving teams coming from far away and the timing of the runs. They dealt with it well and even more impressive it didn’t seem to bother any of the contestants who, it seems were all able to go with the flow and have a great time. We’ll be back for the 2014 competition.

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As I noted in my previous post, 2012 Top Ten People & Animals, 2012 was a busy travel year for me with trips to Patagonia, Galapagos Islands, Acadia and the American Southwest on my itinerary. Photography travel can be a crapshoot since weather and light are such impactful variables on our quest for wonderful images and you never really know what they will be like until you arrive at your location with camera in hand. In my Patagonia journey last year, we arrived at our shooting location before sunrise to get the early light on Mt. Fitzroy and were rewarded with beautiful soft pink light on the peaks and overhanging cloud formations. Unfortunately, the winds were gusting over 50mph which made focusing the camera and keeping the camera still in order to get a crisp image virtually impossible.

Without further ado here are my 2012 top ten landscape images.

Rainbow over Mt. Fitzroy
Rainbow over Mt. Fitzroy

We spent several early mornings at this location in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina and got a number of very nice images. This rainbow appeared suddenly as we were packing up to leave and I scurried back to a proper shooting location while at the same time trying to get my tripod extended and camera out of the bag. I managed this image just before the rainbow disappeared.

Drama on Lane Pehoe
Drama on Lake Pehoe

The high velocity winds were blowing dramatic cloud formations across the horns of Torres Del Paine National park in Chile late in the afternoon. This five-minute exposure smoothed out the heavy wave action and gave the lake a satin like finish which I think works very well with the rest of the scene.

Sunset on the Glacier
Sunset on the Glacier

The Perito Moreno glacier, just outside of El Calafate, Argentina, is part of the southern Patagonian ice field situated in the Andes Mountains. The ice field spans Chile and Argentina and contains 48 glaciers. The Perito Moreno glacier is 19 miles long and 3 miles wide at the point shown in the above image and Its height (above and below the water surface) is 560 ft. or about the height of a 55 story building.

Laguna de los Tres
Lago de los Tres

This is as close as you can get to Mr. Fitzroy without donning ropes and crampons. The technical assent to climbing the mountain begins on the other side of the lake. Getting to this point for sunrise required rising at 5am, switching on our flashlights and climbing 1200ft on a trail that was very steep and covered with ice. We arrived at this vantage point about 15 minutes before sunrise and were rewarded with this beautiful light on the peaks which lasted less than 5 minutes.

The Watchman
The Watchman

This is an iconic view in Zion National Park that has been photographed millions of times from a bridge spanning the Virgin River. On an Autumn afternoon, you may see as many as 30 photographers on this bridge waiting for sunset. This peak is called the Watchman and the glow on the peak on this afternoon was particularly nice.

Sunset on Lake Viedma
Sunset on Lake Viedma

This scene is just outside of El Chalten, Argentina in Los Glaciares National Park. We were a few miles away from here and had been photographing the large cloud formation you see in the image. As the afternoon wore on it became obvious from the sun position and cloud formations that there was the possibility of an extraordinary sunset. We all clambered into our bus and raced down a dirt road to the lake and found this little stream leading into the lake, a perfect place to capture this wonderful scene.

Sunset on Cathedral Mountain
Sunset on Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain, located in Maine’s Acadia National Park, is the highest point (1500ft) on the Atlantic seaboard from Newfoundland to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s key geological feature is the pink granite dominating the entire top of the mountain.

Battenkill Farm
Battenkill Farm

File this image under the totally unexpected. It had been a terrible photographic day with blah skies,  little foliage and uninspiring scenery. I was in this location because I was scouting a covered bridge a few hundred yards up the road for a future trip. Just as I’m folding up my equipment to leave, the sky turns a glorious red. You just never know!

LIght on the Hills
LIght on the Hills

Early morning scenes in Patagonia are frequently rewarding even if they don’t turn out exactly as expected. We set up for an expected sunrise over a lake and were disappointed but looked in a different direction and found this beautiful color lighting up shafts of light on the mountainside,

Sunrise over Lagunda Nimez
Sunrise over Lagunda Nimez

Lagunda Nimez is a wildlife sanctuary in El Calafate, Argentina. I shot this image an hour before heading to the airport and it was the last photograph I made in Patagonia.

So there you have it…my ten favorite landscape images from last year. I will do very well if I capture ten images in 2013 that are as good!

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Shrewsbury, MA

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