I have witnessed and participated in many events along the LA River, but covering and photographing the 1st Annual LA River Boat Race this last Saturday was pretty special. It was historic, it was also loads of fun – the broad grins and/or determined looks on the competitor’s faces as they splashed and shot through the small whitewater rapids would attest to that.

1st annual LA River Boat Race was held on August 30, 2014

The 3/4 mile course was located along a stretch of the river along the Glendale Narrows in the Elysian Valley. Almost a 100 participants competed in a variety of classifications that included Men’s and Women’s Advanced, Intermediate and Beginners as well as Youth, +50, Tandem and Stand-Up Paddle boat.

1st annual LA River Boat Race was held on August 30, 2014

Council member Tom LaBonge acted as MC and official race starter and Ed Begley Jr. kicked off the race as the first participant, which had racers going down the course solo and racing against the clock. The race was organized by L.A. River Expeditions which was founded by George Wolfe who led the 2008 LA River Expedition that led to the river being classified as a navigable river by the EPA and consequently protected under the clean water Act.

1st annual LA River Boat Race was held on August 30, 2014

I was positioned most of the time at the end of the first whitewater run and by a tricky little chute that fooled a good number of people and resulted in either a nice little spill or a leaf facial by a large overhanging tree branch.

1st annual LA River Boat Race was held on August 30, 2014

Pictured below are the respective Men’s and Women’s winners: Brett Duxbury with the best overall time of 9:29 and Liz Brackbill with 10:10.

1st annual LA River Boat Race was held on August 30, 2014

1st annual LA River Boat Race was held on August 30, 2014

Next year I am chucking the heavy camera gear and taking a crack at greatness and competing, it looked like too much fun.

1st annual LA River Boat Race was held on August 30, 2014

Camera notes: I ended using only two lenses the whole time, a Canon 24-105mm and a Canon 400mm fixed lens. The latter proved invaluable and was just perfect at capturing long shots of the racers coming down the rapids. Long lenses visually compress the relationships of the subjects, making them look closer together than they really are. Add some selective focus and you have a dramatic effect that really isolates the action, perfect for sporting events. Another trick that comes in handy is switching your auto focus mode to Servo. Servo is perfect for subjects that keep changing distance. If you press the shutter release button halfway, it will track your subject as it changes distance and remain focused.

2 Responses to A Day at the Races

  1. Cliff Stanley says:

    Looks fun and great shots as always. Maybe I’ll get a kayak, start training, and join you next year in the water (with some waterproof photo gear, naturally.)Thanks also for photo tips. Never knew what “servo” was. Now I have to see if our (decidedly amateur) DSLR has that setting.

  2. George says:

    Nice piece, Peter. Love your work! It’s rare that you find someone with a visual sensibility who can also write something as thoughtful as this.

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