Wednesday, August 31, 2011

To canoe or cannot. The 2011 Mississippi River Challenge

I was invited back to shoot the 2011 iteration of the Mississippi River Challenge, put on by my friends at the Friends of the Mississippi River to raise money for their conservation efforts.
I had a blast shooting the event last year, and this year had some ideas I couldn't wait to put into action on the river. The forecast was for excellent weather, and with more than 350 paddlers, there wasn't going to be any shortage of experiences to capture.
The event started bring and early Saturday morning at Coon Rapids dam, and due to the unseasonably high water levels, the swift current ensured that paddlers were almost always ahead of schedule! It was a long day running up and down the river trying to catch the leaders, the middle pack, and the trailing boats.
Last year I snapped some of my favorite photos of the event from the Stone Arch Bridge as the paddlers went through the locks at Upper St. Anthony Falls, and this year I figured I could do better, and I did. Thanks to Gary and John of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I was able to get up on top of the locks themselves during the process, and captured a number of unique images from there. Plus I got to spend the time between groups in their air-conditioned office!

One of the most interesting parts of the trip is the finish at Grey Cloud Island. The mix of emotions you see among the paddlers runs the entire gamut, from elation to exhaustion, or even a blend of both. This little girl was waiting for mom to appear on the horizon and was plainly thrilled to see her after her weekend away.
This father/daughter duo did the entire trip together, and made for many great photos along the way. In a couple more years she'll probably be a good deal more help paddling, but I don't think dad minded too much!
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