Saturday, January 19, 2008

Brand new camera

Date: Jan. 18 and 19
Mileage: 36.6 and 54.5
January mileage: 445.4
Hours: 3:00 (plus 3:00 at the gym) yesterday and 4:30 today
Temperature upon departure: 39 and 28
Precipitation: 1.61 inches!!! (All rain, all yesterday.)

Last week, I received an e-mail from Stephanie at Olympus. She told me she had looked at my blog, enjoyed the cycling/photography concept, and just happened to have in mind the perfect camera for me: The Olympus Stylus 770 SW. She told me she would send me one, no strings attached ... I'm sure knowing that any blogger is going to brag publicly about free gear. But what she didn't know is that I already owned an older version of this exact camera, and had been abusing it quite heavily since April. Even after I told her so, she didn't withdraw her offer. "You'll like to new version," she told me. "This one is freezeproof."

Mendenhall Lake

The sparkling new silver camera came in the mail on Thursday. Today I took it on its first ride. Not a bad day for a first shoot, and not a bad little camera. I don't have an memory card yet, and the internal memory limited me to 11 pictures. I decided this was a good thing, because I was aiming for a long ride, and I wanted to keep moving. Instead, I spent way too much time during my ride self-editing my photos. Definitely an amazing, beautiful day.

Auke Bay, with enough steam to show that is really is somewhat cold out.

Juneau had its first sunlight in nine days, coming off a string of some of the crappiest weather January can conjure. I've had people tell me they'd prefer cold winter rain to subzero temperatures. I can't even fathom that. Subzero, rare as it is here, brings all that crisp dry air and clear skies. Dress for it right, and this kind of weather is both comfortable and exciting. Rain and temperatures in the 30s, on the other hand, can only mean one thing to me as a cyclist: That I'm going to be really wet, and really miserable, and I'm eventually going to be really cold no matter what I do.

Tee Harbor

Friday was one of those "put your head down and ride" kind of days. In continuously heavy rain, especially with the kind of flooding we get against the snowpack, it only takes about a half hour for my outer "waterproof" clothing barrier to be broken. After one hour, I'm soaked through and through. And that's the way I have to ride, in temperatures in the high 30s, a 15-20 mph wind and windchills hovering between 20 and 25, for as many hours as I can endure it. I can usually hold out about three hours without completely changing my clothing. But by the end of the ride, especially if I make a single stop or, as I did yesterday, slow for a while to talk to Geoff as he runs, I usually have to spend the last half hour of the ride racked with chills, hating every minute of my miserable existence. Maybe weeks of unbroken subzero temperatures would teach me differently, but until then, there is no weather I hate more than cold rain.

SPRING! (Not really, but it doesn't take much to coax a little green around here.)

But today! Today was exactly the shot I needed. Blazing sun and temps just cold enough to refreeze all the slop. I'm on day three of my current long training push ... exercising about five hours each in four consecutive days (a little short today, a little long yesterday.) Either way, it eats up a lot of time. Geoff is training at a similar level right now, and between us, we're putting in more than a full-time job's worth of hours in the selfish pursuit of fitness. We've had to make more and more concessions in the things we normally do just to clear up the time. One of the things we've given up is grocery shopping. I thought it was pretty funny when I was eating frozen ravioli two nights in a row and spooning peanut butter out of a jar for lunch. But I think we've both started to run a bit of a calorie deficit (go figure ... keeping food out of the house is a good way to go on a diet.) I stood on the scale at the gym yesterday and learned I weigh five pounds less than I did at this time last year. No necessarily a bad thing, but I was just beginning to think that a little extra pudge might even pay off during the Ultrasport. Because there's no way I'll avoid running a calorie deficit in that event, and it's not like I'll even notice a little extra junk in the trunk once I slog out there with 60 pounds of bike and gear. This is the excuse I've drummed up to hit the ice cream ... if only we had some.

Auke Lake with Mount McGinnis in the background.

But where was I? Oh yes, the Stylus 770 SW. I had great fun with it on this sunny, beautiful day. Miles and miles of rubbing up against Power Bars in my pocket has scratched my old Olympus's viewing screen to the point of abstraction. This camera's screen was crystal clear. I am excited to test out its "freezeproof" claims. I already know it's basically bombproof. In August, I inadvertently used my old camera to break a rather rocky fall off my mountain bike, landing directly on the hip pocket that held the camera. I put a gouge in the casing nearly a millimeter deep, but the camera didn't even flicker. The Stylus 770 SW is waterproof, too. It's definitely not a top-of-the-line, professional camera. But I think pro cameras really aren't practical for cyclists. Cyclists need something small, something simple, and something that can endure a 15-foot huck off a gnarly cliff and still take pictures at the bottom. If National Geographic ever comes knocking, I'll go buy something with a zoom lens.

This little point-and-shoot Stylus really is the perfect camera for me. I'm not just being a shill by saying that. I bought the same camera long before Olympus volunteered to sponsor my blog efforts. Does a comped camera make me a sponsored photographer? I guess this is my blog, so I say it does. Be sure to click on the Olympus logo in the sidebar. Yeah Olympus!


  1. the website claims is freeze proof to -14 f. shock proof at 5 ft, water proof to 33 ft, crush proof to 220lbf. not bad for a little camera. And it means more wonderful pictures. Dont get me wrong i like your writing, but i LOVE your pictures.

  2. You didn't need a new camera - the pictures you were taking with the old one were great! I have an Olympus Evolt 500 dSLR and LOVE it. It makes taking great pictures easy. I just happened upon your blog this morning and I've been reading posts all day. Thank you for showing us some wonderful pictures and opening yourself up to strangers (all the way across the world - I'm currently in Bosnia).

  3. I use a plastic cover that protects the writing suface of my Palm device to save the display from scratching. Keep up the fine work.
    JT from S.F.

  4. Jill, that's great news. Your older Olympus was excellent, and this new one continues that tradition. So far the photos are superb, sharpness good, color GREAT. It's really the perfect camera for you.

    About the cold weather limits, the website says +14 but I believe they are being conservative because because of their specs regarding shockproofing. After all, if you were to drop the camera at -14, (or colder) the damn thing might shatter into sparkly little pieces. So it will work in colder temps, but I wouldn't let it fall onto a frozen lake. Battery issues are another issue.

    You have one month to get fat, or at least put on a little extra insulation. You might want to eat more meat rather then ice cream. Sugar buzzed headaches won't do you any good, and will probably mess up your sleep too. Just say no to Diabetic Coma's.

    Say, we've got your Alaska weather here in the mid-west (as you've heard from Vito and others) Why don't you buzz on down for some 50 below fun? North of Chicago, it's a mear six below zero this morning but sunny, so I'm going to head out for a short jaunt. I know I will return home frozen to the bone and in AWE of your upcoming adventure. You, Geoff and the others in the race are downright ... well, crazy but in the best sense of that word.

    Wishing you all the best~ dave

  5. Free stuff good!

    I like the shockproof feature. I've dropped my camera a few times. It didn't come out of it unscathed.

  6. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better. You're one of the best. Keep feeding me the eye candy. I'm hooked.

  7. Frozen ravioli? Peanut butter? Jill, your mother Knows it? Seriosly, the first thing you have to do to cicly so much is eat well!

  8. Congrats on the camera! I've been using the Olympus all-weather cameras for years. I started out with a film one, then I had the digital 410. Now I have a 750. None of them are as bomb proof as the 770 but all 3 of them are still working. I haven't taken any big falls on them although the 410 has a gouge in the case.

    I always say I'd rather take pictures of great places with a camera I can put in my pocket than great pictures of the boring places I'm willing to drag a big, fancy camera.

  9. Wow. I'm impressed. That company is smart to let you show off what the camera can do. Thanks for the demonstrations. I blog up in Fairbanks and I need a new camera for my outdoor adventures. Indoor, too. What I want to know is, does it take good close ups?

  10. I really enjoyed your photos once again. What is the glove accessibility factor of the camera? Is it easy to use with mits?

  11. Great photos. Can I save them im my pc?
    I`m from Cape Verde and I believe the real thing it`s amazing.

  12. solid! I just got that camera a few weeks ago too. it's my 4th olympus. I tested it out its waterproofness yesterday while kayaking. works as advertised! keep the good pics coming...

  13. Congratulations, Jill!!! Way to go Olympus!!! I know what I'll be looking for next year when I'll be buying a new camera! Thanks for the great blog and pictures, Jill!

    Mellan :)

  14. Congrats Jill, well deserved! A good knock-around P&S is worth a lot and your pics are awesome.

    I like my 'it-shall-remain-nameless P&S camera'. Last spring I was pre-riding the Koko with jj forging ahead of me. As the sun rose I spotted a great shot and while still riding, pulled the camera out. I managed to take some no hands on the handlebar pics just before the front wheel hit a rut and I was unceremoniously thrown to the ground. The still 'On' camera leaped from my hands and landed with a puff in ankle deep dust and sand about 20 feet away. Ugh!

    I used that camera today. One half of the lens cover doesn't ever close but it still works great otherwise!


  15. Jill, the camera is nice to get ... but remember it's not about the camera. I've been teaching high school photography for 15 years and the best work is always due to the eye, not the camera. Now after saying that, I'm still thankful you received it, and it will make you a better photographer! Your success can be attributed to your hard work. By the way, I like how you shoot into the sun.

  16. Beautiful pictures and great camera.

  17. oh, those pictures are so beautiful! that camera is amazing.

  18. Wild...I have been leaning toward the very same Olympus model to stash in my pocket during mountain biking and snowboarding. Basically, I don't think I'd ever dish out as much abuse as you do, so if it works for you, I'm sure it will work for me.

    Why don't you just email back that Olympus chick and tell her that "free camera" she sent has tipped the scale for a blog reader to buy one!

  19. Thank you, all! I really am an advocate of this camera, and have been since I accidentally dropped it into a shallow end of Dredge Lake in June (this was before the crushing mountain bike fall I took in August.) It really does take quality true-to-color and true-to-light pictures, especially for its size, price and perks. I think it's a 7.1 megapixel.

    Theresa, I would say its close-up potential is typical of autofocus point-and-shoots. Stand any closer than four feet from your subject, and the image will begin to look fuzzy. But not bad. I think a good example is the picture I took of my cat a few days back. I was holding the camera about two feet over her at the time. This was with my old camera, but I imagine the new one performs about the same.

    Also, there's not much zoom. The digital zoom is only a path to pixelation, and the manual zoom doesn't go too far. I think this has been obvious in all of my wildlife shots, where the animals look like little black dots. But I think that's forgivable in a bombproof camera like this. It's like that old adage about the dancing bear ... the amazing thing is that the bear dances, not that it dances well.

  20. Thanks, Jill. I really appreciate the feedback. Your blog is rocking. Love the pics and descriptions of your cycling adventures. Makes me wanna get some fat cat tires. Hopefully my son will be a cycling fool this summer, now that he's four.

  21. I'm coming out of lurk mode to say those are some spectacular photos. I wish I had blogger friends like Steph. :P

    Returning to the shadows to continue enjoying the blog. ;)

  22. Hello Jill,
    Your picture of Auke Lake and your stories of winter biking made me soooo homesick.
    I grew up in Juneau and used to love to ride my motocross motorcycle in the winter. We used to put long wood screws through the "knobs" on our "knobbie" tires then ride on the ice on Auke Lake. We would be going flat out at about 60+ MPH then gradually lean into a corner, crank on the gas and keep leaning until the wheels slid out from under us. Then hold on tight and hold the bike so that nothing caught. At that speed you can imagine the thrill and the sensation of sliding across the ice engulfed in flying snow. Amazingly, we never did get hurt. One guy's motorcycle fell through the thin ice one time though. It was close to the shore. He actually went and got a rope and dove in and hooked the bike and we pulled it out. Thanks for your blog which triggered some great memories.
    Victor Paulson


Feedback is always appreciated!