this morning i went and watched my 5th boston marathon (past years: 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008). i do it just to see the spectacle, but it's also a good venue to practice my photography. temperature was overcasted and in the 40's, but with no threat of rain until later in the evening. i watched the start of the women's elite on WBZ before leaving the house around 10:30. i arrived in newton about 11:00, parked on garner street and walked to commonwealth avenue. the first women runners wouldn't arrive until 11:20, but the wheelchair racers were already going by.

the first women group arrived at 11:32, followed by the first of the elite men at 11:39. the women frontrunners moved in a tight pack, while the men were staggered, the frontrunner deriba merga all by himself in the lead (he'd end up winning the marathon). i always stand at the same place, in the middle of heartbreak hill looking down. my view kept getting blocked, so i decided to move further up the hill, until i was on the descent side over the summit. i found a great spot, on the slope below a tree, behind some police tape. i took about 300 photos on the ascent and 1200 more at my new location.

seeing the marathon is as much about photo practice as it is people watching. i shot entirely with my canon 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS telephoto lens. a while back i figured out the sweet spot for that lens is f8, so that's what i had the aperture set to in aperture priority mode. the day was that diffused overcast lighting that supposedly photographers love. i still prefer a nice sunny day but the greyness did diminish about high contrast bright and shadow issues i noticed from last year's marathon (i.e. all the runners had their faces in the shadows because the sun was behind them as they ran from west to east). it was bright enough that i could've gotten away with ISO 100 but i bumped it up to 200 for a slightly faster shutter speed.

i removed the polarizing filter that i normally keep on the lens, since there wasn't any glare issues, and i also wanted the maximum light input without having to pass through a filter. i realized midway through the shooting that i had the autofocus set to one shot. the problem with that is since the runners are moving towards me, i lose focus immediately after the first shot. it was after i switched to servo AI autofocus did i start getting clear photos in a series, regardless of where the runner was. the one thing i didn't do was set the image stabilizing mode of the lens to mode 2, which is the mode for moving objects. fortunately this weekend there's the greek independence parade in boston, so i'll get to do some more practicing shooting.

i left around 2:00, finally had enough of the marathon. my feet were starting to hurt anyway, and i still had some stuff to do in belmont.

when i arrived at my parents' place, hailey was locked inside the house while outside in the backyard my father was cutting the longer branches into short pieces with a table saw. for the most part he'd cleaned up all the branches from last monday and bundled them up neatly on the curb for recycling. we decided to finish cutting down the maple and chop off the last three remaining branches. unfortunately these were large branches, each one about 25+ long.

the first one we spent some time tying a rope to the top so while father cut with the extendable chainsaw i could put it in my direction away from the fences. we had a hard time getting the rope through a crook in the tree, until i decided to tie one end of the rope to a rubber dog toy shaped like a ball with a round handle. as wood chips rained down as my father continued to cut deeper and deeper into the branch, i could feel the rope getting tighter and harder to hold (i was wearing gloves and had the rope wrapped around my back). suddenly there was a cracking sound as the branch split from the tree trunk and came crashing down, breaking off a few branches of a nearby evergreen. the rope had snapped at that point and i was thrown backwards onto the ground. other than that, no other damages, a successful takedown.

my father stood on top of a ladder to trim parts of the second branch so it'd be more manageable. all i could do was clear the area below so it wouldn't smash anything when it came down. when one particularly large branch fell, it did something expected: it sort of sprung on its crown and then the sharp splinter of where it cracked bounced right back to where my father was standing, narrowly missing impaling his head by mere inches. it all happened so fast, all i could do was just stand there and watch as the fallen branch almost killed my father.

the third and last branch we decided to use the rope again to pull it away from the fence. that one was the easiest to remove, but it landed so hard onto the ground, i could've sworn i felt the lawn shake.

we spent the rest of the day disassembling the branches into smaller parts. even then it was just too much to do all in one more, and my father had already done it all before cleaning up the wood piles from last week.

after dinner, i returned to cambridge, a slight drizzle already started. each raindrop hitting my bare face felt like the snap of a rubberband. it made me want to rush home but i still had to be careful because the roads could be slippery. since there was street cleaning on my road tomorrow, all the safe parking spots had been taken. i ended up stashing the bike a block away, and then going back again to put the cover over it as it started to rain throughout the night.