IndyVoices

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Local game designer aims to make a splash with combat game and graphic novel

Posted By on Sat, Oct 29, 2016 at 8:22 AM

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The explosion of new board game designs has aligned perfectly with Kickstarter. With hundreds of new titles being produced a year, many a game design team has turned straight to the crowd funding site — sometimes producing runaway hits.

I found out recently that Pueblo West resident and founder of Incarnate Games, Jason Allen, had made his team’s bid for gaming stardom on Kickstarter with their new title, Ascended Kings — and an accompanying graphic novel — produced by artists who have worked on prominent DC Comics titles. I tracked him down and asked him a few questions about the game’s concept, the rich narrative universe spun around it and his plans for Incarnate Games.

Take us inside your game. What’s it about? What inspired it?
Ascended Kings literally came to me in a dream three or four years ago. I saw four heavenly, exalted warriors who were companions on a quest for a holy grail of knowledge and ultimate power. In the dream, they all entered a sepulcher full of tombs and weapons, then all the exits shut, locking them inside.

I told my roommate at the time about the dream and we got to talking about how four people on a mission who were suddenly turned against each other would make a crazy game. So we decided to make the game where two to four Ascended Kings meet in an arena. Walls of fire are closing in randomly from each of the arena’s four sides, so it’s impossible to win by “kiting” an opponent. The objective is to kill each other and take possession of magical stones called Bloodstones. It’s a battle all the way to the end.

Along the way, you get to make some very interesting choices: you can use your turn to fight or plan ahead for future moves, picking up special gems and cards that you can use in combos to help your strategy. And because you return as a Revenant with special abilities if your king is slain, you're never really out of the game.

You imagine this game as part of a bigger narrative universe. Talk about that.
Ascended Kings is to be the first installment in the Omega Mundus series. There’s a lot of imagineering around this, but the basic concept is this: The universe in which Ascended Kings takes place has a Corpus Mundus — the visible universe we’re used to — and the Pneuma Mundus, a spirit universe in a fifth dimension. The battle takes place in Pneuma Mundus.

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In the backstory, a powerful alchemist named Apsu around the Babylonian era found a continent in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that had been protected by an unknown force. This is where he met the natives and discovered Ylem — the original substance from which all things are derived. He was able to return Ylem to its place of origin, (Pneuma Mundus). In doing so, the land and natives went with it and were ascended. This land is known as Empyrnea in the game universe.

Apsu gifted four Bloodstones to each of the kings of Empyrnea — each of which presided over their own culture and belief systems — making them immortal. They ruled for thousands of years while Apsu resided in Aeterna, the capital city. Ascended Kings takes place after the death of Apsu. His death caused the Bloodstones to lose power, the kings to become mortal, and brought Empyrnea under attack.


A governing body called The Enclave has assumed power and called a secret meeting of the four kings. They have discovered a way to repower Bloodstones…with the blood of ascended kings. This cues the battle that is central to game. Whoever wins will reclaim immortality and hopefully be able to save Empyrnea. But there are some dark things going on behind the scenes that will be revealed in future experiences from Incarnate Games.

I understand you collaborated with artists that worked on prominent DC Comics titles to create the art and a companion graphic novel for the game. Tell us about that.
Ascended Kings®: The Fall of Empyrnea is a 60-page, fantasy hardcover graphic novel based on the arena combat board game and centered on the four kings of Empyrnea. The graphic novel follows each king separately before weaving the four story arcs together in an arena combat climax. Each king originates from a completely different land and culture and has dominion over a unique form of energy. We tried to add multiple layers of detail and story that ultimately make gameplay richer and more engaging.

This installment is only the first in a very large fantasy epic, which will include more graphic novels and games. We’re out to surprise people in the future and are hoping that a successful KickStarter campaign lays the cornerstone for the franchise.

The story concepts were by Jason M. Allen (me) and Nick Macari; the script was written by Nick Macari, and the artwork was illustrated by comic legends Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon, artists from A Game of Thrones and The Legend of Wonder Woman. The book is not required to play the board game, but it is a perfect companion for immersing yourself in the Ascended Kings universe!

You said you took a prototype of Ascended Kings to GenCon this summer. What was that like?
Being able to go to GenCon 2016 was a huge opportunity for us. All things considered, we did very well and had a full-size booth, life-size stand-up foamcore cut-outs of our king characters and an amazing prototype we had made through Virtual Packaging. 

We generated a lot of attention for our booth and had so many people crowding around our table to see the demo of the game that we barely had enough space! We hope to be going back for the historic 50th anniversary of GenCon 2017!

Can you tell us about some of the unexpectedly rewarding or difficult parts of the game producing process up to this point?
The most rewarding part of this process was seeing our ideas manifest into form. This is why we are called Incarnate Games and why we chose the tagline, Art into Play™. This essentially means that we focus very highly on artist autonomy while game ideas are brought from blank canvas to finished product.

It was the most amazing experience to finally hold the miniatures in my hand, which had at one point just been ideas. We went through multiple stages, from silhouettes and tonals to sketches and final illustrations to orthographics and 3D models — finally to the finished miniatures!

One of the more difficult parts was trying to avoid rework.

I imagine most Kickstarter teams have day jobs and create games on the side. Incarnate Games is a funded startup. How did that come about?
Incarnate Games, Inc. (a Colorado S-Corp) was very fortunate to obtain startup funding through private investments. I met my investor, Steve Waite, through a colleague of mine a couple years ago. I showed him my project and my plans for the future and he was very glad to support my team in our efforts to execute what we wanted to provide to the board game community.

Steve is also co-owner of Incarnate Games. While we did start with the initial funding to develop the game, we have brought the product to Kickstarter, as the manufacturing costs are significant. The Kickstarter platform offers a lot of great ways for us as creators to provide incentives to our backers while also being a great marketing tool.

Draw us an ideal picture of what Incarnate Games looks like in 2020.
The ideal scenario four years from now is to have our own brick-and-mortar studio built somewhere here in Colorado. While we have some ideas where that might be, we aren't completely decided just yet. However, in terms of development: I will be looking to build a software development team to create a platform for artists that nobody has really seen before.

Creative control in the hands of the team as a whole is a huge priority for us, and people will be able to see and experience that not only in the games and stories we release, but also for mobile games and eventual integration with emergent technologies.

Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.
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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Wiz-War: Frenetic Mayhem and Cartoonishly Fun Action

Posted By on Sun, Oct 9, 2016 at 9:41 AM

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“I’m playing Yoink on your wizard.”

“Wait…there’s actually a spell called Yoink? I thought you were kidding.”

Wiz-War, designed and self-published by Tom Jolly in the 1980s and still offered by Fantasy Flight games to this day, is spiritually closer to Tom & Jerry than Gandalf & Saruman.

The concept is simple: Up to four wizards square off in a subterranean maze. Each wizard has a home sector with two of his or her treasures in it. The winner is the first to get two victory points. You get a point if you steal one of your opponent’s treasures and bring it back to the “home square” in the center of your quadrant. You can also score a point by killing another wizard.

What happens en route to the final outcome is a bumptious see-saw of “Up yours!” and “No, up yours!” as you dash madly about the maze shooting each other with lightning bolts, casting gravity spells that make people drop their loot, turning into vicious monsters or blocking hallways with walls of bristling thorns.

You don’t have to tax your mind forming intricate, far-reaching strategies when you’re in the Wiz-War maze. It’s all about looking at the spells in your hand and making the best of them. Some turns you’ll be equipped with spells that make it a nightmare for other wizards to make a run on your quadrant. On others, you’ll turn into an offensive machine that hunts down other wizards with damaging spells. Still others will enable you to trip up enemies who are trying to run home with your loot — or help you dash in to take theirs.

There are spells that let you turn into a werewolf. Spells that let you stretch your arm down an entire hallway to grab a treasure. Spells that fill a hallway with a sandstorm that makes your opponents stagger blindly into walls while you run off the other way. And, as proof that the designer spent a good chunk of his time immersed in Warner Brothers cartoons, a spell that lets you conjure a giant hammer and conk an adjacent wizard on the gourd for massive damage.

And it all gets better when you can pull off devious spell combos. I still remember when a wizard used a combo of Astral Projection and Lightning Bolt to appear in front of an opponent, fry him with a lightning bolt that bounced off a wall to fry his opponent a second time — all while he was safely on the other side of a wall and immune to retribution.

Then there was the time a buddy cast a spell that made a wall and sealed his wizard inside a dead-end passage. “Why the hell would he do that?” I remember thinking. Then he played Swap. His wizard appeared where my wizard was standing — right next to my treasure — and stuck me behind the wall he made. The dirty son of a bitch.

A game of Wiz-War unspools in memory like a hyper-kinetic animation reel, takes about 45 minutes and produces lots of memorable scenes. A couple pieces of advice for the curious:

• This game can be played with 2-4 people, but you really want to play it with four. That’s when it sings, maximizing its potential for chaotic fun.

• There are different “schools” of spells; the rules recommend picking three of them to play a standard game. At one point, we just shuffled all of them into a massive pile, which I highly recommend doing, as it helps you learn all the spells better and creates more opportunity for killer combos.

There are other fun variants in the back of the rulebook you’ll want to check out, as they add a lot more spice that turns what would otherwise be a “just OK” game into a frenzied nail-biter.

So put on your stupid wizard hat, load up with spells and have some fun out there. You, too, may soon discover the joy of turning your wizard into the hulking Big Man and pushing your buddy into a wall of spikes you placed just for his enjoyment. Good times!

Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.
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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hope swings eternal

Posted By on Sun, Aug 21, 2016 at 10:24 AM

DFREE / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • DFree / Shutterstock.com
If you were surprised by US Women’s National Team soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo’s latest vitriolic outburst, where she took a swing (several of them actually) at the Swedish women’s na tional soccer team after they unceremoniously dumped the US team out of the Olympics, suggesting that they were "cowards" because of their style of play, then you’ve not been paying attention.

Solo’s latest hissy-fit is one in a litany of toddler-esque meltdowns spanning her career. For such a seasoned campaigner, Solo being a veteran of multiple Olympics and World Cups, an inability to rein in one’s temper at 35-years-old either suggests anger management issues, straight up ignorance, or that she knows what she’s saying is highly inflammatory but simply doesn’t care. I suspect it’s a combination of all three.

It’s not worth me running through Solo’s verbal rap sheet. Anyone with access to the internet can easily find a list of her indiscretions; from her slating both her former and fellow team mates, as well as hers and other teams' coaches. What makes this latest rage so egregious, though, is that it targets an entire national team. Way to raise the bar, Hope!

It’s troubling to lovers of "the beautiful game" that not only do her comments reflect poorly on herself, her federation and her nation, but also that they are just plain wrong. And by wrong I don’t mean her opinion isn’t valid, I mean that her statement is 100% inaccurate. When you call someone a coward, your characterization better fit the definition. Solo’s did not.

Sweden beat the US with better tactics, and better execution of THEIR game plan. Sweden demonstrated discipline, togetherness and the ability to carry out their coaches wishes to a tee. The US, for all their attempts to play a different, albeit ‘prettier’ type of game, were unable to do so successfully.

One of the things that makes soccer such a wonderful sport is that there is no one way to score a goal. There is no one way to win. Tactics, strategy, technique, mentality, physicality, opportunity, luck; they all come into play during every game to some degree. A game can be won in the first few minutes, or in the dying seconds. It can be won via a monumental team effort, or by a moment of individual genius.

Though it hurts to lose, desperately so one would imagine when competing in a tournament that you are favorites to win, acting like an infant in a post-game interview does nothing to enhance your reputation, or your team's, nor is it representative of the Olympic spirit. It’s not the way the USWNT team wants to present itself either, according to fellow veteran Megan Rapinoe.

Characterizing Solo’s comments as “very disappointing,” Rapinoe went on to say, "Let's inspire, let's be badass, let's be fierce, let's be competitive. But we're gracious and we're humble, and we play the game a certain way, whether we win or lose. We've been on the winning side quite a bit, and when we find ourselves on the other side, we need to handle that graciously, and unfortunately that wasn't the case."

Why is that so hard for Hope Solo to understand?

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or the Back Chat show on KCMJ 93.9.
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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest: A head-to-head battle for distant planets

Posted By on Sun, Jul 31, 2016 at 9:21 AM

NATE WARREN
  • Nate Warren
You’ll be forgiven for thinking what’s pictured here looks none too exciting. Just a bunch of cards, right?

Wrong. These are two factions locked in pitched battle for planets in a far-flung sector of the ludicrous and — if you are secretly 12 years old, like me — alluring universe of Warhammer 40,000.

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest puts its own spin on head-to-head strategy games like Magic: The Gathering by letting two players fight a head-to-head battle using decks of cards, each one with unique abilities that can be played at the right time or in concert with other cards to clobber your opponent.

The neat part? Unlike Magic, the makers of W40K Conquest followed the template of their other living card games (LCGs); all the army decks are available to the entire market and are released in identical sets, meaning that your kids don’t have to go broke snapping up booster packs in hopes of getting rare or unique cards.

This game sold out at Gamer’s Haven so fast two years ago that I never even got my reserved copy. A year later, I snagged one and recently spent an afternoon trying it out with two buddies. There was a nine-pound brisket in the smoker, plenty of beer and plenty of time to explore the wrinkles of this game. Yeah, we were messing a bunch of stuff up and having to check the rulebooks all the time, but we still knocked out several games that afternoon. (Since so much of what happens is determined by the ability of each card, we were always getting into weird situations that the basic rules didn’t seem to cover.)

Learning a game can be more fun than mastering it. We were in the ecstatic throes of discovery, trying our hand at commanding the six armies that come with the base set: Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tau and Imperial Guard, each one with unique cards that enable different strategies. (Once the vanilla decks get dull, there’s a guide to customizing them. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Look at all the expansions Fantasy Flight has put out since the game’s release.)

As commander of one of these factions, it’s your job to contest your opponent for control of a series of planets in the middle of the table. You take turns deploying various units and assets to one of five available planets, resolving battles and claiming victories until you’ve won battles on three planets with a matching symbol, you’ve killed your opponent’s warlord card or your opponent has exhausted his or her deck.

The fun started after we’d gotten our heads around the basic mechanics and began to discover some of the sneaky crap you can pull with these cards — and how much nuance an experienced player could put into his or her approach. We were like cubs in our first springtime, charging over one hillock only to see a new vista each time. We probably got six or seven games in. (Some of our matches were over in 20 minutes, which gave us ample opportunity to try a different army or play the same army with a slightly refined approach.)

Am I any good at this game? No. I suck. But I do know I’m going to play the bejeezus out of this thing every chance I get. If you have a head count of two and a few afternoons figuring out the wrinkles, W40K Conquest has a huge amount of strategic variety and brisk gameplay to offer.

Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.
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Friday, July 22, 2016

Local DNC (and Sanders) delegate speaks out before his journey

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 10:45 AM

MIKE MADAY
  • Mike Maday
Mike Maday, a Colorado Springs resident and prominent activist in the Democratic party, has agreed to provide the Independent with some reports next week as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

But after watching the Republicans this week, capped by Donald Trump's acceptance speech Thursday night, Maday felt compelled to file his first thoughts before making the weekend trip to Philly. His observations:

Now that the Republican National Convention dumpster fire has burned out, I’m looking forward to representing Colorado Springs as a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next week. The RNC in Cleveland was a crazy mixture of anger, hate, bigotry, disorganization and no new ideas.

Good speeches articulating a conservative vision that, by the way, I disagree with, but were clear statements of conservative principles, were ignored or booed.

In my geeky prep for the RNC, I listened to Tricky Dick Nixon’s acceptance speech from 1968 in Miami Beach and it sounded like he had the same speech writer as Trump: “I am the law and order candidate!”

Democrats get together next week to articulate a very different philosophy that supports individual freedom but also honors the importance of our obligations to each other and the fact that we are always stronger together.

Democrats have a had a very spirited nomination process. I’m looking forward to voting for Bernie Sanders at the DNC and supporting Hillary Clinton to beat Trump in the fall. While Bernie and Hillary disagreed on some issues, Democrats overwhelmingly see eye to eye on nearly all the important ones.

This is my third DNC in a row. The DNC is a lot more diverse, star-studded, intellectually stimulating and uplifting than the RNC. But the main reason those of us elected as delegates are going to Philly is to launch the effort to stop Trump and his hatred. I’m looking forward to helping with this effort, adding to my button collection and to blogging about what I see from the floor of the convention and the streets of Philly next week.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

The most important lesson in life

Posted By on Sun, Jul 10, 2016 at 9:13 AM

Judy and Gisela on their wedding day at The Edgewood Inn in Woodland Park, Colorado. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Judy and Gisela on their wedding day at The Edgewood Inn in Woodland Park, Colorado.

Ten years ago, my wife Cathy and I were enjoying dinner out with our then 18-month-old daughter Abby at Saigon Cafe downtown. Abby was sitting in a high chair, trying unsuccessfully to eat noodles and generally making a mess. She was also chatting away and being adorable.

Near the end of our meal, two ladies, Judy and Gisela, approached our table and passed a folded origami boat to our daughter. Abby was smitten. We were smitten, too. Abby’s antics had thoroughly entertained them, and they invited her to attend the Giving Tree Montessori School, a school they founded.

Judy plays the guitar and sings with the children during circle at the Giving Tree Montessori School. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Judy plays the guitar and sings with the children during circle at the Giving Tree Montessori School.

Ten years later, all three of our children have attended the Giving Tree and graduated from kindergarten there.

This summer, Cathy and I photographed Judy and Gisela's wedding at The Edgewood Inn in Woodland Park.

We celebrated with them and many other parents who enrolled their children at The Giving Tree and also became close friends with Judy and Gisela. And over the years we’ve watched our children blossom at their school.
Judy during a field trip with the kindergarten class to Mueller State Park. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Judy during a field trip with the kindergarten class to Mueller State Park.

The most important lesson Judy and Gisela's taught and modeled for our children was a very simple one — Love is love. Love for a child, love for a parent, love for a spouse — it all comes from the same place, our hearts.

And throughout our lives, love for another must be nurtured and cared for. Love, they taught, is a fundamental quality of life. It's what make us human!

I witnessed their lessons and photographed them; The peace picnic, the soup feast, the Elk watch, the camping trip, the kindergarten graduation, all were imbued with a sense loving kindness for one another.

Gisela blesses my son Jacob at his kindergarten graduation at the Giving Tree Montessori School. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Gisela blesses my son Jacob at his kindergarten graduation at the Giving Tree Montessori School.

This is what Judy and Gisela taught and it is what my children will carry with them for the rest of their lives. We are all human and we all know in our hearts how to love one another.

Colorado Springs-based wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. See his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the pages of the Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image — no more than two a week, please — to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

What have EU done for me lately?

Posted By on Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 7:21 AM

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The most significant shock waves in a generation were sent through Great Britain on Thursday, June 23rd, when the public voted on a referendum to decide if Britain were to remain in or leave the European Union (EU). Britain voted and the ‘Leave’ campaign, aka "Brexit," won out by a narrow 52 to 48 percent margin. The referendum debate was highly charged, reflected in the number of voters who participated — the highest turnout since the 1992 general election.

What were the perceived pros and cons of remaining in or leaving the EU?

The EU consists of 28 member countries who shared a single economic market, based on a standardized system of laws that apply to all of its members. EU policies and legislation, to which all member countries must adhere, aim to ensure the unrestricted movement of people, goods, services, etc. within that market. The EU also has a currency component, the Euro, though not all members use it, perhaps most notably Britain which continues to us their own currency, the Pound.

On the pro-side of the referendum house, people have argued that leaving the EU is a regressive and a damaging step for Britain in a variety of ways; affecting open trade routes and citizens' ability to travel freely through EU countries. Employees are able to live and work in EU nations, and passport-less recreational travel is easy and affordable for EU citizens.      

On the con-side, much has been said about the 350 million Pounds that Britain gives the EU every week (which the Guardian and others say is actually more like 248 million Pounds), and how that money could be better invested in the National Health Care System and other Britain-based services. These frustrations are often cited as a reason to remove Britain from outside governing influences. One can certainly sympathize with that argument when considering the US Declaration of Independence contains 1,300 words, the US Constitution 4,543, and the EU's regulations on the sale of cabbages stands at a whopping 29,911!

Though these frustrations do illicit sympathy for the "Leave" campaign, the undercurrent of racism that has characterized their movement is far more disturbing. Prominent ‘Leave’ campaigners, chief among them former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, have generated a litany of speeches, quotes and sound-bites of chest-beating nationalism. Very little consideration is given to, or compassion shown for, anyone arriving on British shores in search of a better life. The anger directed towards "those people coming over here and taking all our jobs" is tangible — sound familiar? — even to me, way over here in America.

Since the EU vote, this anger is manifesting itself in an increase in attacks on immigrants, even British citizens who happen to not look like their white countrymen. This hate has been flushed out and stoked up to a large degree by the "Leave" victory — that's what concerns me most.

It's tragically ironic that on the 100-year anniversary of one of the most infamous battle of World War 1, the Battle of the Somme, when over half a million European soldiers died in defense of an alliance of nations and shared values, Britain now appears to prefer a position of isolation over unification.

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or the Back Chat show on KCMJ 93.9.
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Sunday, June 26, 2016

On your next vacation shoot it wide

Posted By on Sun, Jun 26, 2016 at 9:34 AM

Cathy enjoys ice cream with the kids in Silverton. A wide lens allows you the room to make group shots on a bustling street. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Cathy enjoys ice cream with the kids in Silverton. A wide lens allows you the room to make group shots on a bustling street.
Vacations are a great excuse for practicing your photography. I love to travel with my family, but it can be hard bringing all of my camera equipment along. If we’re pressed for luggage space — like we were on our recent camping trip — I will bring just one lens, my wide lens.

I love to use the wide lens — typically wider than 35mm — more than any other on vacation. My go-to is a Canon 17-40mm F/4 ultra wide angle.

The reason I like shooting with this lens while on vacation is that I can easily capture a sense of place.

Moreover, I can create really interesting compositions with a wide lens — placing people and objects somewhere within the frame that draws your attention and leads you through the picture.

Last weekend, we went camping on Colorado’s Western Slope and took a drive from Ouray to Silverton. We stopped and visited the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray and saw the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad depart from Silverton.

Tourists talk with an engineer on a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad steam engine departing from Silverton. Shooting with a wide lens from far away allows me to frame the engine within the landscape; in this case a high altitude mining town with deep blue skies. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Tourists talk with an engineer on a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad steam engine departing from Silverton. Shooting with a wide lens from far away allows me to frame the engine within the landscape; in this case a high altitude mining town with deep blue skies.

I’ve selected photographs from our trip to illustrate how shooting with a wide lens works. Do you notice the objects in each image that attract your attention?

An orange door leads to an old mine along Highway 550 outside of Ouray, Colorado. Photographing with a wide lens allowed me to put the door in context with the rock face looming above it. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • An orange door leads to an old mine along Highway 550 outside of Ouray, Colorado. Photographing with a wide lens allowed me to put the door in context with the rock face looming above it.

A portrait of Cory, a steam engine engineer for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, as he waits for passengers to get on the train in Silverton, Colorado. Making portraits with a wide lens allows me to provide more context and to tell a story with a single picture. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • A portrait of Cory, a steam engine engineer for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, as he waits for passengers to get on the train in Silverton, Colorado. Making portraits with a wide lens allows me to provide more context and to tell a story with a single picture.
A family portrait of my wife Cathy with daughter Abby, 11,  and sons Harper, 8, and Jacob, 6, on the floor of the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. Photographing them with a wide lens allowed me to add a sense of scale to the picture. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • A family portrait of my wife Cathy with daughter Abby, 11, and sons Harper, 8, and Jacob, 6, on the floor of the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. Photographing them with a wide lens allowed me to add a sense of scale to the picture.

You can also use the "Rule of Thirds" to great effect with a wide angle lens. See my earlier column on this compositional rule of thumb

My sons Harper, 8, and Jacob, 6, stand on the staircase descending to the floor of the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. The staircase was almost as interesting as the waterfall and light bouncing off the walls of the canyon combined with the mist from the waterfall made for an interesting photograph. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • My sons Harper, 8, and Jacob, 6, stand on the staircase descending to the floor of the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. The staircase was almost as interesting as the waterfall and light bouncing off the walls of the canyon combined with the mist from the waterfall made for an interesting photograph.

An American black swift nest with an egg in it sits precariously on a cliffs edge at the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. I used my wide lens and composed the picture using the rule of thirds. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • An American black swift nest with an egg in it sits precariously on a cliffs edge at the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. I used my wide lens and composed the picture using the rule of thirds.

Abby holds Jacob's hand as they walk over the trellis leading from the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. The photograph conveys a sweet moment and a sense of place all in one. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Abby holds Jacob's hand as they walk over the trellis leading from the Box Canyon Waterfall in Ouray, Colorado. The photograph conveys a sweet moment and a sense of place all in one.

By shooting your vacation pictures with a wide lens and using careful composition, you can really show off the locations that you visited, and print and display your images much larger. They become works of art, rising above the typical vacation photo.

Hope this tip helps you photograph your next vacation! 

Colorado Springs-based wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. See his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the pages of the Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image — no more than two a week, please — to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.
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We can be heroes!

Posted By on Sun, Jun 26, 2016 at 5:33 AM

AUBREY TARRY
  • Aubrey Tarry
I recently stayed at the Beverly Hilton in California and had forgotten that in addition to being the home of the Golden Globes, the hotel is infamous for a bathtub, and the tragic drowning death of Whitney Houston. Houston was one of those mega celebrities loved and looked up to by so many — A hero to hordes of her most fervent fans. Very few stars seem to garner that true, sincere hero-worship, like Michael Jackson or the recently departed David Bowie.

Though these global icons are mourned by millions, fans speak of them in a much more personal nature. It may be that their music helped them connect with a larger social circle, or their unique style provided the confidence that someone needed to truly express themselves. It seems to be a common thread that the heroes we miss the most are those who, in some way shape or form, made a personal connection with us, making some lasting positive impact. I certainly had one such experience. Well, I suppose you’d call it two, interconnected experiences — and this past Father’s Day reminded me of it.

On my 13th birthday, my Grandad gave me a book of Sherlock Holmes stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I jumped into 19th century Victorian London with both feet (and eyes!) and devoured all 56 short stories and four novels in no time at all. Then, naturally, I turned my attention to the TV and movie adaptations.

To this day, Holmes remains one of the most depicted fictional characters in the movies, so finding things to watch has never been an issue. But it was the incomparable English actor Jeremy Brett who, for me, captured the character so completely. He was Holmes, my Holmes; the Holmes from the stories I’d read and re-read time and again. Brett brought the character right from the pages and was right there on my screen. Astonishing!

In 1995, just 19 episodes short of doing something that no other actor had ever done, filming the entire Conan-Doyle Holmes canon, Brett died. I was devastated. I remember vividly talking to teachers at high school about it, being inconsolable, crying. A part of me had died that day, a cherished part.

I think the reason I was so impacted by Brett’s passing was that he had been introduced to me by the greatest of all my heroes, my Grandad. With my own father being absent for much of my life, Grandad stepped into the fold — hence why every Father’s Day provides a poignant reminder of him. Quite simply, as I think back on my childhood, almost every good memory I have I associate with my Grandfather.

So whether your heroes fill stadiums around the globe and command millions of Twitter followers, or happen to be someone who personally helped you navigate your way through a difficult childhood, take a moment to appreciate them, to tell them, to thank them. Thanks, Grandad. 

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or the Back Chat show on KCMJ 93.9.
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Friday, June 10, 2016

Dominant Species: A tense and complex battle for prehistoric survival

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2016 at 5:30 AM

NATE WARREN
  • Nate Warren
One of my favorite game bloggers, Matt Drake of the now-defunct Drake's Flames, offered perhaps the most pithy insight into what makes a game good. I’m going from memory here, but Drake’s basic contention was that a good game is one where everybody cares about what’s happening on the board all the time.

This apt criteria jumped to the forefront of my mind during our last Dominant Species contest. We were at about the midpoint of the game when I realized that the table had fallen absolutely silent. Our game nights are usually marked by lots of riffing and banter and snacking and drinking, so the sudden silence was shocking. There was no sound except for the soft taps of action pawns being placed on the board. Everybody knew the stakes and was in the zone, straining to see the edge that would keep their species in the hunt for domination.

Each of our players was in charge of a whole class of animal (insect, arachnid, mammal, etc.) circa 90,000 BC, in the face of an imminent ice age. And each of those pawns they were holding in their hands could claim one of twelve different actions on the board: Your mind goes down the rabbit hole of multiplying dependencies as you decide whether to increase the kinds of food on which your animal survives, place new food types on the map, trigger population explosions or kill off competitors in hexes you occupy.

But your options aren’t limited to manipulating your animal — you can jigger the map as well, introducing new hexes to the board or expand the tundra zone that grows from the center of the board.

All of these choices — with the overlay of changing game conditions and the effect of other player choices — create many “deer in the headlights” moments. Imagine if someone rolled you out of bed and threw you, half-asleep, into a roiling mosh pit and you’ll start to get an idea of how rowdily this game stomps through your neural pathways. Dominant Species is a nasty piece of work, as you’ll discover the first time you realize that your reptiles are going to get squeezed out by rapidly breeding enemies if you don’t take two specific actions — and you’ve only got one action pawn in your hand. Or the first time somebody plays the Mass Exodus card and pushes your poor mammals into a hex where they immediately starve.

Dominant Species uses classic “Euro” worker placement and area control mechanics, but it has the soul of a wargame. It’s a brain-burn, it’s merciless, it’s intense — and glorious. At the end of a game, you really feel like you’ve really experienced something. The twelve available actions are a strategic toybox that you can use to snap together several viable strategies. Whether you discover the right combination of moves at the right time or just choke on the options is another thing altogether, but win or lose, I always finding myself trying to bookmark future variations I plan to try in the next game.

I always want a next game, because while party games and middleweight titles are great, sometimes you need to see who has the focus and chops to win a real slugfest. That's when you put Dominant Species on the table and see who has the mettle. Learning it is a project. Thinking through it is a study in focus. And winning it is an achievement.

Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.
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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Football Fairytales

Posted By on Sun, Jun 5, 2016 at 7:33 AM

Well, they did it. The fairytale came true. Leicester City F.C., in winning the English Premier League title, secured their place in the pantheon of greatest underdog achievements ever seen in the English game, or anywhere for that matter.

Alongside back-to-back European Cup winners Nottingham Forest, still the smallest club to ever win that coveted trophy, and Wimbledon, who in a little over a decade came from non-league obscurity to toppling the goliath that was Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final, and even the 1960/61 Spurs that delivered the first-ever double-winning English team, Leicester City’s name can and should be spoken with the same reverent tones.

At 5000-1 at the start of the season, having narrowly escaped relegation from the EPL the season before, Leicester City were perhaps the longest of long-shots that football has ever seen. Remarkably and, particularly after last seasons 'great escape', unimaginably they outsmarted, out-fought, often out-played and most importantly outscored the traditional giants of the English game.

As impressive as Leicester’s historic season was, there is another football fairytale that it's timely we be reminded of. On June 10th, France will host one of the most prestigious and hotly-contested international football tournaments on the planet, the European Championships. Former winners and current combatants will include international power-houses such as France, Germany, Holland, Italy and current back-to-back European champions, Spain. But the 1992 version of the competition provided the most unlikely team to ever upset the international form books — not least of all because until just 10 days prior to the tournament kicking-off the team in question, Denmark, wasn’t even in the competition!

Having failed to qualify for the tournament finishing second to Yugoslavia in qualifying, the Danish team had already disbanded for the summer, with many players reportedly sunning themselves on various exotic beaches. However, when UEFA announced that the Yugoslavian team wouldn't not be allowed to participate in the Euros due to international sanctions in place because of an armed conflict in the region, Denmark were invited to the party.

Their staunch defensive style, coupled with a swift, incisive counter-attack led by the mercurial forward, Brian Laudrup, took Denmark to the top a round-robin group consisting of Euro heavyweights England and France. The Danish players free of the shackles of expectation knocked out the reining European champions and red-hot favorites Holland. Despite bursting at the seams with Dutch skill and attacking talent, none on the Netherlands team could penetrate the barrier that was ‘The Great Dane’, reds goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. 

And so to the final, and Germany. Here the fairytale must have surely ended. Denmark had their fun but the current World Cup holders, the indomitable Germans, would undoubtedly crush the Danes and their fantastical dreams of ultimate glory. Denmark won the final 2-0, and in doing so wrote the last chapter of a fairytale the like of which one of their most famous storytelling sons, Hans Christian Andersen, would have been proud.

So can we say with complete certainty that the recent exploits of Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and the familiarly named Kasper Schmeichel surpass those of any other team in the history of the game? I think Kasper’s father, the legendary Peter, might have a thing or two to say about that.

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or the Back Chat show on KCMJ 93.9.
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Consider a first look on your wedding day

Posted By on Sun, Jun 5, 2016 at 7:27 AM

In May I photographed Ashleigh and David’s wedding at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College. Ashleigh and David are both graduates of CC and wanted to get married where they began their courtship.

Ashleigh and David also wanted to have fun on their wedding day and were not opposed to seeing each other before their ceremony. Not everyone thinks having a “first look” on your wedding day is the way to go, but I always defer to the couple to decide whether to see each other before the ceremony.

There are a couple of advantages to doing it this way, and some strong arguments for getting most of your pictures done before the day begins in earnest.

I want to start by sharing with you here what a great first look looks like:) Ashleigh and David decided to meet each other at the labyrinth just outside the chapel. I love the excitement and passion they shared with each other in these first few moments.
Ashleigh approaches David during their first look at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ashleigh approaches David during their first look at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College.

David sees Ashleigh for the first time during their first look at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • David sees Ashleigh for the first time during their first look at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College.

Ashleigh and David kiss during their first look at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ashleigh and David kiss during their first look at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College.

Ashleigh and David embrace during their first look at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ashleigh and David embrace during their first look at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College.

Now, on to the other good reasons — besides great, emotional pictures — for doing a first look.

Don’t Keep Your Guests Waiting


During my meeting with a wedding couple, they often share horror stories about photographers at other weddings they’ve attended. The story I hear the most is the 'waiting on the photographer' story. It goes something like this: “We waited an hour for the couple to arrive at their reception because the photographer took so long.” Another version of it goes like this: “I was in the wedding party and we spent so long taking pictures that we were late to the reception.” The photographer always takes the blame here. But actually, it’s the couple that made the choice to have photos taken at these times, and the consequences were that everyone ran late.

Keep Things Relaxed and Fun

I love doing portraits of the couple before their wedding ceremony because it’s more fun. When I’m pressed for time afterwards, I end up ordering rather than suggesting. To illustrate, here’s a fun photograph of Ashleigh and David. This only happened because we had the time to do it. Consider that if you make the investment in professional photography, the odds are very good that your pictures will be better if you give yourself the time to have some fun.

Ashleigh and David having fun together before their wedding ceremony. Because of time considerations, this photograph would not have happened if they had waited to do pictures after the wedding ceremony. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ashleigh and David having fun together before their wedding ceremony. Because of time considerations, this photograph would not have happened if they had waited to do pictures after the wedding ceremony.

Make A Grand Exit

Because Ashleigh and David saw each other before their ceremony they were able to make an exit in a getaway car to their reception. Consider the pictures that don’t happen because you’re taking time away from something else to do your family photographs.

Ashleigh and David make an exit to their wedding reception at The Warehouse. Making a grand exit from the chapel is difficult if you spend your time taking family pictures after the ceremony. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ashleigh and David make an exit to their wedding reception at The Warehouse. Making a grand exit from the chapel is difficult if you spend your time taking family pictures after the ceremony.

I hope these tips help you avoid the bad photography experiences I hear so much about and that you get to enjoy your wedding day that much more!

Colorado Springs-based wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. See his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the pages of the Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image — no more than two a week, please — to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.
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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Three tips for better sports pictures

Posted By on Sun, May 1, 2016 at 9:27 AM

It’s springtime and that means sports season is upon us. This year, my daughter Abby is playing on the Cheyenne Mountain Lacrosse’s 11-and-under girls team.

I alway bring a camera to her games and lately I’ve seen other parent’s doing the same — and not the phone kind of cameras — but "real" cameras with great lenses for shooting sports.

But even though parents are bringing the right equipment, I’ve noticed they're not using their equipment correctly, and might not be getting the best results.

Here are three tips for shooting sports for Mom's and Dad's who made the investment and bring the right equipment to their children’s games; namely DSLR’s with professional long lenses (like my favorite 70-200mm f2.8 lens).

Kaya makes a break with the ball. Photographing vertically isolates the player for the perfect 'hero' shot. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Kaya makes a break with the ball. Photographing vertically isolates the player for the perfect 'hero' shot.

Tip #1 Use a monopod. Long lenses made for shooting sports are super heavy. I see a lot of people walking around the sidelines with this gigantic weight hanging around their necks. It takes effort to hand-hold these lenses that are often several pounds. A monopod takes the weight off your neck and can be adjusted for either a seated or standing position. Personally, I prefer to sit in my folding chair, visit with other parents and photograph the game that way.

Analena goes for the ball. Photographing the action horizontally gets everything in the picture including the ball and the players reaching for it. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Analena goes for the ball. Photographing the action horizontally gets everything in the picture including the ball and the players reaching for it.

Tip #2 Watch the game through the viewfinder, otherwise you’ll never get the shot. There’s no point in bringing 10 pounds of gear to the game if you’re not going to use it. Many people I see on the sidelines are just carrying the camera and aren't using it. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to trudge through a parking lot to a game with my chair, a couple of kids in tow, their sports equipment and perhaps a cooler full of snacks AND bring a camera just for looks.

Kirsten in the face-off. I framed it vertically to include Pikes Peak in the background. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Kirsten in the face-off. I framed it vertically to include Pikes Peak in the background.

Tip #3 Use AI-Servo. Expensive cameras and lenses do one thing really well. They can auto focus and track the action. The auto focus feature I use the most is called AI-Servo. You can lock the focus on the player and track them through the play. It will still track them after you press the shutter so you can take multiple frames without losing focus. It’s awesome and it works. Try and it and see for yourself!

Eliza plays defense. I know I'm close enough when I can see the concentration in the player's faces. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Eliza plays defense. I know I'm close enough when I can see the concentration in the player's faces.

More tips:
• Use a fast shutter speed. The faster your shutter speed, the less likely you’re going to get blurry pictures. I prefer 1/500th of a second or faster. And, if I have to, I'll crank my ISO up to ensure that I have a fast enough shutter speed to capture the action.

Coach Lynn talks with Mimi on the sidelines. By watching the game through the viewfinder, I can capture other moments beside just the action. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Coach Lynn talks with Mimi on the sidelines. By watching the game through the viewfinder, I can capture other moments beside just the action.

• Take lots of pictures. The more pictures you take, the better chance you’re going to get a photograph you really like.

• Frame your subject correctly. Trying to get a photograph of your player all alone in that classic Heisman trophy, "hero" pose? Isolate them in a vertical frame. Want to capture the action? Shoot it horizontally.

Merrill and another teammate double-team their opponent. You can see the player's intensity in this photograph. - SEA CAYTON
  • Sea Cayton
  • Merrill and another teammate double-team their opponent. You can see the player's intensity in this photograph.

• Get close. The closer you are to the players the better chance you’re going to get a great shot. I know I’m close enough when I can clearly see the concentration on a player’s face. 

Happy Shooting!

Colorado Springs wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. You can see his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the Colorado Springs Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image - no more than two a week, please - to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

The United [super-sized] Soccer League

Posted By on Sun, Apr 24, 2016 at 8:38 AM

z.png
The United Soccer League, most typically referred to as the USL, the league the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC compete in, is currently the third-tier league of the men’s professional soccer game. Sort of. If you were to look at its stats side by side with the supposed second tier league, the North American Soccer League, or NASL, you’d probably be left a little confused. 

The NASL has a single conference encompassing the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico (1 team), for a total of 12 teams. The USL, by comparison, has two conferences, east and west, with teams drawn from the U.S. and Canada. The eastern conference sports 14 teams and the west 15, giving the USL a total of 29 teams. Although the USL has almost three times as many teams as the NASL, this comparison may not seem that important, until you consider the respective leagues growth patterns.

The modern NASL, named for but with no connection to the more illustrious league with the same namesake in the 1970s and '80s, began its inaugural season in 2011 with eight teams, growing to its current 12-team count. Some teams have folded or left the league, new teams have joined, but the overall growth comes down to just three teams in past five years. The USL was also founded in 2011 with just a handful of teams but during the same five-year period has grown to nearly 30 teams. The USL expanded by five teams since the 2015 season, and has plans to increase that number again next year.

So why is the USL growing at such a meteoric rate whilst the NASL appears to flounder? Although this new NASL shares nothing but a name with its predecessor, it has attracted some of the same marque soccer brands to its competition. What dyed-in-the-wool American soccer fan doesn’t get a little misty eyed at the mention of the New York Cosmos, once home to the legendary Pele, or the Fort Lauderdale Strikers or Tampa Bay Rowdies? But nostalgia is one thing, enticing fans to come through the turnstiles is another.

The aforementioned teams, three of the most traditionally popular in the NASL, averaged attendances of less than 5,000 per home game in 2015. The Switchbacks saw attendances of around 3,000 in 2015, their inaugural season, which was actually only about 700 less than the USL average attendance for the year.

Newer USL teams like the Switchbacks, Arizona United, Charlotte and St Louis are taking steps to swell their gates this season, whilst some freshmen teams are already putting up astonishing attendance numbers. San Antonio FC, formerly the Scorpions of the NASL, and the Switchbacks next opponents this Saturday, April 23rd, sold-out their 8,300 capacity stadium for their home opener. And FC Cincinnati in Ohio, fellow USL newbies, clocked a league record for a regular season game attendance by welcoming nearly 25,000 fans to their home kick-off! 

In addition to having more rapid team growth and greater fan numbers, the USL quite simply seem to have out-maneuvered the NASL. In 2013, the MLS, Major League Soccer, the top-tier of men’s professional soccer in the U.S., and the USL formed an agreement whereby the MLS Reserve League would integrate with the USL. The purpose of the integration is to provide more development opportunities for fledgling MLS players, but one could argue that the greater benefit has been to the USL.

The soccer icons of old — the Cosmos, the Strikers and the Rowdies — have since been replaced by new powerhouses; the Red Bulls, the Sounders, and the Galaxy. And it's the USL with those names in their corner, albeit with the number "2" after them.

Some USL fans bemoan the inclusion of these "2" teams, complaining that they aren’t "real" teams with "real" fanbases like the Switchbacks. Perhaps they’re not "real teams" by the purest definition, but they are a draw for those curious about the developing professional soccer game, and, potentially, the key to the USL rightfully replacing the NASL as the actual second-tier league in the U.S.

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or the Back Chat show on KCMJ 93.9.
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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Same Tree, Different Day: Mike Pach's photography project

Posted By on Sat, Apr 23, 2016 at 8:35 AM

A deer feeds at sunset. "Three different days I photographed the deer and they all just happened to be there. The deer were somehow in exactly the right place. I had lots of things like that happen," says Pach. - MIKE PACH
  • Mike Pach
  • A deer feeds at sunset. "Three different days I photographed the deer and they all just happened to be there. The deer were somehow in exactly the right place. I had lots of things like that happen," says Pach.
Professional photographer Mike Pach spent the last year photographing the same tree everyday and the results are breathtaking. Pach is a local photographer and host of the Photo Show, a radio show on photography 93.9-FM KCMJ.

Pach found inspiration for his project on a winter's day when he looked outside and saw a Hackberry tree in a local park, just outside of his backyard, covered in snow and ice.

Pach was inspired to take a photograph of the tree and then decided to continue photographing the scene for an entire year. The results of this year-long project can be seen at his blog Same Tree, Different Day

Each morning, Pach woke at sunrise to photograph the tree. If sunrise wasn't cooperating he spent time watching the scene throughout the day "to see what happens."

What happened included deer grazing in the perfect spot during a sunset, a moonrise over the tree on Christmas Eve and an incredible shot of lightning that drapes the tree perfectly, among others. 

A full moon rises behind the Hackberry tree on Christmas Eve.  "I knew there was going to be a full moon and I had planned to take photographs as the moon was rising," says Pach. - MIKE PACH
  • Mike Pach
  • A full moon rises behind the Hackberry tree on Christmas Eve. "I knew there was going to be a full moon and I had planned to take photographs as the moon was rising," says Pach.

"There's no manipulation in any of the three photos. There were just times when I felt a connection and I was given the perfect picture," says Pach. 

Being in an "open state" is an important part of the process. "I like to take time each day to put myself in that open state to be creative. When I practice that, these kinds of things come to me more easily." 

The project also provided Pach with the motivation to get up in the morning. Pach suffers from depression and says getting out of bed can be one of the day's biggest challenges. 

"The fact that I had to get up at sunrise was a huge thing. It really gave me something that would make me get out of bed because I was excited to see what was going on." 

A lightning storm erupts over the tree. "I couldn’t have asked for a better photo, the way the lightning drapes the tree. It was just another one of those times when I was given the perfect picture," Pach says. - MIKE PACH
  • Mike Pach
  • A lightning storm erupts over the tree. "I couldn’t have asked for a better photo, the way the lightning drapes the tree. It was just another one of those times when I was given the perfect picture," Pach says.

Most recently, Pach began an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to frame and print his favorite images and hang them in local galleries. You can contribute to his project by purchasing a print or personal instruction from Mike at his Indiegogo site here

Pach also wants to present the project, the message and the lessons he learned to anyone who's interested. 

"This project really helped me manage my life throughout the year, and I think what I've learned in doing this is that I can help others who are facing their own challenges," he says.

Colorado Springs wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. You can see his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the Colorado Springs Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image - no more than two a week, please - to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.
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