Saturday, December 13, 2008

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge

Heading out on assignment for a client is always a thrill, but this particular trip took me 12 time zones away from home. Checkpoint Zero Adventure Racing, the leading source for adventure racing news in North America, sent me to the Middle East to cover the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge in the United Arab Emirates. The emphasis of my coverage is North American teams, so I've been spending time with teams Nike, Salomon/Crested Butte, SOLE and DART-nuun. You can read the reports I've been posting over on Checkpoint Zero by clicking here. This shot from the sand dunes near Liwa, Abu Dhabi, is typical of the terrain teams trekked through during the event. Sand, sand and more sand! Us media types were escorted through the dunes by a local 4x4 club. All the jostling led to me losing my lunch at one point! As I often say, it's not really an adventure unless you throw up at least once. So true!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Rockefeller Plaza, all Dressed Up

I'm in New York City for a few days, visiting friend Jake Bennett before I hop a plane from JFK to the Middle East. Jake's apartment is in a fabulous location for a NYC first-timer like me. He's in Midtown East, and very near a Subway station. Today he took me on a walking tour of Manhattan's famous shopping district, Fifth Avenue. I've long been a fan of Cartier wristwatches, but never seen one. That changed today, when I tried on a $10,000.00 tank watch. It felt good, but not ten grand good, so I guess I'm back to my Wengers and HighGear watches. Here's a shot I got of "30Rock," it's an actual place, not just a TV show!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

iPod Playlist Annoys Newborn

I just love photographing newborns. As a father of two, I know how fast these babies become toddlers and are swept away to kindergarten. Capturing their smallness is my contribution to a family's history.

For this shoot, after we got all the "standard" shots, I suggested something fun. Her parents are really into music -- her father plays regular gigs in Portland, Ore. -- so I snatched his iPod and headphones for this setup. The baby lasted about a minute, but we got this great shot! See? Family history. I'm sure this is the first pic her parents will show when they want to talk about the Baby Days.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Portland PRSA Draws Crowd for Spotlight Awards

Portland Oregon's chapter of the Public Relations Society of America drew a nice crowd for its annaul Spotlight Awards last night.  I was on hand as a volunteer still photographer, and my brother, David Bitton, volunteered to shoot video.  Here's the blrub from the PRSA website about the event:

PRSA-PDX's most festive and spirited gathering of the year to honor outstanding work in public relations, to recognize individuals who advance the profession and to have a great time. This annual awards program is an event not to be missed.

David and I had a great time getting to know the PR pros in attendance, especially the team from Portland General Electric, which let us sit at their table.  That's them in the photo above. Hi girls!  A complete gallery of images from the evening can be seen here.  Want to know who won and for what?  Check the results on the Portland PRSA website,

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

SCORE! Free Advice from Pros Who've Been There

Bill Rooney worked for decades in the marketing department of forest products giant Georgia-Pacific.  Today, as a volunteer for SCORE, "Counselors to America's Small Business," he listened to my plans for Bitton Communications.  He said I've got a great start, and suggested some next steps:

1) Develop an "elevator pitch," a concise story to tell people what your company does.
2) Put a short version of that pitch on the back of your business card.
3) Read a book by marketing guru Bob Bly.

I've got the elevator pitch ready.  My business cards will soon be redesigned.  And Bob Bly? Haven't gotten to that yet.  It's on my list!

Thanks for your guidance, Bill!  I'll be in touch with more questions!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

So What? He's Still a Rockstar!

This is Ryland, and he may not be a real rockstar yet, but he's gonna be. This is a shot from our recent photo session.

Ryland not only plays guitar with great precision, he sings with surprising control for a high school senior. To top it all off, he even writes his own songs. Music and lyrics both.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

An Unconventional Family Portrait

Families are chaotic. Those prim and proper family portraits, where each member of the group is perfect, are few and far between, and there's a reason why.  That's not who they are.  That's not who any of us are.

The Brown Family of Vancouver, Wash., is about to send its second son on a two-year mission to Arizona. They asked me to capture some wall-worthy images of the gang, since they won't be together again for a long time.

As with any shoot, issues come up. The light changes. Somebody can't stop giggling. Everyone gets to a point where they're ready for the shoot to be over. This family was committed to making great pictures, and we worked until we had them.

That's our approach at Bitton Communications. Whether our job is to capture family history, as it was here, or to tell client stories in the most efficient and effective ways, we don't stop until we get it right.  

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Somebody's Grandma is Gonna be Real Happy

What grandmother wouldn't burst with pride at the site of this photo of her grandson?  Visuals are a big part of what we do at Bitton Communications, and we just wrapped this shoot of the Fuger Family of Vancouver, Wash.

While this shot is destined for walls and mantles in the extended Fuger Family, our other visuals, which include still photos like this one, as well as videos, help tell the stories of our awesome clients.  Client imagry finds its way to their marketing materials, things like websites, brochures and blogs.

If you're old enough to remember the 1980s, you may recall a rebel tennis player named Andre Agassi.  Canon USA paid Agassi to endorse its Rebel camera, which carried the tag line "Image is Everything." As a marketing company, we couldn't agree more!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

'Widget' From Yahoo!'s MyBlogLog Shows you Who's Dropping by

In developing the Boy Meets Dog blog about my Autistic nephew, I've been looking for ways to track not just traffic to the page, but who is visiting the page.  It's actually pretty easy to do if a visitor has an account with the Yahoo! service called My Blog Log.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Uncle Mike Launches Dog Blog

I do a lot of blogging for the Checkpoint Zero Adventure Racing website, and its owner, Paul "Yak" Angell, tells me I've taken to blogging like a duck to water. Practice is always a good thing, so I've pitched in to create and maintain a blog for my nephew, Garrett, a 6-year-old Autistic boy. The blog, titled Boy Meets Dog, will focus on the family's efforts to pair Garrett with a service dog trained to care for Autistic children. Follow the link and tell me what you think!

Welcome to Boy Meets Dog

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Backpacking Gear Put to Test in Goat Rocks Wilderness

Photo by David Bitton

I just got back from a three-day, two-night backpacking trip in my neighborhood high country, the Cascade Range of Washington State. My brother David Bitton and I tagged along with a group of Scouts on their annual adventure trek. The trail head was Lily Basin, and the destination was Heart Lake, well within the borders of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. I decided to test some new gear on the trip. Along for the ride was:

A 3 Day Assault Pack from Mystery Ranch in Bozeman, Mont. The bag was recently put into service by the U.S. Navy SEALs.

A Stealth down backpacking quilt from Jacks R Better in Yorktown, Virginia. RJB gear is popular among ultralight folk, especially those who enjoy hammock camping.

A Satellite Messenger from SPOT in Milpitas, Calif. This little GPS device provides peace of mind not for the adventurer carrying it, but for those at home who want to know said adventurer is OK.

A pair of SOLE Platinum Sandals from SOLE Custom Footbeds in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The company's heat-moldable orthotic shoe insoles cradle feet and improve posture. Now that same technology is in the open air, and catching on fast among the outdoor crowd.

The pack is not lightweight, but it is small, perfect for preventing me from taking too much stuff with me. The bag is overbuilt and guaranteed for life.

The quilt was magnificent. It can compress to about the size of a Nalgene bottle, but I chose not to abuse the 800-fill down feathers. In the pack, I kept the Stealth quilt about the size of a box of cereal.

The SPOT Satellite Messenger was used in two different modes. One is the "OK" mode, which sends a message via e-mail or text message to those you input on the company's website when you press the OK button. That worked perfectly. But the tracking feature, designed to "ping" a satellite every 10 minutes while in tracking mode, worked best in wide-open areas.

Since the Pacific Northwest is pretty much forested, there were a lot of attempted pings from my SPOT unit that never found a satellite. The unit hung from my shoulder strap most of the time. Next trip, I'll put the SPOT unit on top of my pack. Hopefully that will improve performance in tracking mode.

And finally, the SOLE Platinum sandals.  I picked these up at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show earlier this month, and haven't been without them since.  Who would have thought that flip-flops could become their favorite "shoes?"  My feet are flat, and without support, begin to ache within hours.  The SOLE Platinum sandals feel better and better the more I wear them.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Jacks R Better Down Quilt at Outdoor Retailer

This morning on my way to a meeting with Rickshaw Bagworks, I was stopped in my tracks by a booth touting down-filled backpacking quilts. My short, roundish body doesn't fit well in a mummy bag, a problem I'd temporarily solved when I got a fully rectangular MontBell Thermal Sheet four or five years ago. But the problem came right back when, during Primal Quest San Juan Islands, I gave my Thermal Sheet to an athlete in need, and never saw it again.

So today when I saw this thing -- a fully rectangular down backpacking quilt -- there was little meditation required. I bought one from the two Jacks who run Jacks R Better. It'll be shipped to my house some time next week. Hopefully that Primal Quest athlete who made off with my fully rectangular Thermal Sheet isn't reading this. Wouldn't want him to intercept my package!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I'll Take the Stairs

What do you do when you're in Salt Lake City a day-and-a-half early for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show? Go visit friends! Years ago, I went to journalism school with Mark Reece, now a senior editor at the Deseret News. The paper has a relatively new building, and I hadn't been in before. For me, the highlight was the staircase of the nine-story building. It has what I can only describe as floor-to-ceiling windows, for the entire height of the building. After a brief visit with Mark in the fourth floor lobby, I was on my way to the elevator to leave when I decided to see the view from the top of the staircase. The photo above is it. I didn't set foot in the elevator again. Like a lot of Deseret News staffers I saw today, I told myself, I'll take the stairs.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Swiss Sheep

Another day, another hike over a pass to yet another European country. That's Switzerland beyond the flowers, complete with a shepherd. I'm shooting this picture from France. What an amazing assignment this has been!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Here Lies Italy

Though this granite marker looks like a head stone, here it is used to mark the border of Italy and France near the Col de la Seigne in the Alps. The "I" on the marker stands for Italy. On the other side, there's an "F" for France. It took me two hours to hike to the top of the pass. It was the most beautiful hike of my life!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Great Life

Photo by Celine, my server

This is me having a Perrier at a cafe on the pedestrian street in the French Alps town of Bourg Saint Maurice. This is not the good life. This is the Great life. On assignment for Checkpoint Zero at the Mountain X Race.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bourg Saint Maurice, Savoie, French Alps

My first morning in Europe delivered this view. That's the village of Bourg Saint Maurice, in the state of Savoie, in the French Alps. Five more days of this and I may never want to go home! I'm here on assignment for the adventure racing news website Checkpoint Zero. I'm told to expect more views like the one above in the days ahead. Click on the photo to see it large.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mann of Primal Quest, Sisler of Zanfel Labs

At the Primal Quest Montana finish line this afternoon, Don Mann, left, handed the microphone over to Steve Sisler of Zanfel Labs. Sisler, who said he didn't even know about adventure racing until a few years ago, spoke of his family's close bond to Merrell/Zanfel Adventure Captain Robyn Benincasa."

"In our house, we call her Auntie Robyn," Steve said. In fact, Steve's 23-year-old daughter, Megan Sisler, has done an adventure race with Robyn.

Steve and his wife Heather arrived in Montana late last week from the family home in Clive, Iowa, to cheer on their team. While Megan couldn't make the trip, some other Sislers did. They include son Nick, 16; and daughters Laura and Julie, ages 13 and 9, respectively.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gettin' My Kitch On

The zip tie I was using as a key chain here at Primal Quest failed me, so I had to replace it. I stopped by a gift shop in Big Timber, Montana, near the Super 8 where I'd been gaining Internet access, and snatched this kitchy key chain up for $2.99. Now I know where my car key is!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Phrozen Phantom Phlytyers

Today while I was happily speeding West along Interstate 90 toward Bozeman, I saw a freeway sign for Livingston, home to the Federation of Fly Fishers. Back when I was in middle school and high school, my dad was the editor of the Federation's quarterly magazine, The Flyfisher. Flyfishing sparked for me an interest in photography and writing that are still with me today. I stopped in Livingston, found the Federation headquarters, walked inside and found my dad is represented there. Back in the mid 1980s, he used to have a reunion with his fly fishing buddies each winter in, of all places, Minot, North Dakota. They called themselves the Phrozen Phantom Phlytyers. This framed collection of their hand-tied flies will forever serve as a reminder that crazy wasn't invented in the 21st century!

Bitton's Got a nuun active hydration Drinking Problem

Wow! That's a lot of empties! These dozen or so water bottles have been piling up on the floor of the passenger side of my Honda Civic since Monday. Now it's Thursday. I'm off the Diet Coke again, and onto nuun active hydration. That's the electrolyte replacement tablet made by folks in Seattle who don't care that proper nouns are usually capitalized. I love the product! Company founder Tim, who was in Montana for the start of Primal Quest, hooked me up with a few tubes of new flavors. Now I'm field testing them as fast as I can. I honestly feel more energy when I'm properly hydrated. That likely means I'm usually dehydrated. Something to think about.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Catching up With Rich 'King Richard' Milburn

I met Rich four years ago when I volunteered at Karen Lundgren and Paul Romero's West Coast Adventure Racing event in San Diego County. Later that year, Rich and I were students at Karen and Paul's adventure race training camp in Big Bear, Calif. Karen and Paul led us through a 24-hour course design, but it took us 29 hours to finish. After you suffer with someone for so many hours, there's a bond there that's undeniable. Rich volunteers at a lot of races, all over the world. It was great to see him at the remote bike drop on the second afternoon of Primal Quest. Instead of heading to the next TA to spend the night, I decided to stick close to Rich, and his checkpoint assistant Martin Mylet. Rich is still living in L.A., planning his life around adventure rather than work. He got a haircut, which is kinda surprising, and he cleaned up his beard, which is even more surprising. It was great to catch up, Rich. Thanks for the hospitality!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Dear Friends DART/nuun

I've been covering Seattle-based adventure racing team DART-nuun (there's two of 'em in that blue boat) for four seasons now, and they never cease to impress me. Their commitment to a common goal is rather uncommon, I believe. They are absolutely inspirational, and I am proud to be counted as one of their friends.

I'm a Believer

Everything I see in Southwest Montana's Gallatin Valley is so stunningly beautiful, it deserves a second look. Here's a shot I saw this morning when I was supposed to be taking pictures of Primal Quest adventure racers being flushed down the Gallatin River in flood stage. In life, you gotta take time to smell the roses, or, as the case may be, to photograph the Soldier's Chapel at sunrise with Big Sky's Lone Peak in the background. It's enough to make a believer out of anyone.

Behold, the Bitton Throne

This is that perfect leather chair in the Huntley Lodge at Big Sky Resort that I've been using as a mobile office since I arrived in Montana to cover Primal Quest. I love this chair. If it would fit in my Honda Civic, I would take it with me everywhere. It is the thing I will miss most when the race moves farther and farther from this glorious Huntley Lodge, and I am forced to find other internet arrangements.

Now That's Just Nasty

That right there is the left foot of adventure racer John Jacoby after he completed the first HALF DAY of Primal Quest Montana, an endurance event that will cover more than 500 miles during seven to 10 days. I'd be horrified to have feet like this on the first day of a 10-day race. But Jacoby says it'll be OK. Feet dry out. The race goes on.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mike Bitton, Mike Bitton, Your Media Credentials Have Arrived

Well lookie here! Took a stroll into Primal Quest headquarters, introduced myself to Media Director Kraig Becker, signed away my life on one waiver, my intellectual property on another, and pow! Got this nifty new necklace that makes me 100% official!

Bitton Beat 'Em to the Punch

After shooting the start of Primal Quest Montana, I returned to the lovely, large leather chair in the lobby of Big Sky Resort's Huntley Lodge to pull photos off my CF card and get them up on the blogs I'm here to produce. The Checkpoint Zero blog update was pretty quick, and the Merrell one was so quick I decided to do two! Looking at the official Primal Quest website, it appears I beat them to the punch. My stuff went live first!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Boots on the Ground, Primal Quest Montana

Isn't that pretty? Welcome to Big Sky Country.

Here I am at Big Sky Resort in Southwest Montana, about halfway between the communities of Bozeman and West Yellowstone. Having just completed my 12-hour drive from Estes Park, Colo., I'm a little surprised how different Montana's "Best Place" is from Colorado's "Best Place." It's considerably greener here, and not quite as warm. I think I'm in love.

It's been great to reunite with dozens of adventure racing friends from all over the world. I've already spent some time with Merrell/Zanfel Adventure, who I'm blogging about for Merrell for this race. See that blog here. I've also spent some time with DART/nuun, and posted a blog to t he Checkpoint Zero website about that team's enviable customized support vehicle. You can see that one here.

The race is set to begin tomorrow at 10 a.m. Thanks for following along!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running

Adam Chase, one of the presenters here for Active at Altitude's Trail Running and Writing Weekend, just gave me a copy of his book, "The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running," which he co-authored with Nancy Hobbs. You can get your copy here.

It's stuffed with great information about the sport, like tips on trail running technique, strength training exercises specifically helpful for trail running, and even gives wannabe race directors instructions on how to set up a trail run of their own.

I can't wait to read it, cover to cover! Thanks, Adam, for the book!

Panting at Altitude

Here's a shot of the Trail Running and Writing Weekend crew at Lake Estes, just before our first run. Photo by Adam Chase.

Did I neglect to mention that Active at Altitude sits at 8,000 feet above sea level? Well, it does. For our first run of the Trail Running and Writing Weekend, we descended to 7,500 foot-Lake Estes, the very heart of Estes Park, Colo., for a 45-minute loop run around the lake's paved bike path. I did OK for the first five minutes, doing my shuffle-style of "running," as the pack of participants slowly slipped out of sight. When the panting set in, I decided to walk. I was still headed in the right direction, just kinda slowly. Terry, owner of Active at Altitude, looped back to check on me, and I told him I'd likely just do 20 minutes out and then head back to the cars, and that I'd see him there. The effect of altitude, combined with my lack of exercise in recent months, served me up a truly uncomfortable helping of humble pie. It's clearly time to get more serious about what I eat, what I drink, and how much I exercise. The decision to come here for the weekend was a good one. I'll leave with many of the tools to get my body headed in the correct direction.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I've Arrived at Active at Altitude, Estes Park, Colo.

Road trips are funny things. I left Boise, Idaho, yesterday morning with the intention of spending the night with a friend in Salt Lake City. But I got to Salt Lake in the early afternoon, and figured, hey, since this is pretty much the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours, why not press forward?

So I arrived here, Active at Altitude, a day early for the Trail Running and Writing Weekend retreat to which I've decided to treat myself. This is the perfect transition from my former life as an elementary school teacher, which ended about 48 hours ago, and my new life as a PR pro, which I've been chipping away at for a couple of years, but am now chasing full-throttle.

This place is so relaxing! I'm blissfully tapping away in the Active at Altitude great room, looking south at some gorgeous granite peaks that owner Terry Chiplin tells me are called Twin Sisters. The only thing blocking the view are humming birds jockeying for position at the feeders. This lodge-like facility, which I'd compare to a marvelous bed and breakfast, is in Estes Park, Colo., at the door to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Our days are pretty full here, starting today and ending Sunday afternoon. I'll likely have to bail out early, though, or I will miss the start of Primal Quest, the expedition adventure race I'll be covering for the adventure racing news website Checkpoint Zero.

Terry's taking me to town, so I'll have the Estes Park introduction shortly. So far, this place impresses me as the perfect place to get away from it all in a super-supportive, super-healthy environment.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Mandatory Gear List for Primal Quest Montana

Mandatory Gear:

Laptop computer with wireless Internet capability
Computer power supply
Digital SLR
Selection of lenses for digital SLR
Memory cards
Memory card reader
Extra camera batteries
Camera battery charger
Composition book for taking notes
Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils
Black Uni-ball pens

Recommended Gear:
Cell phone
Personal identification
Debit card
Clothing for five days (gonna have to hit a laundromat...)
Prescription eyeglasses
Numa Sport Optics Ride Rx sunglasses
Montrail Hardrock trail running shoes
Bridgedale socks
GoLite Phantom jacket
Checkpoint Zero business cards
Checkpoint Zero Headsweats hats
Checkpoint Zero T-shirts

Optional Gear:
Frosty beverage
Sleeping bag
Eagle's Nest Outfitters Double Nest Hammock

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mike Bitton, On Assignment

I'm reading quite a few books about how to make my new PR business successful. Over and over again, I keep seeing this advice: Put yourself in front of the folks you want to hire you. Well, they're easy enough to identify! Bitton PR specializes in outdoor industry public relations, so I just need to get myself in front of the owners and upper-level managers of every company with products for sale in REI or Eastern Mountain Sports! I can catch most if not all of them twice a year in Salt Lake City, during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and Summer Market trade shows. But have you ever been to Outdoor Retailer? The bigwigs are so busy during Outdoor Retailer, even a charmer like me struggles to land an appointment.

So I have an innovative plan to get in front of the folks I want to hire me. I'll become the expert at covering the most gear-intensive outdoor sport ever created -- adventure racing. And I'll cover the sport for the best adventure racing news source in North America, a nifty little website called Checkpoint Zero. That bachelor's degree I earned in journalism, and the 10 years I spent working at daily newspapers, sure will come in handy! So instead of a handshake and a business card at Outdoor Retailer, I'm gonna do this: Show the owners and upper-level managers of every company with products for sale in REI or Eastern Mountain Sports, via a body of writing and photography work, that I know their customers better than anyone else. That my pulse is their customer's pulse. That if they're ready for a PR pro who's not afraid to spend a week in the dirt for the love of adventure, I am their PR pro.

Part One of my plan -- getting the assignments from Checkpoint Zero -- is already panning out. Paul "Yak" Angell, owner of Checkpoint Zero, LLC, confirmed this week I'll be covering at least four events for him during the remaining months of 2008: Primal Quest in Montana; the Mountain X Race in the French Alps; the Upstate Adventure Race in South Carolina; and the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge in the Middle East.

As the body of work grows, I know Part Two of my plan will come to fruition. There certainly are some solid outdoor industry PR agencies already doing business. But only one has my passion at the helm. Owners and upper-level managers of outdoor industry companies, here am I. If you have any PR request for proposals to send out for bids, don't forget Bitton PR in Portland, Ore. We'll give the established agencies a run for their money, guaranteed.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

No More Fridays

Today was my last Friday as an elementary school teacher. It was kinda sad, knowing I won't see these people every day like I have for the past three school years.

This time next week, I'll be somewhere between Salt Lake City and Estes Park, Colo., where I'll attend a Trail Running and Writing workshop. I'll go directly from there to Big Sky, Montana, where I'll cover the Primal Quest expedition adventure race for the adventure racing news website Checkpoint Zero. So even though I'm leaving teaching, and hoping for a giant decompression break, instead, I'll be a road warrior with places to be, and things to do, until about July 6.

But that's OK. 'Cause after that -- I'll be free. And on a whole new professional adventure!