National Trails Day!

June 06, 2015

34 hikers turned out.  

34 hikers turned out.  

A Friend of mine and Gillette Outdoors, Jeff Sparks (find Jeff on Twitter) invited me on a hike this weekend for National Trails Day.  

What is National Trails Day? 

"American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® (NTD) is a celebration of America’s magnificent Trail System, occurring annually on the first Saturday in June. NTD features a series of outdoor activities, designed to promote and celebrate the importance of trails in the United States. Individuals, clubs and organizations from around the country host National Trails Day® events to share their love of trails with friends, family, and their communities. NTD introduces thousands of Americans to a wide array of trail activities: hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, trail running, and bird watching and more. For public and private land managers alike, National Trails Day® is a great time to showcase beautiful landscapes and special or threatened locales as thousands of people will be outside looking to participate in NTD events.

National Trails Day® evolved during the late ‘80s and ‘90s from a popular ethos among trail advocates, outdoor industry leaders and political bodies who wanted to unlock the vast potential in America’s National Trails System, transforming it from a collection of local paths into a true network of interconnected trails and vested trail organizations. This collective mindset hatched the idea of a singular day where the greater trail community could band together behind the NTD moniker to show their pride and dedication to the National Trails System" (Nationaltrailsday.org)

 

 

Joshua Creek Trail Head, Charles Bronson State Forest. 

Joshua Creek Trail Head, Charles Bronson State Forest. 

As we made our way into the forest from the Joshua Creek Trail Head we followed the Blue blazed connecter trail over to the familiar Orange Blazed Florida Trail (FT) the photo above is of a small section that was blanked in fern. 

Damp and humid, this is the perfect home for ferns of all kinds.  

Damp and humid, this is the perfect home for ferns of all kinds.  

As the FT twisted and turned we went from scrub, to pines, to hardwoods, and even a low grassy flat where we found a rare Pitcher Plant in bloom. 

These carnivores plants growing in clusters. 

These carnivores plants growing in clusters. 

Here is the oddly beautiful bloom of the Pitcher Plant. 

Here is the oddly beautiful bloom of the Pitcher Plant. 

These strange plants are just off of an old access road that the local hikers have named Hog Trap Road.  How did the road get that name? Our trail guide was the one who named it! Here is her story.

 

All alone the trail from beginning to end grew wildflowers. When I could, I tried to stop and snap a few photos to share.

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I am not a plant expert, if anyone is please let me know the names of these in the comments below and I can go back and caption them properly. 

Here is Jeff and the group checking out a Butterfly Orchid way up in this tree. 

Here is Jeff and the group checking out a Butterfly Orchid way up in this tree. 

In all 5.5 miles hiked and some new friends and memories made. I would like to thank Jeff for inviting me on this awesome hike and for celebrating National Trails Day with me! I would also like to thank the Florida Trail Association (Follow the FT on Twitter and Instagram) for putting on this great hike.

 

Geocaching, A Global Treasure Hunt

Geocaching, A Global Treasure Hunt.

 

Join me as I use my phone to look up and find a Geocache. And then let's look inside to see what is in the cache. Go to Geocaching.com to find out more and to sign up for FREE!  

Natural Tick Repellent

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Combine:

ONE PART TEA TREE OIL

TWO PARTS WATER  

In a small spray bottle. Spray your boots, pant cuffs, socks, and belt line. This is a great all natural tick repellent and it smells great too. 

Highlands Hammock

Just one of the many beautiful boardwalks in the park

Just one of the many beautiful boardwalks in the park

Located in Sebring Florida, Highlands Hammock State Park is one of my favorite parks in Florida. This park is best known for its thousand year old oak trees and amazing boardwalks, but it has so much more to offer such as more than 9000 acres of the most biodivers land in the state. A hiker can go from sandy pines and high grass land into hardwood oak hammocks full of palms and old florida fruit trees, and then find them selves atop beautiful Boardwalks that meander through old growth Cyprus swamps. 

We found this guy on the Fern Garden trail. 

We found this guy on the Fern Garden trail. 

With all of these divers landscapes also come an abundance of wildlife. Thousands of birds fill the forest, swamps, and grasslands all year. The black bear and Florida panther also make the lush habitat home. Don't be surprised to see alligators and turtles sunning on logs in the swamps or deer and raccoons passing along side your tent.  

The trees here are so magnificent  

The trees here are so magnificent  

The park offers an informative tram tour that takes the visitors to some beautiful locations in the park that are restricted to the public. Also the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) museum takes you back in time to show you how and why conservation is so important to our history and future. 

Camping at Highlands Hammock is the best way to experience everything the park has to offer. But I will warn you that this campground stays full most of the year so plan early and make your reservations ASAP! The campground has 143 sites available ranging from RV to tent sites offering electric and water on site. Restrooms, showers, laundry, and dish sinks are located in the campground and are all wheelchair accessible. 

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The first time I traveled to Highlands Hammock I was Geocaching . This is a global treasure hunt that you can do on your smartphone. If you have never done it I highly recommend it, it is free! This park has some amazing caches and is a part of the CCC Florida state park caches. This is another great activity that you can do with the whole family at this park. 

My dog Emit taking in the amazing views!   

My dog Emit taking in the amazing views!   

Pets are also welcome at the park so bring your best friend along for the fun!  

If you have any questions or would like to know more contact 

William@GilletteOutdoors.com 

A Journey Home

I went out for a drive this morning to find some golden-hour beauty. With my DSLR in hand, I found myself down back roads and trails I had never been before. Fog hung lightly in the air; the fresh dew on the grass seemed to glimmer in the warm golden light. 

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Along the way I met a few friends. I sat quietly, listening as they ate and put on their show. They made several loud outbursts; the sound cut through the forest like a knife. Their calls where answered a few moments later from the other side of a swampy cypress head. An early morning conversation. 

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When I reached my destination, the air was still and the forest quiet. The swampy creek was a looking glass, reflecting the golden light of morning. A warm glow surrounded me as I sat, concentrating on the sound of dew dripping from the branches and moss hung high in the trees of this peaceful sanctuary. This was my first time in this place but, somehow, it felt familiar. It felt like home. 

Editing On The Go

Here are a few of the apps I use every day for retouching, color correcting, watermarking, and titles. These are great for editing on the go and for easy, quick posting to all your social media sites. 

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PS Express:

Most photographers will be familiar with this program. Photoshop Express comes from the leader in photo and video editing software: Adobe. This is a go-to app when you need to adjust color, temperature, exposure, tint, ect. This versatile app gets the job done and is as simple to use as it gets. edit and crop your photos for Instagram and really pull out that rich color with this app!

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Pixlr Express:

Another app that has some great features for editing on the go is Pixlr Express. While slightly less user friendly than PS Express, Pixlr Express is a bit more in depth when it comes to tools. Now, this can be both good and bad, so try both apps out to really see what features you will most use from each. 95% of the time, I turned to PS Express as it is simplified and more straight forward than Pixlr Express, but there are times when I need that one filter or some funky thing PS doesn't have. This is the app I turn to to fill the gap.

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IWatermark:

IWatermark is the app I use to add watermarks to the photos I post online. If you are looking for a watermark program to protect your photos, this is the best I have found. I have tried many different apps for this task, but nearly all of them cut your picture quality in half. As a photographer, that is the last thing you want. IWatermark maintains photo quality and integrity while also being extremely easy to use. Once you've made your watermark, just load an image, select your mark, place it where you want and save or upload directly to your social media sites. It's that simple!

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TitleFX:

For simple, clean and high quality titles on the go, I use TitleFX. Again, quality is key when working with photographs. You don't want to slap a grainy, fuzzy title on your photo and call it a day. TitleFX may not offer a ton of fonts to choose from, but what fonts they do offer are among the cleanest and most commonly used. Many apps will tout "2000 fonts," but who uses DingBat or half of the crazy fonts out there? TitleFX gives me the good ones on the go and lets me get the job done right.

Friend Me! It Will Be Fun!

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Over the next 6 days I will be doing some traveling to a great American city. One rich in history and beauty. What will I be doing? Geocaching, hiking, photography, history, celebrating my wife birthday, visiting some beautiful places and so much more! Where are we going? You need to follow along to find out! I am going to be posting all photos from the trip on Facebook this time. So if you would like to come along for the ride friend me at www.facebook.com/gilletteoutdoors i will see you there! 

William Gillette

Hike Fit

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Experts say that Backpacking can burn up to 650 calories per hour in easy terrain. Even hiking without a pack can burn up to 550 calories per hour. So if you were looking for a way to get fit this summer get outdoors and hike your butt off. And remember camera gear counts! Pack it, Use it! Wouldn't you rather be hiking in the mountains than on some treadmill in a gym?

Everyone is looking for a way to lose weight and stay fit these days. There are so many fad diets, meal replacements, calorie counting, and magic pills to loose weight. It's getting harder and harder to understand just what is best for you. 

And on top of that as we get older issues such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety, and the list goes on. Did you know that over 750,000 people died last year from heart disease? Or that the number of people with diabetes is up more than 50% from the 1980s? That's pretty bad right? Being over weight is the number one cause of not just these two diseases but many others facing us today.

So how can we fix it? To start a heathy diet starting with vegetables, fruit, healthy proteins, and no  processed foods. But that is not enough, exercising  and being active is the key to being healthy! Here are some facts for you to think about. 

- Hiking helps lower blood pressure and reduce hypertension. 

- Hiking helps your body release adrenaline to eases tension and lower anxiety. 

- Hiking increases bone density and slows the rate of calcium loss to decreases the effects of Osteoporosis.

- People who hike will lose more weight and will be able to maintain wieght loss more than people who diet only. 

- Hiking will actually help to reverse type 2 Diabeties and lower the dependence of insulin in type 1 Diabeties.

- Hiking will not only help your body but your mind as well, fresh air, fresh sights, and sounds will help stimulate your brain and make it easier to clear your head.

- Hiking will also help you sleep, lack of sleep is one of the biggest problems facing people today. 

Hiking is a very low impact activity and almost anyone can do it. Growing up many great friendships and relationship came from hiking with others. There is something fulfilling about going on a journey with someone you care about. Take your children hiking, spend some time with them away from TVs and video games, it will be hard at first but once out on the trail they will love it, and the memories and healthy habits you create will last a lifetime.

Your Tracks

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Walking down some forgotten trail in the middle of nowhere often times I will come across a track left by a fellow hiker. My mind will often start to wonder what this persons story is. What I have found out is that as you fallow a strangers tracks down a trail you start to learn many thing about them, things that they may not even know. And from these things your mind starts to draw conclusion. First off the obvious, shoe size and distance between steps. Weight how deeply the track sinks into the soil. But more than that, I can tell if a person is careful or careless by how they choose to walk around a puddle or walk through it. I can tell a respectful person from a disrespectful one by the way they step around a flower or plant in the trail or on it, if they break branches on the trees as they move down the trail. Even things like a fresh chewing gum rapper thrown on the ground as they walk. I can tell a level of passion by the way they stop and turn to look out at a great view or a small stream. All of these small things ad up to big conclusion in my mind, I begin to get an impression of this person before ever even seeing there face or hearing what they have to say. Often times these things come to a head and if I do come across this person on a trail I have made the decision to talk to them and share story's or a quick hello is all they get. It is funny how much this parallels your every day life, often times someone has already made a first impression of you before you have even met. They have seen something along your path that has given them resin to think they know something about you. What kind of tracks are you leaving?

Depth Of Field

Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

One thing that separates a DSLR camera from your standard point and shoot is the dramatic range when it comes to Depth of field. 

depth of field (DOF): is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image.

TRY THIS

Put your camera on a tripod, go outside and find a fence. Set up yor camera so the legs of your tripod are touching the bottom of the fence and rotate the camera so it is looking down the fence line. Set your DSLR setting to "A" (Aperture Priority mode) and adjust you the dial on your camera that controls the Aperture setting or the F# on your cameras readout. If you have never adjusted these setting on your camera dust off the manual or search your cameras model number online for info on your specific cameras adjustments. 

Adjust the apriture (F#) to the lowest possible number for you camera, each lense has a different range of apriture so this number will be different depending on you lense. Take a picture down the fence line.  

Now without moving your camera adjust the apriture (F#) setting to the highest possible number. Take a picture down the fence line.

Compare the images.  

 

You will see that they are very different. Let's talk about the first image you took, with the lowest apriture (F#) setting. In this image the section of fence closest to the camera should be blurry and out of focus, as the fence gets farther away it should become clear and in focus and than as the fence goes on it will become out of focus again. This is short or shallow Depth Of Field.

Now in the second image the fence should be almost completely in focus the entire way. This is a long Depth Of Field.  

 

Left apriture F22, Right apriture F3.5

Left apriture F22, Right apriture F3.5

Depth of field is a great tool for telling a story in an image, it places the focal point of your shot front and center. Also the out of focus portion of the image adds mistery to the shot. Play around with your apriture setting and practice useing this setting. It's setting like this that make good images great images. 

Camping Quick Tip

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Campsite Bandits! When camping you should always be cautious of the animals that live in the forest that serounds you. This means keeping your food out of reach.  When shopping for containers to hold your camping supply's make sure that they are sturdy and that they lock or can be latched closed so that the wildlife do not get in them. Now in places that have bears that frequently visite campers make sure that you use extra precautions to ensure that they do not get in for a free snack. Even in FL where we have very few bears, I still secure my food containers in the trunk of my car at night so as to take the temptation away from the critters. Just remember anything left out WILL be eaten by something at night. It is our responsibility to keep it locked up, the animals are just doing what they can to find food.  

 

Location, Location, Location!

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A very wise man once said "if you want to take more interesting pictures go to more interesting places". Now as a young photographer I remember running around trying to make somthing out of nothing when it came to locations, and some times it worked. But as I have gotten older I now realize that location and timing are everything in photography.

Now that's not to say that sometimes the stars don't align and you get that unbelievable shot that no one could plan for. It is more realistic that you put in the time on scouting and light mapping and timing everything out to give you the best possible chance of getting the shot you are working toward.  

Some important thing to consider when looking at a location for outdoor photography. 

When I find a location I like, I always look at the angle I need to be in for the shot. In the compass app I take a screen cap with my phone (above) so I have the information at hand when I am planing my shoot. From this screen cap I can tell I am shooting west into a setting sun. This is good info to help plan.  

When I find a location I like, I always look at the angle I need to be in for the shot. In the compass app I take a screen cap with my phone (above) so I have the information at hand when I am planing my shoot. From this screen cap I can tell I am shooting west into a setting sun. This is good info to help plan.  

1. Location, ( literally GPS or address) I always grab a quick GPS location on my iPhone. I do this so it is easy to go back to this place in the future or if I am working with others I can send them the location in google maps so they can easily find it. I also meet a lot of other nature photographers out on trails and it's nice to be able to help them find new exciting locations. 

2. Light, look around for issues regarding light. Will a setting sun be to bright to shot in the direction you will be set up? You might need to try sun rise. Are you in thick tree canopy and need the sun to be overhead to give you the best chance for proper exposure? Again a smartphone compass is a great tool that almost everyone has on them at all times. 

3. Climate, here in FL we deal with bad rain storms almost daily. I know that between 2pm and 5pm during the summer I need to make sure I have a plan in place to deal with storms. Or that in the winter months our high water table causes thick fog in the early morning hours. Researching things like this will also help in determining the direction you want to take in telling the story with your shot. 

4. Terrain, when scouting a location take carful note of the terrain you will be shooting in and anything along the trail you will be traveling to get there. When planing  a shoot the gear you bring will be drastically different if you need to hall it 18 miles up mountains and across rivers, And being prepared when you get there is a must. Tripods, filters, lens, cards, remote shutter, rain gear, water... This stuff gets heavy don't overload with stuff you will not use, plan the shoot and shoot the plan!   

All of these factors will come in to play when out on the trail. I don't plan out every photo, sometimes they come by chance. But when you find a great location and really want to make that capture special. Take the time to plan and give you image the best chance of being the one you have in your mind.

 

Camping Quick Tip

Over the years I have found that when campground camping in cold weather it pays to be prepared for the worst! By the worst I mean a sudden cold front that blows in bringing the temp down to about 20 degrees ferinheight and the air mattress your sleeping on just allows the cold air to get you not only from the top but the bottom. Tents are mostly designed to breath so it's hard to trap enough heat in. A portable heater will just go up and out through your rain fly, and can be dangerous around flammable material. So what do you do?

Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

Heated mattress pad! For two reasons. One the heat wants to rise, if the heat is coming from underneath you it will be trapped in your covers and keep them warm as well. And two the heat will keep your air mattress full of air. As it gets colder the air inside your mattress will shrink causing your bed to sag, very bad for your back.

Why not a heated blanket? A heated blanket is ment to go on top of you not underneath, what I have found is that this keeps you top half warm fine, but the air in your mattress will slowly cool down and your bottom will get colder with it.  

A queen size heated mattress pad will run you about $30 and will fold down much smaller than a blanket for space. I always have ours with us, it is just a part of our equipment. We learned our lesson one day in late March in FL when the day time temp went from 75 degrees to a night time of 20 degrees. That was a miserable night! 

Sometimes it the little things like a nice warm bed on a cold night that makes your trip just that much more relaxing. Enjoy!

Photography Basics : The Rule Of Thirds

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The rule of thirds is a very basic rule that is so simple but goes so far when it comes to its application in nature photography. 

Rule Of Thirds ; dividing an image in three equal parts vertically and three equal parts horizontally. The intersections made by these lines are the focal points of an image.    

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If you look at these images you will see that I have divided them as per the rule of thirds. When I set up these shots I purposely placed the subjects that I wanted to highlight into the intersections. By doing this I made these subjects the first thing you look at when you see the photo. Your eyes will go to these focal points first automatically without you even  knowing it is happening. 

Why? It is a natural thing that you do. Survival as a human depends on it! You have been doing it your entire life. Every day you use this skill without thinking twice about it. You first learned it as a baby. When you where a baby and could not communicate with your mom and dad you looked at there faces to get your information. More importantly you looked at there eyes and mouth. If they were smiling you knew everything was ok and you where safe, there eyes bright and wide and the corners of there mouth upturned. If they where scared  you also knew to stay close to mom and dad. If you have kids you know how this works. It is the reason a baby smiles when you smile it makes them feel safe. 

 

"Controlling Light" Part 4

This is the last video in a four part series called "Controlling Light". A photography basics video that will help you better understand the Manual (M) settings on your camera. Knowing what these settings are and how they affect your camera will help you understand how to use them

 

Phototogrphy Quick Tip!

Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

 Here is a Photography Quick Tip. Straight lines are pleasing to the eye in photographs because they give your eye a path to follow through the shot. Your eye will automatically go to the end of this bridge first, because that is where all of the lines lead. In Landscape photography this is used often with images of roads, paths, fences, even rows of bushes or pines on a hillside can give you great lines. Practice useing straight lines like this to help your images tell a story to the viewer. When I framed up this shot I wanted to show the viewer how long and narrow this bridge over the gorge was. I chose this high angle with my focal path directly down the center of the image. I tried to give my viewer the same feeling and focal point I had when I first came up to this bridge. Only AFTER I located my destination point on the bridge did I look around at all of the beautiful view, and that is the way I wanted my viewer to see it as well.

Keep in mind the story you are telling may not only be visual but also mental. If I shot this image at eye level, you would have seen the bridge I wanted you to see, but by elevating the camera 12 feet above the walkway of the bridge I tried to capture the feeling you get when stepping out onto a suspension bridge 100 feet over a river. 

Practice is the only way to become a good story teller in photography. It may take 200 shots from 30 angles to get the look and feel you want. Keep try, keep thinking outside the box "pixels are free" every photographer in the world has 100 times more bad shots than good. After you get that shot that tells the story you want to tell, you will always remember the technique you used to get it for next time. And working through a shot like that is what makes good photographers great photographers! 

Now Get Out There!  

Graduated ND Filter.


Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

One piece of equipment that any nature photographer needs is a good set of ND filters, and specifically a graduated ND filter. ND stands for Nutral Density and it stops down the intencety of the light without much change in color. Most people have seen circular ND filters that screw onto the front of your lense that are one solid tint. The graduated version goes from ND tint to clear glass in a smooth soft transition. Pictured you will see a camera with a filter frame and filters installed. I prefer this style filter over the circular style for a few reasons. The first being you can easily ad more than one filter to the frame. Second the frame allows you to slide the filter in any direction in or out of frame so you can more precisely put your gradient portion of the filter where you need it. A circular graduated filter will blend in the middle of the shot every shot. So I find you set the shot up for the filter instead of filtering for the shot you want.  

Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

When do I use a Graduated ND Filter? This is used when there is a portion of you shot that is to bright to keep the rest of the image properly exposed. Example sunsets are one place I almost always use my GND filter. The foreground is in shadow because the sun is directly behind it, if you have ever taken a picture of a sunset you know that most everything in the foreground of the shot will be total black and the sky will be properly exposed or the foreground will be properly exposed and the sky will be total white and lack color (clipping). Using a GND filter you can place the gradient portion of the filter just below the horizon line then meter for exposure. Your capture will be more evenly exposed, you will get the great colors from the sky and still have foreground to tell a story.  

This filter also works great when in the woods, canopied trees darken the forest floor sometimes you will get hot spots from breaks in the tree cover. It also works great for high temp reflections off of water. There are many uses for this style filter. The cost will very wildly depending on quality, but you can pick up a descent set for around $80 US, and if you take proper care of them they will last you a very long time. 

Now Get Out There!  

 

"Controlling Light" Part 3

 

  This is the third video in a four part series called "Controlling Light". A photography basics video that will help you better understand the Manual (M) settings on your camera. Knowing what these settings are and how they affect your camera will help you understand how to use them

Source: http://

S'mores Remix.

Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

Try this! Next campfire grab a mixed bag of Fun Size chocolate bars. I am a fan of the Almond Joy S'more! Mix and match, part of the fun is trying somthing outside the box. A friend of mine loves York Peperment Patties on her S'mores. There is always the classic but it's awesome to kick it up a notch!