A Basic Photography Tip "Filling The Frame"
June 06, 2015
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)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Special guest blogger Jeff Sparks,
I’ll get to the chiggers in a minute. But first a little info on the trail. I visited The Cross Seminole Trail starting at the Black Hammock Trailhead. Parking is ample (special equestrian parking available) and the trail is paved. It is built on the old railroad line that served the farmers in this area. At the trailhead you will find bathrooms (out of order on my visit) and an area for bicycle maintenance including an air pump and a place to hang your bike with some simple tools attached. Walking, jogging, biking, and horse-back riding are all encouraged.
Going south on the trail you soon run into a decision point – east or west? I decided to go east so that I could go underneath the 417 overpass. There are also many geocaching opportunities along the trail with some that are deep in the woods. And this brings me to the chiggers.
Normally on hikes I wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants. Wool socks and hiking boots. My hat covers my ears and neck and usually confuses the flying insects – they can’t figure out where to land. I have sprayed all off these items with permethrin which repels & kills ticks, chiggers, mites and mosquitos.
On this hike I wore an untreated short sleeve shirt. What a mistake that was! The next day I started to itch and it progressively got worse. Taking my shirt off revealed about 40 red welts all over my torso and underarms. No bites on my legs or feet so the treated clothing was effective. The only medical treatment is to reduce the itching and wait for the welts to go away. The initial 24-48 hours is the worse and I still have a few areas that itch quite a bit today.
I have since discovered that LL Bean and other manufacturers sell clothing that includes permethrin. It is supposed to last 70 washes compared to the 6-7 from the spray bottle. I bought a shirt to try it out.
Don’t do like I do. Wear appropriate clothing. Take a shower when you get home. Enjoy your hike and your post-hike relaxation!
Thanks for sharing your story Jeff! As always we love to hear stories from the trail. This one made me a little itchy I do have to say! I can totally relate to this one, I have hiked my entire life and up until just last year had never had the pleasure of chiggers. And lucky me I got them twice last year. Great tips on using protective clothing too, I found a great lotion that has sulfur in it and I have found that that will also help in keep the creepy crawlies at bay. Thanks again Jeff and happy trails my friend!
Everyone please support your fellow outdoor friends by following along on Instagram or Twitter.
You can follow Jeff on Twitter @shelfgeniejeff
I recently got a new tent and finally got to use it! I enjoyed it so much I wanted to share it with all of my outdoor friends.
This will be a real world gear review not a technical review, I believe this is more helpful to most.
I ordered the tent from www.napieroutdoors.com to fit my truck. It is important to order the correct tent for your make and model vehicle, they also have tents for SUVs and cars. The website makes it super easy to find the correct tent for you!
After unboxing the tent I was surprised how compact the packed tent was. It is small enough to easily fit under or behind the seat. In my Chevy Colorado Crew Cab it fits under the back bench seat with room to spare. This is awesome for the wife and I because we often take road trips and in the areas we travel hotels are not always nearby.
Once we reached the campsite at Highlands Hammock State Park FL, we found level ground to park and started to set up. Opening the tent feels just like any other tent, inside was the tent, rain fly, fiberglass poles, and instructions.
Following the instructions, I rolled the tent out in the bed of my truck. This is when I found the first difference. On the sides of the tent where your stakes would go on a traditional tent, are adjustable straps and hooks. These hooks run under the edge of the truck and hold the tent securely to the vehicle. I was pleased to see the care that was engineered into the straps and hooks to ensure that they will not harm your vehicles paint! Protective guards on the adjustment buckles to keep any hard surfaces from touching.
After securing the straps I then turned to the poles. If you have owned a tent made after the 90s you will be familiar with these simple fiberglass poles. They are poles that are held together by an elastic line and simply unfold and lock together making one long pole. In this kit there are four, and they are color coded to make this process that much easier. Two poles just slide into pockets across the top of the tent crossing in the middle, one goes around the entry door area, and the other goes across the top to connect all the poles and create a ridge for the rain fly. If you have ever set up a standard tent you will find this part very familiar.
Lastly the rain fly was pulled over the top and secured. In all I would say the first time I set the tent up it took me about 15 minutes, the second time I would say that time was cut to 10 minutes.
Right away I noticed some cool things about the tent. First is that the sides of the tent overlap the truck bed rails. This is awesome because rain will not be able to get into the bed of your truck and under the tent. Second, the tent has a sturdy floor that goes all the way up the inside of the bed. So if your like me and use your truck as a truck there is no need to clean out your truck bed.
The entry door of the tent is large and nearly the full width of the tailgate, and there is so much more room inside the tent than I would have ever imagined. There is 5.6 feet of headroom!
Being off the ground has a lot of benefits. No standing water, no critters, no cold ground... I also noticed a lot less dirt being tracked in, normally you don't have a place to sit and bang off your hiking boots untie them and stow them without ever setting foot inside your tent. The tailgate makes that all possible.
The Backroadz is a two man tent, or in this case a one man and one woman tent. We had plenty of room even with our two dogs sleeping at our feet. I would however advise you to get the truck bed air mattress to fit your truck when you order. I will need to order one before our next trip, I am about 20 years to old to sleep without a soft bed.
In all we love our new Napier tent, it is great for those get up and go trips and super convenient. If you have any questions or would like to know more just email me William@GilletteOutdoors.com
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.
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 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.
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.
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
A recent hike on the Florida Trail brought me to a unique place – Boonie Falls. Dubbed the southernmost falls on the FT, they are not the majestic falls you may be used to seeing. But, to have them in Central Florida – known for generally being flat – is a wonderful sight.
Named for a local trail maintainer – The Boonieman – the falls are located at mile 359.9. Parking is available on Lockwood Blvd outside of Oviedo. A short 1 mile hike will get you to the falls. You will hear them shortly before you arrive and there is a nice bench to allow you to sit and enjoy the view. I happened upon them when the sun was shining on them.
Depending on the season, be sure to use bug spray and expect the trail to be muddy in spots. I was surprised that the mosquitos didn’t attack me. I went just after sunrise and was in a heavily wooded and wet area. A prime location for them but they just weren’t there. Perhaps I just got lucky.
Another trail led me to the Econlockhatchee River – known as the Econ by the locals - and a nice scenic view. Spoiled only by a kayaker who never knew I was there. But, after he had passed the river became calm again as it made the northward trek towards the St. Johns River.
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.
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.
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.
The people that really know me would say that I have a great relationship with nature, not that I am a tree huger but that I am at home anywhere I go as long as its down a road less traveled. To some people a 15 mile walk up and down hills and valleys sounds like punishment. To me it's relaxation, meditation, it's truth. I want to know what is around this next corner or just over that hill. Most trails I walk have a purpose like a waterfall, overlook, sinkhole, or an old fort wall eroded away by time. Some are just a small loop in a public park that was put there to allow you to get away from the city for just a bit to clear your head. What ever the reason for the trail to me the outcome is the same. It was an adventure, it was a bright red bird landing on the trail in front of me, or the loud crack of a stick just off the trail that freezes you like a statue in hopes the animal that broke it does not see you. It can even be slipping on a slippery mud bank into a small stream completely soaking your cloths with mud. Someone once said " if you had a dollar for all the trails you walked you would be a rich man" to which I replied "I am a richer man for having walked them"
The Elusive Woodpecker
I took an early morning hike in the Econ River Wilderness Area just north of UCF. The ERWA has a large habitat diversity – if you want to show out-of-towners the natural side of Central Florida, it would be hard to go wrong with bringing them to this spot. The Red Blaze Trail is flat and well marked. It also leads to the Econlockhatchee River, where you can see one of the few north-flowing rivers. Expect a hike of 3-to-3.5 miles, round trip.
During my hike, I stopped and could hear some birds – Sandhill Cranes and a woodpecker. The rat-a-tat sound of the woodpecker is distinctive. I soon determined the direction of the sound but couldn’t see the bird.
I moved in the direction of the sound, about 100 feet, before stopping to listen. Rat-a-tat. There it was. I moved closer several more times, using my best stealthy walking technique. I continued to hear hear him, searching for food. Rat-a-tat.
By now, I had determined what area he was in but I still had not seen him. I decided to get just a little bit closer, stopping again to listen. This time, the sound was further away – he had flown to another area without me ever seeing him. Better luck next time!
Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your hike with us. We really enjoyed the adventure and can't wait to hear more from you in the future!
If you would like to share an adventure with Gillette Outdoors, email me at William@GilletteOutdoors.com.
Now get out there!
Mountains, planes, rolling hills, rivers, lakes, and streams, here in Wyoming there are so many different types of topography all in one location. On this trip we visited a beautiful section of Wyoming called Seminoe State Park. As we exited the interstate we passed a small sign that read Seminoe State Park 30 miles ahead. That 30 miles of open road went from pretty to beautiful to amazing into unbelievable. The drive in was full of wildlife, antelope herds of fifty or more ran along side our car. Their bright white and tan fur blended together as they ran, so well that you could hardly tell where one antelope stopped and the other began. In a few locations along the roadside I stepped out, camera in hand to get a shot of the passing herds. The antelope quickly let me know that having that many friends watching your back makes for a quick response and an even quicker getaway!
About half way in we came upon enormous sand dunes! No rocks, no trees, just the softest finest sand in many shades of red, tan, and white. I am told it is an ATV'ers Dream! My sister in-law, brother in-law and my nephew trailer their ATV's into Seminoe whenever they can to enjoy the endless riding trails and magnificent mountain views. They have told me so many great stories about the trials and dunes. We plan to come back in the spring to do some back country rides with them, I can't wait.
As we rounded a bend I caught sight of an enormous valley and down at the bottom was a beautiful lake. This lake is man made and it was made by damming up the Seminoe River. Along side the lake sits the boat club, a group of small cabins next to the docks and launch that gives access to this recreational boaters paradise.
A bit farther down the road we came to the camping area, a well maintained small group of sites with all the hookups and comforts you need. As we toured the campground we noticed a small group of wild horses grazing by the roadside. There were all different colors from white, tan, painted, and an all black horse that's fur was so dark it looked as if it was velvet. My wife Nancy and I jumped out of the vehicle and slowly made our way down the road toward the horses. As we approach they did not seem to mind us in their space. I snapped a few shots from a distance and a few more as we got closer. We watched as they slowly moved along and crossed the campground road in front of us. The large painted horse turned toward us and slowly came in our direction he stopped about 30 feet in front of us and seemed to pose for a few pictures before going back to his group.
Over all our trip to Wyoming was so amazing. But as all trips, it was way to short. So much to see and so much to do, Wyoming we will be back for another ride next year and we can hardly wait!
This week we are out west! Rawlins Wyoming, a beautiful little town on the edge of the Continental Divide 7000 feet above sea level. The snow and cold weather are a great change of pace, highs in the teens and lows in the negatives.
There have been a lot of firsts on this trip so far. This is the first time I have been to Colorado, and Wyoming. The first time I have been in weather under -20 degrees, and the first time I have seen a Mule deer in the wild! What amazing animals, large groups of them walking across vast, open snowy, wind blown landscapes. It looks to me like the community group is strong with these animals. As I watch them you can clearly see the mothers walking along with there little ones tow. As the dominant buck sits quietly watching the heard.
The photographer in me wants to spend hours and hours following and patiently waiting for the perfect moment. And the photographers wife next to me says lets go it's cold!
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!
It's worth sharing. What is better than witnessing something amazing? Sharing that moment with someone else. Have you ever had something happen when you were totally alone and thought to your self they will never believe what just happened? Most of the time you tell your story later but it just doesn't have the same energy or excitement. That memory goes by the wayside even if it was amazing. Now take that same event and ad one friend seeing it with you, Wow the stories you will tell, bouncing that emotion back and forth between the two of you. your friends and family listen to your story start to get excited and it becomes a moment. Years could go by and your friend will say remember that time we... And you will laugh and get to relive it again and again, that moment will not only live on but that relationship is stronger because of it. Me and my best friend A.K.A my wife do this often, a silent car ride one minute. The next minute we are both laughing so hard we have tears in our eyes, one "hey remember when.." Will create hours of open conversation. So go on an adventure, do something new, bring your friends, and family, create some "remember when..." Moments. Life is worth sharing!
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.
Sitting by a small stream on a cool spring day in the middle of the forest takes me back. The time spent by the waters edge is short but the good it does last a lifetime. When I was just a boy I remember camping trips with my mother, our site always on the water. Or trips to Formar,a nature reserve in MI with my sister to go on short hikes. know matter what we would always stop by a small babbling creek just long enuf to take it all in. Or try to cross it on a large fallen log. Why do we as humans have this deep connection with water? To me it is because it is ever changing, like life. Rain up stream means high water and a faster current, the creek will surge to life taking with it sand and debris that will forever change its banks. Over time it will change the landscape, it will change corse as rocks or trees obstruct its flow. All the time pressing onward never to be held back. But for this one moment in time as I sit closely by it feels familiar, it is never the same yet it is always the same. I know that there will always be obstacles to overcome. Adapt change corse and all ways press onward never giving up, this is life.
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?
One spring day Nancy and I decided to head over to one of our favorite state parks here in Florida. O'leno State Park located in High Springs FL sits on the banks of the Santa Fe River which is great for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. This area has some of the most beautiful oak lined riverbanks and I recommend it to anyone looking for a nice paddle and fish location.
This trip marks the first time my wife and I every went fishing from a canoe, and the last. As we paddled up stream enjoying the beautiful forest we passed so much wildlife along the way, deer, pigs, birds, turtles, and alligator sat near the shore warming them selves in the sun. The water was a bit low this time of year so on occasion we would need to get out of the canoe and push it over logs and shallow spots in the stream. About two miles up river we passed one of the largest alligators I have seen in the wild and in person. As a nature lover and a Floridian I know that these beautiful animals want nothing more than to be left alone and to be given there space. If you leave them alone they will leave you alone. Respect is a two way street in the wild. We watched him from a far for a few minutes and then continued up the river. About fifty yards up stream we came to a section of river that looked a bit deeper and we decided to try our hand a fishing from the canoe.
Once we got the tackle and poles out and finally got our lines wet the fish started to bite right away. Nancy catching the first, a large fish know as a Bowfin. If you have never seen a Bowfin take a second to look one up. Let's just say they are very large and they have a mouth full of teeth! She reeled the fish up next to the boat and I pulled it over into the canoe, it must have been about 24 inches long. I worked the hook free from his sharp scary teeth and held him up one last time before setting him free.
Back to the fishing rods, I cast my bait in the area Nancy had been fishing before and that made her look for a new spot to cast her line. Just then she decided to turn around in the canoe with out warning to me her sudden movement flipped the boat completely spilling us and all of our stuff into the river! Rods, bait, tackle, lunch, shoes, cloths, paddles, and cooler gone! And suddenly that shallow creek that just a few minutes before was not deep enough to float a boat in was way over our heads.
My first thought was to grab the now sinking canoe, as I hold the canoe in one hand and tread water with the other I remember that only about fifty yards up stream is a giant alligator and I just released a giant fish with giant teeth in the exact spot I was now treading water. I would be lieing if I said it didn't make me a bit worried, suddenly the boat was pointed strait down as I held the front end of it. This was a 15 foot canoe and it was not touching the bottom the water must have been twenty feet deep or more. One slip of the hand and we would be walking two miles though some of the thickest Florida forest I have seen back to camp. We slowly made our way over to shore which was almost to steep to climb. It took some team work to get the canoe back afloat, I jumped in the boat and paddled with my hands down river to find our paddles and cooler stuck in a fallen tree. The whole time Nancy walked along the shore asking me if I was mad that she flipped us. At the time I was just happy to be alive! By the time we made it back to camp we had laughed so much about it my sides hurt. That is one of my favorite memories.
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.