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. 

 

Geocaching

 

A real life treasure hunt! One of my favorite things to do when I am hiking and camping is to Geocache. Geocaching is basically a global game of hide and seek, one person hides a small countainer full of stuff and then posts the GPS coordinates online at Geocaching.com, then the seeker downloads the FREE moble App on any smartphone to find it.

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The App is simple, one button push and you will see all of the Geocaches in your area. Just select one on the map and then follow the map to the treasure. Once at the container you will find a standard set of items. First is a card or paper telling you that you just found a Geocache. Next is the logbook, this book is left in the cache for everyone who finds it to sign and leave a message to all other finders. Other than those two item you will find "stuff" basically buttons, pins, trinkets, toys... I have even found tool kits, flashlights, money, and an RC car one time. This stuff or swag as most cachers call it is meant to be traded for. #1 rule you take something you leave something of equal or greater value. This makes every cache exciting to find because you never know what you might find! 

One of the most eye opening things about Geocaching comes when you first download the App. The first time I pushed the find a cache button I realized that these things are everywhere! There were fifty to sixty in my home town, I walked within feet of some of them for years and did not even know they where there. But the best part is that some of them led me down back roads and to nature trails that I never knew about. I have lived in this town for over thirty years and just last year found amazing thing miles from my house that I did not know existed. 

This is by far one of my favorite outdoor activitys and now my friends and family are all into it! I have found several hundred caches in just two short years. And every time we camp, hike, backpack, or if I am just out shooting a few nature photos, I always check to see if there is a Geocache near by! Download the App

Get Out There! 

 

"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!  

 

Camping Quick Tip


Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

Here is a quick tip. Throw a permanent marker in with you camping gear today, if you wait you will forget. When camping in groups it helps to mark drink cups, bottles, cans, even plates. This will benefit you in two ways. First, everyone will know which drink is there's. Second, people especially kids tend to reuse disposable items like cups when it is personalized. Saving money, storage space, and the beautiful environment we all love.  

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! 

"Controlling Light" Part 2

This is the second 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

Tent Stake Basics


Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

If you are buying a tent or have bought a tent in the past here is some information that might come in handy.  

Pictured here you see three different style tent stakes. And if you have camped in your lifetime I am sure you have seen at least one of these before. When you buy a tent it will always come with enough stakes to stake it down, and now a days the most common supplied factory stake is the small aluminum J or L style one pictured in the middle. What you may not know is that these stakes are all intended for different soil conditions, so depending on the part of the world you are living in or going to be camping in you may need to purchase different stakes to keep you tent held tight to the ground. 

Being an avid camper I have camped in almost every soil situation and have learned (sometimes the hard way) that things like stakes will always be overlooked when planing your next adventure. So preparing now for all future trips is easy and relatively inexpensive.  

First off, let's learn what each of the stakes above are used for. We will start with the top one, the yellow one. You may also see this in green plastic or even made out of aluminum. But the basics of this one are wide flat splines that run the length of the stake. This feature makes this stake work great in sandy or loose soil, but I do warn you that one hard root, shell or rock can easily crack or break this style stake. 

Next the common factory style stake, the middle one. This stake works best in firm or clay type soil. Small surface roots like grass are fine but since this stake is usually aluminum it will bend easily if you hit larger roots or stones. In sandy or loose soil this stake will pull out in the smallest wind. Making this stake unusable.   

The last stake pictured here the long steel nail with the high visibility orange top. This stakes rugged design makes it work perfect for hard packed stoney or rootie soil. It's length also gives you more strength in high winds. This stake also works great on canopies which act like sails in the wind. 

I recommend you alway carry two styles in your tent gear. I always carry the sand style stake and the steel nail style stake in my gear at all time. The nail style stake will work anywhere the factory aluminum stake will so keeping all three is overkill. Also if you have ever used the factory aluminum stakes you most likely have bent them more often then not.  

Useing the right stake in the right situation is very important, cutting corners can and will be costly or dangerous. I hope this helps you on your next adventure. Now get out there! 

What is That Sound!? ( Campfire Story )


This is a true camping story that I love to tell around the campfire. 

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One Birthday camping trip a few years back, my girlfriend and I headed off to Hillsborough River State Park. In Hillsborough County, Florida. A beautiful state park on the banks of Hillsborough River. One night after a long day of canoeing, hiking, and Geocaching, the girlfriend and I were cooking dinner over the fire. If I remember it correctly this all unfolded somewhere between the wood grilled hamburgers and a Reese's peanut butter cup S'more.    

As we sit talking about our day, I start to hear something way off in the thick forest behind me. It sounded like maybe a raccoon rustling the underbrush or maybe a passing deer traveling an old trail that runs along side the campground. At first I did not think much about it. It was a cool night in March so we sat close to the fire side by side with our backs to the forest, the fire pit between us and the tent. With no moon and a lot of cloud cover the night seemed very dark and you could not see much farther than the edge of the fire glow. As we talked about the normal campfire things I caught the sound of rustling leaves getting a bit louder, and then louder, then faster and LOUDER! And it suddenly appeared to me that something was running through the forest directly at us!! And as it got closer it sounded BIG! In my mind flashed images of every horror film, rabid dog, and pack of wolves. I stopped talking and looked at my girlfriend quickly, she looked back at me and for a split second no words needed to be spoken. She jumped up and ran full sprint toward the tent. And no lie I jumped up, pushed down both chairs on there sides in front of me and took stance facing the woods like a football linemen waiting for the blitz! I stood starring into the darkness, heart pounding out of my chest... Out of the extreme darkness running full blast came... Four babe armadillos with there mother. They scurried over the arm of my chair around my feet and continued there way back into the forest. 

I laughed out loud to myself for a minute and then went to find my girlfriend, who I found two campsites away. LOL. The next day was my Birthday and on a long hike on the Florida trail I asked my Girlfriend to marry me, she said yes. What a great trip!   

Camping Overkill!


Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

I hear so many stores about people being under prepared on camping or backpacking trips. But when on the trail I tend to see more people over prepared, including myself sometimes. 

Over prepared? Countless times,  I have passed hikers on a back country trails. Hanging from there packs I have seen Dutch oven, cast iron skillet, gallons of water, full size camp chair, extra shoes, full size Ax... Not saying that they are not going to use this stuff but is it worth the weight? 

Car camping is a little different story. Not carrying it miles on your back, I say bring that 10 lbs cast iron Dutch over. Bring the big camp chairs and the gallons of water. But even car camping can be over done. For instance I have a folding standalone hammock that I bought years ago that I take when we car camp. I have set it up fifty times and might have sat in it two times. LOL. It actually has been used more often to cover firewood, odd when I keep four extra tarps in my equipment. This year I am going to make it a point to slim down my setup. What is it that we truly need, or more so what is it that we will truly use?   

As for for my camera gear... I need all of it! 

 

 

Photography on a Budget.


Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

 Most people think that in order to get photographs like you see in magazines you need to have the best equipment. Or that the only reason an image looks so amazing is the camera that cost $10,000. I am here to tell you that this is simply not true. On the other hand I am a believer in you get what you pay for to a certain existent. But I have seen photos that take your breath away that were shot on cell phones, cheap point and shoot cameras, even camcorder snapshots. 

The biggest difference is that the people doing the capturing knew the equipment and had a great understanding of photography and had a passion for telling story's with an image. 

When people ask me what camera should I buy. I always tell them the best camera is the one you already have. Technique and passion are more important than equipment. And then once you find your style and your eye, get the camera that fits you. Even Steven Spielberg started on a handy cam.     

For those who have no camera at all, borrow one, or worst case you can pick up an SLR camera and lense for less than $150 on eBay. I know so many people that have the best most expensive cameras and don't know the first thing about framing a shot, or composition. They thought buying big meant great images. And that is so far from the truth! 

 

 

SD Survival


Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

SD Survival.

Here is a helpful tip for your next outdoor adventure. Always keep a small SD card (or whatever your camera uses) labeled Survival in your camera case. On this card keep information in photos, that will help you in the event of an emergency.

Examples 

Trail Maps, Area Maps, Photos of eatable plants, knot instructions, trap and snare diagrams, poisonous plants from that area, poisonous snakes...  

The idea is to give your self any information that would help you in a dangerous situation. If your planing a trip, take the time to do a quick search for these things for that area, and then just snap photos of your computer screen. Most photographers will have plenty of batteries in there pack to keep a camera running for days so you can reference these photos at any time.   

I also have made it a habit to take a photo of the trail map at the trail head before I head out, I have used this on several occasions to find my way back to my vehicle. I also put useful info on my card that I use as a photographer like tide information for the week I am shooting near the ocean, sun rise and sun set calendars, light meter calculators... 

It always pays to be prepared for the worst even if you never need it. If you have other ideas for the SD survival card share them! You may help save a life. Be Safe!  

and get out there! 

 

 

Happy Camper


Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

This little guys name is Emmet, and he loves camping. One of the great things about camping is that it truly is for the whole family. The outdoors offers so many great activitys for everyone. Emmet loves hiking, even though his legs are only about 5 inches long, he is always up for a few mile stroll through the forest. He also always has my back when I stop for a photo. Emmet is a member of my family, it is nice to have him enjoying vacations with us.

 

Get Your Feet Wet.


Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

One of the many lessons that I have learned over the years in this great hobby is, never be afraid to get your feet wet! Literally, 

When you first see an amazing photo opportunity your first instinct should be to look for the best possible shot of your subject. Sometimes that shot is not always obvious. When first approaching this set of falls I noticed a few phographers along the shore up near the top of the falls. As I looked at the location I decided to take a little different approach. Testing the waters depth with my monopod first and then stepping into the ice cold stream. I hopped up on a few rocks and found a place to anchor my tripod. I set my camera up, very carefully I might add. And snapped a few frames. As I was packing my gear a few minutes later I noticed that two of the other photographers had been standing on the shore where I went in to the stream. I finished packing my stuff and slowly went back into the stream towards the two. As I did they stepped into the water and headed for the pile of rocks mid stream that I had just returned from. Back on shore I dumped the water from my boots collected my gear and headed back up the trail.  As a photographer I believe it is my goal to bring to frame the parts of nature that are seldom seen, an angle that is not so common, or a story that hasn't be told. Sometimes you can not simply do this standing on the shore. Be safe, be smart, but most of all be adventurous.