Where Can I Backpack?

May 07, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope everything is great with you today.  Today we are  continuing Backpacking theme. This weeks question "Where can I backpack at?"  This is a good question with lots of answers. I'm going to treat this series as if I'm talking to someone that is new to backpacking.  If your new to backpacking everything is going to feel strange.  If you have never camped before just setting up your tent or hammock will be a chore.  My first bit of advice is to get used to all of your equipment before you go on any backpacking trip.  You can work your way up to a bona fide backpacking trip. The first place I would start is your backyard.  Learn how to set up your tent.  Find a good spot in your backyard and practice setting up your tent. Depending on your tent learn how to stake it out how to put on the rain fly.  Do it a few times so it becomes easy for you.  You don't want to be learning how in the woods after a long hike to your campsite.  Blow up your sleeping pad and put out your sleeping bag just as you would or think you would while out in the woods.  Learn how to use your camp stove and how to make your dinner, coffee or whatever you're going to eat out there. This will be important because if you mess this up while out there there is no fridge to raid , you just get hungry.   Make sure you know how to use your water filtration system and how to refill your water bottles.  Hydration is very important. Hiking with a full pack on your back is hard work and you will sweat! Water is heavy! This is a number that you will remember each liter of water weighs 2.2 lbs. So if you have 2 liters of water 4.4 lbs.  This is on top of all of the other stuff that you will be carrying .  But you can't skimp on water it is a must have while in the wilderness so knowing how to filter it is essential.  The next thing is to sleep outside.  Learn how to get comfortable in your tent. It is a different sleeping experience than in your cosy bed.  I know all of this seems silly but it is learning that has to be done somewhere and in your backyard is a great place to start.  If you have kids they will have fun camping with you. You also have a bathroom near-by.  Using the bathroom is not a skill to learn at home your neighbors will not appreciate this. LOL  Thats a skill you will have to learn in the wilderness. After you get the backyard camping and all of your gear figured out its time to step it up.

The next place I would go to backpack is State Parks. State Parks are great resources to learn backpacking. I live near a state park and its where I try out new gear.  Practice hiking with a full pack on and have car camped several times.  Many State parks have back country camping which means that you have to hike in to a specific spot that you usually have to reserve.  I have had a ball at some of these parks and they can be a great place to learn how to backpack.  The sites can be from very sparse to sites with a picnic table and fire ring. Most of them do have some sort of pit toilet near by so using the bathroom in the woods isn't allowed here to protect the environment . (leave no trace has been discussed in a former blog).  This will seem like an big adventure the first couple of times you do it and it is!  You won't have running water many of the places don't have cell coverage so no phone.  They don't have lights so when the sun goes down lights out!  No trash cans so you haul your trash out with you. Its a very new experience.  At night there is no noise of civilization just the noise of the forest!  And its loud! Bring ear plugs.  A squirrel scampering across the forest floor sounds like an elephant to ears that haven't heard them before. But you won't hear a deer who may be sleeping 50 foot from you.  Around 2:00 am in the morning everything gets quiet.  All the animals have gone to sleep.  When you wake up in the morning its still quiet except for a couple of birds chirping.  I tell you about this because on your first night backpacking its different from car camping or in your backyard.  This is where you'll feel like you're in the wilderness.

National Parks and National Forest are the next places I would venture out to backpack. This is where I am in my backpacking.  I still like to go to some State Parks and go to places I haven't been yet but National Parks and Forest are where I do most of my backpacking.  National Parks and National Forest are larger and wide open spaces.  National Parks have rules and regulations and permitting that have to be adhered to because so many people go and we want to protect this wonderful resource and environment.  They usually have specific camping spots in the wilderness that you camp at. But these places are beautiful and have spectacular views that's why they became National Parks in the first place to protect the beauty.  There are thousands and thousands of trails in the National Parks system.   People from all over the world come to the US just to go to our parks.  In the back country there are less amenities than the state parks.  Usually no bathroom so you will have to learn how and where to poop in the woods.  Leave no Trace is a big deal in these area's because we want to leave this great resource for our grandchildren and theirs to enjoy like we do.  In some National Parks and most of the National Forrest there is what's called dispersed camping . Which means you can camp anywhere you like along the trail.  These sites will not have any amenities except maybe a man made fire ring that someone before you made from stones that they gathered.  This year I'm exploring the National Forest of North Carolina and am getting ready for my first backpacking trip of the year. It will be a small one because I still have my Covid weight on and I am out of shape but I'm looking forward to my time in the woods again.

Backpacking is a wonderful experience and way of life really.  Until next week keep exploring and keep shooting . Get Outside!


Backpacking-More than Just Hiking!

April 30, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. This week I'm going to start a series on backpacking. What it is, why I like it, and what gear I use. I don't do nearly the backpacking that I want to.  But over the last couple of days, I have decided that I need a new goal or at least refresh some older ones.  I need to get out and do stuff while I still can. I love to backpack, but for some reason I don't.  I have decided this year that is going to change and I will start again.

Let me first talk a little about backpacking. What is it?  Well, hiking is walking through the woods.  Most people just hike.  They go to their local park and go on a trail and hike for a day.  Maybe they pack a lunch or snacks and make a day of it.  Backpackers hike the trails also, but at the end of the day they make camp, pitch a tent, cook dinner, and sleep under the stars.  In the morning they pack everything up and start all over again. There are extremes to everything.  In backpacking there are also.  On one end of the spectrum, there are through-hikers. These hikers are in it for the long haul. They hike long trails like the AT (Appalachian Trail) at 2190 miles, the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) at 2650 miles, or the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) at 3028 miles.  If they complete all three of these, they are triple crowners. There are many more shorter trails, but these people want to go from one end to the other non-stop. It may take up to 6 months of hiking to finish. These people can hike many miles in a day, but most average 20 miles a day. Then there are the section hikers.  These folks are like the through-hikers, but they don't have all the time the through-hikers have. So maybe they will hike 200 miles this year, and another 500 miles next year. They will do sections of the long trail until they have it complete. Then there are weekend warriors. This is the category that I fall into. I go out for a night or two and then it's back to work for me. I do envy the folks that can go out for longer stretches, and maybe I'll start to do more of that.  I really need to get back in shape first. The way these people think is also different. Their philosophy about hiking is different. Through-hikers are in for the miles mostly. They still love the views, but they have miles to make. They keep their pack weight down so they can travel faster and longer. The term they use is ultra-light, and they pack minimally. Section-hikers are sort of like through-hikers but probably carry a little more. Weekend warriors, like me, like to go lightweight, but it's not as important to us.  We are only going to be out for a night or so and can put up with the weight more easily.  Not to say we are stronger, but we are traveling fewer miles and only staying overnight a day or two. We are in it for the views, and breaks are welcome because we are out of breath and need them. LOL

I first started hiking when I was 50 years old.  A little late in the game. My son and I would go to state parks and start to hike.  I started watching YouTube videos of people hiking the AT (Appalachian Trail) and how they would camp out with the stuff they brought with them. The adventurer in me got excited, so we decided on a trip that we were going to backpack. It was a loop trail (one that goes in a big circle),  and we would have to do it by hiking over 10 miles a day.  We had to start training because we could only hike a couple of miles, and we had no gear.  So we started hiking and acquiring  gear. Our first 10-mile hike was from our house to the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park which is 10 miles from my doorstep. We picked this one so my wife could rescue us if we had troubles. But we made it! It only took 31/2 hours to do, and we looked homeless with our full packs on.  We made it to our campsite, and the ranger came by and asked us where our car was. When I told her what we had done, she looked at us like we were crazy. But it wasn't the first time we were looked at like that. When we went out for training hikes in state parks, we were the only ones in full packs with trekking poles. We got a lot of strange looks. But it worked. We went on our first long-distance hike in the mountains in the cold. It was so cold that the water in our water bladders froze. But we hiked our 10 miles down into the valley and back up. (up was much harder) LOL. I was hooked! I loved the views and the exercise it took to get to them. I loved taking photos in places that photos were not always taken because it was too hard to get to for most. I loved how we set up camp and made a fire to keep warm. How we cooked dinner. I loved everything about it, except for leaving.

 We did a lot of backpacking in those early years. A bunch of state parks but some of our best were in the national parks. The Smokies have lots of trails to hike and places to backpack in.  Our longest trip was 36 miles over 3 days and 2 nights on the AT.  We were there when all of the through-hikers were coming through.  We slept in a shelter with a dozen of through-hikers and a couple of dogs. We had a fire going and it was awesome. It felt great to be with these hikers who had hiked over 165 miles to get to this shelter.  It only took me 12 and I was pooped! I am looking to have many more experiences like that one in the future. I do need to get in better shape. I still have my Covid weight on and I was too big before then, so I have a lot of work in front of me. My photography goal for this year is to visit and explore all of the national forests in North Carolina, so this will be a big opportunity to get out in the woods again and do some backpacking.

So until next week please stay safe and healthy and get outside!

Remote Shutter Release

April 22, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and happy! Today I want to talk about using a remote shutter release, why you should have one, and when to use it. And finally what I use as a remote shutter release.

Remote Shutter Release devices are essential equipment for a photographer as far as I am concerned.  They should be in everyone's camera bag. They are used to eliminate shake caused by your hand when pressing the shutter button. They are used for longer exposures to eliminate shake that could make your photos blurry. Using them while taking photos of waterfalls or astrophotography will make your photos sharper. They also come in handy when doing macro or close-up photography.

There are a few types of remote shutter releases. The most inexpensive is a cable shutter release. It uses a cable that hooks to your camera, and then you press a button on the other end of that cable.  You can pick these up at Amazon or any camera shop. Just make sure you get one made for your make and model of camera. The next type is an infrared shutter release. Much like a TV remote, you must have a line of sight between the remote and the camera. (This is the drawback to this one.) If you lose line of sight, your signal may be disconnected. The next type is by using an app on your phone. Many of the newer cameras have apps that can go on your phone, and you can hook your phone via WIFI or Bluetooth to your camera and control it via your smartphone. The last type, and the type I primarily use, is the radio-triggered shutter release. On these, you have a receiver and a transmitter. The receiver hooks to your camera, you hold the transmitter, and using radio signal you can trigger your camera to shoot. When using radio waves, you don't have to have a line of sight. This means you can be around the corner or have the transmitter in your pocket and still use it. This comes in handy, especially on cold nights when you want to keep your hands warm. There are cable-remote shutter releases that have timers built into them that will take multiple photos over a period of time. Very handy when doing astrophotography and taking many photos and then merging them together in Photoshop.

I use the Sony system so all of my releases are made to connect and control Sony cameras. My first shutter release is a cable release made by Sony. This release doesn't only control the shutter but can also control the zoom function Screenshot and focus when using certain lenses. It can also start and stop recording video. This is a nice remote, and it uses the battery in the camera to work. My other cable release is my primary one. It is a Korean-made device by the company SMDV. The model number is RFN-4rx. The receiver attaches to the hot shoe of my camera, and a wire then plugs into the camera. You can change the radio channel if it or another transmitter interferes with your camera. The transmitter and receiver use one AAA battery each. I found this company when I was a Nikon shooter, and they had a receiver that plugged into the 10pin connector on the front of the camera with a little antenna that I kept hooked to the camera all the time.  It Screenshot was a fantastic system and I loved it.  When I moved to Sony, I had to wait a little until the company made one that would work on Sony. And when they did I got one. I love the way it works and it is very dependable. The transmitter has a strap that can go around your wrist to keep you from dropping or losing your transmitter. This is very handy around water or waterfalls, one of my favorite things to shoot. The only drawback is that you have to make sure the batteries don't go dead in your bag over time between using the shutter release.

Using a remote shutter release will make your photographs better when doing long exposure. So until next week, please get out and shoot!

Camera Bag First Aid?

April 16, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and happy.  Today I want to talk about first aid products that I cary with me in my camera bag all of the time. When your out and about taking photo's whether its in a city or hiking down a trail you still have to be prepared for the unexpected. I have a little I guess what you would call first aid kit that I have in all of my camera bags.  These stay in the bags at all times.  If I'm planning a longer hike I have a backpacking First Aid kit that I will throw in my camera bag that has more stuff in it but today I'm just going to talk about what I have in my camera bag on a daily basis. I have a sturdy zip lock bag that I got some filters in that works great for this.

Microfiber Lens Wipes- Now this might not seem like a first aid product but for me its real important.  I wear glasses and I need to keep them clean. I am a left eye dominate photographer which means that I smudge my glasses almost every time I take a photo.  So keeping my glasses clean is a full time job.  I use some pre-moistened cloths that I get from Walgreens. These are what I use everyday so I just slip a couple of these in my kit. These are also great for cleaning tough stuff of of your camera lenses too.

Sunscreen- My daytime job keeps me indoors most of the time so when I go outdoors I can burn fairly easily.  When I was younger I was outside all of the time and would burn once a year and that was it . I would tan up pretty good and didn't have to worry about the sun. But with age and my indoor job I have to be careful. I take a single pack of Banana Boat SPF 30 were ever I go.  I like taking these single packs instead of a bottle or a tube because it saves space.  I usually put on my neck , face and forearms and if I'm wearing shorts my legs also.

Insect Repellent- Here in North Carolina there are lots of insects but Mosquito's and ticks are what I'm trying to get away from me. I use a product through backpacking that I found to be very effective. I use Picaridin insect repellent lotion. I like this much better than any other repellent that I have used that has DEET in them.  What I really like about this product is that it can last up to 14 hours after applying .  Its not greasy or smelly and a little goes along way.  I buy these in single packs also. I use the packs when I go backpacking and now when ever I go to a mosquito infested area. (like my backyard sometimes) Its a little pricy but worth it.

Other Stuff- I have some other misc. things I bring. One is a couple of those toothpick Floss thingy's.  If your out and about having lunch these come in handy.  I also have an old film container that I put Tums, Ibuprofen and benadryl.  I usually have a bandaid of some sort put in my little kit also. Because stuff happens .

This might seem like a lot of first aid stuff to carry with you in your camera bag but its a very small kit and remember its not just for you but maybe a fellow photographer or hiker that could use some insect repellent or and Ibuprofen .  I have more than once given some insect repellent to a fellow photographer in need. So think about a little kit that you can customize for your camera bag.  Hey and don't forget water and food. I usually have some sort of power bar and I always carry water. You don't want to get dehydrated that's not good for you either.  Well until next week get outside and keep shooting !



Spring is here!

April 09, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope you're doing well today! Spring is here! In North Carolina spring is in full force with pollen, springtime storms, and weather changes. Here in North Carolina the weather can change from in the 80s one day and freezing the next in springtime. Today I want to talk about the hazards associated with springtime into the summer months.

Pollen - In NC in the springtime, everything turns green! Not only the flowers and the grass but the roads, your car, your house, everything turns green. The pollen that happens here is terrible.  I never used to notice it when I was younger, but now it seems like it's everywhere. And if you're allergic, I feel for you because this stuff is everywhere. For those who haven't experienced this, it can be crazy. You can park your car in the driveway, and the next day when you drive away you can see the outline of your car on the pavement.  You can see clouds of it coming off of the trees when the wind blows and streams of green when it rains. If you're allergic, take your meds because you Farm Springtime FenceFarm Springtime Fence will need it. If you're doing photography, keep your lenses clean and cameras put away when not shooting to keep them clean.

Bee's and things that sting - With the pollen come the bees, wasps, hornets, and all types of creepy crawlers. As the temps warm up things start flying. If you're allergic to bee stings, make sure you have your Epipen close by. It's been a while since I've been stung, but I know it will happen again one day. Mosquitos are something else to deal with here in NC, especially near the coast and water. Down east they are the beast that have to be reckoned with. They can really make or break a good hike or photo shoot. Summer Tree FlareSummer Tree Flare

Reptiles - I'm not a big fan of these, but we have plenty here in NC. And when the weather starts to warm up, they start to move around. Good advice is to never put your hands or feet where you can't see them. Snakes are my biggest fear when hiking around in the woods. Copperheads and rattlers are my biggest fear, but any kind of snake can scare the bejeebies out of you if you're not looking for them. Being aware of your surroundings is the biggest thing you can do to prevent an unexpected encounter. Another reptile we have in NC is the alligator, mostly found on the eastern shores of the state. There are not a lot of them, but if you're in swampy water I would beware.

Furry Critters - Springtime is when all the moms in the forest seem to come out, whether it's bears, foxes, or rabbits. I don't really have much encounter with these animals, because compared to them I'm pretty loud in the forest and they can hear me coming from a mile away.  Beware of mothers with their young. Give all of the creatures in the forest space and respect. Don't rush up to a mamma bear with cubs saying how cute and try to take their photo. You'll certainly get an eye full. Full of Mamma Bear. So give these animals a wide space. Remember, you're their guest in the forest, not the other way around.

Springtime is a great time of year to be out in nature!  Flowers are blooming, things are turning green, trees are getting their leaves again. After being cooped up in the house for the winter, it's great to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather and all of the beautiful surroundings. Just make sure you're careful, and enjoy the outside. Get out and shoot!