Teardrop Trailer Camping What I like and dislike

March 26, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is healthy and safe today. This week I want to talk about teardrop trailers. I have been a teardrop owner for 5 years now, and I have some things I like about them and things that I don't.  Teardrop camping trailers have been around since the 1930s, and there are almost cult-like groups that love the little trailers. Some build them from scratch and are works of art, and some are mass produced like mine for those of us that aren't as handy as others. These small trailers are cute and full of neat things, like kitchens, TVs, queen-sized beds, and some have air-conditioning also.  The little tear-shaped trailers are lightweight so any vehicle can tow them, from a mini-cooper to a full-sized truck. So here goes my list.

Likes

- I love the build quality of my trailer, and most if not all are well made, sturdy, and built to last a lifetime.

- I love that my wife can come with me camping. We used to do tent camping, but as we gt older I wanted to get something nicer for her to go _DSC6464_DSC6464 camping with me. Camping in the trailer is really "glamping" or glamor camping. With everything, including the kitchen sink, it's really a comfortable camping experience.

- I love all the gadgets that come with mine. I have a TV, refrigerator, stove, sink, stereo, Blu-ray player, and even air conditioning. All of these work off of a battery, except for the AC.

- I love that it is very towable. I have towed this with my truck, Honda Pilot, and CRV.  It's very lightweight and you don't even know you're towing it.

- I love how it sleeps. Much better than a tent.  Plenty of room for me, my wife, and Forrest the wonder dog.

Dislikes

- The price.  These little trailers can be pricey. You can get a basic model for maybe $5,000, but they can easily get into the tens of thousands of dollars.

- The freedom I lose having to pull a trailer. When you drive pulling a trailer, you have to really pay attention to where you go, making sure you have room to turn.

- Set up of the trailer.  If it was just me, this would be an easy task. Level and done. But when my wife comes with me, we have a side tent that we set up for her to stand in to dress. We have an awning that we put on the back with a separate bug net that takes time to set up. So after driving a few hours to get somewhere, you still have to back up the trailer (I suck at this) into the spot and set up the awning and side tent.

- The attention that it draws. In the campground we always get people coming up to check us out and say how "cute" our setup is.  It's all very nice, but I still don't like it being called "cute" LOL

- Planning. With the camper, getting into campgrounds takes some planning. You just can't pull into a campground expecting to get a place to stay. You will probably get no room at the inn. With the increased popularity of camping and the outdoors, especially since the Covid outbreak last year, the campgrounds are booked and you must plan at a minimum a month to three months in advance to get a spot. The really popular places may be up to six months. 

Now don't get me wrong. I love my little camper, and now I'm starting to customize and update our little trailer. As I make customizations to the trailer, I'll keep y'all in the loop. We've just gotten back from a trip last weekend, and if it wasn't for the trailer we wouldn't have gone. It was a very windy weekend, and we just hung out in the trailer, watched a little TV, and cooked in our little side tent that kept us out of the wind. So another trip salvaged. Hope you enjoyed this blog about our teardrop trailer, and maybe you can check one out for yourself. So until next week get outside and explore!


Exploring Croatan National Forest

March 19, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope everyone is safe and healthy. This week I want to talk about exploring one of North Carolina's four national forests. At 159,000 acres, it's the third largest of  the NC national forests. Located in Eastern North Carolina, it has lakes, rivers, and hiking trails. Lots to explore. This may take longer to explore than I previously had planned in my yearly project, but I'm going to stick with this plan even if it takes me many years to do. I plan on doing most of  my exploration mainly in colder weather because the bugs and the heat are crazy during the spring and summer. This national forest is the closest to my home, and I plan on taking many one-day trips to explore and a few overnighters. I'll be using my trusty old truck Betsy that I have talked about in previous blogs.  She's a 21-year-old truck but in very good condition with a camper shell on it, and on top of that I have my new exploring vessel, my canoe. No name for the canoe yet, but I'm still searching. 

Last weekend I took my first exploring trip to Croatan.  I have taken a couple of look-and-see trips just to get my bearings. But the weather has slowed down my exploration. We have had a very wet end of last year and start of this year.  The ground everywhere is very saturated with water, so just a little rain floods the land.  The rivers are swollen and the currents strong, so I haven't ventured onto the rivers yet with my new canoe. Being a new paddler, I don't want to have to fight currents and such yet until I get some more experience with the canoe. Next year I plan on starting river exploration in North Carolina, but I need to get my skills better with the canoe first. My first trip was to Catfish Lake where I planned to do some paddling around this lake.  I went to this lake fairly early in the morning.  You have to go on a forestry road that is not paved to get to the lake. The main road was in good condition, and I could tell that it had been graded recently. The road to the lake off of this main road was another matter.  The rain had done its damage to the road, and large potholes were everywhere.  I had to dodge and endure the holes and probably could only do 5mph down this road. The lake is surrounded by thick overgrowth and can only be accessed in a couple of places. I came to the first place just a turn out with about a 30-foot clearing.  I decided to go farther to the main boat launch. When I got to the road, it was flooded in one place. My truck is not 4-wheel drive, so I didn't go to the main launch. I turned around and went to the first launch. I got my canoe off the truck, got my camera and all my stuff together, and went out on the lake. I was probably the only one on the lake.  As the wind started to pick up, I tried to stay close to the shore out of the wind in the protection of the trees. I really didn't see any wildlife but did see a lot of duck decoys, so I'm sure if you're here at the right time of year there would be migrating birds here. I had my camera loaded in a pelican case, and as it was my first time with my camera in the canoe, I practiced getting it out and back in the case.  I took a few photos, but just at decoys. After about an hour, the wind got too strong for my paddling skills, so I did the smart thing and got out of the water and put my boat back on old Betsy. It was now mid to late morning, and I wanted to do something else while I was in Croatan. So I found a trail to explore.

Island Creek Trail is about 2.5 miles off the trail and follows the creek. This is a black water creek where the minerals from the soil and trees make the water tea-colored, but in the creek it makes the creek turn black. I am horribly out of shape and overweight. I was already overweight when the virus started, and I just got fatter after that.  Its been a while since I did some hiking, so even this little hike was quite a workout for me. I started at the trailhead. This is a loop trail, so when I came to the fork, I took a right and went by the creek. The creek is filled with cypress trees and knees by this winding creek. This trail gets lots of traffic as the path was well worn. There are lots of side trails that can take you toward the creek.  The trail has some signage telling you what trees are what and very little in trail markings to let you know that you're on the right trail. But it's very easy not to get lost. This is a delightful trail and took me about an hour and a half to complete.

My first exploring trip to the Croatan National Forest was a success. The idea that I had taking my canoe with me was a success and there will be plenty more trips. I already have reservations to take my little teardrop to Cedar Point Recreational Area to do some more exploring with my wife. Forrest, the wonder dog, did not accompany me this time. I want to get better at paddling before I try to get him in the boat, but I hope to soon. I have another trip planned with my wife and the teardrop trailer to Cedar Point near Swansboro. So until next week keep exploring and get out and shoot.


Backpacking 5 Things I Love and Hate about It

March 12, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Bluff Mtn SummitBluff Mtn Summit Hey Everybody! I hope everyone is healthy and safe today.  Today's subject is about backpacking and the things I love and hate about it. Now, I'm no expert. I haven't hiked the Appalachian Trail, but I've been on it. I'm not super fit or young.  I'm just an upper-middle-aged old guy (LOL) that likes to get out into the woods every now and then. For those of you that don't really know the difference between hiking and backpacking, hiking is something that you do in a day. "I'm going to hike this trail today." Backpacking is hiking on steroids. When you backpack, you're planning to be gone for a couple of days, and you're carrying everything in your backpack to survive on the trip. Your shelter, food, clothes, everything that you think you will need for the trip. It's hiking and camping all rolled into one, and being a pack mule is part of it. So with that explained, I'll start with the things I love and the things I hate list.

Love 1 - Isolation. I love walking in the woods, and backpacking can take you deep into the woods. And the deeper you go, the less people and civilization that you see. Depending on where you are, you might not see anyone at all, or maybe one or two other people that are backpacking also. You are away from all the sounds and smells of the city, and you can really smell, feel, and taste the forest. It's a wonderful feeling.

Love 2 - I love the exercise that you get. Hiking 10 miles with a 35 or 40 lb pack doesn't seem like fun, but if your gear is dialed in and adjusted properly, you really don't feel the weight. Backpacking in the woods is much different than taking a walk in the park. The uneven ground up and down hills really gives you a workout. You really have to be careful that you don't overdo it because you can get injured if you're not careful. And deep in the woods is not the place to get hurt.

Love 3 - I really love the gear. I am a gear head and love all of the backpacking stuff I take with me. Backpacking gear needs to be lightweight, durable, and dependable. Minimal is less. So managing what you bring and what you don't bring is key to a successful experience. Weight is very important. Remember, you're carrying everything from water to your tent. There is an old saying, "Ounces = Pounds and Pounds = Pain."

Love 4 - Sleeping in the woods.  After a long 10-mile day and setting up camp doing all of the camp chores that you have to do, settling into your tent or hammock and finally resting for the night is awesome. Be warned, you might need some earplugs because of all the noises in the forest, which is all the bugs and creatures doing whatever they do. But after they have gone to bed, it's quiet.  I mean QUIET! It's fantastic.

The "AT' Grayson HighlandsThe "AT' Grayson HighlandsMax Stansell Photography Love 5 - The speed.  Traveling at 3 miles per hour or less is fantastic. Everything is not in a hurry  If you drive to work or to the grocery store, it's like a race on the roadways. Everyone is in a hurry. When you're in a hurry, you miss a lot of things. When you slow down to a walking pace, you see more. Seeing things that other people haven't seen is awesome. As a landscape photographer, it's nice to take photos that you know a lot of people will not get because they haven't traveled to get there.

Hate 1 - Carrying water. Water is the most important thing that you will carry with you. It is also the heaviest one. At 2.2lbs per liter and with all the exercise you are doing, you need a lot. It can be bulky and cumbersome to haul water.  This is where planning comes into play. Knowing when the next water source will be close by and having a water filter to purify it is key. So carry enough water to get to the next water source.

Hate 2 - Going uphill. HATE, HATE, HATE.  This is an old fat man thing. Many people enjoy going uphill, but I have to take many breaks because my heart is pounding and I'm out of breath. If you're young and fi,t this is no problem. My son cruises up these hills like they are nothing and is constantly waiting for me to catch up. 

Hate 3 - Going downhill.  Not as bad as uphill, but my knees take a pounding.  Another old fat man issue. But I do like it more than going Walking down the PathWalking down the PathWalking down the Path First edits with Luminar as a plugin to lightroom. I think I'm going to like it. #MaxStansellPhotography #funwithphotography #Getoutandshoot #awesomestuffisee #SonyA6300 #alphashooter #NorthCarolinaPhotographer #NorthCarolinaLiving #visitNC #NorthCarolina uphill.

Hate 3 - Snakes EEEEK!  I'm not a fan. I am always on the lookout. Now to be fair, I have only seen a few while hiking, but I am always looking where I put my feet and hands when out in the backcountry. If you stay on the trail, you will most likely not see any because they know that the trail is traveled by humans, and they want to stay away from you also. But when you go to the bathroom, you have to do it like the bears do and go in the woods, so you have to be careful where you step.

Hate 4 - Driving. Where I do most of my backpacking it's a good 2, 3, or even 4 hour drive to get to.  I really hate the drive to and especially back home. On the way there, driving takes so much out of you that your first day is usually a struggle. You drive a few hours there through traffic, and then you get to the trailhead and have to hike 6 to 10 miles. On the other end, you've just hiked 6 to 10 miles, then you have to drive through traffic home. It sucks.

Hate 5 - Leaving the trail. After you have backpacked for a few days, you are just getting in the groove. I once took a 36-mile backpacking trip for 3 days split into 12 miles a day, and each day I got stronger and stronger. I would love to take a week-long trip to see how I would feel after a week. But that last day getting to the car as your goal, when you get there you feel a good sense of accomplishment, but then you have to put your stuff away and drive home. It's a big change in such a short amount of time going from forest to interstate.

These are just a few of my loves and hates. There are many more, and most of them are loves. The overall experience is great. You get the sense of adventure, exploring, and seeing the world from a 3-mile-per-hour perspective instead of a 70-mile-per-hour rush to get wherever. You also get the accomplishment of planning a trip and carrying it out. Instead of using horsepower from your car, you're using human power to get somewhere. It's quite a thing.  So until next week, get outside and explore and shoot!
 


My Studio Light Setup

March 05, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you safe and healthy! Today I want to talk about my studio lighting set up and the strobes, flashes, and light modifiers I use. Now if you follow me I am primarily an outdoor photographer, and usually the only light I use besides sunlight would be some kind of LED portable light, like a Lume Cube. But did you know that I used to do a lot of tabletop photography and used strobes quite a bit? I have done portraits, mainly head shots, but I have shot weddings and even a bridal shoot. Now, I hardly do any of that type of photography and have scaled down my strobes that I used to use.  Usually, I just shoot portraits for family and friends.

Metering- When using external flashes, I find that an external flash meter is a must to get perfectly exposed shots. The meter that I use is an old one that you can't even buy anymore. It's a Sekonic L-358 and I just love it. Sekonic is the brand that I would always go to.  These meters help you get the perfect exposure using incident meter reading instead of  TTL or reflective meter reading that your camera gives you. Using this meter is easy. You just dial in the settings that you want to use and adjust your lights to it. I love this type of metering using flashes or strobes.

Blue Water SplashBlue Water Splash Flashes/Strobes- Now I have to say I have a lot of flashes. When I first started with flash photography, I started with inexpensive flashes that only 20170826_untitled shoot_000120170826_untitled shoot_0001 shot in manual mode, no automatic modes and no TTL(through the lens) capabilities.  You can get these flashes for about $50 each. The ones I got were from Yongnuo, a third-party company that makes inexpensive flashes. I have made lots of amazing photos on my tabletop studio with these flashes, and they still work great.  And if they break there is no big deal because they are so inexpensive compared to a brand name flash that comes in at over $300. I probably have four or five of these and don't use them too much anymore except for fill flash on special occasions. I have other flashes also that I use that are more high-tech and use TTL. I can use these on the camera for fill flash, like if I was shooting an event. I have a Flashpoint and a Yongnuo one, and they both work great. I also have a small flash that is the Neewer brand that is small and kind of matches my small mirrorless camera that is handy to carry around. My main strobe light is a Flashpoint Evolve 200. This small flash-like strobe is about 2 1/2 times the strength of my other flashes and is what I use for my main light when doing portraits. I only have one but would love to have another. These are fantastic strobes that have many heads that can attach to Portrait WorkshopPortrait Workshop them. They are battery powered and strong enough to use outside if you wanted to overpower the sun for a special shot. They are radio-controlled, which means I can change the settings on the fly, and they also do TTL and high-speed sync. I used to have very large strobes, but these are just a little larger than a traditional flash.

Wine glass SplashWine glass Splash Triggers- You can set off your flashes or strobes in a number of ways. They can be wired to one another and then to your camera so that when you push the shutter you get a flash. You can trigger them optically when you make one flash, like on your camera, then the rest of them flash. You can trigger with IR (infrared) like the remote control of your TV, or you can use radio signals to trigger the flash or strobe. Radio triggers are the most dependable because they do not depend on the line of site like optical and IR do, and they are not physically connected to your camera so you have freedom of movement. I have two different sets of triggers. The first one is Radio Poppers, similar to Pocket Wizards that used to be the industry standard but much cheaper.  They are a simple trigger that just makes the flash pop. My other trigger is an Godox X Pro trigger, and it talks to my Flashpoint Evolve and Flashpoint Flash and to an Godox Receiver that I can hook to different flashes. I can control each of the flashes separately with this trigger. It's very high-tech and awesome and may become the new standard, but as I'm not into flashes and strobes like I used to be, I'm not up on the latest and greatest.

Stands/Modifiers- This is where you can really go crazy because these things do not cost that much for a home studio.  You can get stands, booms, and any hardware relatively cheap, especially getting them a little here and there. Before long you have quite the setup. For light stands, I use fairly inexpensive ones. I think they were $25 each, and I have accumulated more than I need over time. Modifiers can come in many shapes and sizes. From the basic shoot through umbrella (my go-to) or the more elaborate soft boxes and beauty dishes, these are all fairly inexpensive if you're getting them one at a time.  My soft boxes are made by Wescott, and they fold up like an umbrella for easy storage as do a couple of different sized beauty dish soft boxes that are hexagon in shape. You can get lots of shapes and sizes on Amazon very inexpensively. Let me squeeze in backdrops in this category. I used to have some very large backdrops and stands that I would use when doing portraits, but I sold those and have many cloth remnants that I can put behind someone's head to make a simple back drop. These are very inexpensive, and you may already have these at your house. Also, for tabletop photography, a simple black foam core board on one side and white on the other is great for backdrops for product photography. They are less than $5 at your local craft shop.

As you can see, I have accumulated quite an array of items for my home studio. One thing I didn't mention is an old table that I use for the tabletop stuff.  I actually found this in a dumpster, but its like a 4x3 foot table that sits in the corner waiting to be used.  Like every other table, it catches anything when I walk in the room, so when I use it I have to clean all the stuff off of it. 

Well, I have rambled quite a bit this week.  So until next week, get out and shoot!


My GoPro Setup

February 26, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. This week I want to talk to you about my GoPro action camera setup. Now I'm no videographer, but I do like to document my travels and exploration trips. I have a YouTube channel with some of the videos that I have made. Now, I am no expert on motion photography and don't need to do anything fancy. The GoPro is the perfect camera for me. It's small and simple to use. It's waterproof, so no need to worry about rain or dropping it into a lake or creek. It can be recharged on the fly with an external battery. These little cameras tick all the boxes for me on what I need for an action camera. The cameras I have are not the latest and greatest or the top-of-the-line GoPros, but this was done on purpose. First and foremost, the older models are less expensive but still quite capable to do what I need. The other two cameras I use are my phone and of course my main camera, although I don't use my main camera much, but maybe I should. 

The first GoPro I bought was a GoPro Session 4. It's a small square camera that can be easily hooked to a coat, a hat, or a backpack.  It's easy to use.  And like all GoPros, when used with your phone, you can manipulate all of the settings. You can also use your phone as a viewfinder, which this GoPro does not have. This older GoPro is the one that I use for my truck. I have a mount on my windshield and have it running to give me road footage while going to and from different places. It shoots in 1080p, which is just fine for me because I am not interested in shooting in 4K for many reasons. One, it takes up too much computer space, and two, because the files are so large, there is a longer upload time to YouTube.  But this little camera still works for me.

My newest GoPro camera is the GoPro Hero 7 camera.  This is a very cool camera, and it is much more high-tech than the first one. It has in-body stabilization that gives the look a much smoother shot, not as much jumping around. Much like using a gimbal to stabilize your shot, but maybe not quite as good. This little camera also has a screen on it so you can see what you are shooting without using your phone. But you can still use your phone to adjust settings if you want. The touch screen on this little camera works well. It also has removable batteries which means you can take extras with you and swap them out when one gets exhausted. My GoPro Session 4 does not, so when the battery dies you have to recharge before you can continue filming. The GoPro Hero 7 comes in a black and white model. The black model shoots in 4K and the white does not. 

How much do these older GoPros cost?  I just checked Amazon, and for the GoPro Hero 7 Black, you can get it for $249, and the white you can get for $160. Pretty cheap compared to the GoPro 9 that comes in at $450.  I'm sure it's a great camera, but I like the savings I get with the GoPro 7.  The GoPro Session 4 you can't even get off of Amazon because it's so old, but maybe you can find it on eBay or used somewhere. These prices are subject to change.

I like my little cameras and have fun using them. So until next week, get out, have fun, and explore!

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