Posts Tagged ‘Idaho’

Splashing around

19 June 2017

Last Friday was fun. Surfing Google Earth earlier that week, I noticed a potential location for doing a photography project I have in mind. So, my son and I headed out to try and scout the spot.

Short story version is that I have to try a different route in. The “road” is blocked about 2 to 2.5 miles from the site. It’s good trail in, so hiking in is quite feasible. It’s carrying in all the necessary gear that makes it a little less fun. Obviously, I’ve got the means to backpack the gear, so we’ll see. It would also take care of removing the vehicles from the photo site.

However, there’s a possible alternate route in as well. Personally, given who (BLM & F&G) blocked vehicle access to the site while allowing horses and hiking, I suspect even that other route will turn out to be blocked. After all, why would two ways way in be blocked (I already know it’s also blocked at the dam) and the third not? Especially since the hiking “trails” are actually the old road system. Gotta check it out, anyway, just to be sure, eh?

Even though the desired goal wasn’t reached, we did have a lot of fun getting in as far as we did.

We took the back route to the park but one spot got bad enough that we both agreed to turn back instead of continuing on. A tight curve, a steep drop, and a large puddle only a foot from the edge with no way to avoid it…doesn’t sound that bad, but it was questionable at best right then. Walking back to my vehicle, I saw track indicating whoever had been there before us made the same decision to turn around. We could see the bridge and the entrance to the park off in the distance from there. Rats! Foiled again!

Once we got back to the main road, we took that to the park and drove through it to the fishing spots on the other side. At the end, that’s where the road was closed by a BLM/F&G gate. Access isn’t prohibited, just vehicles.

Years and years ago a friend and I drove the entire canyon from the park entrance to the dam. There wasn’t a park there at the time but people still went there to get in some good fishing, mostly catfish. We just wanted to see if we could drive the whole way, and we did. Good thing his Blazer had good suspension! Part of that, about a quarter mile worth, was solid boulder field and we were going over them following the track!

Hmmm. I wonder, could someone have tried doing it without good suspension, vehicle clearance, and a 4×4 drive? If enough idiots…excuse me, explorers… in inapprorpiate vehicles did try to go through that boulder field and kept breaking down, that could explain why the area got shut down to motorized use. Or more likely, people kept trying to make different roads all over the place to get past that part.

Ah, well. I’m obviously going to check out the remaining access road, but I’m expecting it to be closed as well. It looks to be a much shorter hike, but it’s down the canyon wall and those tend to be a little steeper than a highway in the same place. The hike in would be fine, it’s the hike back up and out that I wouldn’t wanna be facing at the end of the day. I’ll take the level, twice as long hike over one I have to climb.

A Return to Camping

20 August 2015

It has been almost since my kids were born, around 35 years, since the last time I’ve actually done what I would call camping. I’ve been out and spent the night in a tent or in the car, as you’ve seen in my other posts and pictures, particularly the astrophotography posts. But it’s been decades since I’ve actually gone camping as in the family going up in the hills and spending the weekend in a campground.

That’s what we did this last weekend. And that’s when I discovered just how much I missed it. The really cool thing about it, though, is my wife even said how much she enjoyed it. That gives me even more motivation to get the Vardo done.

So, on to the camping….

We left Friday morning and headed up, planning to go to Warm Lake and stay in one of the campgrounds there called Shoreline. We stopped at the gas station south of Cascade to get some treats and so found out about the Cougar fire in the area. For those unfamiliar with “Cougar fire” and the like, fires in the US NW are usually named after a creek, mountain, or other geographical landmark in the area and this one was named after Cougar Creek. We called the lodge for a status, discussed the situation and decided to go on in to Warm Lake if we could. On the way in we saw some side roads off Warm Lake Road that were blocked off, including one with the sheriff sitting there to keep people out but still keep it open for the firefighters to access the Cougar fire.

The Shoreline campground was full when we got there, which didn’t really surprise me. Around here, during the summer, unless you reserve a campsite in advance, some places a year in advance, it’s hit or miss whether you’ll be able to stay in any particular campground. However, we had noticed a really nice campsite along the road to the campground, and wound up staying there with room for all of us in “one” spot: my daughter’s family (7), my son’s family (4), my sister-in-law and one of her sons (2), and my wife and I. Fifteen of us in one camper and three tents, as you can see in the picture below. No services, just campsites, but it was a few minutes walk to the lake and outhouses and water was available at the lodge just a few minutes away by car so it was really pretty convenient. Happily, the temperatures were cooler there than at home, as well.

A full circle panorama showing the campsite in the woods with the trailer, tents, hammock, trees, road.

Campsite panorama

We set up a canopy over our tables near the firepit and that served as our kitchen for the weekend. The firepit was our communal center. And of course, we had a hammock to relax in, when we could get the kids to quit playing in it.

Shows the yellow canopy we set up over the white camp tables with my daughter and her husband by them and my wife in the hammock in the foreground, playing a game on her phone.

The kitchen and the hammock.

Naturally, since it is camping after all, both nights had campfires and S’mores. We also cooked a few trout and hot dogs over the fire. One of the funny highlights was when my nephew roasted six marshmallows on his trident and crammed them between full-sized Graham crackers on top of a bar of Hershey’s Chocolate. Boy, was that one huge, messy S’more! I wish I had a picture of that to include here.

SHows a little red flatbed trailer, 4' by 8', with wooden side rails behind a blue Geo Tracker. Grey tarp creates a dome over the rails to provide a sleeping area.

The little red trailer rigged for sleeping in.

We even managed to jury-rig a small “camper” out of a utility trailer, some tent poles, and bungie cords. For a cot we had a reclining camp chair. The railing at the back was removed to provide access.

We had a blast! It was a really dusty campsite and also smokey from the Cougar fire two to three miles west of us. Because of the fire, either a sheriff or firefighter would come by each evening to advise us of road conditions. Friday night, the sheriff said we didn’t have to evacuate, but he wasn’t sure that he would personally remain camping in the area. We discussed that and decided that if we had to leave, they’d come by and let us know, so we stayed put. The next evening we learned that the fire had jumped the road and so the road was currently closed. The next morning it was opened up again, so even with the fire related conditions, we actually had a really good time and no problems getting back out Sunday afternoon.

Dutch oven cooking was supper Saturday. My son fixed up a chicken stew around noon and we maintained coals and fire throughout the day.

12" Dutch oven in coals in fire pit with lid off showing chicken stew comprised of 1" pieces of corn on the cob, baby carrots, chopped onion, chopped potatoes.

Dutch oven chicken stew

Paper plate in my lap loaded with chicken stew as described in previous picture.

Chicken stew served up! YUM!

Shows tripod created from long poles found in the area over the fire pit with a 12" Dutch oven hanging from a hook made from a small stick. Also shows other 12" Dutch oven in coals to side of fire pit. Chairs in background around the fire pit with the little red trailer and Geo Tracker in the background.

Field assembled tripod with proper lashing at top and a field made hook for the Dutch oven and coffee pot to hang from.

This was the first time in about 50 years that I made a tripod and only the third hook I made. It worked really well and we even used it for coffee in the morning. We did have one problem with the Dutch ovens that we initially blamed on the tripod: the bail on the one hanging from the tripod apparently got pulled out of shape. We couldn’t lay it over and just lift up the lid, we had to slide the lid out the side. Later, when cleaning up we discovered we’d swapped the lids when we prepped and put the food in the Dutch ovens. When we switched the lids, the bails on both ovens worked just fine. Now we know what to check next time.

Playing in the lake, Saturday, I discovered muscles I hadn’t used for decades. For that matter, I only survived three swings on the rope before I was afraid I couldn’t hang on for the next one. Come the next morning, I found I had sore muscle under the sternum and my underarms. It was a good feeling, though, and made even better when I realized I had gained back another notch in my belt by the end of the weekend.

Rocky ground with a big crack in the rock. Red Bocce ball in the crack.

That was NOT where he wanted it to stop!

One of the games we played was introduced by my nephew: Cross Country Bocce. We only played to 5 points per game, and we got a real workout. The rules were simple: start from one point and the person going first throws (yes, throws, not tosses!) the little white target ball anywhere they want. Then he or she throws his Bocce ball (one per person playing) to try to get closest to the white ball he just threw. Then the person that threw the white ball has to go find it and point out to the rest of just where the white ball was. Sometimes we could see it on the ground, but a lot of the time we couldn’t and had to try and guess what was there to deflect our balls into the right spot. Whoever gets closest (and sometimes that’s a couple of feet or more away) gets the point and throws the white ball for the next round. Repeat until someone has 5 points. With all the rocks and trees, there was no guarantee that the white ball or your Bocce ball would go where you aimed. After all, that little white ball fits between trees better, for one thing and bounces off rocks more. So we were up hills, through brush, on the road, and watching our balls roll or carom all over the place as we tried to allow for slope, rocks, trees, bushes, and so on.

Little target ball and several red, blue, yellow, grey Bocce balls on the ground around a tree. Ground is covered with twigs, sticks, rocks of assorted sizes.

One of the very few times most everyone got to the white ball.

The above is one of the few times most of the balls were clustered around the white ball. It is a picture of the type of ground cover we were playing in, too! One of the throws of the white ball was hilarious: It hit a tree, bounced off to hit a tree close by, bounced off that second tree back to the first, rebounded back to the second, once again off that back to the first…I think there were five or six bounces between the two trees before it fell to the ground. Kind of like a Japanese Pachinko game, I think. There were many more hilarious throws, too, but this one was particularly funny.

Shows my son bent over his son's shoe taping the front half back together with silver duct tape after he walked the sole off. Granddaugther stands to the side watching.

Thank heavens for duct tape!

We had at least one casualty that required major treatment. Fortunately, there was some duct tape to hand and we were able to properly ensure the continuity of the weekend. As a matter of fact, when we left for home the next afternoon, this shoe was still going strong after playing all over the place in the rocks, hills, sticks, and riding bikes.

Like I said, we all had a blast and we’re looking forward to more camping. I’m eager to get the Vardo done and get out camping with it.

Discovering New Photography Techniques

3 December 2014

It’s true, discovery is as much due to accident as anything else.

I had been having some problems achieving the desired clarity of focus lately while taking pictures of birds. While I could get some really cool shots, such as this:

I simply was not happy with them. I believed that I should be able to focus well enough to see every feather. After all, other photographers “routinely” achieve that, so why shouldn’t I?

Don’t get me wrong, I have no idea how many shots the other photographers had to do to get that one super-sharp image. Plus most of them, that I follow anyway, focus on bird photography so they obviously refine their techniques for that. I, on the other hand, am a generalist with a preference for astrophotography and astrolandscape photography. Obviously, I’ve not put in the time they have pursuing the perfect bird image.

However, I have taken a lot of photos where I needed the image to be sharp.

So, why such a difficulty? How do I get around it?

A craftsman does not blame his tools. That’s a lesson I take very much to heart. Clearly, then, it is a matter of technique. Or of using the tool (camera) properly.

I use center spot focusing virtually all the time. That means that what I aim at is what I should be achieving my focus on. Logically, to me anyway, Depth of Field is perhaps an issue with the moving bird getting out of focus before I can take the shot. This is especially likely to be true as I also tend to use use AF-S (AutoFocus-Single). So, I focus on the bird then take the picture. There’s a lag there and if my DOF is shallow enough, that could be enough to blur even a slow moving bird slightly.

I’m aware of AF-C (AutoFocus-Continuous) and how it’s supposed to work. I’m aware, too, that many bird photographers utilize this mode almost exclusively. I assume they also use the Dynamic Area mode, if available. All this contributes to my problem most likely being a DOF and focus issue.

Last weekend, though, I discovered a trick. It may be well known to everyone else, but I achieved it by accident. Very simply, I forgot to remove my finger from a button while I pressed the shutter to take the picture. That button was the AF (AutoFocus).

I’ve long since moved my autofocus off the shutter button and onto the AF button on my Pentax K-10D. In a way, what I discovered is very much akin to the focus trap method I describe here. In this case, though, I am utilizing the autofocus instead of manually focusing for the focus trap.

What I did was aim my center focus point on the mallard I was trying to photograph. I pressed the AF button and got a nice, sharp focus. Then maintaining that focus point in the viewfinder, I took the photo. I did this a few times before I realized that I wasn’t releasing the AF button before taking the photos. I had been holding the AF button down all the way through the process: aim, focus, track, take picture. I was executing the focus trap method but letting the camera’s autofocus do the focusing for me. The end result was some wonderful photos of the mallards with the detail I had been seeking.

This will NOT work with a manual lens, of course, as there is no way to auto-focus it. I was pleasantly surprised at the results and hope to play with this technique with other active subjects. I do intend to look further into AF-C and Dynamic Area, as there are times when I won’t need to move the camera, but for the most part I’ll probably continue to use this new method. I’m not sure, and will experiment to find out, just how the AF-C would work when I lose track of the subject and have to re-acquire several times in a session. Holding the AF button down, while keeping the focus point on the target, and shooting may well work better for me in these situations. There will be some lens thrashing as it re-focuses, of course, if I lose track of my subject then regain it. That may not be a good thing with, for example, quick flitting birds in mid-air, but for those instances where I can easily track the target such as these mallards were, it should be an acceptable method.