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Kayaking 202 (C): 3 things I have learned the hard way

Ok, so this wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it was going to be. To be honest, though I am in very good shape, I am in terrible shape for kayaking and I much underestimated the flexor muscles necessary to keep this tippy thing above water. Therefore, today I am sore and, (I know from experience), tomorrow I will be REAL SORE! That is okay though because I really learned a lot from this endeavor.  And I really had a good time. Despite living a life fraught with danger and adventure, I have never been kayaking before. I have spent hours and hours canoeing but the two aren’t really alike.

Kayaking for the purpose of photography, too, added a dynamic to this experience that makes it like no other endeavor, and since the purpose of this writing is to give advice on kayaking for photography, here is what I have learned from my first try.

  1. Use that launch at the marina. I took the path of naturalism for my first trip and I found out that the path of naturalism involves two things: water and filth. There’s nothing like flinging wet lake scum across your camera lens while flipping your legs into a kayak from the water’s edge that will make you squirm and squeal maniacally. Although it’s doable in a pinch, there is a very convenient launch at the marina that offers you the opportunity to insert and extract easily with very little water and no lake scum involved.
  2. Lose that tripod! Though it seemed like a good idea at the time, I am better off using a handheld camera because the kayak is in constant motion. Just… no! put the camera around your neck and shoot by hand. You can keep the tripod with you for the chance that you might pull up to shore and get a shot from the land, or from a submerged log.
  3. Use your rivets. Remember the nifty watertight containers that I gorilla glued to the kayak? Well, it doesn’t hold. So there is a reason that most things end up getting pop riveted for marine purposes.

In our next installation we will look at some of the improvements I’ll make to the improvements I made initially and we’ll give her another try… stay tuned.

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A trip to the car dealership: 3 things you must always do to get the most for your money

As I sit here at the Subaru dealership where I purchase all of my family vehicles, I am reminded that those of us who use and purchase military surplus tents and equipment do so for one reason and one reason only; because we want the best value that our money can bring us.

There’s nothing wrong with being thrifty, that is simply being a good steward of the money that you have been entrusted with, and I am always looking for ways to make my money go further and last longer.

I know from experience that almost any trip to the car dealership is going to cost me $300, and having just spoken to the service technician, (here because of a “check engine” light activation), I learned that today is no exception because the sensor that I need replaced is $260.00 plus tax…

But that’s ok, because as I look around the showroom, I’m finding ways to even out the expenditure. One of the things that I notice immediately is that there is a Coleman tent in the showroom that has the Subaru label emblazoned across the top. The fact of the matter is that I am in the market for a new tent anyway and have been looking for one, (not that I can afford it now after buying a $260 sensor), however, I know that I’m also going to need to buy a new car in the next two years…

So, here then are three things you must do to always try to get the most bang for your buck:

  1. Try to get some freebies added on. Whenever I buy a car, I always look for some freebies to get thrown in to “seal the deal” if you will. The aforementioned tent is a good example. I don’t know of any car dealer who is going to let a $24,000 car deal go down the tubes over a $70 tent. I, on the other hand, will walk right out the door over a $70 tent, or a $250 set of roof racks, ($49.95 at Wal-Mart).
  2. Don’t do the trade-in thing. There is only one reason that dealerships, whatever type they are, take trade-ins. That’s because they are profitable. Why let the dealership get the most out of your valuables? Sell them yourself and get the full dollar amount out of them. It’s not that much trouble and you work too hard for your money to give it to someone else.
  3. Always consider buying use items. I’m not a big fan of buying used cars, just because I like to start off fresh with a factory warranty and know exactly how that thing was maintained all of it’s life. But for everything else I buy used. My cameras, guns, electronics, etc… are always bought used or surplus just because for the most part there are no hidden variables to worry about. What you see is what you get and wear and tear isn’t likely an issue.

 

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Kayaking 202(B): 3 ways to tell when you should just go home

And so with great trepidation and trembling fingers, I loaded my brand new kayak onto the Subaru and headed for the local state park and lake.

It has been raining to beat hell here in southern Ohio, and there was finally a break in the constant drizzly downpour that is supposed to last a few days. So I figured to take advantage of the respite, (I understand that we have another hurricane coming through at some point), and when I got there I discovered that regardless of how excited I was to get out into the water and grab some awesome exposures of buttery wildlife goodness, there was absolutely no way in the world that I was going to. The biggest clue for me was the fact that the only other watercraft on the lake was the mud drudger, and those two guys on it looked   nervous as hell.

The next clue was the fact that there was about five inches of concrete left showing on the boat launch dock, (when there is usually a foot or better), and I could literally see currents forming out on the body of the lake, which was choppy and wind driven. I pondered about how tippy my little 8′ kayak was just being manipulated by the current created from the circulation pump in my swimming pool, and even though I could see the white slash of wings from the eagles flying way out in the distance on the other side of the lake, I left the dreams and visions of snapping some shots there on the lakeshore and grudgingly headed on home. So, here are three clues to keep in mind when you are ponding stormy waters.

  1. Watch for activity on the water. Basically, if no one else is on the water, not even a gaggle of geese, you should probably be asking yourself why that is. If no one else wants to go out because of high water you should most likely follow suit.
  2. Look at the topological indicators. Water levels as opposed to established water lines for instance. Understand that the more volume is present, the greater the force of gravity will affect it and you.
  3. Watch for white water. It shouldn’t take me to tell you that the whiter and more turbulent the water is the more dangerous it is.
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Kayaking 202: Turning a kayak into a photo taking machine

And so I take my final bow as I present to you my kayak, all tricked out and ready to go on lake-water adventures as I endeavor on a trip to capture the stoic visage of a family of American Bald Eagles which inhabit the local state park.

I have labored long and hard on it, (not really), and I have done all that I wanted to in order to get it seaworthy.

Here are the changes I have made to it that make it ready to capture the photos and video that I am going after.

  1. I installed a go-pro mount on the top at the bow. I discovered right off that trying to mount it with marine rivets as I did nearly everything else, because the rivets heads would interfere with the camera mount. Hopefully the gorilla glue that I utilized to mount it will hold, otherwise I’m going to be hoping that the waterproof case makes it float.
  2. I used the gorilla glue to also mount two watertight cases to the floor of the kayak. One is big enough to hold the camera that I plan to use for the kayak photography, and one to hold my cellphone. Though I could have easily drilled and riveted both of these cases in, I didn’t relish the idea of breaking that watertight seal in any way.
  3. I riveted two eye brackets into the bow in order to strap a tripod into the bow. As I shoot more and more photography, I learn more and more that I need to have a tripod for stabilization. And so I plan to utilize this configuration in order to get those photos that have so far eluded me from across the lake. Of course I’ll keep you posted! Stay tuned for the next installment of kayaking for photography…
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Kayaking 201: 3 modifications you must have for photography

Ok, so I have my kayak purchased and I have been practicing with it in my swimming pool. It is very tippy.  And while this is unfortunate, it is not a tragedy because it is very easy to get out of too. However, water and cameras don’t mix well, so I will be practicing extensively with this dude before I get any of my camera gear into it. Perhaps I will visit the local goodwill store or get online and find a nice little zoom camera like the Canon Powershot SX20 IS, which will shoot high definition video and has digital zoom capabilities that allow it to be shot at up to 500mm. I had purchased a Canon G series G1X for these romps into the lakeside wilderness, but with a $400+ pricetag, the tippiness of this kayak has left me feeling less than optimistic about taking this little camera out.

I had previously written about a cute little Sony a100 I purchased for $37 that I ended up selling for $250 to an enterprising young lad who wanted to get a start in photography. The problem with the cheaper Sony was the fact that it doesn’t shoot video and it leaves a lot to be desired in really low light. I definitely don’t want to be juggling two cameras in a kayak… but I digress.

This is a blog about kayak modifications; and here are three must have mods for photography.

  1. Fishing rod holder. As simple as cutting a hole, drilling three more, and pulling three rivets. Viola! You have a fishing rod holder. This is very important because when there is nothing to photograph you are going to need something to do.
  2. Handle and oar holder. Needed so that you can have both hands free to grab camera and tripod to keep them as safe as possible. you don’t want to be juggling a double paddled oar while trying to handle your gear.
  3. A comfortable seat. If you are going to be going after eagles like I am, you will need to have some padding on your rear. Make that seat as comfortable as possible.
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Kayaking 102: Getting Started

Kayaks on a Subaru Impreza

Ok, so I looked around a long, long time before I finally decided on what kayaks to buy for me and my son. I considered everything from used kayaks to inflatable kayaks… I even looked into used inflatable kayaks; here’s what I discovered:

Kayaks become more valuable with age.  And, like good military surplus, those that have a little wear and tear on them, (like a Vietnam era canteen with a bullethole in it), are worth much more than those that are brand new still in the package.

I mean I pored over the used kayaks in the online classifieds. I called, made offers, placed bids… all to no avail; because, every single kayak owner I found, who was willing to part with their beloved kayak, refused to do so -it seemed- without at least doubling their money (and sometimes tripling it). And so, after a couple of weeks of frustration, (yes I’m tenacious), I finally got on the Wally-world site just see what they had to offer. Boy, was I pleased. Wally-world had everything I had wanted and dreamed of right there at my fingertips.  Not only were the exact kayaks I wanted available, they were the right color, $40 cheaper than anywhere else, and they came with oars! Plus, Wally-world had a roof rack to fit my Subaru, AND they had a set of kayak racks as well. All told I spent $448 dollars and there was no shipping costs because I had the entire kit and caboodle sent to my local Wally-world. They sent me an email when it all arrived, and I shot right over there and installed the rack and roof mounts right there in the parking lot with a $5 tool kit I bought in the hardware section.  Total cost… $453, (including the toolkit).

Well, kinda… in the next installation, I will show you the modifications I found necessary to get my kayak right where I needed it to be to turn it into a wildlife photography machine… Stay tuned!

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Kayaking 101: 2 things you must do before you get started

 

 

 

A Sony a100 DSLR camera equipped with a Minolta 100-300mm

I have recently grown weary of walking the same old trails and driving the same old access roads looking for fresh game and new scenery for my photography.

My wife suggested that I take up kayaking in order to get to areas of a local state park that are inaccessible in any other way. Eagles for instance, are nesting on the far side of the lake and if I use digital zoom, my expensive Panasonic FZ-80 will zoom right over there so that I can just make them out, sitting in their trees and cavorting amongst themselves. Below them I can usually find where the Great Blue Herons are raising their elegant younglings, gracefully teaching them to fish among the cattails.  And so, I began the endeavor to find my path towards becoming a water borne photographer, and it was then that I discovered that I need to do two things in order to get started. Here they are:

  1. Consider costs and find the best deal out there. Now, I don’t mean just finding the best deal on a kayak, although I do mean that as well, but consider what kind of risk you will be putting your equipment through before you get started.  I have several expensive cameras and lenses. The first thing I did was go to my agent and add some extra insurance to my equipment. I also got online and looked for some inexpensive but useful alternatives to taking my best stuff out there. I found a Sony a100 on a popular repurposing site online for $37. It’s only 10mp, but it takes legacy Minolta lenses which are extremely cheap but very sharp.  I also found a Canon SX20 IS which is only 12mp but which has a 500mm focal length, ($24, same site). Both cameras work wonderfully and if they fall into the drink, I’ll be disappointed but I won’t sob uncontrollably for several days.
  2. Learn your equipment. Go to the local university and find out where the outdoor pursuit center, and get some safety training. The last thing you should want to do is get drowned while trying to get a couple of photographs. In upcoming posts, I will take you through the process of acquiring kayaks and equipment requirements to start using them for photography expeditions… stay tuned!
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Pandemic Flu: 3 things you should always think about

Pandemic flu is the next apocalypse

If you are a survivalist, prepper, concerned parent, or just a crusty old veteran of this human race, then you have probably been indoctrinated into the concept of human tragedy and world destruction. It is a common theme from many different sources of history, primarily because it has been a problem in the past.

As survivalists, we all realize on some level that we are terminal in our existence. What that means is that we are all going to die at some point. Bad thoughts, I know, but true. The difference between us and others is that as survivalists we will do everything we can to fight and scratch our way into an extension of our existence. This is the same mentality that others before us had and which we all hope to convey to our offspring. So here are three things you need to keep in mind in relation to surviving the coming apocalypse wether it comes in the form of the flu or something else.

Stay away from people. As the Ol Tracker has said in the video that I linked here for you to peruse, people are going to be the conveying device of any pandemic which accosts the population. Just as in the days of old, the “sheeple” who make up the herd are the ones who will bring down the herd, some of them with their very breath… it is those of us who stand outside the herd, the strays, that will escape this calamity.

Watch the news. In other words, PAY ATTENTION! You shouldn’t be such a hermit that destruction creeps upon you while you are completely unaware. Watch the news, read the paper, get on YouTube on your phone, but don’t let the pandemic catch you at unawares.

Get prepared. What I mean of course is get supplied right now. Shelter, water, fire, and food are what you HAVE to have to survive according to the Old Tracker, TBJ himself. Get supplied with those elements right now so that you don’t have to scramble WTSHTF.

 

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Bees Please! 3 reasons you should keep bees if you’re a survivalist

If you are a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit series then you are probably especially fond of the scene where the Party gets to stay with Beorn. Beorn was likely a Norseman; a shifter, (Gandalf had seen him sitting alone on the top of a mountain – in bear form – reminiscing of times past), a vegetarian, a friend of the animals, a keeper of bees.  And it was here that the party was permitted to eat of the finest honey and cream that any loaf of bread had ever been slathered with.

Just the description of that fare when I was a child, reading this series in the hay mow of my dad’s old cow barn, sent my mind to spinning and my stomach to churning for the creamy sweetness that such a delicacy would construe. Alas I never found the exact combination of Tolkien’s imagination, at least not to the level that my own pondering dictated; however, I did get mighty close on occasion. Those occasions always included the obtaining the honey from a local bee farm and my grandma churning up a batch of what she called “cow salve butter”… at least that’s what I think it was called.

But, as usual, I digress…

We are here to discuss the implements of survival, and most importantly SHTF survival. Here then are three reasons to be a beekeeper if the economy falls.

  1. Honey is a great source of nutrients and energy. Calories and energy are supremely important in a survival situation, and this substance is perfect for giving you that burst of energy that you might need to rise to almost any occasion.
  2.  Honey farming is done by one of the most key elements of survival… letting someone else do all the work. This is a prime example of getting something for nothing, kind of. You still have to tend and care for your bees, protect them, provide for them etc.
  3. Honey is a great barter item. Remember, if TSHTF, there will not be the possibility of being able to buy goods with money. You will want to have ample amounts of much needed items in order to trade.
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Survival 101: 3 things you must consider when hunting with a throwing stick

By: Mr. X, survivalist

As we stood facing the long line of upended pieces of firewood – all set neatly in a row on top of the railroad tie which was itself suspended between two short fence posts buried deeply in the ground – I remember thinking again that this is stupid.

We were learning throwing stick from the Old Tracker himself, Tom Brown Jr. An avowed hunter and outdoorsman, I can remember thinking at the time that this was a ridiculous endeavor, because no animal was ever going to just sit still and let you hit it with a stick… ridiculous! Except, here I am decades later and I can assure you that hunting with a stick is completely do-able.  The trick lies in two areas; 1. slow down, and 2. move fast.

I know, a contradictory in terms right? Well, not really, because to be a successful throwing stick hunter you have to master both concepts. The nuances to hunting with a throwing stick are in-depth, and I will not be able to cover a lifetime of learning in such a short article, but I can give you the three main concepts right here, right now!

  1. Slow Down. You have to stalk to be able to hunt with a throwing stick. The real trick is to create an environment that triggers the instinct to freeze and blend in to the surroundings. It is this freezing in place that gives you the opportunity to throw your stick, otherwise you have to really hone those skills to be able to hit the animal once the flight instinct has set in.
  2. Move fast. When you are within striking distance, you must be able to throw the stick faster than the creature can flee for it’s life.  This takes being able to go from a non-threatening pose to a deadly one in much less than a second. To  really do this effectively you must learn to “cock” your throwing arm while still stalking because any threatening gesture will trigger the flight response, and animals, it appears, do have at least a minimal understanding of the basic concepts of physics.
  3. Throw True. The trick to effectively using a throwing stick lies in the same skillset necessary to effectively throw a tomahawk, but on a horizontal plane as opposed to a vertical one. (The exception would be if you are throwing at a squirrel on the side of a tree or something similar).

 

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