Saturday, June 26, 2010

Some Photography Tips for the Field

John Muir Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, CA (2006)

Fresh on the heels of the 2010 WV Photo Contest seems as good a time as any to talk photography - especially as the 2010 trip season kicks into high gear.

As we get closer and closer to the trailhead and run down our packing list, gather up the "ten essentials" and sort out what to take and what to jettison, we each invariably head into the backcountry with that "other essential": a camera. You won't find it listed in any survival handbooks, but few of us - including myself - will leave home without it.

With that in mind, and as I myself prepare to head to Idaho's Selway Bitterroot Wilderness next month, here are a few tips to set up your digital camera for optimal field use and maximum battery life - an ever-so precious resource when you're miles from the nearest electrical outlet.

1) Turn Off Auto ISO - ISO 1600 on a sunny day? Not a chance, but it can happen - a camera's metering system is no substitute for the human eye. To maximize image quality, give yourself control over the ISO. While many cameras do a good job across a range of ISO settings, the camera's metering system isn't foolproof and may choose a higher ISO setting when a lower ISO would suffice, sacrificing image quality in the process.

2) Turn Off Auto Rotate - Always looking at your LCD to review your last picture? Good - now get your money's worth. When your camera is set to auto rotate, every vertical photograph is displayed in the camera's horizontal LCD as a vertical image. What many of us fail to realize is that this forces the taller vertical image to fit in the shorter horizontal LCD. Bottom line: in an age of bigger and better LCDs, your vertical image is compressed and over half of your LCD screen is empty! Turn off auto rotate and you'll see more - and take better pictures.

3) Skip Deletions - Tempting as it may be to clean up your photographs as you take them, doing so consumes precious battery life. Fight the urge. Unless, that is, you don't mind hiking through scenic meadows, mountain vistas, and pristine wilderness with a dead camera. No doubt nothing beats the real thing, but it's always nice to have a little bit of juice left should that "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity arise. Your friends and family will appreciate it.

4) Dim the LCD Screen and Let it Sleep - Simple. The brighter it is and longer it's on, the greater the drain on the battery.

5) Conserve Your Shots - Surely one of the greatest attractions of digital photography is the ability to take countless shots without sacrificing pack weight and space. Gone are the days (at least for those of us who have made the leap from film) of carrying a dozen rolls of film into the backcountry and making each and every shot count. Of course, this can be a mixed blessing, as those of us whom have sat through our loved ones' two-hour slideshows of their day trips to the beach can attest. Make your shots count and practice your technique (click here for a quick summary of the basics of photographic composition). You'll take better pictures and ensure you've got some battery life left for that unexpected sunset, wildlife encounter, and, best of all, that group photo at the end of the week.

6) Pack an Extra Battery - Genius! You might also consider a solar charger for your camera battery. I don't have any experience with these but they sound promising (though certainly a bit pricier than a spare).

Above all else: have fun and experiment.

Got a tip to share? Send it in.

And in the meantime, check out the newly redesigned WV Photo Gallery, which is a great resource for exploring different projects and trip locations.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And the Winners Are...

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2nd Annual Wilderness Volunteers Photo Contest! We received nearly thirty entries and had our work cut out for us picking the winners from the artistic, clever, and downright fun photos. Alas, after much debate, the winners are...

1st Place: Eric Mak

"Extreme Hikers on the AT"
Mount Rogers Nat'l Recreation Area, VA (2009)

2nd Place: Caroline Williams

"The Convincer"
- Hammond Canyon, UT (2010)

3rd Place: Maidie Kenney

"Jane Demonstrating the Fine Art of the Prickly Pear Toss"
- Superstition Wilderness, AZ (2010)

Honorable Mention: Nike Bolte

"The Perfect Way to End the Day"
- Caladesi Island, FL (2010)

Congratulations! 1st place wins a newly-issued WV hooded sweatshirt, 2nd place a WV Klean Kanteen, and 3rd place a WV baseball cap. Please email your mailing address to Mike and we'll get your prize in the mail.

Thanks again to all our participants!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Crop Mob, Anyone?

Here's a neat article about a burgeoning nationwide movement involving volunteers, hard work, the great outdoors, "giving something back," the environment, and good food. Sound familiar?

You'd think we're talking about Wilderness Volunteers, but we're not. Though the ingredients are the same, the recipe is a little different. Read more about "Crop Mobbing" here.

Kinda like Wilderness Volunteers. . .but on a farm.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Get Outside for National Trails Day

Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, CO (2008)

This Saturday June 5th is National Trails Day, a nationwide event dedicated to increasing our awareness, understanding, and enjoyment of - you guessed it - trails.

Organized by the American Hiking Society, the day celebrates America's +200,000 mile trail network, recognizes the volunteers and organizations that develop and maintain this vast system, and seeks to inspire and encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to get outside and explore the great outdoors. Now in its 18th year, National Trails Day is celebrated in all fifty states by thousands of people, and hundreds of events - including hikes, bike rides, site dedications, trail work, gear demos, horseback rides, photography clinics, educational workshops, and canoe and kayak trips - are held across the country each year.

To learn more about National Trails Day and search for events in your area, check out the American Hiking Society's helpful guide here.

Between hikes in New York City and dog walks in New Jersey, horseback rides in Utah and birding tours in Minnesota, trail work in Oregon and orienteering workshops in Florida, there is something for everyone - everywhere! So pack a lunch, grab a friend, and go exploring.