Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wilderness Volunteers Internship: Adventure #1

My First WV Project as an Intern

Driving into Escalante, Utah I did not really know what to expect for the coming week. I had been studying conservation and preservation for two years in college but this would be my first project outside of school. My excitement and anticipation grew after meeting the leaders for the trip and some of the other volunteers at a local Grand Staircase rally. After only a few small conversations with the other participants my passion for the organization grew. Bringing approximately ten people together, who are all passionate about public land, to work on a project for the betterment of the area in an effort to give something back was an awesome concept that I was thrilled to be a part of.

The Scene

Born and raised in Colorado I am new to the desert landscape and Utah is quickly becoming my favorite state after only a few weeks in the canyons. The backpack into our basecamp was about ten miles both on the rim and within the steep canyon walls. This allowed me to realize how Wilderness Volunteers serves as a great opportunity to see remote parts of the country while simultaneously
working for the improvement of the environment. Making our way into the canyon we were privileged to see a wide variety of mokey steps and petroglyphs riddled along the red walls. The project was located half way up Harris Wash, a side canyon of the Escalante. There was no established trail so we hiked up the stream winding in and out of alcoves until we ended up at our camp location, which was at the foot of a 300 foot canyon wall.
Each morning we made our way up the wash about a mile to the work site. Every corner we rounded in the canyon was a new window to an all new picturesque landscape.

The Project

The WV project in Escalante is part of a larger effort to eradicate Russian Olive which is an invasive species that is hyper adaptive to the area thus allowing it to out compete native plants and horde limited resources. In addition to that, the tree is excellent at stabilizing the banks of the river channel preventing the fluctuation in the sinuosity of the waterway allowing the stream to deepen channels. As the banks stabilize sediment is no longer deposited normally which alters the system as a whole. It was definitely hard work to actually remove and kill the tree.
This summer was the first season that the hack and squirt method was practiced. Trees with a base diameter of less than four inches were cut with a hand saw as close to the ground as possible and then sprayed with a chemical compound that the trees phloem would then transport to the roots ensuring the death of the tree. (The chemical used is activated by freshly cut wood and is deactivated when it makes contact with water making it safe for the local biotic community). For trees larger than four inches a hatchet was used to expose phloem and xylem around the tree and the squirted with the chemical to be circulated throughout the tree. All cutoff was downsized to 4 foot sections and placed in the wash where flash floods would wash it out of the canyon. 
All in all it was a great project! We treated over two miles of Harris wash (the final area of the Escalante Canyon). I am looking forward to my next two projects with Wilderness Volunteers later in the summer and many more in the future.

Written by Kevin Graves, WV's 2017 Intern.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Nighttime photography

One of the big challenges of outdoor adventures is capturing that magical experience that is night-time in the outdoors. Here are a few tips to help you take home a little bit of that nocturnal magic.

#1 Use a tripod

Trying to take quality photos at night with a handheld camera can be next to impossible. Use a tripod, a rock, or a handy tree to help keep your camera still during longer exposures to make sure night photos come out bright and crisp. That being said you can also purposely move your camera during night exposures to create fun effects like the one below.

Lava vent in Hawaii (handheld fun)
Halemaumau at night

#2 Use night time settings or longer exposures to expose low light scenes. 

The starry skies setting on a point and shoot can take nice photos of bright stars but use a longer shutter speed (15 seconds, 30 seconds, or bulb) to really capture night scenery.

 #3 Adjust your ISO settings to reduce noise in your photo

Long exposures with low light can cause bright pixels to appear in your photo if you are using a low ISO setting. Decrease noise by using higher ISO settings with longer shutter speeds and a low (wide) f-stop setting like f/2.8.

#4 Pick locations that have interesting features in addition to sky scenes.

Adding interesting features to your night/low light shots can be a great way to make a photo really pop. A sunset with a campfire, shooting stars over a lake, or a tree in front of the moon are a few examples.

#5 Experiment!

Don't be afraid to use different settings on your camera and see what happens. Sometimes something as simple as bracketing the exposure or changing the white balance can make a night/low light photo really special.

Hmmm: the moon or my headlamp?

Thank you to all our great volunteers who take fantastic photos of their adventures and upload them to our website for everybody to enjoy!