Surfing with Strand _ Environmental Portraits

 
 Environmental portraits of surfer Matt Strand, sponsored by Fear to Faith. Active Lifestyle Portraits taken near Laguna, CA and Newport, CA

This last week I was able to connect with surfer Matt Strand through some mutual friends. Matt is sponsored by Fear to Faith Clothing and so we wanted to get some neat environmental portrait shots of him. The alarm at 4:30am came too soon, but we got up and headed down to Laguna/Newport area and found this rocky section which is just want I was envisioning.

We got there and setup as the sun crested the hill literally just before I'd even taken the first shot. My hope originally was actually to use strobe lighting (I really enjoy on-location lighting, but don't push myself to do it often. This was my chance... but...). Since the sun came up a bit sooner than I wanted/we got to the beach slightly later than I wanted, I rolled with the punches and just used the beautiful morning light instead. Something I've learned about doing photo and video production is that being able to be flexible, adjust, and problem solve quickly is a top skill requirement for this creative industry. There is always something that messes up your plan and you've got to make the most of it. 

As you can see, I made the most of the lighting change and nailed some awesome portrait shots with Matt. We were only there about 20-30 minutes in total (setup and teardown included), so I'm pretty pleased that I got so many shots I love for such a short amount of time. I suppose it helped that he's such a natural model. lol. 

Check the images out, leave comments, share them (with credit please) and do what ever you do. If you're a fellow photographer, get out there and have you're own photo shoot. If you're a surfer, get out there and have someone (or me) take pictures of you. It boosts the confidence seeing yourself looking like a boss!

We also had to get out and enjoy the water too since the waves were killer that day at both Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. So Matt went out and showed me how it's done. Photos weren't nearly as unique since I couldn't get out in the water this day, but still good fun was had by all.

Spare Me 5-in-1 Automotive Rescue Tool Review

 
SpareMe 5-in-1 Automotive Rescue Tool_Outdoor Review 3.png

I'm always down for an excuse to get out and have an adventure (adventure to me is a very broad term too!). In this case, a company offered to send me an automotive tool to review and it was a perfect 'excuse' to go off-roading and 'test' it. So today, I'm going to do a written review of the Spare Me 5-in-1 Rescue Tool. If you're more of a visual person, you can see my video review on my Youtube channel. 

The Spare Me 5-in-1 Rescue Tool is meant for automotive scenarios and has 5 features (hence the name) for which I'll break down one by one.

1. Traction

SpareMe 5-in-1 Automotive Rescue Tool_Outdoor Review 4.png

This to me is the main feature of the tool, so I'll start with it first. When a car is stuck, it's ultimately due to a loss of traction whether that be due to slippery mud or a snowy pit that doesn't have enough car weight on it. Either way, as with any traction board, the tool goes under the tire to add traction, both by filling negative space and adding 'grip' spikes. The Spare Me tool goes under the tire and is strong enough to simply drive over. As you can see in my Youtube video review, I actually have footage where I got myself intentionally stuck and the tool was able to get me out. What separates this tool from other traction boards such as MaxTrax is the size and cost. Traction boards are typically quite large and expensive. This tool, could easily sit with your spare tire and cost less than an IHOP breakfast for two people. 

2. Shovel

Secondly, this tool is meant to be used as a shovel. Sometimes when stuck, what needs to be done is to just clear out the snow/mud/dirt/junk that is under or around the tire. A shovel is always better than hands both for keeping hands clean as well as a hard object like this can break up ice/dirt/etc better than you're hands can. One side of the tool is hollowed out in case you actually needed to scoop, but most of the time just scrapping stuff out of the way is good enough.

3. Lug Nut Wrench Leverage

SpareMe 5-in-1 Automotive Rescue Tool_Outdoor Review 2.png

This feature is a nice to have the option of. Sometimes when switching out a flat tire, the lug nuts are extremely tight and hard to get off with the lug wrench in your car. So with the simple use of physics, adding a length extension can make it so much easier. I didn't get a flat, but I still tested it out on some overly tight lug nuts and would you believe it?! Physics works?! A little leverage and they come off with just one foot barely stepping on the end. The handle is hollow and by just removing the end cap, you can slide it on the end of the wrench. I will say that that end cap doesn't stay on well and we lost it somewhere out in the backcountry while off-roading. 

4. Tire Leverage

The fourth feature is again a simple aspect of physics; leverage for lifting a tire onto the rotor. I didn't test this one since it is again just physics and I had no doubt it would be fine. However, I don't see this as a selling point for the tool. Maybe it's just cause I'm a strong capable guy (picture James Bond. lol), but I don't have any issues lifting a tire onto the rotor, but I see how this could be nice for someone who can't lift the tire or who just wants to make it a lot easier. So again, I'm sure it works fine since it's just physics.

5. Ice Scraper

The fifth and last feature is an ice scraper. I couldn't test it since I don't live where we have ice currently, but I do have some thoughts on this feature, including some negative ones. So the edge of this tool comes to a very fine point for scraping as is logical. My issue with this feature is that, since it is a fine point (thus thin) it get's torn up easily when used for traction and shoveling. This makes the edge jagged, torn up, and thus very ineffective for scrapping ice once the blade is no longer flat. However, this judgement may not be totally justified. The reason my scraper got so torn up is that I was using it in rocky and sandy conditions. If you live somewhere where you'll actually need to use this for ice and snow, then you may not be using the tool for traction on hard rock and dirt. You'll likely be using it for snow which won't tear up the scraper and thus no complaints.

Overall Thoughts

SpareMe 5-in-1 Automotive Rescue Tool_Outdoor Review 1.png

To put it as simply as possible, for the size and price, why not have the Spare Me 5-in-1 Rescue Tool. The company didn't pay me to say that, that's my honest review. I'm excited to keep this one in the back of my car. Since it's small enough to sit with my spare tire, I can put it there and just forget about it until I need it. I don't have to worry about leaving it in the garage and not having it with me. Furthermore, the cost of these tools are super cheap. From what I found online you can get them from between $15-30 from multiple places which is so cheap compared to a $300 set of traction boards. The Spare Me company is putting out an 8-in-1 version soon and that one may be closer to $30-40, but that's still ridiculously cheap. 

If you're in any kind of scenario where you may get stuck in snow, mud, dirt, alien goo, or lava, I'd highly suggest you get one or two to keep in your cars. They're effective, small, and cheap! 

 

My Advice to Aspiring Photographers (Plus my earliest work)

 
 A cascading waterfall is captured at evening in the Trinity Alps, CA.

This last week I received an email from a high schooler who had some questions for me about how to do photography for a living and grow in the craft. Although it took me about a week to respond, I did finally get back to him and below you'll find some of his questions and the answers I gave him. These are answers I'd give to anyone, regardless of age.

 

"To start it off, what type of education is necessary for this photography career?"

More than ever before in history, education is less and less important than your personal drive, your ability to be resourceful and learn from other sources (we have the internet at our fingertips 24/7 and that wasn’t available 100 years ago), your personality and character traits, how hard you can push yourself, and your ability to not give up. As with anything, you get good at something from practice and never stopping the learning process, not from the degree you hold in you hand. Now, on the flip side, hear me out; I think education is especially helpful! Not as much so you can put it on your resumé (although that is helpful if you want a 9-5 job), but because college offers the space to practice, try new things, find out where your skills are, have personal critique from classmates and professors, and have the resources of your teachers. Furthermore, my personal suggestion to you if you want to have your own business or freelancing practice is take some classes or minor in business. Most art departments don’t properly equip students on the business side of things.

 

"How should I go about taking this career into the next step?"

Start small. As with almost anything in life, the hardest step is the first step. You eat an elephant one bite at a time and you build a business and portfolio the same way. You’re in High School and have a lot of life in front of you. Not sure, what year you are, but if you took just one or two new portfolio images each month you’d have 48-96 high quality portfolio images by the end of college (if you were a graduating senior). Small things done faithfully add up to great things. One photo at a time. One youtube lesson at a time. One new client at a time. etc. Take small steps in the right direction and be consistent in that.

 

"How long does it take to obtain this quality of photography?"

Such a subjective question. “this quality of photography” has so many variables. I know of high schoolers that are better photographers than me and I also know of 50 years olds that have shot their whole life and I’m better than them. A lot comes down to natural skill and also a ‘quality photo’ is so subjective. Are you talking about the technical specs of the photo? The concept? The viral aspect that the internet shares it? 

    I think the best way I could answer this is this: never stop learning and never be satisfied with the quality of your photography. Always push yourself to the next level! 30 years from now, you should still be asking yourself how you could improve. The quality of the photographer will always (in the end) be more important than the quality of the photograph. Make sure you’re the kind of person and character that the world should recognize in your craft. 

 

"For the future, what should I do to make myself known as a photography?"

Social media is always a good start. Stay engaged with your followers and post regularly. Keep building that following (one follower at a time). Down the road when you’re ready to start freelancing (if that’s your goal), don’t underestimate paid advertising. If you’re the worlds best photographer and no one knows about you, you’ll never make it anywhere. That’s just the way marketing is. Start researching now how to do effective marketing and spend time getting used to the different marketing platforms so you can make more informed decisions down the road. You could even be proactive and start a fund for it now so that you have some savings built up when that time comes.

 

"Do you have any advice for someone looking to start this career out of high school?"

    First of all, glad your asking these kind of questions off the bat and while your young. I wish I had started sooner and tried planning for my future better when I was in high school. Sure, I was doing photography and video, but I wasn’t reaching out to other photographers and asking big questions about my future in it. Here are a few things are crucial for you as you move forward.
- Never stop learning, ever!     
- Start small. Baby steps get you further than no steps.     
- Pursue your dreams, but be realistic about how much hard work goes into it. Doing photography as a career sounds like the best thing ever (and it still is), but know that it’s going to take a lot of hard work, discipline, disappointments, and time. Just be realistic about the way life is.     
- Try new things and feel free to experiment. The world is full of great photographers, so find out what your specific strengths and weaknesses are. You’ll find that out best when you push your comfort zone. Try things you haven’t before. Try shooting with strobes. Try shooting film. Try shooting projects on just your phone. Try renting expensive gear. Try new angles. Try, Try, Try and you’ll learn pretty quickly what you like and don’t like, what you’re good and and what you’re not. This will help you know how to stand out from the crowd.

 


My High School Images

Just for fun, I thought I'd also through in some of my old work from back when I was in high school and was just getting started. You can compare them to my current portfolios and judge for yourself if I've grown at all. I'd say I've come a long way, but have a long way to go. Regardless, enjoy looking at some humiliating photos. These are only from High School and they are what I had considered my 'portfolio' images at the time.

Difference between Full-frame Sensors and Crop Sensors

 
This image gives a visual demonstration of the crop difference between a full-frame camera and a crop sensor camera.

This image gives a visual demonstration of the crop difference between a full-frame camera and a crop sensor camera.

Buying a camera is a big investment and no small decision. There are many elements and specs to consider and research. One factor of picking a camera is deciding whether to get a full frame (more appropriately called a 35mm frame size) or a crop sensor camera and you may easily overlook it if you're not aware it's an option. I say that you may be overlooking it, because it's not actually something you would ever notice without looking for it or being able to compare it beside the opposite style. So in this article I'm going to cover what it is and some pros and cons to each to hopefully help you understand them better. So lets get to it.

What Are Full-Frame and Crop-Frame Sensors

First, to know what is happening, we need to have a basic understanding of what is happening between lens and sensor. First, although hopefully obvious, it should be said that not all sensors are the same. Just because both your phone and your DSLR are 12 megapixels, does not mean the sensors are equal. Resolution has very little to do with the sensor quality. The sensor size however, can make a big difference. This is typically most correlated to the fact that the individual light receptors (photosites) can be slightly larger. This helps in numerous ways, but largely for better ISO handling. Furthermore, as the feature image of this post shows, sensor size affects the crop/focal length. This is due to the focus length angle that the lenses must be able to create in order to have the image properly fill the whole sensor. As you can see in my beautiful illustration below, due to the sensor size differences, the angles of incoming light must change. This inherently means the possible perspective angles (regardless of lens focal length at this point) are different between sensor sizes. This is very basic explanation and the lens manufactures probably cringe and the rudimentary nature of this post (forgive me you fine lens makers). 

A basic illustration of how the camera sensor size can affect perspective angles and crop ratios.

A basic illustration of how the camera sensor size can affect perspective angles and crop ratios.

So, to recap, not all sensors are equal for many reasons and as the size changes, so do many elements of the camera. Let's look at pros and cons to both, starting with Full-frame cameras.

 

Pros to Full Frame

1)  Low light capabilities - because full frame cameras actually have larger sensors, larger photosites, and have to use larger lenses, they collect light better (in laymen terms). This allows them to do really well in low light conditions.

2)  Low ISO Noise - because of what I just stated above, they also handle ISO beautifully! You can use higher noise than on a crop sensor and still get low noise. Due to this, many full frame cameras will also have larger ISO ranges. 

3)  Wide angle- without the 1.5x crop magnification you can get a lot wider angle. This and the listed benefits above are part of why full frames are so popular for landscape, arcitecture, etc, because they can get really wide angles.  For example, an 18-55mm kit lenses on a 1.5x crop-sensor is actually acting as a 27-82.5mm lens (focal length x 1.5 crop magnification = virtual focal length). However, on a full frame camera, an 18mm lens is actually shooting at 18mm.

4)  Dynamic Range - full frame cameras also tend to have greater dynamic ranges. They capture more detail in shadows and highlights. This also slightly affects color. You can get more correct colors (assuming you can take a proper exposure to begin with) and give you smooth colors due to details captured.

5) Depth of Field - full-frame sensors have a more shallow depth of field than crop sensors. This can allow you to capture more of that nice bokeh and set your subject apart from the background more. Keep in mind, this point still depends your lens, aperture, focal length, and distance from subject. But it does have some affect.

6) Last, but not least, they just look impressive. (hehe, my favorite!). No one likes feeling like the smallest camera out there (sometimes).

Pros to Crop-Sensor

1) Magnification - the crop sensor magnification can actually be a great thing. Crop sensors are sometimes preferred for sports, wildlife, etc. because a 300mm lens on a 1.5x crop is suddenly acting as a 450mm lens. It actually allows you to get a little closer crop without loss of resolution and that can be desirable depending on what you're shooting

2) Depth of Field - Crop sensors have quite a high depth of field. This could allow you to catch sharper details in both foreground and background. So opposite of having a super-shallow DOF with a lot of blur in the background. Again, this point still depends your lens, aperture, focal length, and distance from subject. But it does have some affect.

3)  Cost - They're a lot cheaper than full frame cameras. Ranging from $300 for entry level to $1,200 for better models. Full frame cameras on the other hand typically start closer to $2,000 and can get up to around $6,000 or more.

4) Weight - They're also lighter than full frame cameras. Lenses are slightly smaller, smaller bodies, and smaller parts inside.

5) Lenses - You have a wide variety of lenses to choose from. You can use either a full-frame or crop-sensor lens on a crop-sensor lens, but the opposite is not true. If you use a crop sensor lens on a full-frame camera, you will get a black border where the image doesn't reach the edge of the sensor.

Cons to Full-Frame

1) Cost - They're expensive. Because of the way the sensors are produced, the cost gets bumped up a lot. Again, they can get up to $6,000 for the body only. My Nikon D600, which I've absolutely loved, was only roughly $1,400 and is still an amazing beast of a camera body. I know also have the Nikon D750 which is also amazing, but closer to the $2,000 range.

2) Weight - Some people may not mind, but they are heavier. Add a heavy lens and a long day of shooting a wedding and you've  got your workout for the day in.

3) Lens Availability - There aren't as many FX (full-frame designation for Nikon) lenses available, however most FX lenses are high quality. A full frame lens will work on a crop sensor, but a crop sensor lens (DX) will not work on a full frame camera. You will get major lens vignette around all your images. FX lenses are made larger to handle the larger sensor, but there's not as large a variety like there is for crop sensor cameras.

4) The wide angle of view - Again, this is only a drawback depending on what you are shooting. If you're trying to shoot wildlife and sports where you want to be as zoomed in as possible without loss of quality, get a crop-sensor. But if you're wanting those wide angle perspectives, use a full-frame camera.

Summary

I'm not going to do cons for the crop sensor because you get the idea. If I've already said something about one, then the inverse is probably true for the other type.

So hopefully that helped give you a bit more info on the differences between the two. If you found this article helpful or interesting, please share it with friends and family by using the share buttons below. Thank you.

 

David Wahlman does photo and video production for outdoor and active lifestyle industries. To learn more about him, view his About Me page.

Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Torch 5º Sleeping Bag Review

 
The Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Torch is warm enough for the harshest conditions.

The Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Torch is warm enough for the harshest conditions.

First of all, let me say that this is a great bag! I've had it for over a year and used all across the US and in all conditions and temperatures on all sorts of adventures, so I feel that I can speak to it well.

 

Pros of the Mountain Hardware Lamina

When it comes to things I like about this bag, I may not mention things that I would expect to be normal of a good sleeping bag. I really want my pros list to be things that appear to be above and beyond normal. Thus, just cause I don't mention something, doesn't mean it's not good.

First of all, it is a decently warm bag, although I find that it may be rated a little colder than is realistic, but not by much if so. Granted I sleep colder than most, but I took that into consideration. Coldest weather I've been with it was around the 15º F mark and I slept fairly well, but awoke in the night more than normal due to being momentarily cold. This was with me in a warm base layer, in a tent pitched on snow, on-top of a 3.5 R-rated air mattress, totally zipped up, beanie on. It's always good to understand that temp ratings aren't indicators of comfort, but extremes. So I'm not saying that I expected to be toasty warm at 5º, but I was surprised that I was still remotely cold around the 15º mark considering the other factors. Again, this will vary from person to person.

Secondly, the material is good and handles moisture well. Unlike some materials, where you're afraid it will rip or snag if a butterfly lands on it, I tend to feel quite confident this material holds up well to abrasion and 'stretching' from things like stuffing it, etc. Furthermore, the zippers don't have too many issues. The zipper air guard does occasional get caught, but not enough to truly complain. I like that is the double-zipper (one at feet as well), but this is becoming fairly standard on sleeping bags.

As I said, those are the main pros that standout, but unless otherwise mentioned below as a con, assume that it's a good feature of the bag.

 

Cons of the Mountain Hardware Lamina

One thing to mention that isn't a con of the bag, but is a con for me and I wish I had paid more attention to before buying the bag, is that it is a very big fit when it comes to a mummy bag. So unless you want the wiggle-room, I'd find something that fits more narrowly and is thus more heat efficient. In the future I will be paying more attention to this. So just be aware it is a broad-shouldered fit. On a skinny guy like me (155lb, 5' 11") it leaves lots of dead air space.

I will say that I'm not a big fan of the drawcord because it's difficult to work once already totally zipped up in the sleeping bag. The mechanism spring is stiff and the drawcord is tough to handle. Maybe I just have issues (and that is always a possibility with me), but it seems more difficult than it needs to be. The release spring is stiff and requires a fair amount of effort to release (can be a good thing since it holds it tight) and the string tends to be facing away from you when at rest, meaning that once zipped up and trying to reach outside the bag, it's an odd angle.

This may not be an issue for some people, but the small pouch on the outside of the bag for cellphones or batteries causes me disappointment. Because it's on the outside of the bag and thus the outside of the insulation, it doesn't keep things warm. So, if I were to use it for batteries or phone, my power levels will all be zapped by morning time. If you're just putting keys or something in there, I guess it's fine, but for me personally, I'd rather have it be on the inside so I can keep certain things warm and away from condensation/damp. 

Furthermore, I don't feel that it is as compressible and light as they make it seem when advertised. For someone like me who does mostly backpacking and hiking, I need something more compressible and more lightweight and this is the reason I'll soon be upgrading to a quality down bag like either Feathered Friends or Western Mountaineering (I haven't decided yet). Compared to other synthetic bag at this temp degree, it's quite compressible (what they say, I haven't compared in depth). However, it's not a bag I'd recommend for backpacking due to this. Spend a little more and get a down bag that compresses. 

 

I hope that helps give a bit of insight to a few features. If it's helpful, I also have this video review on my youtube channel, but I basically cover the same stuff (but included visuals and examples):

Hope that was of some insight to you on my personal opinion of this bag. You can check out more of my gear reviews here.

San Gorgonio in the Snow _ Adventure BLOG/VLOG

 
Trudging through 2' of freshly fallen snow on our way up to San Gorgonio Peak

Trudging through 2' of freshly fallen snow on our way up to San Gorgonio Peak

4 days... 3 days... 2 days... 1 day away! The weekend was drawing nearer as we prepared ourselves for hiking San Gorgonio, the tallest peak in Southern California. For our experience level, it wasn't going to be anything new or crazy, but things were different this time: the weather. One of the largest weather systems of the past few years was coming in and was going to hit us broadside while we were up on the peak.

I kept a very close eye on the mountain's forecast with each approaching day and the storm just seemed to be getting worse. Eventually, Tyler and I just accepted the fact that we would not summit on this trip due to the unsafe conditions, but we planned to still make basecamp for the night at about 9,800 feet. About 2' of snow was supposed to fall Friday and we were heading up Saturday, spending the night, then coming down Sunday. However, the snow wasn't our main concern; it was the wind. At basecamp alone, the winds were going to be between 40-45mph. I have the Sierra Design Convert 2 which is a 4-season tent and I know Sierra Design wind tests all their gear for 4-season work. So although the weather made me nervous, I still had some confidence we'd be alive the next morning. The wind speed at the peak on Sunday morning however (the morning we had planned on summiting) was going to be 75mph and increasing throughout the day. For reference, 74mph is considered a hurricane status. Thus, we did not plan on summiting. 

Saturday morning came and we set out from LA nice and early and got to the park entrance at a decent time. The weather was on and off sunny which made for a beautiful initial hike. The freshly fallen snow on the other hand was extremely powdery; the type that doesn't compact at all. We discovered very quickly that this type of snow makes snowshoeing difficult. I can't recount the number of times we (mostly Tyler. lol) fell just while trying to hike. Granted, we had heavy packs and the snow was deep, but it was borderline ridiculous. The only thing making it reasonably possible was the fact that we were following in the steps of a few day-hikers that had gone ahead of us. We eventually passed them as they were coming back down and after about 2 miles, we very abruptly found were they had turned around.

With their trail ending, it was only fresh, unadulterated snow lying before us. After about 20 steps in this fresh and unturned snow, we realized we'd never make it to basecamp that night. It was far too deep and difficult with heavy packs on and in such deep snow. Thus, with heads held high, we cheerfully agreed that we'd have just as much fun camping right where we were at for the night. We got set up with my Sierra Designs Convert 2 tent and took a nice little nap before waking up to go explore one more time before dusk. We were able to catch the sunset over the mountains as dusk fell upon us. 

Catching the last light of the day as night fell upon us

Catching the last light of the day as night fell upon us

Returning to our tent, we made some delicious pasta and sausage before retiring to our warm sleeping bags. The night was uneventful will minor wind and only a few inches of snow by morning. No bear attacks, no hypothermia, just the sound of Tyler snoring and me talking in my sleep. 

Waking up afresh, we made breakfast, packed up, and headed on down the mountain, determined to return for it's conquest on a later date.

Tyler (left) and David (right) hiking down San Gorgonio in a snowstorm.

Tyler (left) and David (right) hiking down San Gorgonio in a snowstorm.

As part of this blog and the story, I've included below the video for this particular weekend. I consider these videos my "Adventure Vlog" and also post them on my Youtube Channel where you can subscribe to all my videos. 

To find learn more, visit my About Me page and to see my photography, select my Adventure Photography Portfolio or any other portfolio you should choose from the top menu. Thanks for reading and watching, feel free to share with others and please subscribe to my blogs in the right hand column. As always, have a good one!

DIY DSLR Big Dome Port Underwater Housing

If you've done research into underwater housing (and their cost), you'll know how expensive they can be. In some instances, they cost more than the camera. Certainly, when you pay the premium price you're also purchasing assurance, functionality, size, etc. However, rebel that I am, I didn't want to pay the premium, so I built my own. They make cheaper underwater bags which I've used before, but the reason that didn't meet my needs is I specifically wanted a big-dome port. Since they don't sell those in any version except expensive housing cases, I knew my only option was to DIM (Do It Myself). 

This post shows you how I built it, and some sample images that have since come from it on two different shoots. I've been quite pleased considering it cost me less that $50 and has had no issues with water leaks.

First, the materials I used. Run to a few local stores and pick up supplies (images below). Such supplies include:

  • A sealable container (I got some Tupperware from Wal-mart that I measured to know was big enough for my camera and hand simultaneously. It was thick enough to maintain stability (unlike some types of Tupperware would have been), yet thin enough to cut with box cutters and drills. I could have bought a more expensive pelican case or something, but I was on a budget, on a time crunch, and wanted to be able to see the back of the camera. 
    For extra sealing security, rub a bit of Vaseline along the rubber gasket before using.
  • Extra lid or flat plastic. The Tupperware I got was a set of 3, so I had an extra lid. This will be cut to be the extension that attaches the 6" dome port to the 4" NBS.
  • 4" NBS or PVC male adapter and female adapter. This is for the lens port. I measured my lens and 4" was the best option for what I was using. You could also use piping and cut it to length, but I wanted to used threaded pieces so I could screw and unscrew the big dome port for if I wanted to collapse it better for travel. Mine were a white and black only because they didn't have both in black. Wish they did though.
  • 3" NBS or PVC pipe, cut to your appropriate length. You could also use an adapter again if it's the length you need. This piece is where your hand and glove inserts. 4" would have been too big, so 3" gave more flexibility in location placement and fit the glove better.
  • Chemical glove. This is where your hand will insert to function the camera. Getting a Chemical glove or similar is important, because you don't want it leaking or puncturing. Don't use a thin or non-water proofed glove. 
  • Plumbing fastener/gear clamp. This will go around the outside of the 3" NBS piece to hold the folded glove in place.
  • Silicone, this is what I used to seal edges and joints
  • 6" Big dome port (not pictured till later). I got this product off Amazon and could have gotten a 9". Not too sure if one would be better than the other, but I wanted the 6" so it would fit better with my setup. From my understanding, the larger 9" dome would help achieve better above-below images. But don't quote me on that. I need to experiment more first.
The majority of supplies used for my DIY underwater housing

The majority of supplies used for my DIY underwater housing

Once the tools are assembled, figure out what holding position is going to be most comfortable and starting cutting holes. I used a sharpie and box cuter for my holes. I didn't want to use any kind of jig saw due to how flimsy the plastic would be with that. Also, I know that I'm a meticulous and detailed person, so I knew my cuts wouldn't be sloppy. Make these holes as perfect, snug, and precise as possible. The goal of the silicone isn't to fill large gaps, but to seal and hold a tight fit. Also, I wouldn't suggest siliconing pieces in place yet. I waited to have everything together and tested before securing it.

You can also see here how the glove works. Insert into the 3" piping and fold over the end. I rubbed a thin layer of silicone under the folded section before putting the clamp on and tightening. Also, as you insert the pieces, be testing with the camera to see how far pieces should be inserted to be comfortable and in proper position. If the 3" piece was too far in, it would squish my hand while holding the camera, but if it's too far out, I wouldn't be able to hold the camera properly. These adjustments are why I wouldn't silicone anything yet.

Once the dome port arrived two days later, I took the extra lid and cut two circumferences from it; one for the 6" dome port and one to go over the 4" NBS. 

Once pieces are ready to assemble and have been tested, we can begin siliconing. One thing I did to ensure a better adhesion is I scraped and made a rough surface for the silicone to grip. That way it's not adhering to a perfectly smooth surface. You could used a rough file for this or just a blade like I did. 

Now add silicone to all joints, ensure a tight seal, and let dry. I gave a full 2 days of drying just to be sure before testing. 

After testing in the sink and tub to ensure it was safe to put my camera in, I used it for some actually shoots. Although I may not be able to access all buttons at any moment and it is big and clunky, it was still almost $1,950 cheaper and has produced some neat images thus far. The way I function it inside the case is by putting it on manual focus, a larger aperture for good depth of field since above and below the water will be different focal planes, and I have used it in both Manual and Aperture priority. I turn on the live view and can trigger the shutter whenever I please. 

Here are a few images from shoots to show it's results. Thanks for reading.

If you have any comments, thoughts, improvements, corrections, etc., I'd love to hear them. 

REI Quater Dome 1 Tent Review

 
REI Quarter Dome 1 Pitched near the peak in Southern California

REI Quarter Dome 1 Pitched near the peak in Southern California

Hey everyone, 

Today I’m going to give a written review of my REI Quarter Dome 1 tent and pair it with the review I made for my YouTube channel. The video obviously has visuals so you know what I’m talking about and examples of such, but some people like good-ol’ fashion words… like, in sentences and such…

First of all, let me say that I have had the tent now for almost a year, which may not seem like much, but I’ve put it to good use. I’ve been through 38 of the50 states with it and in conditions ranging from hot and sunny to cold and snowy. So I think that my review gives a good synopsis since I’ve used it in most situations, environments, and temperatures. 

It must also be said why I chose this tent. I did a lot of hunting, comparing, and research before choosing this tent. This tent may not suite everyone; people have different needs, are looking for different features, have different budgets, etc. As for me, my main use is backpacking, so I was looking for something light and small, but pretty universal since I knew I’d use it in a variety of environments. To someone who never backpacks, doesn’t care about weight, and is camping where there is heavy snow loads, then you’re looking bomb shelter, not a backpacking tent like this.

This tent comes in at 2lb, 2oz and is among the lightest of tents I looked at. There were some lighter, but at the cost of other features such as the rainfly not fully covering the main body or bivy style or more mesh than I desired. This was a good balance for me in weight, but still some substance to it. To be honest, my biggest concern was it’s durability since it’s such a thin material. I’m pleased to say though it has held up well to snow, ice, gusty winds, etc. However, just last week I did exchange it for a new one due to a part of the vestibule zipper starting to rip away from the fly (I’ll expound more on the issue in a bit) and since it’s been within a year of purchase, REI happily exchanged it thanks to the awesome return policies. I am curious to see if my new one will have the same issue down the road, but hopefully not.

Part of what helps with the weight is it’s 1.5 pole system. The poles are already super light DAC aluminum, but they cut out even more weight by having on main pole from head to toe and a second partial pole that goes from the opposite head to a jake’s foot above the door. The tent is not considered freestanding, but is mostly freestanding (if you forgot stakes, you’d still be able to sleep in it). There are two loops at the feet that need to be staked out to give full foot room and keep the tent walls by the feet taut. Speaking of stakes, the tent comes with just enough stakes for all peg-loops and fly, but if you wanted to take advantage of the two additional guy-points, you’d need two more stakes (or use a tree or rocks or something). 

As far as space, it’s perfect for someone of my size (5’10ish”). I’ve heard that people over 6’ don’t enjoy it or find it to be enough space. It is 90” long and 40” at it’s widest. I also mentioned above that it’s not a bivy-style (a bivy is basically a cocoon for humans, but sadly you don’t emerge as a beautiful butterfly), you can however sit up in this tent. It’s [height] in height which makes things like changing a lot easier. I’ve also sat in there with my strap-seat to read a book on a cold night where it was warmer in the sleeping bag. I can tell you this is big luxury since I used to have a bivy-type tent (which was actually heavier than this one). 

I have been pleased as well with the vestibule space (vestibule is the covered space under the fly). It comes pretty low to the ground, thus covering my gear well and I can fit my large backpack or large duffle under it along with my shoes all night. The zippers on both the tent door and vestibule door are smooth and almost never get caught. However, here is where I will mention the one issue that I’ve had with the tent. Because of the way that the vestibule is staked out, it puts a lot of tension at the bottom of the zipper on the fly. This makes getting the first half-inch started more difficult with one hand (not a deal-breaker though). But as of the last two trips, a defect began to develop as afore mentioned; the tension finally started to get the best of it and the zipper began to rip away from the fly materialthere at the bottom. See video for visual aid.

Two things should be clarified; 1) this is the only issue I’ve had with the tent 2) I love this tent! I would be very disappointed if this was a continual problem cause I’d eventually find a new tent and I don’t want to a different tent; I want this one. Therefore, in conclusion, my overall consensus is positive. I would recommend this tent to a friend assuming they were looking for the same main features I was. If you’re debating between this tent and another, you have my recommendation to choose the REI Quarter Dome 1.

This covered most of the main points, but I do going into slightly more depth in the video. If you’re still reading this, it means you’re still reading this (profound!) So thanks for reading this far, I hope it was helpful to you. If you have any questions, please leave comments below or contact me directly. You can also subscribe to my mailing list on the right side if you’d like to receive notifications about new blog posts as they come. Until next time, cheers!

 


 

How I Made a DIY Universal Tripod L-Bracket for Under $5

 

So what is a "Universal Tripod L-Bracket"? Well, I'm not sure, because I couldn't find another on the market quite like it. Some tripod manufacturers make L-brackets specific to their own tripod, but I found nothing universal. Well since that did me no good and I'm an inventive fellow, I set out to make my own. Results: way simpler and cheaper than I thought.

The goal of having an L-bracket is to be able to mount your camera in portrait orientation on your tripod. I have a ball head tripod and when mounted standardly, I can tilt it all the way into portrait orientation, but it gives me less control and the camera is heavy for the ball head to hold perfectly level most of the time. Plus it's just more cumbersome and difficult to get your perfect composition. By being able to mount the tripod head on the side of the camera, I can still have the full rotation possibilities of the ball head and it balances much more naturally. I can easily compose my shot the way I want without the frustration of limited movement.

How I Made My Own

Step 1 _ Run to your local Home Depot or Lowes and pick up 3 items.
     1) Some 1/4" nuts and bolts
     2) Some  washers for the 1/4" bolts
     3) An L-Bracket of the appropriate sizing for your camera and needs (these also were in the Hardware isle 

 

Step 2 _ Assemble. Put a washer, nut bolt through the L-bracket where it will screw into the tripod mount on the bottom of your camera. The reason for the nut being on 'the wrong side' is because the bolt was too long to screw into the camera tightly. Since I wanted the L-bracket flush with the camera bottom, I used the nut as a spacer to 'shorten' the length of the bolt. A simple fix compared to cutting it shorter.

 

Step 3_ Attach tripod mount. On the opposite side of the L-bracket, screw in your tripod mount and place a nut on the opposite side to hold it in place.

 

Step 4_Attach to camera and enjoy!