I am challenged by the complexity of solving neat problems, and get a lot of satisfaction out of it, but some days, I love to do really simple things.
Like tying flies.
I used to be a commercial fly tyer. In part, that's how I put myself through graduate school. I recall one Montana winter, a particularly cold one with temperatures outside diving to 40 degrees F below zero - and that was without the wind chill. We lived in a 395 square foot apartment, but we had heat!
Stephanie and I would tie flies together, she would bead hooks, I'd tie on one of my soft hackle patterns, she would finish and seal.
We tied 550 dozen flies that winter.
Once I graduated, I also retired from commercial fly tying. It was the earliest retirement ever.
I also didn't tie another fly for at least five years!
But now, with Chase learning to tie, I'm loving it again. It gives me a chance to teach, him a chance to learn, and the both of us to engage in a really simple pleasure.
I will be working on a project at GruntWorks next week, where I'm sure that feeling the simplicity of tying a fly will be missed in lieu of the complexity of outfitting Marine rifle brigades with lightweight gear!
I suffered (sic) to get this photo. So did my camera. We got soaked. It was cold. It was worth it.
I've been to this waterfall dozens of times. I've swam in the pool below it in the summer and I've climbed its ice in the winter.
But this time, during the transition season, something was different. The waterfall still flowed, but winter's edge was starting to form.
I was climbing up to the base of the falls to get a photo of a side view when I slipped in the small cave I was in. My eyes were now at ground level and this was my new, and unanticipated view.
Inside the Tipi (see last post) is the little titanium box stove (size small Vortex from Titanium Goat is shown in the photo, 2.5 lbs with titanium stovepipe), and its chimney, roaring under a pretty good blaze with the damper at its wide open aperture.
A box full of dry pine burning hot like this warms up the Titanium Goat Vertex 6.5UL tipi to temperatures comfortable enough to hang out in long johns, from an outside temperature of zero degrees F, in about eight minutes. If I have the kettle on the stove when I start the fire, I have 800 ml of hot water for tea in another five to eight minutes.
At that time, I close down the damper and feed two or three sticks at a time into it for the rest of the evening, at a frequency of about every 10 or 15 minutes. Then, right before I go to bed, I fill the box up with wood and let it burn slow, which gives another hour or so of decent heat (I can double the burn time when using harderwoods, like Cottonwood and Aspen).
There is something about sleeping in the tipi during the winter that I really love. I was never really able to put my finger on it, until this weekend. I was alone in the tipi, so I had time to reflect on it a little.
I think it's the sound of falling snow and the subtle crackling of burning pine, the hinting smell of a woodfire, the glow of the stove, and its warmth on my face. Maybe its the tactile feel of my hatchet (a Gerber Back Paxe) as it splits a small log, or the content look on my dog's face when she's curled up in a ball next to the stove). In other words, whole sensory (and emotive) stimulation - reason enough to be in the backcountry, and reason enough to choose some types of gear with your heart, instead of your head.
In the previous post, I talked about a lens-sensor combination's ability to create film-like dimensionality in a photograph.
I should qualify it by letting you know that in the age of digital photography, there is more to it than sensors and lenses. But it certainly starts there, and those two things are the most important.
If you've been following the release hoopla about the Leica M9, you should recognize that the M9, combined with the Summilux series of f/1.4 lenses, may set the digital photography standard for creating dimensional images that don't actually look like digital photographs. It's pretty refreshing.
Dimensional images, however, also require good photography (technical) skills, and artistic (nontechnical) skills, in addition to the sensor and lens. These three facets maximize the potential for a dimensional image to be created up until the point of capture. If you can't get that far, then no amount of post processing is going to create that dimensionality for you, at least not without a bit of effort and image manipulation.
But post processing can go a long ways if the OOC (out of camera) image contains good dynamic range, detail, and color depth. In this way, a good sensor (which can be likened to a good film) and good post processing technique can (sometimes) accommodate a bad lens (or at least, a lens that isn't a Leica!).
This photo was captured in the Uinta Mountains of Utah this summer, with an Olympus E-P1 (good sensor) and m.Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (not the greatest lens, with abrupt bokeh). The lens took care of enough color, and the sensor took care of the dynamic range (which is fantastic on this sensor) and enough detail to set the image up for just a mild bit of post processing in Photoshop CS4 to give it a little breath of life.
With Halloween coming up, I thought it might be neat to share this possessed aspen tree. It stands sentinel on the east slope of the Tetons at the shore of Jackson Lake. With so many photographers in the Tetons, and so many postcards, I've been trying to find more unique subjects to photograph on my recent trips there, that still capture the flavor of the mountains, which in this photo, are set in the background.
One thing I am dismayed about with digital photography is the lack of dimensionality to photographs. You can almost tell, nowadays, whether a photo was taken with a digital camera or not. They're flat, electronic-looking (define that! but you know what I mean, right?), and they lack the plasticity of a good film photograph.
Camera sensor and lens combinations that shoot like film are rare. Of the compacts, few combinations seem to be able to deliver film like images anymore. Notable in my own experience, are the Sigma DP1/DP2 and the Olympus E-P1 or Panasonic GF1 with a Leica M-mount or Voigtlander lens. This shot was captured with the Sigma DP2, with the aperture closed down pretty good (f/8) so Mt. Moran in the distance would not lose its most recognizable outline and glacial features.
I hope to bring this rather subjective quality into my upcoming reviews of the Olympus E-P1 and the Panasonic GF1, to be published at BPL this fall, and focus a little less on the pixel peeping so regarded as authoritarian by other camera review sites.
There are lots of ways to be comfortable in the mountains, especially in the winter. This is only one of them. It may be my favorite. It's a base camping / short mileage strategy, but really fun, and really comfortable. This is my interpretation of the ultralight hunting camp.
The Vertex 6.5UL (shelter) and its accompanying titanium shepherd's (wood) stove is made by the good folks at Titanium Goat.
This weekend, I decked it out with an ultralight cot, an XL NeoAir, a WM Antelope GWS, a quality tea and coffee kit, and an ultralight hatchet. With a Pak-Rifle, clothes, food, and other stuff, a pack for four days in the wilds with this kit still weighs less than 30 pounds.
This photo sort of goes along with the previous post about the end of the trail in terms of composition. I like that the snow storm is hiding the mountains in the distance, pretty as they are.
Olympus E-P1, m.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8.
Some of my favorite photos have been those that reduce composition to its simplest form.
One of the reasons I like photographing in really bad weather is that it allows you to see less. In this case, the low clouds of a Scottish-like storm descending upon a local mountain that normally offers expansive vistas. On a nice day, this scene would also have been pretty, but complicated by the backdrop of forested ridges.
Instead, the trail simply ended, providing evidence for a flat earth, perhaps :)
In late September we cut out on a Friday after school, grabbed some pals, and hiked into an old Forest Service lookout cabin for this episode of "24". Enjoy the video, and stay tuned for the story that includes a photo essay and gear list to be published at Backpacking Light tonight sometime.