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Blog posts below arranged most recent at top
Leaving the place better than we found it
Seeing with my eyes closed
Thomas Jefferson on gun control
How to lie convincingly
Our hardy heartland
Breaking the cycle
How to catch the sun's comings and goings
Thoughts from the inside
Leveraging the internet to build our walls
Twitters from the past
And the invincibility of youth
Without ego projection
Yet another gift of the road
The charming side of obstinance
The creative part of photography
A movie critic looks in the mirror
We are not alone
As part of the system
Defecting from the rear guard
The end of Kumbaya
The wanderer's poet
Running out of dirt
Striking a balance
The Bay of Fundy, where the sea breathes
How to photograph them with anything, even your cellphone
A simple question we get every day
We may be failing to fail
And why no one should hesitate to examine them
Becoming a hero in one's own life story
A writing assignment
A new discovery of something old
Finding new eyes to see old landscapes
Hick humor
You're on this page
Experiencing life with God
A radical thought about our radicals
Redemption with style
Hidden heroes among us
Resetting our parallel processor
A village with heart
A lesson from the road
The bullet dodged
A soul sparkles
Isolation in style
Painless ways to lose your virginity : 11/12/15
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My Bag
Toys for photographing wild places

Digging around in my photo bag to take that happy shot of yet another waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, I realized the bag's contents had evolved over the miles to just what an outdoor photographer needed to capture wild places, but with weight kept to a minimum. The links below are for info only -- always see what is current and best priced (not always Amazon).

Nice camera backpacks usually start well over $100, but being a cheapskate, mine came from Walmart for $50.
Camera bag
Other than a stitch here and there, the only major enhancement has been some gorilla tape along the bottom where just about any knapsack would wear away after enough miles.
Camera bag

Yes, this makes the pack look a bit ratty, but you want that. Remember that this bag will be jammed with expensive toys made as light as possible. To keep it from running down the street, don't emblazon Canon or Nikon all over it. Make it look like the home of a couple of Limburger sandwiches.

The main feature of my tripod is that its legs are carbon fiber with flip locks, not the friction rings of my previous tripod (always slipping). The main feature of its ball head is the ability to quickly swing the camera to the side to take vertical (portrait) shots. I never had much use for the 3 separate adjustment knobs common to most ball heads.

Inside the bag is my Canon Rebel T1i (check for later version), not because Canon is the best, or because it's their best model. The religious wars between Canon and Nikon fans forget that it's not the horse but the jockey. Canon makes lots nicer cameras, but they tend to be heavier and your first dozen trail miles will have you questioning whether you need all those bells and whistles. Save your dough for lenses.
Camera, lenses, etc.

The 24-100mm general-purpose zoom lens on the camera covers most situations. The 100mm 1:2.8 macro lens is for close-up work, and the 8-15mm fisheye lens is for when the cliff won't let you step back to take it all in. All are Canon just so I don't have to deal with integration issues, and each has a lens cap and a padded lens bag.

Rarely used because I try to avoid flash shots, the Speedlite flash is needed sometimes. I waterproof sprayed the nylon ditty bag so I can pull it over camera and lens in an unexpected rain. You can use a plastic grocery bag, but never let even a mist hit your camera.

The Illuminator outfit makes a small, collapsible, cheap reflector for lighting the underside of things, and a diffuser to soften harsh sunlight.
Camera, lenses, etc.

Below that is my drugstore head lamp for night rambles, though you'll get your best shots learning to get around by the light of the moon. Below that is my skeeter repellent, emergency rations, and the camera's manual.

Most people laugh at the idea of dragging around a dog-eared manual, preferring instead to learn their camera through some form of psychic osmosis. They claim to "learn by doing", which I assume is to push camera buttons until something useful happens. Since modern cameras are a veritable porcupine of knobs and dials, I prefer to use hiking breaks to find some obscure feature in the manual, try it out, and then get back on the trail. After all these years, I can still find more of those hidden gems. Pay extra to get paper if you have to, and then read it thoroughly and often to get your money's worth.

Next group of toys begins with spare batteries. Why at least three? Consider the likely scenario for finding out you have a bad battery. Your main battery has just drained normally when you reach for the bad battery. If you don't have a third battery at that point, you will no longer be fun to be with.
Batteries, filters, etc.

In the bottom-left of the shot above are my filters in a CD carry case. The polaroid is to cut water glare and such as that. Others include the 0.6 and 0.9 neutral density filters to cut down light when I can't stop down the aperture any further. Let's say I want to keep the lens open for 0.4 seconds to get that silky look to a waterfall. No matter how you stop down (f32 or smaller), you'll still get too much light. That's where neutral density filters come in. You can spend lots of money buying filter brackets and spend lots of time attaching them to lenses, or you can just hold them in front of the lens. Guess which I prefer.

The snake thing is called a plamp. One end clamps to a tripod leg, and the other to the stem of a flower moving around in the wind -- and your macro shot is rescued.

Top-right are cables and a white-balance metering standard, clearly just an option if you're shooting the RAW file standard.

Below that is a little plastic bag with remote shutter trigger, Allen wrenches for tripod, head, and brackets, a small spare memory card for the camera, lens cleaning stuff, and a tiny spray bottle of glycerin. Glycerin is a clear, harmless liquid that beads up much larger than water. Cool flower droplets and spider web beads.

For under $40, I'd say my programmable cable release is a bargain. You should try to take all tripod pictures with mirror lockup and a cable release to minimize camera vibration. But this cable release's programming also supports lens speeds way past the 30-second max of many cameras (important for night shots), and you can set it to make time-lapse videos.
Batteries, filters, etc.
The photography gloves only go out on winter trips, but on those, they make the difference between being able to wait out the perfect shot, or fumbling with regular mittens.

Besides the bag, I carry bear spray when deep in the forest. Designed for grizzlies (which I encountered only once in my life), this is also handy for other annoying critters, four or two legged. Given that I like creeping around forests at night, it makes me feel good to have the power of a skunk. Disregard all the complex wind direction instructions. If the shit hits the fan, you'll just aim and shoot. Practice a quick draw, arming, aiming, holding your breath, and narrowing your eyes.
Besides the bag
The viewfinder hood makes a big difference on sunny days.

Besides being my Plan B camera, the above Lumix underwater camera is also my shoot-from-the-hip critter cam. Whereas I take forever to twitter all the dials for a landscape shot on my regular camera, the bears, deer, raccoons, etc. are not posers. The Lumix has most settings on auto so I can instantly shoot unexpected visitors and ask questions later. You can do the same with a cheaper GoPro, but those have virtually zero settings. That's like handing Mozart a banjo with one string.

Not pictured is the lens hood against glare, and my monopod with feet for the many places tripods are not allowed (museums, caves, etc).

Lots more in my toy chest for special occasions, but this bedtime story has grown long enough for now.

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Shiloh, where mass casualties began

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So young

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The ground was strewn with the dead of the enemy and our own, mangled in every conceivable way.
-- Capt. Samuel Latta, 13th Tennessee Infantry, C.S.A.

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A trickle without a name on a trail without a name

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Fall Hollow near the Natchez Trace

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Jackson Falls

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Music City reflections

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White dogwood, redbud trees, and
the countryside was clothed in flowers

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Pantheon knock off

For more pictures of Tennessee, click here.

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