The small Sachtler audio bag I use for sound recording in film/video production -or “Papa’s got a brand new bag”

Posted in Audio, Captain's Personal Log, Photojournalism, Video on August 10, 2016 by William Hooks
  • boom poles_ 2 shotguns_ blimp_2 Lavs

    foreground: Electrolet shotgun mic on Rode shock mount and boompole; rear: Rode blimp containing NTG-4 shotgun mic on Rode large pole

    grip setup for DAR on boom pole_closeup

    recorder mounting grip assembly

    Sachtler audio harness

    Sachtler heavy duty audio harness with modular pockets

    Sachtler small bag with contents_1

    Interior of Sachtler small audio bag with contents

    Zoom H6 installed on boom pole

    Zoom H6 recorder/mixer mounted on K-Tek Avalon graphite 12’6″ boom pole

    Adreama 12K mAh power bankSmall audio bag and contents (7)Small audio bag and contents (2)Small audio bag and contents (4)Small audio bag and contents (5)Small audio bag and contents (6)

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What to use today: tarp or tent?

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, mountaineering, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques on March 17, 2016 by William Hooks

If I want  a full floor, insect protection and very light but not lightest shelter, for me it’s a no-brainer: some sort of tarp-tent or a tent such as this Nemo Hornet 1p, which I obtained from REI using my 2015-6 dividend and -20% coupon for $135.

It uses the same Tyvek footprint that I already have for my tarp; the total weight for its pole, pole bag, canopy, fly and lines is 24 oz.

I feel that its setup is straightforward, comparable to the basic skill level needed for deploying a tarp (simpler than advanced tarping). the tent is very compact when packed, livability is much improved over my Ptarmigan or REI biv sacks. I like the 8 sq ft side vestibule, and much prefer the right side entrance to a front entrance for a 1-person shelter partly because of the relative ease of including a larger vestibule with that design.

This tent is freestanding. Headroom =40 inches, I can easily sit up inside.

Inclusion of the Light Pocket at the apex of the tent body allows a headlamp to double as a lantern- something I find very practical at no weight penalty.

Compared with my HMG Square Tarp: slightly heavier; no need for any additional components such as biv sack for insect protection; less ventilation and cannot cook inside the tent itself; simple to keep gear separate from living space because of vestibule, which is on my right while living in the tent (and I’m right-handed). Not as versatile as a tarp, but can opt to pitch just the canopy for improved ventilation and/or to save additional weight. Can combine the canopy with the tarp depending on the locale. No need for trekking poles but risk breakage of the single pole, as with any tent. Since it’s green, in forests that color simplifies stealth camping style. Needs 8 stakes for full pitch, vs up to 14 for the tarp. The guylines are reflective, another practical advantage.

I wish there was more fly coverage especially at the head end, and/or a guyout at the tip of the front of the fly. The fabric materials are notably delicate, and require more care in handling than the cuben fiber tarp.

Otherwise, I’m very pleased to use this shelter when I don’t mind a few extra ounces and seek complete enclosure at night, with no insects to deal with.






Ultralight 20 deg F backpacking setup

Posted in Captain's Personal Log on January 11, 2016 by William Hooks

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This combination of 11 items seems to work for me as the basis for traveling ultralight in 3+ seasons, when snowshoes are not required.

It includes a pack (I show both the HMG Windrider 2400 and ULA Catalyst as main choices), Thermarest Solar full size Ridge-style sleeping pad, Western Mtg Alpinlite +20F 850+ down bag, OR Helium II rain jacket, Mountain Hardwear P5 pile jacket, small sack containing Snowpeak 900ml titanium pot and Soto piezo micro-canister stove w small canister, firestarter=mini Bic, bear hanging sack, leather gloves from Petzl, and Steripen Classic 3 for water treatment. This entire setup weighs about 8.7 pounds.

My backup for fire is shown as an extra option (butane emergency type). Add a food bag and some snacks, and maybe a water bottle, and……go.

If I choose to take a shelter other than a Titanium Goat modified, 7 oz Ptarmigan biv sack I will most likely take either the BD Megalite silnylon ‘Mid (blue and silver here), or the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 8.5 ft Square tarp of cuben fiber. I hang the Megalite before staking it out, to ensure proper centering of its peak if not using an interior stick or trek pole combo.

For scale, I’ve included my HMG 1800 cu in Summit pack in an image.

PS: I may opt for a wood fire, in which case the 3 Amigos come into play- the 12 oz hatchet, Gerber folding saw (5 oz) and/or Gerber Basic knife (3.5 oz) for wood processing. Substitute Solo wood stove for the Soto, and carry no fuel.

Here’s my gear list in more detail, taken from my account at


The Rode Video Micro ultralight/compact, remote-powered shotgun microphone

Posted in Audio, backpacking, Music, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video on December 18, 2015 by William Hooks

I just received this superlight unit from B&H, at $60 regular price.

It’s powered from the camera or other 3 v supply, and has no internal battery requiring periodic checking and replacement. I use another mic of similar size and weight of Chinese origin (see my equipment list page), which uses an internal CR2 battery; both have their advantages re powering. This microphone really is to be used by direct connection to a camera’s 3.5mm jack.

This type of mic is very useful for a number of situations: vehicle interior audio, backpacking, minimalist travel/photojournalism, creating tutorials at the computer screen by reversing the mic on the camera’s hot shoe for voiceovers… the excellent Rycote windscreen allows realistic use in moderate wind conditions.

It also has a 3/8″ base thread for use with a standard boompole.

Be sure that  NO PHANTOM POWER is applied to this unit!! If employed with a  Zoom H6, using plug-in power = 2.5 v for that particular recorder, be sure to set up for plug-in power before connecting the microphone.  Set the Tascam DR-70 D digital audio recorder to EXT POWER to enable plug-in power.


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My preliminary assessment of sound quality is that I would happily use it with an NTG-4 or  Audio Technica Pro70 wired lav mic. Gain is more than adequate.


The fact that it has no controls whatsoever contributes to a streamlined, simple form factor; when I need to control the width of pickup coverage, I ‘d go to the Shenggu SG-180 shotgun (90-120 degree settings).

The ultralight, stable unspillable Zelph modified StarLyte stove

Posted in Captain's Personal Log on December 12, 2015 by William Hooks

I got this stove for ~$25 US from Illinois small shop supplier, online.

It worked very well today in a windscreen, using a 1 L Halulite GSI tea kettle and less than 1 fl oz of fuel….less than 0.5 oz weight.

I highly recommend it- but be careful loading with fuel from a non-nozzled bottle, and don’t overfill ! Its capacity is 30 ml = 1 fl oz.

Notes: It fits inside of an MSR Titan titanium kettle (as does the Vargo titanium alcohol stove  and the Whit Box stove) with a 4 oz jet-nozzle type fuel bottle , matches and a windscreen. You must supply the windscreen, just as with the other stoves listed. This provides a very compact and ultralight stove  system for 3 season + conditions.

It does not light easily using either a firesteel or a piezo-ignitor, but works very well with matches or a lighter.

The website and Facebook page for WATER HUNGRY documentary were posted today

Posted in Audio, Photography, Photojournalism, Travel, Video on October 1, 2015 by William Hooks
at the Hollywood anticorporate protest co-sponsored by ANSWER Coalition, Sept 2015

At the Hollywood anticorporate protest co-sponsored by ANSWER Coalition, Sept 2015

Commnal water dispensing station, East Porterville, CA

Communal water dispensing station, East Porterville, CA

Guy Fawkes lives on

Guy Fawkes lives on in protest

Melinda Steffen interviewing a resident dealing with acute water supply issues in East Porterville, CA

Melinda Steffen interviewing a resident dealing with acute water supply issues in East Porterville, CA



Patricia Magana and family, East Porterville, CA

Patricia Magana and family, East Porterville, CADSC00030

A version of the film's avatar; original artwork by Melinda Steffen

A version of the film’s avatar; original artwork by Melinda Steffen

Please check both our Facebook page and the film website for updates, reference links to information about the crisis over water in the state of California, and background about the process of creating this project.

Covering the ANSWER Anticorporate protest in Hollywood, CA

Posted in Audio, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2015 by William Hooks

This afternoon, there was a protest march against corporate practices across the world held in Hollywood where I conducted several interviews with activists. These included  Navaho native American Paige Murphy representing, Hamid Assian from Food And Water based in Wash, DC, and a Pasadena activist from Citizens Climate Lobby, James Waterhouse.

Doug, media coordinator for ANSWER event

Doug, media coordinator for ANSWER event

ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (5) ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (6) ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (7) ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (8) ANSWER Protest_2015_9 (10)For solo interview technique I like to use a dynamic microphone running to the Tascam DR-60D DAR unless I anticipate a lot of very loud noise, where the -20dB pads are nice on the Zoom H6. The 17-40mm f/4 L Canon zoom was my default lens, also used the 70-200 mm f/4 L. Love the AT Mx40 headphones for crowd work! They really help isolate the interviewee from the background and are very comfortable.

Page Murphy, co-founder of and Navaho I was using the 4K Panasonic GH4 and Benro S6 monopod for the day. Grateful for overcast weather! And thanks to Ed Flowers for some still shots—

Paige Murphy, co-founder of and Navaho