Archive for the Travel Category

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

DSCN2459 DSCN2461

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 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.

Documentary filming in the heat of central California

Posted in Audio, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2015 by William Hooks
At Lake Success, CA talking with Donna Johnson from East Portervillie

At Lake Success, CA talking with Donna Johnson from East Portervillie

Setting up to talk with Paul Boyer in west Visalia about the efforts of his company to help residents obtain water

Setting up to talk with Paul Boyer in west Visalia about the efforts of his company to help residents obtain water

I'm monitoring sound before beginning to interview Paul at his office

I’m monitoring sound before beginning to interview Paul at his office

Donna Johnson (16) Melissa Wichnell (8)

James Garrett monitoring video and Melinda Steffen checking audio at Visalia interview

James Garrett monitoring video and Melinda Steffen checking audio at Visalia interview

Melissa Wichnell discussing Visalia, CA emergency planning for water distribution

Melissa Wichnell discussing Visalia, CA emergency planning for water distribution

Melissa Wichnell (13) Melissa Wichnell (15)

Nonpotable water tank near the fire station in East Porterville, CA

Nonpotable water tank near the fire station in East Porterville, CA

We completed a series of interviews with local officials in Visalia, CA and talked with local resident Donna Johnson in East Porterville about what she was personally doing to help neighbors whose wells had gone dry (as was her own).

The level of poverty in East Porterville is intense. Housing prices, already low, are decreasing due to lack of water further burdening residents who might want to leave the area.

We shot with my Panasonic GH4 in 4K 30fps mode, using a Zoom H6 digital audio recorder as well as Audio Technica Pro70 wired lav’s an dRode NTG-4 shotgun in a Rode blimp.Also used a Zoom hypercardioid shotgun mic and when using the Zoom for field notes, the mid-side capsule mic. I was very pleased with the performance of my equipment in very hot conditions, wind and for interior shots with no problems encountered.

There is still much to be done before we begin cutting the documentary’s final look; a tentative title: WATER AND THE LIVES OF THOSE LESS FORTUNATE.

Battery options for powering the GH4, lights, Zoom H6, and monitor

Posted in Captain's Personal Log, monitors, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2015 by William Hooks
Switronix P-tap to GH4 power cable

Switronix P-tap to GH4 power cable

Switronix P-tap to 4-pin power cable

Switronix P-tap to 4-pin power cable

LP90S battery as counterweight, connect to GH4 with power cable on shoulder rig

LP90S battery as counterweight, connect to GH4 with power cable on shoulder rig

closeup of battery, P-tap connection and second P-tap port located on mount plate

closeup of battery, P-tap connection and second P-tap port located on mount plate

The Zoom H6 digital audio recorder is powered from the accessory USB port on the battery, shown above.

It’s a good idea to not allow these batteries to be uncharged for long periods because of their self-discharge property; I mark them each time they’re charged, and aim at less than 6 months before recharging.

And double check to ensure that the terminals of the P-tap connector are properly aligned to the corresponding terminals of the battery plate- if not, there’s risk of short-circuiting the cable (I’ve done it – ONCE).

Channel Islands National Park: Santa Cruz Island ultralight backpacking

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video on June 26, 2015 by William Hooks

Trail heading SW from Cavern Point toward the Visitor Center

P1020807 P1020802I spent 2 1/2 days on this excursion with Jim Garrett, a friend and co-editor of DEP. We began preproduction on a documentary about the current California drought crisis while on this trip, and enjoyed great views from trails and at the beach. We visited Potato Harbor Overlook and Cavern Point trails in particular, on the northwest side of the island.

The camping was done using tarps at the lower camp , and alcohol stoves are allowed there but we used canister stoves. The upper camps are mostly for larger groups.P1020821 P1020820 P1020789 P1020770 P1020769 P1020768 P1020784

A note  of caution to those who might use tarp camping methods there: take precautions to avoid hantavirus disease! Take a good ground sheet and avoid contact with soil. Official dogma is to use standard tents with floors.

The abundant animals such as island foxes were all over camp but we had no evening encounters- most likely because of fastidious food and trash storage. The park provides excellent, standard bear lockers.

His Windrider 3400 and my Windrider 2400 pack were great for this kind of trip- we hardly felt them on the hikes, as well as the Sony NEX-6 and my Panasonic GH4 with 15mm f/1.7 lens which were much lighter than DSLR’s. I put mine in ‘point and shoot’ mode much of the time and shot some 4K video during the visit. We plan to submit some shots with our packs to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, the manufacturer in Maine.

We had the opportunity to get to know one of the seasonal rangers, Maya Morales, who is also a Humboldt State student, and plan to do some interviews  for the upcoming film from the perspective of someone who is very involved with resource management and conservation.

First followup review of Panasonic GH4 DSLM camera

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2015 by William Hooks

These are my observations after using the camera for a few weeks.

First, I found that operating the nonprotruding video actuation button was not optimal and ended up adding a $10 Vello 2 ft wired remote. This also allows use of very slow shutter speeds and facilitates macro imaging, and I use it for interviews so that I can stay where I’m interacting with the subject- the same as I already do with my H6 Zoom audio recorder.

With a 64GB U3 rated card I’m getting more than 80 minutes per clip at 4K resolution. No more interruptions to reset the camera for interviews…..

Second, after renting the 18-35mm f/1.8 EF Sigma I think this lens will be excellent for general use especially on a rig with follow focus, but too large and heavy for backpacking and [currently] doesn’t support AF; so I will most likely buy the Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 and 35-100 f/2.8 eventually, and continue to rent this optic.

Third, I’ve settled on Custom settings for the main 3 dial positions= C1 for 4K DCI/24 ‘Cinematic’, C2 for 4K UHD/30 ‘Broadcast’, and C3-1/ C3-2/C3-3 for ‘highest quality ‘ 1080/60 moderate slow motion, ‘smoothest’ 1080/96 slow motion, and 1080/12 undercranked fast motion. NOTE: this camera allows 1080p in slow-motion 96 FPS whether in 30 or 24 cinema modes.

Fourth, as a walkaround lens I ‘m using the Pana/Zeiss Summicron 15mm f/1.7 – a tiny, ultralight lens simulating 30mm perspective in full frame terms. Sharp, easy to maintain relatively great DOF (nice for rapid event action), beautifully integrated with the camera’s capability, easy to carry long distances, and wide without distortion.

Fifth, the Metabones EF to MFT Speedbooster will be a keeper for me as I have 2 Canon FF lenses and it opens the entire Cine and still collection to the camera, as well as lenses from Rokinon /Zeiss/ Olympus/Voigtlander in particular. The ‘free’ additional stop from the adapter has been very welcome in keeping the ISO settings in the optimal range. I find that linking the baseplate/rail system onto the removable Metabones tripod mount provides the clearance I need for attaching the Rokinon 14mm T3.1 and 35mm T1.5 lenses, which have large front elements.

An added bonus is that as long as the adapter is attached, the camera sensor is completely shielded from damage while changing lenses.

Sixth, I’ve evolved a minirig for ENG and light EFP use consisting of an aluminum form-fitting cage, JAG 35 top handle/tripod base plate,carbon fiber 15mm rods, and RedRock Micro spuds/attachment points.

I will be using a $12 basic Nikon F to MFT adapter for AI-S Nikkors for the immediate future, and rent the F/G to MFT Speedbooster when needed.