Archive for ultralight

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.

Entering the 4K universe: Adding the Panasonic GH4 mirrorless camera

Posted in backpacking, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2015 by William Hooks

Today I made the quantum jump to begin creating video content in 4K Ultra HD, using the Panasonic GH4 mirrorless camera.


Aside from allowing capture at 4 times the resolution of 1080p [called QFHD or quad-full HD], these are some of the advantages I hope to enjoy while exploring this approach to filmmaking:

Strikingly affordable for its capability- including very inexpensive SD cards at U3 designation

Adaptability of lens mount- can use PL=positive lock, Nikon, Canon, Leica, Zeiss, Sigma, Panasonic, Tokina, Rokinon optics….with excellent Metabones adapters available for Nikon and Canon (the 2 with which I have most past experience)

Very manageable file sizes with compressed 4K/ optional uncompressed 4K: no significant complication of basic postproduction workflow in Adobe Premiere Pro. In fact, it allows expansion of editing choice because of ‘zooming’ into shots to achieve true 1080p derivative shots when needed, after completing of shooting

Practical video capture for very long periods exceeding 29 min US limit (as multiple files), with appropriate media

2 included Cine picture profiles: Cine Like D (flat somewhat like LOG ) and CineLike V (vivid) for relatively painless color grading

Electronic viewfinder (excellent when it’s too bright to see the touch screen, for example) and tilting touch screen control of many functions, very user- friendly features

Small form factor with very light weight and bulk-great for POV, aerials (or just mix files from GoPro Hero 4 and later!), backcountry applications and covering events where mobility may pay substantial dividends- and less stress on monopod heads.

Native monitor features dedicated to video production such as zebras, focus peaking, Synchro Scan, Variable Framer Rate for fast motion and slow motion; timelapse can be created in-camera; stop-motion animation;STMPE timecode; 10-bit option for 4:2:2 HDMI output,luminance and master pedestal level control, advanced audio control and color bars.

Silent control of settings during capture

Fantastic slow motion at up to 96 FPS in Full HD

WiFi control

Option of adding a very capable interface unit beneath the camera, the YAGH, incorporating 2 XLR inputs and 3G-SDI connectors for output

Extraordinary battery life, capture all afternoon on one charge

Highly customizable function buttons

There’s more.. but I ‘m not even going to start on the ‘stills’ side.

So the next journey begins. I rented a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 and Nikon F mount Metabones Speedbooster for the weekend.

Applewhite camp, CA

Posted in backpacking, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2015 by William Hooks

Spent a full day and evening at Applewhite elevation 3300 ft, in the Lytle Creek region of southern CA. The Titanium Goat Ptarmigan biv sack was excellent underneath my HMG square tarp, in a 40 deg F Marmot Atom sleeping bag. Hardly even noticed the smoke from 10 campfires blazing around me… should have chosen site #2…..


5D3A5016 DSCN1992 DSCN1993 DSCN1994 DSCN1995 DSCN1997 DSCN1998 DSCN1999 DSCN2000 DSCN2001 DSCN2003 DSCN2006

Managed to break a tubular tarp stake. I rarely use them unless car camping, prefer MSR Mini-Groundhogs/titanium skewers/MSR Carbon /Cores for backpacking.

Enjoyed getting some field video refinements finished.

My 2 wood-burning stoves for field use

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques with tags , , , , on December 31, 2014 by William Hooks

DSCN1804DSCN1805DSCN1806Solo stove in useDSCN1722 DSCN1794 DSCN1795 DSCN1798 DSCN1801 Solo wood stove in carry bag

These 2 wood stoves feature completely different design concepts, but share some commonalities: first, they allow more controlled ¬†wood burning than open fires especially regarding the avoidance of stray embers and sparks; second, they’re hotter and reduce boil times in the right conditions; third, they increase burning efficiency with less fuel needed and less smoke produced. And after all: I’m a lifelong non-smoker…..and I ‘m a Californian where special attention must be paid to fire safety.

So no fuel needs to be carried; can’t run out of fuel (in the proper terrain); both store very compactly. The Emberlit is 5.4 oz and packs completely flat, the Sol is 9 oz and it fits into my cook pot needing no assembly.

Revised and updated my 3 1/2 season backpacking list today

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2014 by William Hooks

I’ve added the super ultralight (SUL) Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit pack at 12.7 oz, with correspondingly light MSR Carbon Core /titanium skewer stakes for shelters.

My current pack for an overnight trip including water, food, and an alcohol stove system weighs about 10 pounds, so I wear my Nikon camera under one shoulder strap- pull out 2 trekking poles- and go. This setup will allow me to stay out to conditions of about 25 degrees F.

Snow trip with HMG tarp

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, ultralight techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2014 by William Hooks











At 7400 ft in the San Gabriel mountains, I finally got a chance to experience snow with this new shelter and it was all too brief, but great fun.

Used the ULA Catalyst pack, snow anchors instead of regular stakes, and 20 deg F Western Mtg Alpinlite 850 down sleeping bag/Vapor jacket.

Stayed on a torso length TR Neo Air pad atop Gossamer Gear groundsheet. This pack seems to be the winter ticket for my use- enough carrying capacity for what I usually use, and very light, well built. Setup was very easy, for both the shelter and the packup.

Light winds, clear with patchy clouds, about 30 deg air temperature…. sweet. If I didn’t have to work this evening……and I ‘ll be sure to bring bright wands to mark the location of this tarp in winter, since it blends with snow environments.

I’m finding that using trees at one or both ridgeline points as anchors yields very strong, versatile attachments for a wide variety of tarp rigs (especially more complex setups also using poles) and sticks easily exceed the heights of my trekking poles where I want to pitch a flying diamond, for example.DSCN1715




Tri City Park_2014_12_14

Newest images from 8000 ft with HMG flat tarp

Posted in backpacking, Photography, Reviews, Travel with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2014 by William Hooks

A significant storm is predicted to head this way tomorrow evening. If we had 2,356 more storms like this we ‘d be caught up for water…..

Here are some shots I did with the Hyperlight Mountain Gear square tarp this afternoon above Wrightwood, CA:DSCN1666






Had some hot food in low 40 deg F temps and explored the area before returning to ‘civilization’. Saw no ostensible Republicans.

Followup review: HMG Square Flat Tarp

Posted in Captain's Personal Log with tags , , , , , , on December 8, 2014 by William Hooks

DSCN1658 DSCN1659 DSCN1660 DSCN1661 DSCN1664 DSCN1665These shots demo my default tarp setup: storm mode, with 2 long guylines on the rear panel anchors staked through the back trekking pole.

I ‘m using 14 stakes as a standard: 8 MSR Carbon Core stakes for the corners, each ridgeline, and 2 additional points as needed; a single MSR mini-Groundhog stake which can take a great deal of pounding; and 5 aluminum stakes with similar form factor to the CC stakes and large pounding heads.

A nice bonus is that when using the REI clothesline as shown, there’s enough spare cord to use for rigging my vertical hoist to raise the netting of the biv sack off my face.

Today I was using both the ULA Catalyst and HMG Windrider 2400 packs, which are in the foreground.This setup allows cooking safely from within the tarp, with even better ventilation if opting for the A frame setup.

Initial review: Hyperlight Mountain Gear 8.5 ft Square Cuben Fiber Tarp

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques with tags , , , , , , on December 6, 2014 by William Hooks

IMG_0747storm mode_front viewstorm mode_entry view

sm file_storm mode_rear view

sm file_detail view_ line onto trek pole

sm file_detail view_ hitches on line

sm file_ storm mode_ entry view

sm file_ shoes and poles in tarp

sm file_ interior view with sl bag

sm file_ HMG logo

sm file_ FD mode_ side view

sm file_ FD mode_ rear view

sm file_ FD mode_ oblique view

sm file_ FD mode_ front view

sm file_ detail of flying diamond peak line to tree

sm file_ detail int hang loop

sm file_ detail corner attachment

Specifications: area=72 sq ft; weight with all guylines=c 10 oz incl 10 pre-cut 3mm lines and 50 ft of added 2.75mm Sterling Glo-Cord; shelter for 1-2 persons;2 internal, metal ring-hang loops; 16 dedicated perimeter guypoints; minimal fabric stretch; 100% waterproof and windproof

I’ve shown 2 of the 3 main rigging setups I plan to use: the ‘storm ‘ mode and ‘flying diamond’ mode. The other usual setup would be standard, ‘A frame’ mode.

Updates to my equipment list for 3 season UL backpacking

Posted in Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Reviews, Travel with tags , , , , , , on December 6, 2014 by William Hooks

I’m finding that rather than super UL (SUL) style, I seem to gravitate toward UL setups.

My most recent estimate of base carried pack weight is approximately 8 pounds, including the new addition of a Hyperlight Mountain Gear 8.5 oz ¬†8.5×8.5 ft square cuben fiber tarp. I plan to post a comprehensive review of this shelter later this month.

Given this foundation, I ‘m usually taking about 12-13 pounds total weight including fuel, food and water.

In 2015, I may begin to explore packrafting to exploit river and lake travel as well as cooking over open fires. That way, no fuel to take…. but need to be very cautious in California about fire control and regulations these days. The same caution is justified regarding alcohol fuels in my opinion.

Happy holiday season, and here’s to many more.