the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Reviews

Nightscapes – Ebook Review and Discount

Balanced Rock by Moonlight

Balanced Rock by Moonlight

Want to learn how to take photos similar to my shot of Balance Rock shown here? Recently I blogged about a lecture by Royce Bair about shooting Milky Way nightscapes. I hope some of you were able to attend. The lecture was in advance of his new ebook on the subject. The ebook is now ready.

Though I took the Balanced Rock shot prior to reading Royce’s book, I wish I had the book first; it would have solved several problems I had with the shoot. I am currently planning a trip next week to Eastern Washington to do some night photography (weather permitting) and Royce’s book will certainly be making the trip with me. It has helped me plan the trip and plan particular shots I hope to take. Prior to going, I will be purchasing a new spotlight (for light painting) based on book recommendations. In particular, I like his “recipes” for taking these type of shots. They make the process much easier.

Royce recently contacted me and is offering a special limited-time 25% discount on his ebook. His book “Milky Way NightScapes” is 140 pages about starry night landscape photography including planning, scouting, forecasting star/landscape alignment, light painting, shooting techniques and post processing. I have a copy and it is very informative. It sells for $19.99, but he is offering a $5 discount to readers of my blog.

The eBook can be previewed or ordered here.
To receive the discount:

1. Scroll to the bottom of the web page
2. Click on the ADD TO CART button
3. In the shopping cart, enter TWAN in the Discount Code box
4. Click the “Update Cart” button to get your $5.00 discount and have it reduce the total to $14.99
5. Click the yellow PayPal checkout button and make your payment
6. You can now download the eBook PDF

Your net price will be $14.99. This discount code is for a limited time only.

I should probably note that I did not receive anything for this recommendation. It’s just a great little ebook that give concise, usable information and advice on how to shoot Milky Way landscapes.

 

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Free Photography Ebook by David duChemin

Ten-More-Free-500x645He’s done it again. In an earlier post I told you about a free ebook being given away by David duChemin titled  TEN, Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear. This week David announced he is giving away the companion ebook TEN MORE, Ten More Ways to Improve your Craft Without Buying Gear.

As with his first book, this one didn’t present anything new to me personally (while I’d like to think that is because I’m such an experienced and accomplished photographer, in reality, it is probably because I have read all of David duChemin’s print books which cover these topics in more detail). However, for relatively new photographers, it does present good information and techniques they may not have thought about. For experienced photographers, it is always worth reviewing and remembering these relatively simple, yet effective techniques. Also like the first book, this one contains suggested, fun exercises to help learn or reinforce the techniques. Topics covered include: embracing constraints, digital darkroom, shooting in manual mode, honoring the frame, shooting in monochrome, and more.

This is a great little book, especially for the price (free!). It is certainly worth the time to download it. For a link to the book, visit David deChemin’s blog.


Free ebook by David duChemin

Cover to TEN by David duChemin David duChemin is a wonderfully talented photographer that I follow. Though he resists being labeled, I’d call him a travel photographer – he truly has a knack for portraying a sense of place through images of people and scenes beyond the typical tourist shots. I’ve enjoyed most of his hard-copy books as well as a few of his ebooks.

Earlier this week, David announced on his blog that his first (at least I believe it’s his first) ebook is now being given away for free. The book, TEN, Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear, is a short, educational book on how to improve your photography. While most of its tips were not news to me, his fun writing style and suggested exercises in the book made me think about my images and my approach to photography.   Topics covered include creating contrast, creating depth and balance, changing perspective, and looking for “good” light – all topics I like to cover when teaching photography myself.

If you are looking to improve your photography, this short little ebook can certainly help. You can download the ebook at David’s blog.

The cover image of David’s book is used here with permission.


Product Review: Expert Shield Screen Protectors

Expert Shield Screen ProtectorI have never used screen protectors on my cameras. The reason, I think, is because I’ve been a photographer since long before digital photography, so I saw the birth and growing pains of digital. In the “old” days of digital cameras, all the screen protectors I saw were thick, permanently attached, and, in my opinion, obstructed and lowered the quality of the LCD screen view. I certainly didn’t want one of those on my camera. Now, years later, I guess I was aware that screen protector technology had progressed over the years, but never reconsidered using one until now.

I was contacted by the makers of Expert Shield and asked to review their product. Why not, I thought, with my 6D still relatively new, perhaps it was time to reconsider screen protectors. The screen on my old camera (a 50D) has quite a few scratches, and the 6D already had one or two. So, a screen protector might be called for. I said yes, and shortly thereafter, installed Expert Shield’s product on my camera.

Overall, I’m very happy with the Expert Shield screen protector. It was moderately easy to install, does a great job protecting the screen, easy to remove, and did not leave any residue on the screen. Once installed, I barely noticed it was there; to my eye, there was no visible loss of light transmission through the screen protector. Additionally, Expert Shield screen protectors come with a lifetime guarantee against scratches or peeling.

The key to installing the screen protector is not to have any dust on your screen. The instructions on the package state “dust, your worst enemy.” This is totally true, each speck of dust on your screen when you install the protector will result in an air bubble. Having been shipped two sample screens, I installed a protector twice (one for my testing, and one after testing). The first time, it went very smoothly, and I was able to install the screen protector without any bubbles. On the second installation, I did have a few small bubbles. However, by following the directions on how to remove dust with tape (making sure not to touch the inner surface of the protector with anything other than tape), I was able to again achieve a bubble-free installation. The protector comes with a lint-free cleaning cloth to help ensure the screen is dust free and clean before installation.

Once on, the screen protector is barely noticeable. It does cause a slight, colored interference pattern that is only visible when the screen is off. When turned on, the screen looks perfect, as if the screen protector is not there. Also, the few small scratches I already had on the screen prior to installation were virtually invisible with the protector in place.

I decided to test the guarantee against scratches. While the screen protector doesn’t scratch easily, it does scratch. With the edge of a coin and a bit of pressure, I succeeded in putting a permanent scratch on the screen protector (and I was glad it was there, because that scratch would have really gouged my screen). When I later removed the screen, there was no corresponding scratch on the screen (luckily, or I would have been really pissed). Removing the screen protector is easy. By placing a piece of tape on the corner and pulling gently, the screen protector easily peeled back. If you plan to re-install it, don’t touch the underside. If you are not planning on reuse, it can be peeled back with a fingernail. Once off, it left no residue on the screen.

In summary, I recommend this product without hesitation, just be sure to apply according to the directions and be very careful about dust. While it is capable of being scratched, it will certainly protect your screen. And with the lifetime guarantee, if your protector is scratched, you can get a free replacement. My only disappointment is that Expert Shield does not make protectors for all my devices. While they do have them available for many cameras, smartphones, and tablets, they are not available for my 50D, my smartphone, or my wife’s tablet. That said, they are available for very many devices. You can see a complete list at the Expert Shield website.

Expert Shield screen protectors are available directly from Expert Shield or from Amazon, starting at about $10. Want to try one out for free, Expert Shield will give a free sample to one of my readers. Leave a comment listing your camera or smartphone model and I’ll pick one commenter by random for the giveaway.

Disclaimer: Expert Shield provided me with free samples of this product.


The Scoop on Poop and other Paria Facts

Wide Spot in Buckskin

Wide Spot in Buckskin Gulch.

Here are some more details about the Paria Canyon hike along with some more photos.

There are four trailheads: three starting trailheads (assuming hiking downstream), all in Utah:  Wire Pass, Buckskin Gulch, and Whitehouse campground; and one ending trailhead, at Lee’s Ferry, AZ. My hiking buddies (Rob Tubbs, an friend from grad school; his wife, Deanna; and daughter, Abby; and my brother Rob) and I choose to start at the Whitehouse trailhead because there were better camping options on this route (there are no places to camp in Wire Pass and very few in Buckskin Gulch). The Whitehouse trailhead is on the Paria River, two miles south of the Paria Contact Station on US Highway 89, roughly mid-way between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT. The Buckskin Gulch and Wire Pass trailheads are south of US 89 on House Rock Road. Roads to all the trailheads, at the time of this writing, were passable by passenger car.

White House Trailhead

The start of the hike at the White House Trailhead.

Buckskin Gulch is a tributary to the Paria River, and hits the Paria 7 miles from the Whitehouse trailhead. Wire Pass is a tributary to Buckskin Gulch, and is relatively short. Hiking Wire Pass cuts off a portion of Buckskin Gulch.In addition to the hike to Lee’s Ferry, it is also a popular hike to start at Wire Pass or Buckskin, hike to the Paria, then upstream to the Whitehouse trailhead.

Permits: a permit is needed to hike from any of the trailheads, and there is a limit of 20 overnight permits per day. Needless to say, we didn’t see a lot of people on the 6 days we were in the canyon. Permits are also needed for day use, but there is no limit on the number of permits issues. Dogs are allowed, but also need a permit. Permit information can be obtained here.

Shuttle: Unless you want to backtrack back up the canyon, this is a one-way hike. There’s no quick way to drive from the starting trailhead to the end. Unfortunately, the quickest paved route is not currently an option because the highway between Page, AZ and Lee’s Ferry is out for the foreseeable future due to a landslide which took out a portion of the road on February 20th. Now the quickest route involves driving the length of the unpaved House Rock Road. In our case, I followed Rob Tubbs’ Ford F350 truck in my little Hyundai Elantra.  Now, while I’m a proponent of the drive-fast-over-washboards-on-dirt-roads method, I’m a piker compared to Rob Tubbs, whom I swear is a teacher at the Drive-As-Fast-As-You-Can-on-Desert-Roads School. There was no way to keep up with him, but we did eventually make the drive. In total, the shuttle took 3.75 hours, with about half the mileage over dirt roads. (Google Maps suggests the round trip over the same roads should take approximately 5.5 hours). It is also possible to leave your cars at one end and hire a shuttle company to do the driving.

Best season: This is definitely not a place to go hiking when it’s raining. The flash flood danger is serious. Plus, as the Paria River drains a large area north of the hike, a thunderstorm miles away can cause a flood in the canyon. August is typically the rainest month of the year here, with May having the least rain; though floods have been recorded in every month of the year. The peak visitation is during April and May – but with the permit system, the canyon is never crowded.

Hiking in the Paria

Typical hiking in the narrows

Trail conditions: there is no official trail. Much of the trip is in water. On our hike, I estimate 20% of the trip was walking in the river – mostly in the narrows section. The water was typically ankle-deep, but occasionally knee-deep. Of course, water depths depend on the weather – flash floods occur every year and can be dangerous. It’s best to plan the hike during the dry season (spring). In the lower portion of the canyon, where the canyon opens up, there is an unmaintained overland trail (with many river crossings) which is much easier than walking along the river – which contains many large boulders in this portion of the canyon; these create deeper pools.

A large portion of the hike, when not actually in the water, is on muddy river bank. Quicksand is fairly common, both on the muddy riverbank and in the water itself. It’s not dangerous, but you can sink quickly up to your knees (this happened to me once), and it is difficult to get out of without help. You can avoid quicksand by testing suspect locations with a light foot before putting all your weight on it. Also, when crossing the river, favor rocky spots rather than slow water spots.

Buckskin Gulch is known for having large pools of standing water that sometimes must be waded or swum, as well as one point where boulders block the route. In previous years, these boulders present a problem where some climbing might be necessary. Currently, we found the boulder section, several miles upstream from the confluence with the Paria, was easily passable without scrambling. Report from other hikers who had done the complete length of Buckskin reported no large pools of water either. Of course, this could change with the next rainstorm.

Guidebook: there is a guidebook with maps of all three canyons (Paria, Buckskin, and Wire Pass) available at the Paria Contact Station for $9. This is well worth the money, particularly as it shows the locations of springs. My one complaint about the maps is that they lack north arrows, which can sometimes make it difficult to orient the maps properly (every map is oriented differently, with the river/canyon running lengthwise on the page).

Shoes and clothing: I wore hiking boots with gore tex socks over wool socks. Don’t bother with the gore tex socks – they just filled with water. Most people hike in sandals or  tennis/running shoes. I chose hiking boots for the ankle support – but the boots never completely dried out the whole trip. Your feet will get cold. You might consider neoprene socks to help keep them warm.

Even in warm weather, it can be cool in the narrows section of the canyon where there is plenty of shade. This is even more true in Buckskin Gulch where it is rather dark. Take warmer clothes than you would think are necessary based on the weather.

Lonely Dell Ranch

At the Lonely Dell Ranch very close to the end of the trail at Lee’s Ferry.

Water: the river water is very silty and will quickly clog a water filter. Luckily there are a number of springs in the canyon where fresh water can be obtain. We drank from these springs without using filtration (do take some care how you fill your bottles if not using a filter). The springs are well marked on the guide maps, but still may be hard to find. We had a particularly hard time finding one called Shower Spring. The boy scout leader we met told us his scout group planned to camp there, yet when we arrived, we saw them hiking off down the canyon. But then, we couldn’t see the spring. We just about gave up looking for it, but as we were running low on water, I gave one last look. I crossed the river and found a hidden trail through tall, thick pampas-type grass, and behold, a big spring with lots of water! The last spring, aptly named Last Reliable Spring, was easier to find, but has a low flow rate so it took time to fill our bottles. The final 12 miles of the hike do not have any reliable water sources. If you plan well, you can minimize the water you have to carry by planning your daily mileage around the spring or by camping near by the springs. Do remember to carry enough water – you’ll need it, even in April or May.

Campsites: there are campsites marked on the map, but many other campsites are available – just be sure to camp high enough above the river in case the water comes up overnight. Within the narrows section of the canyon, campsites are much harder to find. And in the full 18 miles of Buckskin Gulch, there are only a couple, including the one we stayed at our second night, shortly up canyon from Buckskin’s confluence with the Paria.

The Scoop on Poop: When you check in at the Paria Contact Station, you will be given human-waste disposal bags. These consist of one or two silver bags with some dry chemicals in them. These bags open up to rear-end size. And a yellow mesh bag to carry the used silver bags. The ranger writes your permit number on the silver bags, so if perchance you leave one in the canyon, they will make you come and get it (okay, they’d probably give you a fine; she said they started putting numbers on the bags after some hikers started leaving the used bags in the canyon thinking the rangers came through and picked them up). Luckily, you are only required to use these bags within the narrows section of the canyon. Elsewhere, you can dig “cat holes” away from the river and campsites. In our case, we were only in the narrows for about a day and a half. It’s amazing how your body can react when forced with the possibility of using one of these bags. Four of the five of us were able to “hold it” and carried out empty bags. Concerning toilet paper, that comes out with you, even if using cat holes.

Historical sites: portions of the canyon were historically used by Ancient Pueblo people (Anasizi). There are no ruins, at least that we saw, but there are several petroglyph sites (only one of which is marked on the guide map). If you go, the best petroglyph site we saw is between mile 24 and 25. There are several more recent sites as well. These include the remains of an irrigation pump from an ill-fated attempt to pump water out of the canyon in the 1949 at mile 17.5 and a historical ranch property right at the end of the trail in Lee’s Ferry.

Critters: We saw few animals on our hike other than birds, bats, lizards and mice (luckily only at our final campsite), but I did find a scorpion behind my backpack the night we camped in Buckskin Gulch. You should also be aware that rattlesnakes are occasionally seen. Reportedly there are also beavers (we did see some logs they had worked on), coyotes, jack rabbits, cottontail rabbits, ground squirrels, deer and bighorn sheep.

Overall, this is one hike I can highly recommend. The scenery is outstanding. The country is remote, but easily accessible. I waited about 30 years to take this hike – in hind sight, I should have gone a long time ago. It’s one fantastic hike.

Hiking in the Narrows

Typical hiking scene in the Paria Narrows

Paria Narrows

More from the narrows

Yet more narrows

Yet another scene from the Paria Narrows

Slide Rock Arch

Slide Rock Arch, a notable feature in the narrows section of the canyon

Rock Angel

Rock Angel – natural rock art on the canyon wall

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs – man-made rock art

Coming out of the Narrows

Hiking near the end of the narrows

Last Reliable Springs

Filling water bottles at the Last Reliable Springs

In the Lower Canyon