All posts by mirekkohout

I am a hiking, backpacking, and photography enthusiast, and I enjoy sharing my adventures and techniques I had learned through landscape photography. I have created this website to share the photography and outdoor skills I have learned, both through my camera lens and while out exploring the wilderness.

Captured the NEOWISE Comet!

Had a great night in the Olympic Mountains this week, and was able to view the NEOWISE Comet, even though at first I was skeptical that my timing would be right.

After setting up my compositions, based on the predictions I had researched, the comet appeared suddenly exactly where I had hoped.

It appeared directly northwest, 2 hours after sunrise, about 20 degrees above the horizon.

It started out as a white line, then brightened up and was visible for at least the next hour.

I used exposure bracketing to capture the detail of both the comet, and the landscape in my pre-determined composition.

This was my first comet that I had captured, had a lot of fun with it!

Some fun facts:

-NEOWISE stands for Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, the space telescope that detected it.

-On 22 July 2020, it will be the closest it will get to earth, at 64 million miles.

-The comet is traveling at 17,500 miles per hour.

-The diameter of the comet is approximately 3 miles across.

After July, it will not be seen for another 6,800 years.

Happy Hunting!

The Power of Positive Framing

Especially during tough times, I occasionally go back to review the basics on my positive framing technique.

I thought I was share my techniques I had learned about and adapted, in the chance that you may benefit from this method as well.

I had developed this technique during my self improvement phase some years back, when I had found myself unhappy in both my career and personal life.

I had finally decided I was going to live life, rather than allow life to live me.

With my new outlook, I have never been happier. I have never loved life this much since my earlier stress-free and worry-free years, and the nostalgia feels amazing.

Here are some concepts and new behaviors that I had focused in on:

Journal your thoughts – make it a daily habit to keep a journal, and write down your feelings throughout the day. It will help you zero in on where the stress and negative thoughts in your life are coming from.

Identify positive “triggers” – Track the things that give you a good feeling throughout the day. It could be a certain memory, a certain person, or a certain activity that you enjoy. Knowing these triggers will be important later in this process.

Reframe negative thoughts – In your journal, if you are writing down something negative that has happened, try to also find something positive to get out of it. Trust me, you can find it.

Be appreciative and grateful – Every morning, practice thinking about things that you appreciate in your life, and how they make you feel good. These daily positive thoughts will eventually drown out the negative voices we may find ourselves listening to.

Realize that (most) other people are simply trying their best – this helped me be more patient, and prevents me from being judgemental toward others. Oh, and for those people who are destructive and harmful to yourself and others….phase them out of your life as efficiently as you can.

These basic techniques allow me to have a realistic, mature approach to life, while automatically filtering out the anxiety, stress, and worry that I had experienced before.

I plan to explain these concepts in even more detail in future posts.

Enjoy life with your new mindset!

So You’re Lost In The Wilderness….Now What?

This has happened to us all before, to some degree, on a hike or even a simple walk into the wilderness.

We had allowed ourselves to get distracted, and we somehow lost the trail we were on, or lost our direction on how to get back to the safety of our vehicle.

As a member of search and rescue, I take interest in learning about and discussing lost person behavior. This knowledge had helped our teams locate lost people more quickly.

It also motivates me to learn about the best steps to take, what things would be the best to do when you get caught in this situation.

While the concept of being lost on the trail or being separated from our hiking companions is terrifying, the actions we take over the course of the first few minutes can rapidly increase or decrease our chances of getting out safely.

First, let’s back up to before you got lost in the first place, and was planning on this particular trip.

Did you….

1. Plan out your trip ahead of time, and check on the weather and any hazards on this particular trail and area?

2. Bring your ten essentials?

3. Communicate ahead of time to someone responsible of the trail and the route you were taking, and approximate time of your expected return?

(Please review the link below if you are new to hike planning, or want to learn more about it)

Once you have become lost, here are the steps, as recommended by the Forest Service, that you need to take to make yourself more likely to be found…

Stop


As soon as you realize you may be lost: stop, stay calm, stay put. Panic is your greatest enemy.

Think

Try to retrace in your mind how you got to where you are. What landmarks do you remember, and should be able to easily see? Do not move at all until you have a specific reason to take a step.

Observe

Get out your map and compass, and determine the directions based on where you are standing. Do not walk aimlessly.

If you are on a trail, stay on it. Most trails are marked with signs, where intersections meet and where you may find points of interest. This information could be helpful for somebody to come and find you.

Plan

Based on your clear thinking and observations, think of some possible plans. Think them through, then act on one of them once you are convinced this is the best action to take.

If you are not very, very confident in the route, if it’s nightfall, or if you are injured or you are near exhaustion, stay in place.

Self Rescue

If you are feeling up for a self rescue, here are some guidelines to follow.

  1. Stop and take a breather when your body is telling you to. Don’t expend your energy too early.
  2. Remember to take rest, food, and water breaks, even though your mind maybe racing a mile a minute.
  3. Drink plenty of water, not just on your breaks, but also while you are hiking to find your way back. Dehydration will increase your stress and frustration, while depleting your energy rapidly.
  4. Take the time to deal with small issues while they are still small. If you ignore your body and gear and just keep pushing, the pain, illness, or risk of injury will only get worse and make recovery more difficult.
  5. Avoid hiking, if possible, on highly exposed areas on hot days. If you are on a trail such as this, find a shady spot and stay there until the temperature cools down. Adjust you’re hiking pace to what you can comfortably maintain and rest when you feel necessary.

Hope you find this information useful (or, better yet, never will need it!)

Be safe out there!

The Top 5 Reasons That I Don’t Like Top 5 Lists

All over the Internet, there are plenty of lists of the few “top” ways to do something. You know what I’m talking about.

If you were to put in a simple web search on any type of topic, it seems to always generate “Top 5 Ways” to do this, or “Top 10 Ways” to do that articles and videos.

This applies in just about any skill or passion that takes immense time and effort to be mastered.

The reason I don’t like to see these lists is simply because I see this as an easy way for people to search for “shortcuts”…….to attempt to learn all these complex skills and tasks quickly, and then attempt to rapidly benefit from them.

While this may initially appear as an efficient way to learn something, I feel that it bypasses the passion that drives us to continuously excel.

I follow quite a few blogs on here, and the articles I enjoy reading are the ones reflecting the hard work people have put into the skills, challenges, or lifestyles they have mastered.

Whether it’s obtaining and maintaining the fit lifestyle they wanted, finding and conquering the trails they’ve always dreamed of exploring, facing the every day challenges of keeping up with writing, or trying to simply increase skills in photography so they can take better pictures (that’s me!), these articles are the most motivating to me.

I don’t enjoy seeing articles that just list these briefly summarized lists on how to do a particular craft, I feel that they just inspire us to take shortcuts so we can obtain quick results.

To me, it just feel genuine to see those of you who have spent the time and learned the research, skills, or experience to become good at something you are passionate about.

When I research something online, I have been finding myself just scrolling past the Top 5 or Top 10 lists, and spending time researching the actual principles of the skill, learning the mechanics, and coming up with my own conclusion of how to apply it to my craft.

In the meantime, please keep posting the articles that reflect the hard work and tough lessons you may have learned in your quest for your passion….I will read through these over an abbreviated Top 5 shortcut list any day!

May The Fourth Be With You!

DISCLAIMER: Yes, these are Photoshopped.

Happy Star Wars Day!

I normally post my blogs on Tuesdays, but doing it a day early this week for this awesome day.

Here are some of my favorite hiking locations from Washington State, with some objects I had placed from the amazing Star Wars universe.

Please let me know which one is your favorite in the comments!

Feel free to share with any Star Wars fans in your galaxy!

Can Minimalism Improve Your Photography?

Over the course of the last couple of years, I have become very interested in minimalism.

This new interest had motivated me to completely declutter my house, and I systematically got rid of things that created clutter and no longer make me happy, by either selling them on eBay, giving away, or donating.

Long story short, my house feels much more open, organized, stress-free, and I see things every day that make me happy, rather than allowing these unnecessary items to bring back memories from the past (that I occasionally would much rather keep there!).

So what does this have to do with photography?

Well, once I removed a lot of the noise and negativity from my life by leaving social media, I next zeroed in on my photography hobby.

I have volumes of photos that I have taken. on multiple drives, that I neither don’t care for, or have no future use for. These were causing me stress and anxiety as I went through my thousands of photos that I no longer needed or wanted.

Once I began to organize (and delete) all of these meaningless photos that I could part with, I started to question why I’ve been taking so many photos to begin with.

A lot of the reason, I found, was to keep up with social media. I felt like I had to keep up with the popular people, take the same compositions they are and go to the same places they have been, in order to feel like I was part of the community.

These recent changes by adapting minimalism have helped me realize my outlook has been wrong.

By applying minimalism to my photography, I could now begin to capture just the photos that have so much more meaning and creativity to me, versus the thousands of photos I had allowed to pile up on my hard drives before.

I now focus more (pun intended) on capturing meaningful memories, special events, and true creativity, versus taking photos strictly for gaining social media’s approval, simply because everyone else on my feed had been doing it.

This new outlook had made photography fun and exciting again. I had went back to the basics, and I am excited again for putting my energy into creativity, versus trying to create photos that I felt would be popular to others.

What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you for reading!

See you next week,

Mirek

Leave No Trace Principles…Are you Bringing These Along On Your Adventures?

As we all know, the 10 essentials of hiking is very important. These essentials will not only make our adventures more enjoyable, but are usually necessary to get us back out of the wilderness safely.

I recently took an online Leave No Trace awareness course, and had become certified. This had helped both educate and remind me how important these principles are.

I always feel that I do a good job of protecting the wilderness when I am out there, but also realize there is a lot more to learn about these very important concepts.

The 7 current Leave No Trace Principles are:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out)
  4. Leave What You Find.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts.
  6. Respect Wildlife.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

I had actually made a couple of changes recently to decrease my own impact on the wilderness.

First thing I did was disband my Facebook hiking group.

I enjoyed being a group leader and always enjoy the company of hiking partners, but I also found that I allowed this hiking group to get too big. I was bringing too many people out at once, and realized I was sometimes disrupting or even possibly creating damage to the wilderness areas by doing this.

Now, I simply send out texts to smaller groups when I plan a hike, backpack, or a photo shoot and want company.

The second change that I made, was I stopped sharing photos to the large hiking groups on Facebook and Instagram.

This scenic barn rests in the meadow near Cle Elum.

If you are curious about this, you can read about my main reasons for quitting social media here:

While I initially enjoyed sharing the photos and hikes that I had done, I had realized that instantly sharing these locations to tens of thousands of strangers was not doing the ecosystem any good.

I had included a link below, if you are interested in the Leave No Trace course, and would also like to obtain certification (it’s free).

See you on the trails, and I welcome any feedback in the comments below.

Thank you for reading, and see you next Tuesday!

Now May Be The Time For Adventure Planning

Now that we are all spending time at home, it may be the time to plan some adventures, for when we are able to go out and visit these destinations again.

I thought I would share a hike planning tutorial I had created, and had recently updated.

I’m hoping it may have some ideas you may be looking for, while we have some downtime on our schedules!

What type of adventures are you planning? Is the link above helpful? Please let me know in the comments!

Have a great day,

Mirek

Reversing Perspective During Challenging Times

So, how are we all adjusting to what people are calling the “new normal”?

Stores are closed, grocery stores are empty, and the local hiking trails are packed (I’m not going currently, to help comply with social distancing guidelines).

Big events we were excited for are postphoned, or even cancelled.

Dealing with an uncertain job schedule and future feels stressful.

Getting cabin fever on a daily basis.

All of these things were beginning to pile up, making it difficult to adjust to sometimes.

Then I had begun to shift my perspective.

While my first instinct was to focus on what we CANNOT do, I had decided to reverse my outlook, and begin to focus on the things that we CAN do during this health crisis…

  1. Keep in touch frequently with family, and the people we care about.
  2. Communicating with family and friends about their needs, and use my free time to help them however possible.
  3. Get that list of projects done around the house, that typically fall victim to lack of time (or procrastination!)
  4. Organize my online photo libraries (they always need some serious organization, don’t they?).
  5. Rebuild my website to the setup that I had always wanted, but seemed to have trouble finding the time (P.S. just finished, feedback is welcomed in the comments!).
  6. Go for a walk in an isolated area.
  7. Finally binge watch the shows I’ve had in my watchlists since the the birth of online streaming.
  8. Stay consistent with my workouts at home.
  9. Learn the songs on guitar I have had on my list all this time (apologies to my neighbors).
  10. Catch up on my Lightroom photo library from previous years’ adventures, and get them posted to my website pages.

You see what I mean? The list goes on and on.

From a great night out at Suntop Fire Lookout, in September 2018.

The things that I CAN do suddenly took center stage to the things I CANNOT do, then I felt my motivation and drive come back.

I began to appreciate everything I have, and less concerned about the things I don’t have, during this necessary adjustment to our lifestyles.

I just wanted to share this insight……it’s a very simple concept, but it took me some time to see it this way, and my spirits picked up almost immediately.

Hope this is inspiring in some way, I am planning to begin posting weekly updates such as this.

How are you adjusting to things? Please provide feedback in the comments below!

Photography Without Social Media…..How Is It?

A while back, I had deactivated my social media accounts. I had utilized social media extensively in the past, for sharing my passion for both the outdoors and my photography hobby.

Found this great waterfall while exploring in the Mt. Adams Wilderness.

I knew once I had deactived my social media accounts, that things would be different.

I recently realized that thing are more different that I had originally thought.

I had decided to back off from posting photos on social media mainly to avoid the negativities of posting online, as I had described in my previous blog entries. I realized that I was, to a degree, doing these things for social media, instead of simply sharing my hobby.

The unexpected thing was, my hiatus from social media also led to a hiatus in my photography.

I had really begun to enjoy being out to these amazing places, and had enjoyed not having the concern of bringing back worthwhile pictures back with me. I simply did not even want to pull my camera out of my bag.

Great weather effects out at Lake Lena, in the Olympic Mountains

No more stress from finding compositions, concern over the proper light settings, or disappointment because the lighting was not right for a shot that I wanted.

Simply put, I went back the basics.

A great night exploring the area around Mt. St. Helens. The moon and Jupiter had started to glow as the sun went down.

Now, I look for composition more from a creative sense, and I am actually turned off by going to the locations that I feel are a destination strictly to capture a photograph.

This makes the experience much more rewarding.