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.

How a Social Media Detox Can Improve Your Photography Hobby

Ever since I had been pursuing photography, social media posting of my photos has been a critical part of my workflow.

I would rush home to process my photos, so that I could get them posted to show the masses the great hike I was on, and await feedback.

As the season begins to change, this results in some powerful and scenic waterflows in the forest.

In my previous blogs, I had talked about I felt this process was slowly taking me away from the reasons that I really enjoy landscape photography in the first place. I also talked about my feelings about how social media is having a negative impact on the wilderness as well, since I can see evidence firsthand that it is being overrun.

Late last year, I had begun a social media detox, since I wanted to step away and back off from the dopamine hit I was getting from the attention when I post a great photo.

I felt that this process was leading me to post excessively, and share all my favorite photos with tens of thousands of strangers in popular social media groups.

However, what started out as a detox, had actually turned into a process of leaving social media completely. I had deactivated my profiles and removed the apps from my phone.

I had eventually realized this is the best decision I ever could have made.

Aside from the other negative aspects of social media that are now well documented, I feel combining social media and landscape photography does have their own set of negative traits:

1. Posting the location of an amazing secluded hike, waterfall or lake to vast numbers of strangers in popular social media groups is contributing to overuse and abuse of our public lands.

2. By not receiving the feedback we expected from posting a photo (in the form of likes, hearts, and comments), may incorrectly lead us to believe that photo is not as good as we thought it was.

3. Including social media posts as our regular workflow takes away from the artistic concept of photography, in my opinion. I had found it would lead me to post photos of what is popular, or may get more attention, rather than the photos that I truly thought were my favorites based on the concepts I have developed.

So these are the main reasons I had begun this blog, and abandoned social media altogether.

I do love to share and receive instruction, inspiration, and great photos with others who are interested, and also share a passion for this hobby. I feel that I find a genuine community here.

This mindset has led these improvements to my hobby….

I focus more on composition and my favorite photography concepts, rather than rushing to get photos specifically that will get me attention on social media.

I feel that my original passion photography has “rebooted”, and I find myself taking photos strictly for appreciation of the wilderness and nature.

I feel I am getting interested again in the artistic sense, rather than just hunting down photography locations that I feel the audience wants.

In other words, It feels great to get back to the basics.

Curious what others feel about this process of thinking…..please let me know in the comments!

Why Snowshoeing is a Perfect Wintertime Adventure

We all love our spring, summer, and fall hikes, but winter weather doesn’t always need to keep us indoors.

While it’s raining, foggy, and dreary in the lowlands, we can still experience some great weather when we head up to hike in higher elevations.

The combination of fresh powder, great weather effects, and the groomed access to amazing vistas make this a prime hobby for photographers as well.

What gear do I need?

Well, obviously, snowshoes! But If you already hike in the other seasons, you probably own the majority of the gear you will need, more on that later.

Most recreation retailers will rent out snowshoes, I recommend trying this first before investing in snowshoes. Snowshoeing is much different than hiking in the other seasons, and it may actually not be for everyone. Giving it a try with a minimal investment may be a good idea.

I had gained experience with different features of snowshoes, and the following features are ones that I prefer not to do without.

Solid traction – some shoes, such as MSR’s Lightning models, have better teeth on the bottom for traction, compared to just a tubular frame found on other models. I had learned that these gripping teeth are a must for me, since sometimes I will encounter solid ice.

Elevation bars – these are incredibly beneficial when encountering hills, which you will. These bars help raise your heels a couple of inches while walking uphill, taking any strain off your ankles, and actually making the process of climbing much easier. These bars are simply folded down when not in use.

Also, be prepared that walking in snowshoes will be much more work (although worth it!)

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

Dressing in Layers

It’s obvious that we need to dress warmer, but since hiking in snowshoes is much more work, you will warm up very quickly.

So I recommend to start with a great base layer, I use a medium weight merino wool shirt and pants. These will keep you a bit warmer while it wicks away any sweat, and will prevent you from getting too hot.

Now, this is where gear from the other hiking seasons come into play, as I had mentioned above.

Over your base layer, this is where your favorite hiking shirt and pants from the other seasons will work perfect, the lighter the better. This will be your middle layer.

For your next layer, which will be your outer layer, a warm coat or sweater (wool, NOT cotton), will serve you will for this. For your lower body, a good breathable pair of rain pants will keep you dry, without retaining too much heat.

The outer layer is meant to keep you warm for most of your trip, but can easily be removed when you begin to feel warm.

The sun was reflecting through the trees, during this great snowshoe hike at Hurricane Ridge, in January 2016.

Your regular hiking boots, as long as they are waterproof, should work great for snowshoeing. They should attach just fine to your snowshoes with the bindings that are included with them.

And don’t forget your wool hat and gloves! While the generation of body heat while winter hiking may lead you to believe you will be fine without these, you will really appreciate them at the trail parking lot and during snack breaks.

Additional Considerations

While your 10 essentials are the things that will be with you year round, there some additional considerations while snowshoeing.

Navigation may not be as obvious, due to the trails all mostly snow covered, with footprints being the only indicator of where to go. Just remember that not all footprints will lead you in the right direction, so ensure you have planned your route well, and have a great, waterproof map. I carry a GPS on every adventure, especially on winter routes.

I also recommend start with short hikes (less than 1.5 miles to the destination) with minimal elevation gain until you have gone a few times and understand your pacing and energy level with wearing snowshoes.

In addition to your usual food requirements, keep in mind that a stove and a warm meal and/or beverage may hit the spot while out in the tundra.

Lastly, take into consideration that the days in the winter months are much shorter….and plan accordingly. The best night hikes are the ones that are planned that way.

The stars were just coming out during this night hike at High Rock Fire Lookout, in November 2015.

NOTE: While not all winter hikes require snowshoes, keep in mind that you should not venture out in the winter months without the gear I had mentioned, and I never head out on winter hikes without at least micro spikes in my pack.

Have fun out there, and enjoy! I hope the guidelines above will help you prepare, if you plan to take on this great new adventure!

Can You Guess Which Word is the Opposite of “Lost”?

This answer may affect your outlook on the fears of being lost in the wilderness.

Aware.

Yes, constantly being aware of your suroundings is the opposite of being lost.

Sounds obvious enough, but I had never given this any thought when I first started hiking.

Think about it….distractions on the trail, even on a well planned adventure, very easily cause us to lose our bearings.

When I first became a member of Search & Rescue, the first run of callouts that we had received for lost persons in the wilderness were mushroom hunters.

What?

I thought we would only be looking for lost hikers, and lost backpackers, that somehow miscalculated their routes and became lost. I thought that’s really the only type of lost persons in the wilderness that SAR went out to look for.

Nope.

So why were all these mushroom hunters getting lost?

It makes sense now. They get distracted.

They tend to lose awareness, since they are following these amazing patches of mushrooms for hours, until darkness falls and they suddenly realize they are no longer aware of where they are.

Even though we all may plan our adventures well, constant distraction can lead us to lose our bearings, which only gets worse as the minutes tick by.

So I add this concept of awareness to my evergrowing list of 10+ essentials, and I now actually consider this a wilderness skill.

There are amazing vistas, photo ops, caves, and interesting side trails that constantly distract us. They may lead us away from our planned route, and in some cases, allow us to lose track of where we are.

So next time you head out on an adventure, you may also want to consider adding awareness to your wilderness skills, if you don’t do this already.

Do this by periodically quizzing yourself of your current location on your map, especially when chasing that photo op or exploring an interesting side trail.

Happy Trails!

Here’s What I’m Learning During my Social Media Detox

Recently, I had taken a break from posting photos and hikes social media, for many reasons.

As a hiker and photographer, a lot of my processes involved getting my hiking trip reports and pictures up on social media. This had been part of my process from the beginning, and while I really enjoyed it initially, it had began to feel tedious after a while.

This process also added stress, since I was in a rush to post my photos and trip reports, and would slowly get concerned if no one liked it or commented on it enough.

Over time, I realized this had begun to add anxiety, and even stress to my routine.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good qualities about social media, but for me, the negative attributes far outweighed the good.

To me, social media had a caused a “superficial” appreciation for the outdoors…..and I felt myself losing the sincere appreciation of living for the moment. I would get concerned that I was not capturing enough “wow” photos that would fill up my notification screen. I also found myself competing with other posts, and actually having a fear of missing out when I saw posts of others going on hiking adventures while I was at home working in my yard (which really needed to be done).

This year, I had begun working on a goal of creating a better balance in my life. After reading “Digital Minimalism” and “Deep Work”, both by Cal Newport, I had taken the author’s suggestion to minimize social media. Both of these books are amazing, and they give the numerous how this change could improve your focus and passion in your craft.

Deciding I would leave the social media sites for a while has moved me tremendously toward my goal of balance, and life is already much better.

While I am out and enjoying the outdoors and finding photography compositions, I am also enjoying living in the moment. I am being more selective in my photos, which results in less work when I get home of processing and posting on social media.

I am no longer stressed or concerned with how many “likes” I am getting, or trying to keep up with comments about my hikes or my photos. I am no longer striving to be popular, since this was leading me to post unnecessarily, and sometimes excessively.

I do have friends that really like to see photography in their feed, and had commented they miss seeing my work since I had quit posting. But for the most part, I do not have any repercussions of taking a break from social media. Also, even though I had decided not to do a typical “exit speech” while beginning my social media detox, some friends have realized it and now text me about barbecues, hikes and backpacking trips that I thought I would miss out on while being offline.

This was also a big motivator for starting this blog. I still love to share my ideas, my photos, and my passion in this format, specifically for those who seek this type of information. Rather than using this method strictly for attention, it is a great outlet for creativity, and still allows me to share my work, through a more meaningful channel. I also like spending time on my tutorials, since it also works as a database from what I am learning on

Curious if others feel this same way I do……I would really like to hear about your experiences also!

Capture More Data in your Photos by Using Your Histogram

You may have wondered why some landscape photos taken with your DSLR camera look better than others. Some look flat, while others seem very naturally vibrant.

You may want to carefully look at your exposure compensation settings, and practice using these so you can capture more light in your photos, without degradation of the image.

Let me explain….

If you shoot on auto, your light meter is most likely set at 0. However, even with other shooting modes, it will default to 0 as well.

This means you are letting in just the right amount of light that the human eye normally sees, but not any higher or lower.

I had been shooting with my light meter set to 0 since I had started photography, but recently I have wanting to figure out how exposure compensation works, and how it can improve the quality of my photos. Exposure compensation is basically adding or removing the light captured in your photo, by moving the light meter either above or below 0.

I felt my photos looked pretty good with the light meter set to 0, but sometimes I would catch myself adding saturation and luminance in Lightroom or Photoshop, to give the photo more pop.

Over time, I found that I did not like this type manipulation of the photo, i.e. artificially adding color that was not actually captured adequately in the original shot.

The question I would ask is, can you increase the exposure to capture more of the light data, without negatively affecting my photo?

Yes, you can.

Since I began exclusively shooting in RAW format, the mindset that I had developed is this….I am capturing data on my camera, not just taking a compositional photo.

With this mindset, it makes sense to attempt to capture as much data as possible while you are out there shooting. However, it is also important not to lose any data, by unintentionally overexposing or underexposing your photo.

This is where your histogram comes in. I shoot with a Canon 80D, so my histogram pops up when I am in Live View mode, taking the picture using my LCD screen. Your camera should do the same. Here is what my live mode screen looks like:

This is what my LCD screen displays when shooting in Live View Mode. The light meter (bottom center) is set to 0, which results in a normal exposure. The histogram is the graph in the upper right, and I use this to capture data while out on my adventures.

Please note that in my histogram display on the top right of my screen, the graph is centered, which is usually the result when my light meter is set to 0.

A quick note about a histogram…..your white tones you are capturing are on the right, your dark tones are on the left, and your mid tones are in the center.


Now, in the example above, I have increased my exposure one full stop (light meter is now on 1), and the composition appears to be a bit washed out. However, the bars on the right of the histogram (the white tones) are still visible in the graph. This means I am not losing any quality of the photo, but I am capturing a bit more data in my shot.

This example above shows the white histogram bars on the right being “dropped” off the right edge of the graph, which is what you want to avoid. The tones that were pushed off the histogram are gone forever, and this will actually degrade your photo when you process it with your editing software.

So now that this data has been captured in the field, you can process this photo in whichever editing software you use, such as RAW, Lightroom, or Photoshop.

NOTE: The RAW photos below have my basic landscape settings applied, which happens automatically when I import.

On my laptop, this is the “Normal” exposure, where I had the light meter set to 0. As you can see, the histogram on the right of the screen is centered, just like it was on my camera while out shooting.

This is the Image as captured, notice the histogram in my laptop is set to the right, again matching my camera’s histogram while I was out in the field.
This is the image after I had dragged my histogram back to center using my mouse. I can see more detail, depth, and vibrance in this photo now, rather than the standard exposure in the other photo above.

To summarize these steps:

1. Using a tripod, choose your composition, and activate your camera’s Live View Mode.

2. Move your exposure compensation wheel so the histogram bars slide over to the right on your Live View screen. Make sure you stop before the bars on the graph are about to drop off the screen.

3. When processing this photo in your editing software (I use Lightroom), slide the histogram on your computer back over to the center for a normal exposure. You should be able to see more detail and luminance in your photo.

TIP: This routine is very helpful when shooting sunrise and sunsets!

Hope this helps, feedback is welcomed!

So I Stopped Posting My Hikes to Social Media….and Here is What I Discovered

Some locations such as this peaceful ridge can be found while out exploring, and these amazing locations are meant to be discovered, not overrun by the masses.

You know it, and I know it…..social media is negatively impacting the land that we love, and it’s only getting worse.

The pristine areas we all know and value are being trampled….droves of visitors are coming to these areas, and we all can clearly see signs that the ecosystem cannot handle it.

Obviously, it is largely in part because the wilderness environment is no longer being respected like it should be by its visitors.

Why is this?

There has been a shift, and more often than not, now the waves of visitors to the wilderness are NOT coming out there to experience and appreciate it. They are often coming out there to obtain that perfect photo and obtain that experience strictly so they can share it on their social media accounts, their friends and strangers see it, and the cycle repeats.

Why else are trails being littered, meadows being trampled, natural features being damaged due to photo ops, and social media tags being etched into historical relics?

As I had mentioned in an earlier blog, as I began my hiking and photography hobby, I would routinely post all of my hikes and landscape photos on social media like everyone else.

On the surface, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

The main idea behind social media was for us to keep in touch with distant family and friends, and so we can have a network of friends that we can share ideas and our adventures in life with.

Unfortunately, social media has evolved into the sharing of our photos and newly discovered hiking locations to literally tens of thousands of complete strangers.

The social media sites actually want this, since web traffic drives up their revenue from advertising, and this is precisely why they created the like and heart buttons, and made sharing buttons incredibly easy to use. When we get likes and comments on our posts, it gives us a boost of dopamine, and therefore fuels the need to share to even more droves of strangers.

So when you think of this overwhelming internet traffic being directed to our treasured hiking trails and pristine photography locations, it has, at least to me, become very discouraging.

So I had decided to stop using social media for the reason of sharing my hiking locations and pictures, especially to the hiking and photography groups with overwhelming member numbers.

When I do share a new hiking location or photography spot to a friend, its usually while doing a another hike together, or even over a cold beer. This is also much more personable and rewarding to me, and I feel good knowing that they may have one more great adventure to add to their list, and so do I.

This hidden spot was found off trail, and shared to me by a close friend during a hike. It is much more rewarding to discover these spots this way, rather than just rushing straight there after been given GPS coordinates to it.

So what is this discovery that I had mentioned?

As a result of this, I actually find that I appreciate these amazing adventures to these great spots even more. I see these places more as sacred, but I am far from being selfish and keeping them all to myself. I am still talking about these amazing discoveries with people whom I know will respect these places, but I am no longer sharing them to the endless wave of strangers.

It is a small step, but I at least feel really good that I am no longer contributing to the depreciation of these amazing places.

John Muir would have wanted it this way.

Discover the Benefits of Through-Hikes

Recently, some friends and I have been talking about planning out some “through-hikes” this summer, rather than the typical “destination-and-back” hikes that we have been doing all along.

A “through-hike” simply means that we have a distinct start point, and then a finish point at another area of the map. where we plan to finish our hike. This eliminates having to turn around and head back to the original trailhead when our main destination is reached.

This method does require at least 2 vehicles……the first one will be left at the finish point, and the second one will transport all the hikers to the trailhead of the start point.

This was shortly after we began our hike, we had just departed our start point. This hike was planned to take us 10 miles, mostly downhill, which was very achievable for us to complete.

While this method does require a bit more resources and planning, there are some very nice benefits to planning a hike this way…..

  1. You can plan the hike and make it a bit more comfortable (i.e. downhill vs. uphill) This can allow for more ground to be covered in the time allotted, but also keep in mind that your route can be reversed if you are wanting to challenge yourself with some incline.
  2. By covering new ground for the entire hike, you can visit more points of interest, for example, two lakes or waterfalls instead of just one.
  3. You can leave the crowds behind you, since your group will simply keep venturing on the trail, while the rest of the crowds will turn around to head back to the original trailhead.
This lake above is a destination a lot of day hikers may choose to turn around for a day hike, while we still had miles of new trail ahead of us to explore.

Caution: Using this through-hike method does require good basic navigation skills, and the ability to read a map. I also recommend you use map software, such as CalTopo, to create a map to bring along with you. You have been advised!

In advance, it’s important to know the mileage and elevation change during the planning stages of your hike, so you can ensure everyone in your group can manage this. You also want to be sure you can finish your hike in the allotted time.

Please refer to my previous post about hike planning by clicking the button below, if you would like more information about this.

Hard to believe that there were hordes of people on the trail before we crested over the ridge. They all headed back to their vehicles, while we had this amazing section of the trail to ourselves!
Another benefit of a through-hike is that you can cover many different types of views and terrain.
We were able to visit 2 awesome lakes on this through-hike, rather than just the one if we had to turn around!

Thanks for reading, and have an amazing time out there!

Find Balance In Your Photography (And I’m Not Talking About Composition)

Balance is a concept many photographers use to evenly place objects within the frame of the composition. This concept sometimes makes a photo more appealing to the eye.

So how about applying balance to your method of actually capturing the photos?

The sun rises from behind Mt. Adams during a summer 2017 backpacking trip. While I really like this photo, I wished I spent more time on this trip enjoying the experience rather than stressing over finding compositions.

What I mean is, rather than just rush out to these amazing spots for the purpose of capturing a great photo, take your time and enjoy your surroundings, and the experience of being there.

Social media has influenced the way a lot of hikers see the wilderness.

While some like to experience the wilderness for solidarity, peace, and enhancing our well-being, quite a few others may just simply rush out to these destinations for the purpose of capturing that perfect photo, and updating our social media accounts.

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

My method of applying balance is simple…..you can still enjoy finding the compositions you want, enjoy capturing these in your photographs, and enjoy sharing with your friends. However, you should allow photography to sometimes take a back seat, to ensure that you are also equally enjoying the other benefits that the outdoors provide, rather than just capturing your photos and leaving.

I used to rush home after a hike and immediately analyze the photos I have taken, then I would feel the stress of choosing the ones I like, and I would hurriedly post them to my social media accounts and await the feedback.

While the attention of posting my best photography to social media was initially fulfilling, I begin to wonder why I feel so stressed after an adventure, when I should be relaxing and reflecting about what I had experienced while out in the wilderness.

I would actually judge the experience based on how many comments and likes that I received, and this seemed really unnatural to me.

While I am still incredibly passionate about taking photographs, I have changed how I experience the outdoors. Instead of just seeing photography as being the priority, I allow pictures take a back seat to the actual experience of exploring and experiencing the environment. I use less time focusing on capturing the photographs, and more time on enjoying and exploring the natural wonders around me.

This thought process has also conditioned me to become more selective on my photographs. This also lightens the load of the often daunting task of photo processing on my laptop when I get back home.

It took me just a few minutes to capture this photograph, one of my favorites. Thankfully, I spent more time enjoying the sights and sounds of an amazing mountain lake below the Milky Way, and that experience was the most memorable to me.

The result……

I am more relaxed about my photography. I am no longer stressed or anxious about feedback from my photos, and I no longer feel disappointed if I missed a particular shot or if the weather did not cooperate.

I am out in the wilderness to enjoy the environment, and as a reward, I get to bring back some great photos that I took along the way.

Give this some thought next time you are out there!

How to Create the Sun Flare Effect in Your Photos

We have all seen the “sunburst” effect, where the sun appears as a star in the photograph…..

Saw this great sunrise while camped out Takhlakh Lake, near Mt. Adams.

I had actually discovered how to this “accidentally” while shooting with my new Tokina AT-X116 Pro DX II lens on my Canon 80D camera.

I was noticing with this lens that I would often get a “sunburst” effect while shooting with the sun in the frame.

This effect can be used to create a focal point in your photo, and make it more interesting, in my opinion.

It can also be used for balance, to “even out” areas of interest within your photograph.

I feel this effect on this sunset helps balance and add mood to this photo.

So how do I do this?

Pretty easy…set your aperture as high as it goes (I use f/22), and set your focus on the entire scene (don’t use spot focus).

I look through the viewfinder until I see the most intense beam from the sun, then focus and take my shot.

A tripod helps, but it’s not completely necessary unless you use a slower shutter speed. I shoot in AV mode, so I let the camera decide which shutter speed to use.

Tip: try to get the sun slightly obscured by something, such as trees or mountains in the above photos. This helps reduce the glare just a bit, and I find it gives out sharper rays.

Give this a try, and let me know how it works by commenting below!

Have fun shooting out there!

How to combine hiking and photography for a rewarding hobby!

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