My Camping Gear and Equipment

My Camping Gear and Equipment

Note:  This list is not necessarily a recommended list of camping gear and equipment.  It represents the gear that I choose to use in the field.  This list may be of interest to you.  Each person should review their own needs and choose the gear that suits them best.
  • Osprey Atmos 65 Backpack
  • REI Igneo Sleeping Bag
  • REI Arete ASL 2 Tent
  • Thermarest Pro-Lite 3
  • MPowerd Inflatable Solar Lantern

Weekend Backpacking Checklist

Weekend Backpacking Checklist

  • Backpack
    • Sleep
      • Tent (Optional)
      • Ground Cloth
      • Sleeping Bag
      • Ground Pad (Thermarest)
    • Water
      • Water filter (If Required)
      • 1 – 2 Gallons Water (variable)
  • Very Important Papers
  • Maps/Compass/GPS/ETC
  • Clothing
    • Waterproof Outer Layer Jacket
    • Warm Jacket
    • Inner liner socks
    • Beanie
  • Bear Bag or Canister (If Needed)
  • First Aid
    • First Aid Kit
    • Moleskin
    • Sunscreen
  • Food
    • Emergency (Extra) Food
    • Trail Snacks
  • Me
    • Hiking Pants
    • Hiking Shirt
    • Boots
    • Inner liner socks
    • Outer layer socks
    • Buff
    • Hiking Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Hiking Poles


Missing Out On Opportunities

Best Meteor Shower In Years

Tonight is one of the best opportunities to photograph the best Perseid Meteor Shower in years, and yet I find myself at home with a myriad of reasons I am not out making art.

Because the meteor shower this year coincides with a new moon, the opportunity to see and photograph is great.  Yet not planning ahead and managing the things that keep me from being artistically productive has grounded me. Continue reading

Staying Productive In A Myriad Of Distractions

Staying Productive In A Myriad Of Distractions

One of my biggest challenges is staying productive in a myriad of distractions. At every turn, there are numerous ways to make you unproductive. Before you know it, days, weeks, and months, or even years pass by and you wonder where all the time has gone by. It is incredibly frustrating when you know you have so much to offer but have little to show for it. Continue reading

The Inevitable Bill Simmons ESPN Divorce

The Inevitable Bill Simmons ESPN Divorce

I am just using this as an opportunity to post an image of Bill Simmons in a Laker jersey.

I am just using this as an opportunity to post an image of Bill Simmons in a Laker jersey.

The divorce between ESPN and Bill Simmons seemed inevitable, and yet, John Skipper’s announcement that ESPN would not renew Simmons’ contract was stunning.

Bill’s rise from writing a blog (when such a term was yet to exist) to the most influential sportswriter in the country was astonishing.  I came to know Bill Simmons’ writing when his articles were appearing on ESPN’s Page 2 alongside industry hall-of-famers like Ralph Wiley and David Halberstam.  Yet, it was the Sports Guy hailing from Boston that constantly caught my attention and were the articles I couldn’t wait to read.  Here was a guy writing in the same way my friends and I looked at sports, as a passionate outsider.  I didn’t mind the constant Beverly Hills 90210 and Karate Kid references either.  His writing spoke to me, made me laugh several times an article, and on the days he published were the first thing I looked for on the ESPN website.  Yes, back then, Bill published on schedule.

It wasn’t long before Bill was the featured writer on the ESPN homepage, eventually sharing that real estate with longtime SI writer Rick Reilly.  Except, Reilly was clearly mailing in his articles, while Bill was constantly pumping out fantastic content.

To me, his greatest articles were his NBA Trade Value columns, his amazing and often hilarious NBA Draft Diaries, and of course, the mailbags ending with, “Yep, those are my readers.”

His writing approach was always accessible to regular fans.  My favorite was his competition with his wife one year betting NFL games against the spread.  She won, picking random teams for random reasons, and it was something we could all relate to.

Bill SImmons was a driving force behind the remarkably well-produced 30 for 30 series, which started as a way to celebrate the Worldwide Leader’s anniversary and became an outlet for serious but interesting looks at the phenomenon of sports and it’s affect on our culture.

I remember the Sports Guy cartoon, and how bad they were.  Still they made me laugh.

Who can forget Bill’s Celtics Chants Twitter account that ended up with an entire arena in Boston chanting “New York Knicks” every time Lebron went to the free throw line in the playoffs?  Bill’s influence was absolute.

I never found podcasts to be particularly interesting until Bill Simmons and ESPN launched the B.S. Report.  It was nothing more than an outlet for Bill to talk to his friends (Jack-O, House, Cousin Sal, list goes on) but Simmons had the gift.  The podcast was funny, interesting, and like a great television show, there was a lot of character development.  It eventually became the biggest podcast on the internet.

Bill Simmons found his Mount Everest when he eventually launched Grantland, a website devoted to the long-form and his interests in sports and pop culture.  The site launch was highly anticipated and the work was immediately good.  In a world with no shortage of truly awful sportswriting, Grantland offered something different.  Zach Lowe and Bill Barnwell in particular were indispensable, writing about the NBA and NFL with analysis that couldn’t be matched elsewhere.  Bill Simmons not only was part of something great, he built it and brought in other greats to work with him.

I believe that Bill’s foray into television was the beginning of the end.  Like Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann before him, he was now the star of the network and his decision-making bordered on arrogant.  Who can forget the WEEI rant that got him suspended from social media?

How about the clear disagreement he had with Magic Johnson that he immediately denied?  Bill’s rebuttal was that Magic was coming in to do a B.S. Report podcast that next day.  By the way, that podcast never aired.  Or his extremely public feud with Doc Rivers on his Celtics departure, going so far as to condescendingly call him Glenn on Twitter?  It became clear to me that Bill lost his way when he completely mangled the publication and response to Caleb Hannan’s piece on Dr. V’s Magical Putter.  An editor dedicated to their craft doesn’t allow that piece to air.

Bill Simmons’ name-dropping got increasingly tired.  The worst was a column where he casually mentioned texting with Kobe Bryant, the Satan to his Boston-loving heart.  He also began using his most humorous lines on Twitter, then completely recycled the same lines in his articles.

Bill also stopped writing.  He published occasional mailbag columns, many of them rushed and lacking thought.  His hallmark as a personality seemed to leave the station.  The podcasts continued to be excellent, but I can’t tell you the last time I read and truly appreciated a column.  And contrary to what some people say, Bill Simmons can write.  His column on losing his beloved dog Daisy (The Dooz) was magical, and spoke to the soul of every pet owner that lost their best friend.  But those wonderful columns have appeared to be history.

His last suspension for calling Roger Goodell a liar (I listened to the podcast before it was pulled) seemed over-the-top even for ESPN.  What Bill said was fairly uncontroversial, and believed by the vast majority of the sports world, but ESPN has built a huge problem and conflict of interest.  ESPN wants to be a huge broadcast partner to the entire sporting world, but also keep it’s journalistic talent intact.  When those worlds collide, the result is rarely pretty.  Bill responded by loading up his Instagram with various images of him relaxing and playing golf, sending a very insubordinate message.

I wonder how this next week will shape out and what his response will be.  Bill has little to worry about beyond disappointment and embarrassment that he is being shipped out from the Worldwide Leader.  He is very wealthy, and in his next destination (or destinations), he will be paid handsomely.  The question now is where does he want to take his career now that the Bill Simmons ESPN divorce is upon us.

He could go back to dedicating himself to writing, and there will be an active audience for it.  Bill will find another podcast network to join.  Those will keep him popular, even if neither medium is likely to come close to approaching his current salary figure.  There are some television opportunities, particularly on TNT, so it’s possible he could be mixing it up with Ernie, Steve, and Charles soon.  Fox Sports is a possibility, in that they are a deep-pocketed entity looking to buy market share, but does Bill want to start from the bottom?  For all of Katie Nolan’s immense talent, which Bill recognized when she was on his podcast, she has yet to really build a significant national audience.

What is the next chapter in this Bill Simmons ESPN story?

  • Most unlikely:  Bill stays quiet and out of trouble.  Privately, he finally speaks to John Skipper and they truly clear the air.  Away from the media, some negotiation begins in earnest and before the end of September, ESPN issues a press release that Bill Simmons is coming back after all.
  • Not very likely:  Bill launches a new Grantland, either with venture capital money or through another sports media partner.
  • Possibly:  Bill starts freelancing for Deadspin, the filter is off, and he can finally pen his “Is Roger Goodell the Anti-Christ?” article.  Please let this be true.
  • Likely:  Bill leaves ESPN and Grantland immediately.  Grantland continues without the same spark and enthusiasm.  The site’s freelance contributers write less, and a sizable portion of the staff leave for greener pastures when their contracts end.  The site is there, but without the same influence.  Bill splits his work between a media property with NBA access (Turner) and another influential sports website (SI, Yahoo! Sports).  He has less ability to dream big and work on new and innovative projects like he did at ESPN.  Several years down the line, like Keith Olbermann and Jason Whitlock before him, he returns to the Worldwide Leader.

Google Is Finally Changing The Mobile Industry

Google Is Finally Changing The Mobile Industry

Google’s Android operating system already enjoys a majority market share among smartphones, but with their Google Project Fi announcement, they are also finally making last changing to the mobile industry.

Android, as an open-source operating system, has been an industry success adopted by a large portion of the telecom industry.  While establishing itself as the rival to Apple’s iOS, Android has also not been as influential in changing the status quo.  Android is fragmented by various mobile carriers, who are able to install their own software and layers that sit on the true Android experience.  Their open system comes at a cost.

Google has long had it’s Nexus line of smartphones, which have the claim of being a true Android experience, making the product line seem to be following what Apple does for every phone they have ever made.

Google has struggled to reign in carriers.  The original Nexus line challenged the carrier-supported purchase model, with users buying a smartphone at full price and taking their phone to the carriers for activation.  In theory, this model held promise if the carriers were willing to stop subsidizing smartphones as a loss leader to make larger profits providing service.  That change never happened, and seems unlikely in the near future.

Google Fi does stand a chance.  Using the Nexus line, Google is offering network compatibility with the 3 platforms of mobility:  CDMA, GSM, and WIFI.  This fourth platform not only uses the previous 3, but it also offer seamless interconnection between them.  As a user, the phone can switch from Sprint’s network, to T-Mobile’s network, to their home WIFI network all during one phone call.  This is powerful technology that the industry will follow.

The other fundamental shift is how users pay and spend for service.  In the current model, users pay for cellular phone service, minutes, texts, and cellular data.  Google Fi has a chance to change the model.  Their service is priced in line with most of the Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).  However, they key value is driven by the fact that the data the user doesn’t use will be credited back.  People who purchase huge family share plans but only use a portion of their data stand to gain serious money back every month, and could be potentially hundreds of dollars every year.

If this plan is successful, the mobile industry will gain a new source of competition, better prices for users, and more flexibility for users in how they use their data.

Compared to wireline service, the mobile industry is still in it’s infancy.  The landscape will change in the years and decades to come, and users finally have a chance to win in the marketplace.

Adobe Lightroom CC Is Here

Adobe Lightroom CC (Or Lightroom 6) Is Here

Adobe Lightroom CC Screenshot

Screenshot of Adobe Lightroom CC (Lightroom 6)

As usual, the rumors proved to be true, a new version of Adobe Lightroom is here.  The perpetual (pay as you go) version is called Lightroom 6, while Adobe Creative Cloud users are getting Adobe Lightroom CC.  Both are the same software.

Victoria Bampton’s always excellent Lightroom Queen blog has all of the minute details you need about every feature that Adobe has added.  If you want to see it all, it is an excellent read.

Previously, I detailed the features I hoped would be included in the 6th version of this amazing software.  It is important to realize that this version is an evolutionary upgrade.  There is very little that is obvious.

Below are some of my immediate observations:

  •  The software is much faster.  I am running a 2013 27″ iMac on OSX Yosemite (10.10).  Despite maxing out my RAM at 32GB, some processor-intensive tasks took time.  With the GPU boost, things like image previews feel much quicker.  This version of Lightroom is rock solid.
  • Adobe Lightroom People screenshot in Library Module

    People screenshot in Library Module

    The People addition is potentially a time-saver.  One of my good friends has always given me a tough time because he wants me to send all the images I have taken of him over the years, and I have never wanted to go through my entire Lightroom catalog looking.  I am not diligent at keyboarding, so this is potentially great.

  • The new Adobe Lightroom HDR and Panoramic features have promise.  I rarely need to resort to HDR techniques because my main camera body captures so much dynamic range, but it will be interesting to use.  The HDR function may be useful for other composites like fireworks and lunar eclipse images.  The Panoramic feature will help a lot of people, although my process is to take a single shot that I crop to the traditional 6 x 17 format.
  • The Adobe Lightroom modules still need work.  The Library and Develop modules in Lightroom are almost everything you need.  The Map module is still potentially interesting, and I use Nikon’s GP-1A GPS adapter, but I struggle to come up with a real use for it.  The Book module is another good idea begging to be further implemented.  I still don’t know anybody who has ever used the Slideshow, Print, or Web modules.  I know the Web module has some Responsive Templates, but wouldn’t an artist prefer to use WordPress, SmugMug, or Squarespace instead?
  • It appears that you can up the Lightroom image cache beyond 50GB, which helps with extremely large image sets (events, weddings, composites, etc.).
  • We are still using the Adobe Lightroom 2012 image process.  I still think there is improvement to be made in noise reduction, dynamic range, and color retouching that doesn’t result in overuse of the Vibrance and Saturation sliders.
  • There has been no change to the way filters/plugins are used and applied.  I don’t like that I still have to create a separate TIF file to edit RAW files in Nik Software, MacPhun, Noiseware, etc.  I still wish the “layer and layer mask” functionality in Photoshop would find it’s way to Adobe Lightroom.  I suppose there is always Version 7.
  • There is still no automatic dust detection.  Let’s face it, between our sensors and our glass, dust is a fact of life.  Yes, I can individually select each dust spot, and yes, I do appreciate the contrast view that allows me to see them easier, but I would rather Lightroom just did 99% of that work for me.
  • I still want better batch editing tools in the Develop module.  I can save a little bit of time with the Previous button, but edit one thing and you are essentially starting over.

I need some more time Adobe Lightroom CC, but I will post a follow-up soon with additional feedback.  If you aren’t already a subscribed to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photographer’s bundle, you are definitely missing out.

In the meantime, I would love to know what you think about the software and how it is improving your photography and artistic workflow.

Going Pro In Photography

No Such Thing In Photography As Going Pro

If there is one thing I wish for you to learn from this photography article, it is that there is no such thing as “Going Pro.”  Serious photography is art.  When considered properly, it can provide a lifetime of happiness and artistic expression.

The nothing of “Going Pro” is a myth, and if you want lifelong satisfaction out of photography, it is important you dispense with the notion.

I know many people who produce top quality art in their spare time while pursuing income in other fields.  I know a number of other people who do earn a modest living in photography, while supporting it with work in other fields.

Once you are out of college and paying your own bills, you indeed are “Going Pro.”  But you may be in sales, or an engineer, or any number of fields in the modern economy.

Are people capable of deriving their entire income from photography?  Of course there are.  Consider professional sports.  In any given year, there are barely 350, NBA basketball players, 800 MLB baseball players, and 1,500 NFL football players.  Millions of athletes play all of those sports.

Ansel Adams, considered the giant of our field, relied on grants and commercial jobs.  Many of the great artists in history were poor or relied on the largesse of other people to continue their pursuits.  Van Gogh died penniless.  Emily Dickinson wasn’t even “discovered” until she passed away.  William Carlos Williams had a day job as a pediatrician and general doctor!

What you need to remember is that art is truly important to your life, and making a living is the means to allow you to pursue it.  Worrying and making these separate endeavors a single pursuit is going to set you up for failure, even if you are a truly hard worker with amazing photographic vision.

Make your living, just like millions of us.  Pursue your art, just like thousands of us.  Find a side job or two, and if you find you are just too busy with those side jobs, then perhaps you can be one of the few to make a living with it.

Photography In San Diego Weather

Weather is tough to predict, even for meteorologists.  Landscape photographers have the challenging task of reading the weather and deciding when to get their gear out and when to wait for another day.

I live in San Diego, which has a reputation for constant sunny weather.  The truth is that weather in this area is much more complicated and nuanced.  I have spent many years learning, and being frustrated on the way, waiting for the perfect weather to make landscape images.

As with most areas, approaching and clearing storms provide amazing, dramatic, light.  Because San Diego sits in an arid environment, there are only a few storms per year.  These weather systems usually generate a lot of buzz, and for photographers, it is relatively straight-forward to be ready.

Spring and Fall weather are strongly influenced by the onshore flow, also known as marine layer, which blows in every evening from the Pacific coast.  I have had many lovely evenings end with zero light at sunset due to this phenomenon.  Sometimes, the fog is subtle, and I have been headed down Interstate 8 to Sunset Cliffs only to go from sunny skies to dark overcast just one mile from the coast.  If you have heard of “May Gray” or “June Gloom,” then you know what this looks like.

Summers prevent the onshore flow from greatly influencing the weather, but what seems to be a plethora of high pressure systems prevents the North American jet stream from veering far enough South to bring us weather systems.  Occasionally, a system will blow in from the Pacific south of the jet steam, sometimes called the Pineapple Express.  These weather systems seem to be pretty rare.

In the height of Summer, the monsoon season which affects the Southwest deserts occasionally makes it way to San Diego County.  I like to head to East County when these systems develop in the afternoon.  I have found, though, that while these cumulonimbus clouds look impressive at noon, they are often scattered from high elevation winds by sunset.  These are typically not a red sunset.

The Fall brings much of the same onshore flow from the Spring, so the same rules apply.

The Winter is my favorite season to photograph.  The Pacific current keeps temperatures cool, so onshore flow is slow to develop.  In addition, San Diego seems to develop more higher elevation cloud systems in the afternoons.  The higher the clouds, the better to photograph at sunset.  This is the time of season where you need your gear with you at all times.  Clear the schedule.  Watch at all times.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my friends app, Skyfire, at  This application will provide you some intelligence on reading the weather and selecting the best locations at sunrise and sunset.  I am a paid subscriber myself, and use it several times a week to give me some insight into what to expect out in the field.

It is important that wherever you live, you invest time and energy in learning your local area’s prevailing weather patterns.  Do your homework, because some people aim to make lucky photographs, but an artist aims to make prepared photographs.  Be the latter person.

Best Photo Locations In San Diego

Best Photo Locations In San Diego

Sunset at La Jolla Shores - Great San Diego Photo Locations

Sunset at La Jolla Shores

Finding the best photo locations in San Diego is important for people visiting or who people who are fortunate enough to live here.

Having spent the last 18 years in San Diego, I have had the opportunity to learn many of the best places to make images in town.  This is a living list, is not complete, and will be updated over time.  With that being said, please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment if you think another location deserves consideration.

This list is presented in no particular order, because ranking photo locations is entire subjective.  That being said, I will try to leave what I personally feel are the best locations towards the top of the list.

  • La Jolla Cove

    • La Jolla Cove may be the jewel of San Diego.  The cove has rocky outcroppings making various designs and patterns that make perfect foregrounds for your landscape images.  This location is fogged in during marine layer season.  Look for approaching or clearing storms, or during winter evenings with high clouds.  Be extra careful during periods of high surf.  Unexpected large waves have drenched many a tourist and photographer.  It is highly recommend you get to the cove extra early because of very limited parking.  If you are coming on a weekend, it is likely best to park in the village (the bank building has plenty of paid parking) and hike down to the cove.
  • Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

    • Sunset Cliffs is a beautiful location.  Just South of Ocean Beach (O.B.) mostly along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, this can be a phenomenal location outside of marine layer season.  Look to come here during approaching or clearing storms, or during winter evenings with high clouds.  Parking can be limited on weekends.  Look to park on the Northbound side of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard on the curb.
  • Harbor View/Lucinda Street

    • A world-class view of Downtown San Diego is available at this Point Loma location.  The street is steeply sloped facing downtown.  The locals who live in the neighborhood are well used to photographers capturing an amazing view.  That being said, it is important you spend your time there quietly and respectful of those who live there.
  • Balboa Park

    • Now celebrating it’s 100th anniversary, Balboa Park is one of the best ways to spend time in San Diego.  There are numerous locations to make images, from landscapes to portraiture to street photography.  Locations include the Organ Pavilion, the famous koi ponds, the Botanical building, the Bea Evenson Fountain, the Old Globe Theater, and the famous tower.  You can also capture the North side of Downtown from the El Prado Bridge.
  • Scripps Pier/La Jolla Shores

    • Scripps Pier is famous for various images taken under the pier with the waves crashing in.  In addition, along the walk down from La Jolla Shores Drive, you have several compositions using the pier as a leading line in your photograph.  To the south of the pier, there is an elevated sitting area with plenty of room for you to set up.  The pier is not as picturesque up front.  There are usually vehicles parked on top.  The pier is an active research facility for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  Keep in mind that east of the beach, you are on public property for UCSD, and you should respect the area appropriately.
  • Centennial Park/SDG&E Park

    • Both locations in Coronado offer great views of Downtown San Diego.
  • Santee Lakes

    • If you enjoy making photographs of birds and wildlife, then Santee Lakes is an amazing place.  Thousands of ducks can be found migrating as well as year-round on the 7 individual lakes.  Ospreys hunt fish out of the lakes, and you can find them eating their meal on power poles.  Egrets are everywhere.  Hawks are easy to find, particularly morning and evening.  Dragonflies can be found in the reedy areas every hot September.
  • Oceanside Pier

    • The Oceanside Pier is huge, and if you want to include a cityscape in your image, you can walk out a great distance and look back.  The beach is also fantastic, and I have made sunset images balancing the pier, some lifeguard towers, and people enjoying their day at the beach.  Because of the size of the pier, this is a great twilight or night image as well.  Just after sunset, wait for the lights to come on to make a more powerful photograph.
  • Torrey Pines State Reserve

    • Torrey Pines is famous for being one of the best places to photograph the green flash.  However, being some of the rarest pine trees in the world, you have many opportunities to balance the trees with the surrounding landscape.  This photo location is best at sunset.
  • Coronado Tidelands Park

    • The tidelands park can be an amazing photo location.  The park gives you a view of the Coronado Bridge in San Diego Bay.  Boats, canoes, and kayaks are often beached, giving you an amazing foreground for your image.  Images in light fog can be spooky.  Stormy sunrises can be amazing.
  • Windansea Beach

    • Windansea is another local location with easy beach access, as well as plenty of rock outcroppings to give you numerous compositions to photograph.  Parking at this photo location is also limited, so get there early.
  • Mount Soledad Veteran’s Memorial

    • Mount Soledad is famous for it’s somewhat controversial memorial, but it is overlooked as a photo location.  Parking is limited, but normally not impossible to get.  While the memorial is supposed to be open 7 AM to 10 PM, I have photographed sunrises and evenings outside of those hours with no issues.  This was a great location to get one of the last lunar eclipses.  This location is a good sunset location in the Summer when the sun is high in the sky, but a separate peak with towers obscures the view at 270 degrees and is therefore not recommended for most sunsets.
  • Bird Rock

    • Bird Rock has several outcroppings you can photograph from.  Same rules apply on the best days and times to shoot.  Be very careful in this area along the rock.  I broke a finger making this image.  Worth it for the shot, but it is easy to get injured.
  • Mount Helix

    • Mount Helix is just outside of La Mesa and has a wonderful 360-degree view.  This is a great location particularly at sunset for the view of San Diego to the West.  There is limited parking, so it is recommended you arrive early.
  • El Cajon Mountain

    • El Cajon Mountain is one of the most overlooked photo locations in greater San Diego.  Also known as El Capitan, the massive piece of granite is an impressive sight.  Easily seen throughout the county, but hard to approach for a photograph, my best advice is to look for Creek Hills Road and locate the El Monte Park trail.  A great scenic overlook is about a half mile down the trail.  Look for good clouds in the morning or evening.  The rock glows a bright orange at sunset.

Again, this list of San Diego photo locations is not complete.  Please bookmark this page and check back regularly for updates.  Feel free to email me or leave a comment if you have further suggestions.