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Experiments, Travels, and Behind-the-Scenes Shenanigans
One Wow, it’s hard to believe this shoot was six months ago. This was really where the recent changes in my photographic style began. We’d casually fooled around less-than-clothed with the camera before, but this time Dani wanted to put in real effort and see where this kind of shooting might lead us. After picking and scouting a location that afternoon, we raced the setting sun through the abandoned desert facility to capture this set. It was my first time shooting the person as the main subject. It was her first time playing model. She was nervous. I was nervous. We both set that aside, knowing the minimal risks—snapping a few photos you aren’t required to share—would be well worth the potential rewards…… NSFW · Explicit
Canvas, meet AluminumGetting acquainted with Eezi-Awn’s new hard-shell roof tent, the Stealth. Rumors of a hard-shelled Eezi-Awn had been crossing my desk for months when the confirmation hit my inbox, in the form of an ad request and a photo of the new tent. Pictured was a thing of beauty—a sleek, wingless fighter jet hovering over a snowy landscape—but we all know photos on the internet are only half of the story. As fate would have it, Paul May of Equipt was driving right past a photoshoot I was on in the Mojave Desert, so I arranged for us to meet up in camp to check out the Stealth personally. Full disclosure: yes, Equipt is one of my studio’s clients. If you know me, then you know that’s the strongest endorsement I can give—I’ll only work with businesses I believe in. First Impressions Flipping open four latches releases the lid of the matte black shell, which is raised and lowered easily by one person thanks to the aid of gas struts and conveniently placed handles. The golden light of dawn gleams and sparkles off the metal of massive scissor-lift hinges as the roof rises, stark contrast against the darkness of the Stealth’s chassis. This new tent makes an impression, towering nearly five feet above the roof rack once open. A ladder slides out from integrated storage in the floor, and can be placed for entry through any of the tent’s three doors (or anywhere along the roof rack). Quick-release bungees run along the front, rear, and side walls so that they’ll self-tuck when packing up the tent. Intended or not, rear latches and roof supports double as convenient hooks to hang your shoes…so long as it doesn’t rain. Vents are placed above either side door, and the lack of any sign of condensation proves their effectiveness against the usual cold-weather tent problems. As is typical with most hard-shell roof tents, the walls remain tight and silent in the wind. Thick olive-drab privacy mesh screens adorn all three doors, and canvas makes up the door panels themselves. Zippers are large and easy-moving as expected, and each panel has it’s own set of lashings so they can be easily tied open independent of each other. The rear door features a generously sized awning held out by quick-release legs, which Velcro into place both deployed and when packed. The awning is a separate panel from the door, so the door can be fully closed while leaving the awning set up. Climbing Inside Despite the shell being cold to the touch in… NSFW · Explicit
Foz SpecsAn on-going, ever-changing list of equipment and modifications Basic Equipment: Naturally aspirated 2.5L Boxer 4-cylinder, 35mm spring lift, 215/70R16 all-terrain tires Project Goals: quick and efficient backcountry travel over mild-to-moderate terrain, light-duty load carrying to remote hiking/biking trails, economical all-weather commuter Modifications and Upgrades: +35mm Ironman Spring Lift, KYB GR2 struts, WRX rear disc brake conversion, Primitive Racing full armor package, prototype rock sliders, snorkel (raised air intake), OEM Oil Cooler, Maxtrax, Yakima Load Bars, Yaesu GX8-R 2m/70cm radio, Living Overland on-board water, front and rear bumpers in development… NSFW · Explicit
Bulldust & Bad MapsRoutefinding for Hema Maps on El Camino del Diablo It was a questionable decision, running the Arizona border along Mexico in an antiquated truck with no support vehicle. A brand-new suspension had been fitted, and an extra 300 pounds of fatman-and-iron packed into the passenger side, but our little Hema Maps BJ-74 Land Cruiser stubbornly insisted on holding it’s five-degree lean to the driver’s side. The air conditioner sputters, laughs at us, then blasts hot air into the cabin. Chris and I roll down from the cool air of central Arizona’s highlands with the windows wide open. The adventure begins in the middle of Phoenix—a route declared “quickest” by Siri insists we exit the interstate in the ghetto, then brave three miles of surface streets to reach the BLM Field Office. A permit is required to traverse El Camino del Diablo. To obtain the permit, one must show up in person. From the eighth floor of a downtown high-rise a video drones on about not touching bombs, and the dangers of remote desert travel. Curiously efficient window architecture on the tower across the street prevents the summer sun from baking through the glass. My thoughts are interrupted by a disinterested federal rep as he hands over several pages of forms. I read through, then sign away any and all rights to sue the government if I’m kidnapped, injured, lasered, exploded, or a Predator drone falls from the sky and crashes onto the truck. With our lives signed away we flee the city, classic rock blaring from a set of phone-powered portable speakers as Highway 85 leads us south through an unseasonably green Sonoran. The desert heat is more humid than expected, but the freedom of this forsaken two-lane makes the journey worthwhile…even in our little tin oven. Ajo. We giggle at the potential pronunciations of the town’s name until the square rolls into view. It’s worth at least a short stop. The old Spanish architecture of covered walkways connects a derelict train depot with a converted mission, all surrounding a central park that’s in desperate need of a little rain. Dueling cameras round the plaza snapping away with abandon before we’re back in the truck. Tempting as the little café looks it’s not on the agenda—there’s a long drive ahead, and we have an unfortunately tight schedule to keep. The beauty of wide-open desert is broken by a single ominous sign at the intersection of two dirt roads, this must be the track. I hop out for a closer shot when the stillness is suddenly interrupted… NSFW · Explicit
52:Later225.31 miles 479,333 steps 34,315+ elev Look at that fat bastard (photo love from Chris Van Loan). Motivation for a change came from that photo, taken in mid-December of 2015. Denial is a place I rarely visit, but it was in full force then. I’d been quietly ignoring the inches gradually being added to my jean size for a couple years. In my twenties and early thirties I wore a 32 comfortably, by December 2015 I was barely squeezing into a size 35. Change came in the form of the 52 Hike Challenge, which I stumbled upon from my friend John Graham’s Instagram feed when he finished his challenge that month. He started his second series, the 52 Hike “Adventure” Challenge, and I hit the trail for my regular challenge on January 5th, 2016. A year later I weigh in at the same 180 pounds I did when I started, but it’s all muscle now. I’m back comfortably into a size 32. More than that, having to consistently hike that frequently was the push needed to get “over the hump” and finally get out on foot and cover some real distance—an ability I’ve desired for decades. Lugging 50 pounds of gear for several miles to get the shot just doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. Health aside, that’s the gain I’m most grateful to have achieved. #Beyond52 Will I do another 52 Challenge? Probably not, but I’m glad I did this one. I’m also glad it’s over: I’m looking forward to hiking on my own schedule now, for the sake of the hike, and not because I need to hit an arbitrary target…I simply enjoy hiking too much now to place that kind of stress on it.… NSFW · Explicit
52:December57.12 miles 121,073 steps 8,633+ elev 41. Top of Quartz Mountain, via Wolverton from Highway 89: 7.75 miles 42. Prescott Christmas Parade, Tree Lighting Ceremony, and a bit of antiquing: 2.4 miles 43. Classified Location—location scouting and photo shoot: 2.15 miles 44. Red Bridge Trail: 7.65 miles 45. Centennial Trail: 1.99 miles to see thousand-year-old graffiti on a rock in a gated community 46. Unknown Trail: 4.24 miles 47. Granite Mountain: 8.67 miles, 1,819 feet of climb over two miles, and one celebratory pint from Granite Mountain Brewing 48. Christmas Eve Snow: 3.34 miles, 6 inches and counting 49. Christmas Snow Hike: 1.7 miles chasing the headwaters of Willow Creek, through 18″ of snow 50. Falcon Hunting (photographically speaking): 3.57 miles 51. Javalina Firewater: 4.19 miles 52. Spruce Mountain: a very foggy 9.47 miles A Hike Every Other Day Well ok, 31 days in December, it isn’t quite that much. The Twelve Hikes of Christmas? Regardless, my 52 Hike Challenge is now complete, and I’m never hiking again. Just kidding. In fact, I’m probably going again tomorrow…… NSFW · Explicit
52:November17.87 miles 37,878 steps +2,459 elev 38. Sierra Prieta, easing back in with familiar terrain: 4.62 miles 39. Bell Trail / Wet Beaver Creek; Rimrock, Arizona: 7.15 miles 40. Sierra Prieta, first snow of the season: 6.1 miles Tendons Get Better With Age? All that momentum in September pushing me one hike shy of caught up. One early November morning revealed the tell tail sign, blood surfacing to the skin near my hip joint. A few hours later the pain arrived, hip and knee…no hike for me that day. We caught it early, fortunate there was no serious damage, and after a few weeks taking it easy I’m back on the trail. Three hikes down this week, five weeks left to finish a dozen more. Let’s do this.… NSFW · Explicit
52:September31.35 miles 65,541 steps +5,241 elev 32. Spruce Pack Trail, Sierra Prieta: 5.35 miles 33. All of the Sierra Prieta trails I’d not done before…and a nap: 9.5 miles 34. Pott’s Creek Trail #327. Because, rain…and forests: 5.29 miles 35. T37 Purgatory: 7.48 miles, uphill both ways 36. Abandoned fort, location classified: 1.62 miles 37. Watson Woods Riparian Preserve, Prescott: 2.11 miles Efforts & Expectations I’ve been self-evaluating heavily this month, dwelling on that ever-evolving concept of excellence and striving to purge anything that doesn’t make the cut—such things become ritual when your religion is “curator.” The latest mass culling has included things like unused gear, designs that lack that “pop,” photos that are only “good enough” (I carry the heavy DSLR on hikes now), poor vendors (oh, hey there Wells Fargo), and any perceived slothfulness in the day-to-day. That last one is tough to measure using less-than-excellent gear: I’ve been hiking harder and faster to push past unexpected exhaustion on recent hikes: hikes with cumulative elevation gains supposedly in the mere hundreds of feet. I mean, I live a mile above sea level, and started out this 52 Hike Challenge thing with hikes featuring thousands of feet in gain…the fuck is wrong with me? My inner nerd was screaming “Is the cable plugged in?” so I decided to do some testing. Low and behold: MapMyFitness has been “recalculating for accuracy,” supposedly from USGS source data, and cutting the cumulative elevation gain from my routes by an average of 40% (my last hike was logged at a whopping 20% of the actual gain). Sorry MMF, but your super-accurate “correction” method sucks. What doesn’t suck? The results achieved when you bite the bullet, put the point-and-shoot away, and haul that heavy DSLR kit ten miles up the mountain in the rain:… NSFW · Explicit
52:August27.53 miles 58,376 steps +4,800 elev 25. Devil’s Slide, Pacifica: 1.98 miles 26. Land’s End, San Francisco: 1.99 miles, 2437 stairs 27…was a bust: the “trails” were roads, but at least the Foz got some dirt time. 27a—Searching for White Rock Water: 0.17 miles; 27b—Glen Oaks Mine: 0.29 miles; 27c—Mount Francis Summit: 1.1 miles 28. Willow Creek to Granite Basin #347: 2.36 miles 29. Poland-Walker Tunnel: 4.32 miles 30. Watershed Trail / Deer Lick Spring: 6.13 miles, 13 tadpoles 31. Groom Creek Loop: 9.19 miles, and one fantastic sunset Perspective It’s taken over a decade, but I might just be over my desert phase. There are some trees—some greenery—up here in Prescott, but each trip out I’ve been wandering toward taller and taller mountains, wetter and wetter climates. Running up the coast this month didn’t help, I feel the grey skies and cold mist of the sea calling me home. I’m not sure where we’ll end up next, but I sense a change in the wind coming…… NSFW · Explicit
SleeperConverting a Disco into a Camper I’m not fond of ground tents, roof tents, or any other piece of canvas-walled silliness—such shelters should be tolerated when the destination or mode-of-transport leave’s no other option, not adopted as the go-to solution. I hate rattles. I can’t stand clutter. I abhor loose, unsecured gear. I don’t have kids and I don’t take prisonerscarry passengers. I do prefer the comfort of hard walls, lockable doors, and a well-equipped galley…so long as they don’t limit my options on a journey. I also happen to have a Discovery II at my disposal, essentially a trail-ready postal truck disguised as a luxury station wagon. The rear of a Discovery II is downright cavernous, especially when gutted. 46 inches from carpeted floor to headlined ceiling, 63 inches from wall to wall, and nearly seven feet of length to work with over the center console (front seats forward). The Discovery II is why I don’t own a teardrop trailer. The Cargo (and on-board systems) The goal was to keep weight low and clutter non-existent, with a full camping load-out below the deck. In practice there is also room for clothes and personal gear, except for hanging jackets/shirts and my camera gear of course. The cubbies from top to bottom, left to right contian: driver’s clothing and personal gear, water tank, passenger’s clothing and personal gear, standard sleeping gear (pads, pillows, blankets), more water tank, complete toolkit (everything I need for every task on a Discovery), optional trip-specific gear (cold-weather sleeping gear, Little Red Campfire, shower mat, etc), slide-out galley (and food), and freezer/fridge (beverages and food). On-board water flows from an 11-gallon tank riding low and center under the deck. In the rear passenger footwell hangs a SHURflo 3.0GPM water pump, water distribution lines, and a back-up gravity fed tap (just in case). Taps are located at the rear passenger door and above the galley. The rest of this space holds recovery tools so they can be accessed without opening doors (just move the seats), and to keep weight low. It’s also a good place to stuff flip-flops and muddy boots while sleeping. Sleeper and galley systems are powered by a secondary Group 31 battery behind the rear left wheel, which recharges via solar or while the engine is running. This placement is opposite the spare tire and main battery to help maintain weight balance. 12-volt extension cords, fold-up solar panel, and other accessories are also stored in this… NSFW · Explicit
Awn a Subaru?Sir Clax-a-Lot gets some Shade Eezi-Awn introduced a high-quality, entry-level awning to their lineup a few years back, with a price point low enough you’d be hard-pressed to compile the tarp/poles/clips/stakes/lines setup for less (especially once you consider setup/teardown times and a frameless tarp’s general lack of longevity). The problem was, to mount the awning you either had to make a sizable investment in a matching roof rack or be handy enough to fabricate your own brackets. This, along with the low roof line of the Foz, kept an awning off the build list for the original Budget Overlander project. I love awnings. If I had to pick a single most beneficial item the overland trend has brought to our shores it be a toss-up between the vehicle-mounted awning and efficient 12-volt freezer/fridges. Summer is upon us again, and I wanted some shade for several upcoming Forester-based trips to the desert. Enter Bomber Products: they machine a sturdy bracket out of solid aluminum that will bolt to just about anything, Yakima and Thule bars included. Even with all of the mounting hardware in it’s lowest position, the car-side edge of the awning is five-feet ten-inches off the ground—plenty of height to keep the bulk of the awning well clear of my six-foot frame. As an added bonus, the back of the awning sits just behind the side rails of the Forester, so rainwater running off the awning will pass through the roof’s drain channels and not down the side of the car. Now I just need to talk Bomber Products into producing a universal MAXTRAX mount adapter…… NSFW · Explicit
52:July16.45 miles 34,876 steps 3,190+ elev 22. Venezia #381: 3.25 miles 23. Spruce Pack Trail aka West Spruce #264, via Porter Spur #300: 5.67 miles 24. West Fork Oak Creek, Coconino NF #108: 7.53 miles Reflection A photog friend of mine once gave me a tip on shooting sunsets: “Don’t forget to turn around.” It’s good advice, whether taking pictures or applying it to life in general. Not dwelling in the past—just taking a quick glance to make sure you’ve held on to what’s most important, and are living up to your own goals.… NSFW · Explicit
PrintThinking Inside the Box Fixed borders. Arbitrary margins. Simplistic math and no limits—if it can be imagined, it can be done. Such is the nature of paper. Control is back in the hands of the designer: I pick the paper size, I pick the ink, I pick the printer. No worrying about thousands of varying screen sizes, bad gamma on Macs, or the horrible cold of a consumer’s cheap monitor. I forgot how much fun design for print could be, it’s a refreshing and much needed change of pace. Drop on by Adventurist Life for all the details, and of course, to pre-order a subscription. The IndieGoGo campaign starts soon (don’t worry, we’ll have add-on rewards for existing subscribers too).… NSFW · Explicit