The National Outdoor Leadership School has been using the same unique frying pan on courses that range from Utah to Patagonia since 1979.
With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Sunday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in April 2008.
Whether for warmth, cooking, or signaling, fire is a survival essential. As is the knowledge of how to make one without matches. You never know when you’ll find yourself without those convenient little red-tipped tools. Maybe your single engine plane goes down while you’re flying over the Alaskan wilderness, like the kid in Hatchet. Or perhaps you’re out camping and you lose your backpack in a tussle with a bear. It needn’t even be something so dramatic — even extremely windy or wet conditions can render matches virtually useless.
Fortunately, if you need to make fire and don’t have matches, you’re not at all out of luck; a wide variety of other options remain for catalyzing a flame. Below, we go over nine of them, from those which utilize items you might scrounge in an urban environment to ones which only require the natural leavings of the wilderness.
Friction-Based Fire Making
Friction-based fire making is not for the faint of heart, and represents the most difficult of the non-match methods. There are different techniques you can use to make a fire with friction, but the most important aspect is the type of wood you use for the fireboard and spindle.
The spindle is the stick you’ll spin in order to create friction between it and the fireboard. If you create enough friction between the spindle and the fireboard, you can create an ember that can be used to create a fire. Cottonwood, juniper, aspen, willow, cedar, cypress, and walnut make the best fireboard and spindle sets.
Before you can use wood to start a friction-based fire, the wood must be bone dry. If the wood isn’t dry, you’ll have to dry it out first.
The hand drill method is the most primeval, and the most difficult to do. All you need is wood, tireless hands, and some gritty determination. Here’s how it’s done:
Build a tinder nest. Your tinder nest will be used to turn the ember you create into a flame. Make a tinder nest out of anything that catches fire easily, like dry grass, leaves, and bark.
Make your notch. Cut a v-shaped notch into your fireboard and make a small depression adjacent to it.
Place bark underneath the notch. The bark will be used to catch an ember from the friction between the spindle and fireboard.
Start spinning. Place the spindle into the depression on your fireboard. Your spindle should be about 2 feet long for this to work properly. Maintain pressure on the board and start rolling the spindle between your hands, running them quickly down the spindle. Keep doing this until an ember is formed on the fireboard.
Start a fire! Once you see a glowing ember, tap the fireboard to drop your ember onto the piece of bark. Transfer the bark to your nest of tinder. Gently blow on it to start your flame.
2. Fire Plough
Prepare your fireboard. Cut a groove in the fireboard. This will be your track for the spindle.
Rub! Take the tip of your spindle and place it in the groove of your fireboard. Start rubbing the tip of the spindle up and down the groove.
Start a fire. Have your tinder nest at the end of the fireboard, so that you’ll plow embers into as you’re rubbing. Once you catch one, blow the nest gently and get that fire going.
The bow drill is probably the most effective friction-based method to use because it’s easier to maintain the speed and pressure you need to create enough friction to start a fire. In addition to the spindle and fireboard, you’ll also need a socket and a bow.
Get a socket. The socket is used to put pressure on the other end of the spindle as you’re rotating it with the bow. The socket can be a stone or another piece of wood. If you use another piece of wood, try to find a harder piece than what you’re using for the spindle. Wood with sap and oil is good as it creates a lubricant between the spindle and the socket.
Make your bow. The bow should be about as long as your arm. Use a flexible piece of wood that has a slight curve. The string of the bow can be anything: a shoelace, rope, strip of rawhide, etc. Just find something that won’t break. String up your bow and you’re ready to go.
Prepare the fireboard. Cut a v-shaped notch and create a depression adjacent to it in the fireboard. Underneath the notch, place your tinder.
String up the spindle. Catch the spindle in a loop of the bow string. Place one end of the spindle in the fireboard and apply pressure on the other end with your socket.
Start sawing. Using your bow, start sawing back and forth. You’ve basically created a rudimentary mechanical drill. The spindle should be rotating quickly. Keep sawing until you create an ember.
Make your fire. Drop the ember into the tinder nest and blow on it gently. You’ve got yourself a fire.
This is an old standby. It’s always a good idea to carry around a good flint and steel set with you on a camping trip. Matches can get wet and be become pretty much useless, but you can still get a spark from putting steel to a good piece of flint.
If you’re caught without a flint and steel set, you can always improvise by using quartzite and the steel blade of your pocketknife (you are carrying your pocketknife, aren’t you?). You’ll also need char cloth. Char cloth is cloth that has been turned into charcoal. It catches a spark and keeps it smoldering without bursting into flames. If you don’t have char cloth, a piece of fungus or birch will do.
Grip the rock and char cloth. Take hold of the piece of rock between your thumb and forefinger. Make sure an edge is hanging out about 2 or 3 inches. Grasp the char between your thumb and the flint.
Strike! Grasp the back of the steel striker or use the back of your knife blade. Strike the steel against the flint several times. Sparks from the steel will fly off and land on the char cloth, causing a glow.
Start a fire. Fold up your char cloth into a tinder nest and gently blow on it to start a flame.
Using a lens to start a fire is an easy matchless method. Any boy who has melted green plastic army men with a magnifying glass will know how to do it. If you have by chance never melted green plastic army men, here’s the technique.
5. Traditional Lenses
To create a fire, all you need is some sort of lens in order to focus sunlight on a specific spot. A magnifying glass, eyeglasses, or binocular lenses all work. If you add some water to the lens, you can intensify the beam. Angle the lens towards the sun in order to focus the beam into as small an area as possible. Put your tinder nest under this spot and you’ll soon have yourself a fire.
The only drawback to the lens-based method is that it only works when you have sun. So if it’s nighttime or overcast, you won’t have any luck.
In addition to the typical lens method, there are three odd, but effective, lens-based methods to start a fire as well.
6. Balloons and Condoms
By filling a balloon or condom with water, you can transform these ordinary objects into fire-creating lenses.
Fill the condom or balloon with water and tie off the end. You’ll want to make it as spherical as possible. Don’t make the inflated balloon or condom too big or it will distort the sunlight’s focal point. Squeeze the balloon to find a shape that gives you a sharp circle of light. Try squeezing the condom in the middle to form two smaller lenses.
Condoms and balloons both have a shorter focal length than an ordinary lens. Hold them 1 to 2 inches from your tinder.
7. Fire From Ice
Fire from ice isn’t just some dumb cliché used for high school prom themes. You can actually make fire from a piece of ice. All you need to do is form the ice into a lens shape and then use it as you would when starting a fire with any other lens. This method can be particularly handy for wintertime camping.
Get clear water. For this to work, the ice must be clear. If it’s cloudy or has other impurities, it’s not going to work. The best way to get a clear ice block is to fill up a bowl, cup, or a container made out of foil with clear lake or pond water or melted snow. Let it freeze until it forms ice. Your block should be about 2 inches thick for this to work.
Form your lens. Use your knife to shape the ice into a lens. Remember a lens shape is thicker in the middle and narrower near the edges.
Polish your lens. After you get the rough shape of a lens, finish the shaping of it by polishing it with your hands. The heat from your hands will melt the ice enough so you get a nice smooth surface.
Start a fire. Angle your ice lens towards the sun just as you would any other lens. Focus the light on your tinder nest and watch as you make a once stupid cliché come to life.
8. Soda Can and Chocolate Bar
A weird one that’s just cool to know.
Polish the bottom of the soda can with the chocolate. Open up your bar of chocolate and start rubbing it on the bottom of the soda can. The chocolate acts as a polish and will make the bottom of the can shine like a mirror. If you don’t have chocolate with you, toothpaste also works.
Make your fire. After polishing the bottom of your can, what you have is essentially a parabolic mirror. Sunlight will reflect off the bottom of the can, forming a single focal point. It’s kind of like how a mirror telescope works.
Point the bottom of the can towards the sun. You’ll have created a highly focused ray of light aimed directly at your tinder. Place the tinder about an inch from the reflecting light’s focal point. In a few seconds you should have a flame.
9. Batteries and Steel Wool
This one is quite easy and is fun to try at home, especially with kids.
Stretch out the steel wool. You want it to be about 6 inches long and a ½-inch wide.
Rub the battery on the steel wool. Hold the steel wool in one hand and the battery in the other. Any battery will do, but 9-volt batteries work best. Rub the side of the battery with the “contacts” on the wool. The wool will begin to glow and burn. Gently blow on it.
Transfer the burning wool to your tinder nest. The wool’s flame will extinguish quickly, so don’t waste any time.
Costa Rica is full of immigrants who travel to the country for its beautiful environment and high quality of life. If you want to stay there, however, you will run into the difficult legal obstacles surrounding employment. The Costa Rican government does not make it easy for foreigners to get their work permit, but there are several loopholes and paths to success that apply to people in different situations.
[Edit]Can I get a job in Costa Rica?
- You can work remotely from Costa Rica without a work permit. The most straightforward option for many immigrants is to work online for a company based outside of Costa Rica, or to work as a freelancer for foreign clients. You do not need a work permit for this as long as your work is unrelated to Costa Rica.
- You still need to apply for a residency permit to stay in Costa Rica once your visa expires (30–90 days for a tourist visa, depending on your nationality). The big advantage is that this does not need to be a "permanent residency permit," which is notoriously hard to get. As long as you earn at least $US2,500 per month, you can get a permit as a rentista.
- Work permits are only given to irreplaceable workers. Work permits are extremely difficult to get, as Costa Rican law requires employers to hire Costa Rican nationals if possible. If you have specialized or high-demand skills and can find an job offer in Costa Rica, you and your potential employer can apply for a work permit through the Dirección General de Migración. This process may take months, and will likely fail if the job could reasonably be filled by a Costa Rican.
- You are allowed to travel to Costa Rica before submitting the application. Request a provisional visa from the Costa Rica consulate in your country.
- There is an exception for Canadians under 35, described later in this article.
- You may own a business, but not work in it. If you have the funds to run a business, you are legally allowed to hire Costa Ricans, oversee operations as manager and owner, and receive an income. This is possible under any kind of temporary residence permit, such as the rentista permit. However, you cannot participate in any of the day-to-day labor; this must be done by Costa Ricans or people with permanent residency.
- You gain the right to work through marriage or three years of residency. A permanent residency permit allows a foreign citizen to work any type of job in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, this has strict requirements. To apply for this status, you must hold a temporary residence permit (not tourist visas) for three years. If you are married to a Costa Rican citizen, or have a Costa Rican parent or child, you can apply for a temporary residence permit as a spouse or relative. Unlike normal temporary residence permits, this one will allow you to work.
[Edit]How can I work in Costa Rica as a Canadian?
- Canadian citizens aged 18 to 35 may qualify for an easier application. The Youth Mobility program is a special arrangement between the two countries that makes it much easier to work in Costa Rica for temporary stays (up to one year). Besides meeting the citizenship and age requirements, you'll need the following to qualify:
- Possession of CAD$2500 to cover your own expenses at the start of your stay
- A clean Canadian police certificate (criminal record check), usually obtained through local police services or an accredited fingerprinting company
- Health insurance for the duration of your time in Costa Rica, including coverage for hospitalization and repatriation
- No dependents that would need to accompany you to Costa Rica
- Send your documents to the consulate first. Before you travel, the Costa Rican consulate in Ottawa will need to legalize the documents proving that you meet the qualifications listed above, including a birth certificate demonstrating your age. Check the consulate website for up-to-date forms and processing fee amounts for the "legalization of documents" service (typically US$40 as of March 2021).
- These documents will also need to be translated into Spanish by an official translator for the Costa Rican government, but this can be done once you are in the country.
- You do not need a visa or job offer to travel. Young Canadian workers can enter Costa Rica on a tourist visa (good for 90 days), which is granted when you arrive in the country. Unlike most tourists, you can then apply for the right to work as soon as you find a job offer. To do this, bring your legalized, translated documents to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería in San José. The exact process may depend on which category of work you are applying for, but your future employer can accompany you and help you through the process.
- Because of the special agreement between the two countries, you do not need to go through the usual work permit requirements. Most importantly, your employer can hire you for any job, not only jobs that cannot be filled by a Costa Rican citizen.
- Students, volunteers, and researchers are eligible for a special visa. The Youth Mobility program also covers young Canadians looking for internships, work placements, or academic positions (as a student, teacher, or researcher) in Costa Rica. Unlike people looking for work, you will need to get accepted into a program before you travel. Once you do, send the work contract or letter of acceptance as part of a request for the "Provisional Visa Special Category for Canadian citizens under the Memorandum of Understanding concerning Youth Mobility." Once this has been approved, you can travel to Costa Rica and finish your application for temporary residency under the same category, at the Dirección General de Migración in San José.
- If it is difficult for you to travel to Ottawa to apply for a visa at the consulate, you are allowed to enter Costa Rica as a tourist and change your immigration status once you are there. This still requires you to legalize all your documents in advance, and will cost an additional US$200.
[Edit]How much do workers earn in Costa Rica?
- The average household earns about US$530 per month. This is based on 2020 data, and is around ₡326,500 in local terms. Keep in mind that this survey covers the whole country; wages are higher in the cities and lower in the countryside.
- A middle-class salary starts at around US$1,200 per month. This is based on 2018 data of about ₡743,000 as average for the middle quintile of earners. This is roughly the monthly wages of, for example, a full-time English teacher at a private school. Upper middle class workers such as IT professionals can earn twice this amount.
- Minimum wage law in Costa Rica is based on the level of skill and education required for your field of work. If your job requires a 4+ year university degree, you cannot legally be paid less than 682,600 colones per month (about US$1,100).
[Edit]How much money do you need to live comfortably in Costa Rica?
- A comfortable lifestyle will run you around US$1,000 per month. If you are a middle-class immigrant from an affluent country such as the US, this is a realistic budget for the kind of lifestyle you are probably used to. This means a decent apartment in the city, and room in the budget for dining out and entertainment. Many immigrants spend more like $1,500 on a less frugal lifestyle.
- The bare minimum essentials cost about US$300 a month. Research from 2018 suggests that minimum monthly costs fall between 145,000 and 210,000 colones (roughly US$240 to 340) for a single person, or ₡400,000–560,000 (US$650 to 915) for a family. This covers only the cheapest adequate housing, food, health care, and transport. Note that this budget will be easier to live on in rural areas of the country.
- Housing costs are especially low in Costa Rica. Compared to the many cities suffering under sky-high rents, Costa Rica has cheap housing even relative to other costs of living. For example, rent in San José, Costa Rica is about ¼ the cost of rent in Los Angeles or London, even though most supermarket goods are about ⅔ the price. If you are moving from one of these cities, you may find your new wages go even further than you expect simply because of the massive difference in rental cost.
[Edit]What jobs are in demand in Costa Rica?
- Technical positions are in the highest demand. Engineers, technicians, and skilled tradesman are some of the most in-demand jobs in Costa Rica. If you are trying to get a work permit as a foreigner, your chances of success are much higher if you have this kind of technical experience and education.
- Call centers, English teaching, and tourism offer low-entry work. If you don't speak fluent Spanish or have specialized skills, the job market in Costa Rica will be tough. It is easier for English-speakers to find work in these fields, but you'll still be competing with many other applicants, and won't necessarily get paid great wages. Still, this is a way to pay your bills while you're getting on your feet and taking Spanish classes.
- Note that working these jobs still requires a permanent residence permit or a work permit. In most cases this will be extremely difficult to get, and accepting the work without one is illegal.
- ↑ http://www.therealcostarica.com/residency_costa_rica/working_costa_rica.html
- ↑ https://ticotimes.net/2019/12/04/5-ways-to-become-a-legal-resident-of-costa-rica
- ↑ http://www.therealcostarica.com/residency_costa_rica/working_costa_rica.html
- ↑ https://ticotimes.net/2019/12/04/5-ways-to-become-a-legal-resident-of-costa-rica
- ↑ http://residencyincostarica.com/residency-options/#marriage
- ↑ https://costaricaembassy.com/youthmobility/
- ↑ https://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/where-do-get-a-criminal-record-check
- ↑ https://costaricaembassy.com/consulatehome/#LegalServices
- ↑ https://costaricaembassy.com/youthmobility/
- ↑ https://costaricaembassy.com/youthmobility/
- ↑ https://www.inec.go.cr/encuestas/encuesta-nacional-de-hogares
- ↑ https://ticotimes.net/2018/10/18/tico-times-shade-what-does-middle-class-mean-in-costa-rica
- ↑ https://www.expat.com/en/guide/central-america/costa-rica/12585-work-in-costa-rica.html
- ↑ http://www.mtss.go.cr/temas-laborales/salarios/Documentos-Salarios/lista_salarios_2021.pdf
- ↑ https://www.internationalcitizens.com/living-abroad/costs/costa-rica.php
- ↑ https://wageindicator.org/salary/living-wage/archive-no-index/costa-rica-living-wage-series-december-2018
- ↑ https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/San-Jose-Costa-Rica
- ↑ https://thecostaricanews.com/technical-jobs-are-in-demand-by-employers-around-costa-rica/
- ↑ https://www.justlanded.de/english/Costa-Rica/Costa-Rica-Guide/Jobs/The-Job-Market
I see mountains! It’s Thursday, somewhere west of Anton, Colorado, and after four-and-a-half days and 1,600 miles, the snowcapped Rockies appear on the horizon. My riding buddy Jay and I left our home state of West Virginia on Sunday. Now midday, we see the jagged peaks we’ve been longing for. The Great Plains were beautiful and adventurous, but we’re anxious to ride into some elevation.
In Aurora, Jay makes the required pilgrimage to a Harley shop and buys yet another T-shirt while I get a long overdue full-face helmet. Then we climb up, up, up. West Virginia, known as the Mountain State, has great riding, but its mountains are mere hills compared to the Rockies. West of Denver significant climbing and a diversion onto U.S. Route 6 leads to 11,990-foot Loveland Pass on the Western Continental Divide. Beyond that the road winds through scenic towns like Dillon and Frisco until we stop for two nights in Edwards.
Our next two travel days are memorable! Riding through the high plains beyond Steamboat Springs, the spectacular views blew us away. We stopped for gas in Maybell, Colorado, and encountered three dual-sport riders on their fourth day off-road — and they sure looked it. Our lunch break was at the BedRock Depot in Dinosaur, where delicious sandwiches and milkshakes hit the spot. Then on into Utah, climbing up to 8,300 feet on U.S. Route 191, north of Vernal. In Wyoming the land became so dramatic through the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area that I could hardly keep my eyes on the road. When a cold, wet front was forecast and we could see clouds ahead, the flat broadly curved roads allowed for high-speed fun. We beat the storms, passed the 2,000-mile mark and ended the day’s ride in Rock Springs.
Winds were a brutal distraction at the start of the next day, leaning constantly into 30-mph gusts until the wind abated near Cokeville, Wyoming, but soon after lunch in Montpelier, Idaho, the rain started. We climbed into the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and it began snowing hard, sticking to trees, bushes and my windshield, but fortunately not the road. We were cold, but it made for a memorable photo at Emigration Pass on Idaho Highway 36. Dropping below the snow line, we ended the day’s ride outside of Preston, Idaho, at the Riverdale Resort. It has geothermally heated outdoor pools where we simmered for an hour. Ahhh ….
Two nights and friend farewells later, we headed north through Soda Springs, where many of the roads are posted “Open Range.” Sure enough, we rounded a curve to find a herd of cattle blocking the road. We honked, and they genially ambled aside. Idaho Highway 34 followed Tincup Creek on its way to the Wyoming border, and we paralleled the Snake River on U.S. 89/191 through the Bridger-Teton National Forest, reminiscent of our own West Virginia roads. As the valley opened, we finally entered Jackson.
We continued north on U.S. 191 through the incomparable Grand Teton National Park and into Yellowstone National Park from the south. Twice we crossed the Continental Divide at 8,000-plus feet before descending into the Firehole River valley. We enjoyed lunch and a timely geyser eruption at Old Faithful Village before riding a long circle around the park. East of Yellowstone Lake we cursed in our helmets as traffic halted. Up ahead a bison plodded along in our lane. Awestruck and humbled, we eventually rolled past this massive creature.
We exited via Yellowstone’s east entrance on U.S. Route 14 and rode over 8,524-foot Sylvan Pass, and rolled downhill for 20 long, pleasurable miles. The surroundings turned from pine green to desert brown as we passed between huge sandstone sentinels along the Shoshone River. We reached Cody, a nice thriving western town. At dinner, Jay smiled and ordered Rocky Mountain oysters. About half a bite was all I could manage of fried bull’s balls.
Continuing east on U.S. 14, we crossed a broad valley and began to climb yet again. The view behind us became breathtaking, the temperature dropped to 45 degrees and we crossed the Bighorn Mountains via 9,033-foot Granite Pass. We picked up I-90 at Ranchester, but I foolishly ignored a gas stop. My engine sputtered to a stop and we had to siphon a quart from Jay’s tank. He’ll never let me live it down.
Devils Tower was impressive. No extraterrestrials, just busloads of photo-snapping tourists. Our destination was Keystone, South Dakota, 130 miles away. Signs for Spearfish, Deadwood and Sturgis flashed by, but it was getting dark and drizzling so we roared on. Finally, we reached our hotel. We rode 510 miles over 12 hours and our backsides were numb. What’s half of an Iron Butt — a Wood Butt? An Iron Cheek?
We visited Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is much larger than Rushmore and was the highlight of our visit to the Black Hills. Under construction since 1948, the only recognizable part is Crazy Horse’s face and it won’t be finished in my lifetime.
After 3,300 memorable miles, we became horses headed for the barn. Our tripmeters were just shy of 5,000 miles when we arrived back home in West Virginia four days later. My wife greeted me by asking, “So, where to next year?”The post Favorite Ride: Rockies to Mount Rushmore first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Spring is springing like an underdamped shock absorber, and the heart of the riding season – with its long days and warm nights – is just around the next corner. So, why not make 2021 the year you do something epically MOronic? Grab a riding buddy, or two, and experience the Iron Butt Association‘s Saddlesore 1000, the gateway drug to long-distance motorcycle riding. Even if you only do it once, you’ll be able to regale your friends with stories from the time you rode your motorcycle 1000 miles in less than 24 hours. (Or maybe you were really feeling your oats and cranked out a Bun Burner 1500.
While you may be able (and lucky enough) to simply pick a weekend to jump on your bike and ride those 1000 miles without any forethought, the rest of us would benefit from planning, particularly if your intended route takes you into remote parts of the country in the middle of the night. Not every gas station is fully automated or open 24 hours, and it would be a bummer to have your SaddleSore 1000 scuttled due to a lack of fuel.
So, read on to learn the five things that we learned during our own Saddlesore 1000.
1. Thoroughly plan your route
Map people will love this part. You need to plot your complete route for the 1000+ miles (to have a buffer to account for speedometer error). Once you have your route roughly planned out, go back through it and mark your gas stops, based on your bike’s range. In states with wide open spaces, like in the Southwest, you may have a relatively short stint before one that could tax your bike’s limits. As you are plotting your gas stops, also consider the time of day and when you may need to stop for food. In my experience, the middle of the night and around dawn are ideal rest/meal stops to combat fatigue and stay sharp. The rest of the time, make your gas stops as efficient as possible.
2. Do your research
Look at every feature of your intended route. We had to change our plans because of snow a couple days before we planned on traversing an 8,000-ft pass in the middle of the night. (It was February, after all.) Consider the time of day that you’ll be traveling through an area. Thanks to the internet, you can find all the stations in each town and even ascertain that they’ll be open when you’re scheduled to pass through.
3. Use a GPS and a tracker
While I count myself among those who love reading and using maps, a GPS is a vital tool on an Iron Butt ride. You can program in your route and make the gas stops waypoints so that you don’t make any silly mistakes when you ride. Also, you can use your GPS to save your track as a means of verifying your route to the Iron Butt Association. Should you encounter unexpected construction or road closures, the GPS can still get you to your next gas stop if you follow an extended detour. Finally, having your GPS remind you of upcoming turns is extremely helpful when you’re tired late in the ride. Note: Unless you have an app that features downloadable maps, it’s better to use a dedicated GPS rather than a smartphone since you are likely to spend time out of cell service.
Your friends and loved ones will want to follow your progress, particularly through the night. While there are smartphone apps you can use, I’m a big fan of Spot trackers. If buying and subscribing to their service is too expensive for you, consider renting one. In addition to tracking (and documenting for Iron Butt certification) your progress, you have the ability to send pre-programmed messages to your contacts from along the route from the array of buttons on the Spot. If an emergency arises, you can summon help to your location with the push of a button.
4. Carry your own provisions
The key to a successful Iron Butt ride is keeping the stops short. That way, you can build up a buffer of time for unexpected delays on your route. If you carry your own snacks and easy-to-eat meals with you, you can fuel yourself and the bike at the same time. While it’s easy to buy fluids at gas stations, healthy food is more difficult to acquire. Believe it or not, you’re stressing your body during endurance rides, so you’ll want to avoid heavy, fatty foods and stick to items that will be easy to eat and deliver maximum nutrition.
Caffeine can give you a boost if you don’t resort to it too soon. However, stopping for a meal with a cup of coffee isn’t something to avoid as you get tired.
Avoid caffeine, at least in the early hours of your ride. If you don’t, you could use up its limited boost and hit a wall later in the trip, and caffeinated drinks may not be able to pull you out of it. When riding through hot weather, carry a hydration pack. You don’t want to drink so much that you need to pee every hour, but your concentration is the first thing to go when you get dehydrated.
If you build up a buffer of time thanks to efficient gas stops, you’ll be able to enjoy the luxury of a restaurant meal along the road when you really need it.
5. Listen to your body
Only you can decide if you’re too tired to ride, and you need a short break. More than once, I’ve hit the afternoon doldrums on an extended ride and achieved quick recovery with a 20-minute nap, leaned back on my bike, parked in the shade. The fun of endurance riding comes from completing the event. Don’t risk falling asleep at the handlebars and crashing. If you’ve got time in your pocket, get off the bike at a gas stop and move around a little to get the blood circulating.
If you’ve never ridden long distances before, don’t jump into the deep end of the pool not knowing how to swim. Take some longer rides to build up to an Iron Butt. Yes, you are just physically sitting on a bike, but riding is tiring. Rack up some 300-500 mile days before you attempt a Saddlesore 1000.
For more information on riding Iron Butt challenges, look to the Iron Butt Association website and it’s very informative forum.
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A small cabin built in 1850 by the Ownby family stands in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains.
In 1918, Frank Avett brought the property from the family for $200. Mayna Avett, the wife of Frank, remodeled the house into an art studio. Inside, she painted oil and watercolor paintings of the Appalachians and would exhibit them in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. She used the cabin as a studio for well over 20 years.
The cabin itself is a simple one-room structure with a cobblestone chimney. The building was transferred to the National Park Service in 1932. It lies just one mile into the Jake's Creek Trail from Elkmont, Tennessee.
photo by izusek via iStock
If you’ve been trying to grow your photography business over the last year, then more power to you. It’s hard enough to run a business in general, but running a business that requires person-to-person contact during a pandemic is near impossible.
Now that the world is slowly returning to normal, you may be finding yourself in a position where you feel like you don’t need to grow your photography business anymore. You’re probably getting clients coming back to you again and are feeling a lot better.
However, this would be a huge mistake. There are tons of potential clients out there that you’d be missing out on if you didn’t keep trying to grow your photography business right now.
So, I’m bringing you a quick overview of one of my favorite marketing campaign ideas for photographers: text-based marketing.
t’s 2021 and the more available you can make your business, the better.
Benefits of a Text-Based Marketing Campaign
photo by Sitthiphong via iStock
There are a ton of benefits of using modern photography business tools in your marketing plan. But, I really think that the best way to grow your photography business this year is through text-based marketing campaigns. Here’s why.
98% Open Rate
Unlike email, which has an abysmal open rate of anywhere between 15-25%, 98% of all text messages that are sent are opened. If you’ve ever subscribed for text messages from a business, then you likely already know this because you open every single ad you get from them.
A near-perfect open rate ensures that you are reaching the widest possible audience with your marketing campaign. It basically takes all of the leg work out of actually getting people to interact with your ads. This way, the only thing left for you to do is find your perfect audience.
75% of Consumers Like Text-Based Marketing
Text-based marketing campaigns are also one of the best ways to grow your photography business because the majority of people say that they are interested in getting marketing material texted to them.
I can assure you that if you were to ask people whether or not they’re excited to receive marketing emails, a large majority would say no. So, what makes text messaging different?
It’s easy. People are always on their phone. It’s easy to read a marketing message from a business you really care about, and if that particular deal doesn’t appeal to you, to simply go about your day. You aren’t needing to sort through hundreds of marketing messages, like you do with your email, in order to find things that are really important to your day.
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Benefits of Podium
So, if you’re ready to grow your photography business through a text-based marketing campaign, then you need to know about Podium.
Podium is an all-in-one messaging platform that takes all of your messages, from your email to your social media accounts, and puts them all in one place. This way you never miss anything.
But Podium also just started Podium Campaigns. Podium Campaigns takes all of the work out of building a text-based marketing campaign.
It’s really difficult to grow your photography business. With Podium Campaigns, you won’t need to spend any more time sifting through photography business tips and photography marketing tips that all conflict with one another.
Easy to Gain Traction
Podium Campaigns makes it really easy to get all of your clients to opt in to your marketing texts. Since Podium already helps you to handle all of your communications with your clients, from answering inquiries to invoicing, they created multiple points in this communication channel to allow your clients to opt in.
So, there’s no need for you to beg your clients to let you send them text messages. They actually want to participate in this marketing campaign.
Easy to Track Your Success
Another way that Podium Campaigns helps you to grow your photography business is that it helps you keep track of how well your campaigns are going.
It tracks all of the clients who unsubscribe from your text message marketing, so that you know when a campaign really isn’t landing. It also tracks transactions that occur based off of one of your text message marketing campaigns, so you know exactly how much money you’re bringing in that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Finally, it tracks all of the basic data you need, like click rate and response rates. The higher your engagement, the batter your campaign is working.
While Podium isn’t a free service, they do offer a free trial to PhotographyTalk readers. All you have to do is head over to their website to find out more information.
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photo by naqiewei via iStock
Please indulge my reminiscing as I discuss why you should shoot on film in the digital age. I’ve been a photographer for a very long time, having grown up with various formats of film cameras. As I got into paid photography, I was still solidly in the film photography era.
Digital was an interesting thing to read about in photography magazines and see at consumer product shows and when various sales reps would visit my local camera shop.
Bit by bit, digital imaging started making its way into mainstream photography. First through news and sports agencies, then in mass market magazine advertising, and finally down to us regular pros and avid photo enthusiasts.
My early entry into digital imaging came by means of Kodak and other brands offering photo CDs along with my film processing. Then, in 2002, Canon introduced the EOS-1Ds with a Full Frame sensor which actually surpassed the industry standard resolving power of Kodachrome 25 film. Ever since then, I’ve been shooting digital and transitioned away from film for a large part of my photography.
Why I Use a Film Camera in 2021
photo by jwblinn via iStock
I actually never totally stopped using film cameras, especially for larger formats, but I’ve recently started using a film camera more often now. There are good reasons to shoot on film if you’re a digital photographer.
If you are wondering why should you shoot film, here are 5 reasons for why I shoot film that might apply to you, too:
- Larger Formats
- Learn the Complete Photographic Process
- Print In a Darkroom
- Become a Better Digital Photographer
- It’s FUN!
Cheap Access to Larger Formats
photo by DERO2084 via iStock
I’ll be honest with you, I spend a lot of money on photography and videography, and I bet many of you do, too. In order to get specific features and also to have a certain quality level, camera gear prices go up.
Entry-level cameras and lenses are among my favorite tools for helping others learn serious photography. The quality of images produced by these fantastic products is absolutely superb, so I like to emphasize to never look down on entry-level gear.
The entry-level label refers to friendly pricing and not to image quality. What makes other cameras cost more is often an increase in ruggedness and special features such as very fast lens apertures.
Larger formats cost more, too. An APS-C entry-level camera with two lenses might cost less than a pro series Full Frame camera body alone. It’s not just the cameras, but lenses too, that cost more in Full Frame than in APS-C, even when comparing professional caliber gear in those two formats.
As a general rule, cameras and lenses simply cost more as format size goes up. In digital cameras, take a look at Medium Format cameras compared to Full Frame 35mm format. A typical Medium Format camera with 3 lenses costs about as much as a nice car or even a modest home in some real estate markets.
120 Roll Film and 4X5 Sheet Film
photo by redstallion via iStock
A great reason for why you should shoot on film is that you get much cheaper access to photography formats larger than Full Frame 35mm.
Take a look on a trustworthy used camera website and you’ll find professional level Medium Format cameras using 120 and 220 roll film and their lenses for prices that are true bargains. If you were to look locally at estate sales or neighborhood camera stores, you might even find enthusiast level roll film cameras for extreme bargain basement pricing.
Moving up into Large Format, such as 4 by 5 inch sheet film view cameras, field cameras, and press cameras, also known simply as 4X5, we see very view digital options. What does exist is so expensive I can’t see most of the working pros I know ever owning one, though renting might be cost effective based on the job.
Once again, in the used market for 4X5 cameras, prices are very friendly. 4X5, 8X10, and even larger sheet film cameras are still being made brand new, too. I love using 4X5 film cameras. These cameras have capabilities that require us to use deep menus in Photoshop to mimic digitally, such as perspective correction and plane of focus adjustments.
Learn the Complete Photographic Process
photo by yuryRumovsky via iStock
If you’re even just a little bit younger than I am or otherwise just now started getting serious about photography, you may have never used a film camera for serious photography. Which is nothing to be ashamed of, it just means you didn’t get a background in the classic photographic process.
While we have amazing post processing programs that can perform many operations, most of the advanced features of these programs are a way to do digitally what was done with film, photo printing paper, processing chemicals, and special techniques.
An understanding of what happens when we expose, develop, and print film based images directly corresponds to digital tools and features and is a good reason why you should shoot on film. For instance, look at the Photoshop tool of Dodge and Burn. Though it’s a digital PS tool, it is based on and even named for a technique used in physical printing from a negative.
Contrast adjustments, dynamic range, film grain, and so on all refer to characteristics and techniques of film, paper, and chemicals. So, seeing and doing it in film ourselves lets us really learn what is happening and more importantly why.
Print In a Darkroom
photo by narvikk via iStock
Which is why, if at all possible, using a darkroom to develop and print ourselves is very beneficial. When we shoot digital, especially JPEGs to use as is, we miss out on a lot of what’s happening.
In a class I used to teach a long, long time ago, we would even make our own film to get the full picture, pun regretted. We spread a light sensitive copper based emulsion on a sheet of paper, exposed it, developed and fixed it, and had a barely discernible image, but we did make an image! It was a great exercise, I’ll have to see if I can find the materials and instructions again.
Outside of that, shooting B&W with film cameras, developing it ourselves, using an enlarger in a darkroom, and finishing the prints will also provide an eye opening view of the entire set of operations of what happens in the camera, on the film, and how it all affects how a final image might come out, plus why it all happens the way it does.
Become a Better Digital Photographer
photo by Visual_Intermezzo via iStock
All of this playing around with classic film cameras, developing, and printing in a darkroom will teach us about photography in general. Knowing what is happening, and more importantly WHY, allows us to have more control of whatever type of photography we’re doing. This also applies to digital video.
Much of what is happening when we capture and post process a digital file is directly analogous to the photography that was made by scientists and artists in the early 1800s.
Light as a waveform is adjusted by the optics of our lenses. Light as particles is controlled by lens apertures and shutter speeds and impacts a light sensitive surface which is then manipulated to make a permanent image.
A Daguerreotype and a JPEG from a mirrorless Canon, Nikon, or Sony have more things in common than differences. Thus, completely understanding the art and science of photography is among the more important reasons why you should shoot on film.
Film Photography Is FUN!
photo by dansiga via iStock
The number one reason why you should shoot on film is because it’s fun. It is so enjoyable to change our mindset of how we create an image, slowing down and considering how to maximize the limited number of exposures available in a roll of film or even on a single sheet of large format film.
Even if you’re not going to develop and print the film yourself, it still makes us think more about each individual shot. And that’s part of the real enjoyment of using a film camera. As photographers, the more we exercise our creativity, the happier we are.
Here’s an assignment if you want to enjoy using a film camera yourself. FInd a classic 120 roll film camera. A TLR or a folding camera will be great. This will likely mean you are going to be setting the shutter speed and lens aperture or f-stop manually. That’s okay, pick up an old light meter, too, or practice the Sunny 16 Rule.
I suggest 120 roll film because the images will be larger on the negative, plus there will be fewer exposures available per roll, making us really consider each shot. I recommend black and white negative films for the complete experience. Color negatives or chromes (slides) are nice, but B&W is easier to process and print.
In some areas, I’ve seen darkrooms for rent, though that isn’t as plentiful as it was before the last 15 years or so. I have found listings for used darkroom equipment that you can put in a second bathroom or a spare bedroom.
photo by Visual_Intermezzo via iStock
A light tight changing bag is useful for loading the exposed film into the developing can but most of the other operations don’t actually require complete darkness. Black out the windows and seal up around doors to limit light leaks affecting your printing, find a deep red safelight filter for that part of the process.
And finally, to complete the experience, matte the enlargements yourself and hang them on the wall. The joy of creating your own art and the fun of learning by doing all the steps are the best reasons why you should shoot on film. As an added bonus, you may also become a better digital photographer by engaging in film photography.
Your airplane has crashed at sea. You are perched in a lifeboat and you need to call for help. Today you might reach for a satellite phone, but in World War II you would more likely turn a crank on a special survival radio.
These radios originated in Germany but were soon copied by the British and the United States. In addition to just being a bit of history, we can learn a few lessons from these radios. The designers clearly thought about the challenges stranded personnel would face and came up with novel solutions. For example, how do you loft a 300-foot wire up to use as an antenna? Would you believe a kite or even a balloon?
Why Such a Big Antenna?
The international rescue frequency in those days was 500 kHz. This allowed simple spark gap transmitters to be placed on lifeboats even in the 1920s. Unfortunately that is 600 meters wavelength! A quarter-wave antenna at that frequency is 150 meters long or nearly 500 feet.
After the Titanic sunk, ships maintained a watch on 500 kHz, and ground-wave propagation ensured a good range. Even after spark gaps fell out of favor, they continued to be allowed on lifeboats due to their simplicity. So by the time the war started, 500 kHz was the frequency everyone monitored for distress traffic
The German NS2 (or NSG2) was a two-tube 500 kHz transmitter with a crystal oscillator. In 1941, the British captured one and created their own version, the T-1333. A second captured unit went to the United States, spawning the SCR-578 and its transmitter, the BC-778. An SCR-578 had a folded metal frame for making a box kite and a balloon with a hydrogen generator. Water would cause the generator to produce gas and the balloon would carry one end of the antenna aloft. The 4.8W transmitter could reach about 200 miles with its 300 feet of antenna wire lofted into the air. You needed at least 175 feet of antenna out for the radio to work.
The designers knew you wouldn’t be able to erect that much wire in a life raft. The kite or balloon were workable solutions and would deploy the antenna from a reel mounted in the radio (you can watch a modern-day kite launch in the video, below). Not only that, they could obviously envision what the situation would be like on a tiny raft bobbing around. These radios all had a shape designed to clamp between your knees during operation. The hourglass-like shape spawned the nickname “Gibson Girl” after the illustrations of Charles Dana Gibson. They were also waterproof and made to float.
There were variations. The NSG2 produced 8 watts out using a crystal oscillator while the United States version didn’t use a crystal — they were in short supply — and produced less power. The T1333 used a flare gun to launch the kite folded up, which would deploy at 200 feet. It was also rectangular and had pads to allow the operator to grip the box in operation and didn’t have a balloon.
The entire kit weighed about 33 pounds and included a signal lamp, two balloons, two water-activated hydrogen generators, two rolls of antenna wire, and a parachute so you could drop the whole bag from an airplane.
A True Lifeline
It would be a pretty bad situation if you fished out your survival radio when you needed it and found the batteries were dead. That’s why these radios typically had cranks to generate electricity. No batteries to replace or wear out. If you had enough strength to turn the crank, you were on the air. The crank could also automatically send SOS.
If you want to read more about these old radios, check out [RadioNerd’s] scans of the military manuals. There’s a lot of detail there. For example, it explains that the hydrogen generator uses lithium hydride to produce hydrogen gas when exposed to water. The automated system for sending SOS, AA, or dashes was clever and something we’d do with a microcontroller today but in the 1940s, required mechanical engineering. The circuit description is interesting, too.
The design was durable. Both military and civilian aircraft used the SCR-578 or its direct descendant the AN/CRT-3 until the 1970s. The newer radio acted like the older one, but could also transmit on 8,364 kHz. The Russians started making copies of the original transmitter in 1945. The AVRA-45 is hard to tell from its American counterpart, apart from the lettering on the case.
I don’t know which German engineers at Frieseke & Höpfner GmBH designed the NS2, but they were clearly thinking about their users and willing to solve problems in the true hacker fashion. The shape is easy to grip, the crank does away with battery problems, and the radio is suited for its intended use. You have to wonder what other ideas they had for lifting the antenna before they settled for the balloon and kite combo. I also wonder why the British kite is so different and requires a Very pistol to launch.
Of course, this wasn’t the first example of a kite-lofted antenna. In 1898, a weather balloon lifted an antenna over Massachusetts and in 1901, Marconi’s antenna at Newfoundland would communicate with England while connected to a man-carrying observation kite. Military use dates back to at least 1905 with the United States Army using them as late as 1920. The British and Germans were using them around the turn of the century, too and the U.S. Navy had kite-based antennas on seaplanes in 1922. Still, the NS2 was a marvel of packaging and practicality.
The NS2 was the successor to the heavier NS1. While it did have a kite, it also had an ungainly aluminum antenna for use with no wind and it also relied on batteries. You can presume that by taking honest feedback on the NS1, the engineers were able to build the NS2 and they really hit the mark. After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery? I doubt those engineers considered themselves hackers — that term wasn’t even in use then — but I do.
[Main image source: German WWII emergency kite by Helge Fykse]
Architectural photographer Mike Kelley, who might be best known for his viral photos of Airports around the world has released a $100 contract template for professional photographers working in the architecture, design, and real estate markets.
Kelley says that he has worked with a team of lawyers to draft a contract that is easily adaptable for photography businesses in the real estate and architecture vertical.
“I have been using this exact contract right out of the box for about a year now in testing and have tweaked it to just about near perfection,” Kelley says.
As detailed on APAlmanac, once the template is purchased and downloaded, photographers can start using it straight away with the included instructions, or cut and paste sections that are applicable to individual businesses.
“Even skimming the contract will probably open your eyes to new ways of managing client expectations and deliverables,” Kelley adds.
“No matter what sub-genre of architectural photograph you produce, the core of this document will be relevant and very easily adaptable to your business. Whether you’re delivering 100 images per shoot or three images a day for a giant hotel ad campaign, you’re covered,” he promises.
Kelley also states that this contract template should work and apply any architecture, interior, or real estate photographer all over the world, however, he does stipulate that those who reside outside the United States should consult a local lawyer to verify details before using it.
The APAlmanac Contract Template is an instant digital download for architecture, real estate, and interior design photographers which contains a full-length contract designed specifically for those of us who make money photographing the built environment. Never again will you feel unprotected or adrift when it comes to working as a professional photographer; the goal is to provide clarity for both the photographer and client. Licensing agreements are clearly spelled out, your workflow is protected, you’ll never go uncredited again, and you’ll never have to wonder just how in the world your photos ended up on the pool contractor’s website without your permission.
The template includes the 11-page contract Kelley uses in his day-to-day business in Word, PDF, and RTF formats so that it is readily available for photographers to update their own information before use. Kelley also includes a sample estimate to show you how to structure and build out your own, and an “explainer document” to help make the more “legalese” sections of the contract easier to understand.
“The explainer also shows you just how I get my clients to sign the contract and the simple workflow that I use to ensure a quick send of the contract and estimate, and a frictionless way to get clients to sign the document without having to print or open up a PDF reader to do so,” Kelley explains. “I want my clients to have an easy experience working with me, and that includes their experience signing contracts. I know they can be onerous and burdensome, but that is not the case here. Quick, efficient, and clear – the three hallmarks of a great contract in any business.”
The contract template is available for purchase and download from the Architectural Photography Almanac website for $100.