by Artist Vicki Smith
Love My Oboz® Boots!
I purchased these boots last summer after seeing them on a trip too Colorado. I liked the looks of the mid-high Sawtooth boot. These boots are lightweight, waterproof, and durable. I love that they are made in the USA. Oboz® = outside + Bozeman. After wearing them all summer and fall, I feel like I have enough miles on them to give an honest review. These boots have been to Colorado, New Mexico and all over Oklahoma.
First, the Sawtooth boots are very comfortable – the fit and feel are outstanding. They have performed well in many types of terrain. Hiking in the Colorado and New Mexico Rockies and hiking in Oklahoma in many conditions and terrains They are so comfortable I wore them on tow long-term camping trips this past fall. I have been very satisfied with their performance.
About the fit – Oboz® has a patented O Fit Insole™ that is one of the keys to the boots comfort. Check out their complete OFit Insole™ system on their webs site here: https://obozfootwear.com/o-fit-system
Another cool feature of the boots is the sole – it features a map of the Sawtooth Mountains in the design. I have been on loose rocky trails, sandy trails, granite builders, sandstone canyons, and mixed woodlands without any slipping or loss of footing. The soles do not pick up much debris or mud either, at least so far. They are easy to clean and care for.
Oh yes, they are waterproof too! Oboz® has a unique waterproof BDry system. The membrane is tested to insure it is waterproof. The worst wet condition I have been in with these boots is heavy dew on tall grass. While my legs got soaked, my feet stayed nice and dry (I did have on some gators).
As a travel and wildlife photographer, I appreciate the quality of the boot, the style, the amazing fit and comfort, and the price. On a smaller note (but important to me) the laces stay tied! Check out the complete Oboz® story and their line of boots, shoes, and sandals for yourself here:https://obozfootwear.com
We just returned from another camping/photography outing. We had a great time and I was able to get some good images. This time we camped at Rocky Point on Lake Fort Gibson. I hoped to capture some good fall foliage landscapes and “macro scapes” as well as some good migrating birds, and anything else that came my way. I was not disappointed.
The leaves were setting up to be some of the best we have had in several years (in Oklahoma). These past few summers and falls have been dry, windy, and warmer than normal. During these past seasons, we did not see large expanses, or good vistas of fall colors. One reason for that appeared to be the trees did not come into color in unison. The wind also stripped most tress of their leaves before they had any color, or reached full color. The fall colors in those seasons were far and few between.
This year looked very promising – late summer rains not typical for us revitalized trees almost statewide. Strong northerly winds, which are common throughout the state, as cold fronts barrel across the state, seemed to be less harsh. We kept checking for color every week and things were looking good. It appeared the fall colors would peak at the end of October and into November. We started making our plans.
The drive to the lake and the campground looked real good – the leaves were already at around 30 – 40% in color! This particular area is heavily oak woodland with pecan, black walnut, hackberry, elm, ash, cottonwood, and a few maple trees scattered amongst the oak trees. The major colors are orange, yellow, warm greens, and muted browns. Blue skies and lakes can make these colors really, pop! We could not wait for sunrise.
Two problems arose with sunrise the next day – it was windy and there were no clouds in the sky. Okay, we will deal with that. Shutter priority would allow me to stop swaying of the trees and their leaves (which would cause blur). Shadows would be harsher with no clouds diffusing the sunlight. Faster shutter speeds would affect depth of field, especially using a polarizing or neutral density filter. A higher ISO would help solve the exposure problems, but I do not go over ISO 200 on landscapes because noise will invariably kill any details (such as leaves) in the image. But, sometimes its better to scout the area for a location that is out of the wind than it is to fight high winds and high noise levels.
That is what we did the first day. We looked for protected areas that offered color, or unique landscape opportunities. I was able to make a few landscape images, but we saw a pod of White Pelicans in a cove and decided to check them out. The pod of pelicans was actively feeding in the middle of the cove, too far for even the 600 mm lens. I watched them as they fished together as a unit. I noticed a pattern of individual birds gliding in to share in the feast so I carefully moved into position to get the light in my favor (as well as I could) but I had to settle on a left to right wind direction rather them having the wind coming from behind me.
Things were beginning to improve with the pod slowly moving closer, and more birds flying in to join the fray. I fired a few shots to check my exposure. I was ready, and the wait began. After a thirty minute wait a flock of three-four hundred Cormorants came sailing into the cove. I could hear their wing beats as they crossed in front of me. There were a few pelicans with them. They started to land further into the cove. After thirty minutes, the pelicans started to leave the Cormorants and slowly glide in to join the feeding pod of pelicans getting ever closer to me. As the birds came out of the cove they passed within range of the 600 mm lens, Birds land into the wind, and these big birds were much easier to track with the stiff head wind they were landing into. Things were looking good and then I heard the distant droll of a boat motor – a boat was moving into the cove and was surely going to spook the birds.
Once the boat got within a hundred yards of the pelicans, the birds took off. They flew further into the cove, but were out of range. The boat moved past me and went into the cove as well. Soon those Cormorants came flying out of the cove – all of them along with a few of the pelicans and some gulls. They did not stop, and disappeared from view. The pelicans eventually worked their way out of the cove – out of range. I was also out of time so we moved on.
Our camping area was beautiful. Stately trees adorned with fall colors filled the area. Virginia Creeper and Sumac offered a blaze of red here and there. I decided the afternoon shoot would be right here. Everything came together that afternoon except the wind kept blowing briskly. I got a few more nice images before sunset and called it a day. Tomorrow could be perfect.
Unfortunately, the wind blew all night without letting up until dawn. When I got to a spot I had planned to shoot from I saw that the leaves along the far shore were now naked! Sure there was still a lot of color, but this location was ruined.
Until next time – get out there and make some fall images!
“GLAMPING” In The Great Outdoors
First, I want to apologize for the overdue blogs. We have spent the last several months gearing up for this Fall’s photo excursions – with a twist! We decided to start camping again! You heard me correctly, camping. For those of you who know me well, you know that after many years of camping as a Boy Scout, with friends and family, and as a scout leader, my idea of camping became the closest hotel near my trailhead. I always enjoyed camping, but it had lost its luster for me at about age 35. I just needed that hot shower, warm bed, and a quick cup of coffee in the morning before going afield. Hotels offered peace and quiet, hot showers, flush toilets, a free breakfast, and other creature comforts camping just could not deliver. As we got older and older those comforts seemed even more important to us.
Now in my senior years, camping has for some reason beckoned me to return to tent camping. Why I do not know, but Lisa and I are glad we switched back. After tossing the subject out during our afternoon coffee one day, Lisa looked at me as if I had lost my mind. Camping? In a tent? I had to be kidding her, she said. I then set about explaining what “glamping” was, and how much more enjoyable it would be. I knew her two biggest concerns (as for most women) would be the bathrooms and beds. Then I showed Lisa a few videos of others (our age) glamping at their favorite locations. I told her I was ready to give it try if she was.
At this point I need to explain what “glamping” actually entails. Glamping is tent camping in a much more comfortable way – some say a more luxurious way. Glampers sleep on self-inflating air beds, use regular pillows, sheets, and blankets (or sleeping bags), have their own portable toilet – in a two-room utility tent which is also a shower on one side, use a fan, air conditioner, or heater as needed, cook in a microwave or a propane stove — get the idea? You do not have to rough it any more! We started investigating and found that not only could it work for us, it would be very economical.
What We Decided
We had to buy everything since we stopped camping thirty years ago – and sold or gave all of our gear away. Things have changed a lot in thirty years, too. I was in the sporting goods business for twenty years and I outfitted people to camp, backpack, and fish all over the world, so I knew about gear – at least back then. I was very experienced at camping, hiking, and backpacking since I had been doing those activities since i was a teenager. Lisa and I were both scout leaders for several years so we also had those experiences under our belts.
But as I said, today’s camping products, camp sites and associated gear are different than back then. The first two obstacles to overcome concerned bathrooms and sleeping arrangements. Number one concerns: Bathrooms – No pit toilets or latrines for her. No sleeping on the ground or uncomfortable cots. Those two concerns are no problem in today’s world of camping. First we purchased a queen size air bed (self-inflating). Then we purchased a portable toilet consisting of a bucket, seat/lid, and special waste bags. We tried these out and found they both worked quite well. Then we started looking for a tent. We settled on a ten person dark-rest, instant tent by Ozark Trails (Walmart’s brand). You are supposed to be able to set this tent up in five minutes – yeah right. The tent claimed to offer a very dark interior, dark enough to sleep during the day if you wanted to. This would be great for editing images during the day! Our tent also had a rain fly with two “Skylight” windows so we could see out if we wanted to. Having been a disliker of Walmart all of my adult life, I couldn’t wait to get the tent and see how “bad” it was. To my great surprise it appeared to be of very good quality. We decided to set it up in the backyard to check it out. Their claim that you could set it up in five minutes – wrong! It only took us a little over three minutes and that included a ground tarp and the rain fly! Note: We did not stake it down during this trial. That would have made it five minutes overall.
I have to admit the tent looked to be made well, and seemed sturdy. The seams were sealed, it had a bathtub bottom, the poles were steel, the zippers were good, and there are windows everywhere in this tent! The tent features excellent ventilation, and the window and door panels are easily and quickly stored. The tent has sewn in pockets for storing small items as well as a mesh storage unit you can place where you want. There is also a nylon panel so the tent can be divided into two rooms if desired. I can honestly say that it performed flawlessly on our first seven day trip, including winds up to forty miles per hour when a cold front came through. I found it remarkable that the tent did not flap, shimmy, or shake during this wind storm. We both slept very well on the queen size airbed.
Another item we purchased is a snap together rubber floor. This flooring is lightweight, easy to put together and also provides cushion and insulation. The insulation factor is very important as it acts as a thermal break from cold ground air. It is also very nice on bare feet!
I will post more about our camping and photography trips, since we have a few already planned. Look for more on our first trip soon!
Bees are impotent pollinat ors and much of the fear peope have of bees is unfounded.
I know, I know, most people do not care one bit about the difference between bees. They are just afraid of them, and after all a bee is a bee. Right? Wrong. Bees provide a vital service to the world, especially we humans. They are pollinators, and without pollinators, we would have no food because most crop plants need to be pollinated in order to produce, fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.
No one wants to be stung by a bee, especially those that are allergic to those stings! A sting can be life-threatening to some people if they cannot get medical assistance, or use an EpiPen. The first rule when bees are present is this: Don't swat at them. Remain calm and move back and away from them. The quickest way to get stung is to swat one with your hand! I have seen many people literally freak out and start flailing away at a bee that was simply flying by. Don't do that. Rule number two: Don't walk around barefooted when there is any kind of flowering plants underfoot such as clover, henbit, dandelions, and such. Step on a bee and I guarantee you will get stung. Better still, don’t walk around barefoot anywhere you may encounter bees! As a lifetime outdoorsman and naturalist I can give you this sound advice: Leave all wild creatures alone, and they will probably leave you alone.
Honeybees are the most social of the bees, and the most common found worldwide. For the purposes of this article, I am referring to honeybees found in North America. As social bees honeybees form colonies established by one egg-laying queen bee. Honeybees have a perennial life cycle.
Honeybees (wild honeybees) found in North America are from Europe. The European honeybees have undergone severe stress in recent years with thousands of wild bee hives dying off, or adult bees abandoning their hives and moving on to more suitable habitat. I am not a bee expert by any means, but I have learned a lot in my many years of collecting them when I was young, photographing them as a wildlife photographer, and learning to respect them.
Each honey bee colony has three distinct adult castes: egg-laying queens, male drones, and sterile female workers. Worker bees forage for food, build a well-constructed hive, care for the larvae and defend the colony from invaders. The sole job of drone bees is to mate with a queen during mating flights. After mating, drones die. Worker bees live for about six weeks, while queens can live for up to five years. The largest portion of a bee colony is made up of worker bees. Bee colonies can contain several thousand bees.
Honeybees can, and do sting. Normally non-aggressive, honeybees will attack if provoked, especially in defense of their hive. The workers will attack in mass to protect their hive. They will even chase an invader for over a hundred feet. A mass attack is caused by provocation and is an exception to the rule. However…
Killer Bees” arrived from South America to North America in 1985. They soon arrived in south Texas in 1990 “and have spread in all directions. Africanized bees are much more defensive and aggressive than other species of bees and react to disturbances (even noises) faster than other honey bees. They are capable of chasing you for a quarter of a mile (and are known to do so). Since 1957 there are 1,000 documented human deaths from Africanized bee attacks, with their victims receiving ten times the number of stings than from other honey bees. They have also killed unknown numbers of horses and other animals. They are not to be taken lightly.
The best defense against a bee attack is to be aware of your surroundings. Look for bee activity such as a swarm, bees flying in and out of trees, water meters, holes in a building, holes in the ground, or junk piles. Listen for the hum of a beehive. Bees have a defensive perimeter around their hive, and Africanized bees have a much larger perimeter. “Guard” bees will sometimes buzz you, or even bump into you. If you encounter these types of behavior leave the area immediately – the same way you came into the area. Here are a few more tips: don’t wear perfume, aftershave or other fragrant items such as hairspray. Wear light-colored clothing when hiking, biking, or jogging outside. Bees attack dark things. Be prepared for an encounter. Know what you are going to do, and where you are going to go if attacked.
If attacked here are some recommendations: RUN away. Healthy humans can outrun bees. Don’t stop until you are inside your car, home, tent, or another inside area. Cover your face and head. Use a large bandanna, head net, or pull your shirt up over your head if that is all you have. Stings to your body are not as painful or serious as stings to your face and eyes. People that have been attacked say the worst part was being stung on their face and eyes. If you receive more than ten stings seek medical help immediately.
Digger bees are non-social, solitary bees. They live in the ground with the female being the sole provider for her brood. While they are solitary nesters many females may choose to live close to one another. This is probably due to the habitat. Given the right habitat, there can be hundreds of individual nests in one area. Digger bees are important pollinators. Some are even plant-specific – such as the blueberry digger bee. Since many females sometimes choose to nest close together, during the mating season there can be swarms of male bees flying close to the ground in search of emerging females. Digger bees can sting but are typically non-aggressive bees. Again, provoking a bee, or walking around barefoot will get you stung if you step on one of these ground loving bees
Bumblebees are the most colorful and (to me) the most easily identified between the Digger, Carpenter, and Bumblebees. These bees are social bees and they nest underground most of the time, but occasionally nest in hollow trees. Bumblebees have a similar caste system as honeybees with one egg-laying queen, drones (males) and female worker bees. Bumblebees are also important pollinators. They are the only bees that are “buzz pollinators”. Many flowers and plants (including tomatoes) have their pollen deeply hidden in the anthers. Bumblebees grip these anthers tightly and use the wing muscles to rapidly vibrate their bodies, This causes the pollen to shoot out of the anthers and cover the bee's body. The bee then forms a waxy glob of the pollen and flies to the next flower. Many crop plants rely on buzz pollination.
Bumblebees have stingers and can sting, but they are usually docile unless provoked or their colony is threatened. I have never been stung by a Bumblebee (or any other bee for that matter), but I have been stung by wasps many times. The wasp stings were my own fault — I was either trying to catch one or, get rid of a nest! If you see bumblebees entering the ground or a cavity of some type, it is best to avoid the area if you can. These bees have an annual life cycle and do not nest in the same spot the following year (except by accident). If you have a nest in your yard that may be hazardous to you and your family it is best to have a professional remove them. But if possible, leave them alone and let them pollinate your, and your neighbor’s plants and flowers — they will be gone by fall.
Carpenter bees are important pollinators. They are often the only insects that pollinate a particular plant, such as the Maypop, or “passion flower”. Carpenter bees are also capable of pollinating tubular flowers that other insects can’t pollinate due to the depth of the tube. Overall they are considered to be an economic benefit (until they choose your house for a nest site) due to their status as pollinators.
The female does have a stinger but is usually docile, unless provoked or handled. Her purpose in life is to build a nest and lay her eggs. After laying her eggs, she dies. While these carpenter bees drill into wood, they do not eat the wood. The female drills the entrance hole into the wood and then turns ninety degrees and can drill about twelve inches the length of the wood. Damage by one bee is somewhat minimal, but subsequent generations and other females choosing to nest in the same area can cause considerable damage over a period of years. One of the best defenses against these bees is to keep wood painted or sealed with polyurethane. The lifecycle of these bees is one year.
The secret to my success: My “bird studio”. Check the is latest blog and learn how you can make gorgeous bird photos too.
It’s time to be bear aware. When you are in bear country you must be bears aware
Caught this Gray Catbird in the bird studio this morning. It is a new yard bird for us, and it was very cooperative - walking right up to me and posing for the camera.! He even got too close and I could not get focus on the big 600mm lens I was using. He appears to have "gapeworm," a parasite birds that eat worms can contract. It keeps them from closing their beak. I was told it can clear up on its w
A Bluebird returns to the nest box with a cricket to feed to her young ones. I love photographing these guys in our backyard.