Glenn Charles

AERIAL | TRAVEL | LIFE-STYLE

Photographer/Videographer specializing in Life Style, Travel, and Aerial Imagery.  FAA 107 Certified for sUAS flight operations throughout the US.  Fully insured.  Videography work is limited to Aerial productions.

Based in Maine (May-December) and SWFL (Jan - April). Available for travel year round.

Filtering by Category: Musings

London Adventure Show

I have a small image gallery of cool bikes and bike gear over on my Flickr page that I saw at the London Adventure Show this past week.  There were some amazing bikes, like the Salsa Mukluk; cool lighting systems, like those from Exposure; innovative folding bikes from Pacific; and beautiful eye candy from Chris King; and more carbon bikes than I care to think about.

I have had the luxury of using the Exposure lights and can tell you they are amazing.  I will be adding more of these to my kit for the upcoming winter bike expeditions and will be doing an entire write up on how amazing this kit is.  If you look at the picture of the Exposure Six Pack mounted on the Salsa Mukluk you will see they make a perfect match for one another.

Lastly, cameras, cameras, cameras... This is such a crazy time for photographers, especially those who travel and travel light.  I have been using my NEX-5 for the past year and it has really served me well.  To remember what life was like behind a DSLR, I borrowed a Nikon D300s and mounted a vintage Nikon 50 1.8, MF lens and shot away. 

Two things really hit me.  First was just how much I prefer looking through a viewfinder.  It is a way of seeing that just connects my brain to my eye and then to the camera.  I really do miss that connection.  Second, well one word, Brokeh.  Boy do I love shooting shallow depth of field and seeing what comes out.  It is amazing how the character of a lens, shot at shallow depth of field with interesting light, can create art out of nothing.  The tire shot is a great example, with both the foreground and background deeply blurred, leaving nothing but some of the tread in focus. 

Wow, now I have a real problem and I pity my friend who may have a hard time getting his D300s back. I have been patiently waiting to see if the NEX-7 solves this problem for me, but the delays in distribution have made me really second guess my desire to stick with the NEX line.  Great camera but there are other options.  I think in a perfect world I would switch to the Nikon V1 for my portable setup, and augment that with a used D700 or even a used D3s.  This would provide me an ultra-light alternative capable of capturing stills, video, and some action -- and a more robust solution for landscape and heavy duty sports/wildlife imagery. 

Time will tell how this all plays out, for now, off to buy a lottery ticket and see what happens.

Riding the English Fields

Cycling at dusk across the English fields

Fargo rests in front of a very old churchIt was a great opportunity to get out on the bike and have a break from the holiday festivities.  Richard and I took an hour or so to go out and simply play in the mud.  It seems as if everything here is wet and the trails through the English fields were no different.  Richard was able to borrow a mountain bike while I rode the Salsa Fargo.  Unfortunately for me, I still had slicks on the bike, so it was an exercise in patience and balance as I slipped my may along the trails. 

Once again, the ride reinforced how great a bike the Fargo actually is.  I have now had my bike on just about every single type of surface, from road to sand, and dirt to mud, and all the while the bike just keeps on going... 

I head out today in hopes of finding some fat tires suitable for the trip to Scotland on January 2nd.  The route will be loosely defined per my normal style of micro-adventure. Packing will be my nominal ultra-light Salsa Fargo bike-packing kit with a bunch of loaner gear thrown in for good measure. This will be the first time that I get to make use of my complete Porcelain Rocket bags, which I will happily report on after the trip. The climate will range from mild and dry to cool and damp and ending in high altitude cold and snow.  This makes packing a bit of a challenge especially when using a bike-packing setup.

As for my plans, well I love nothing more than setting out with a very rough set of goals and then seeing where the path takes me.  Who will I meet?  What sights will I see?  What challenges will present themselves?  What gifts will appear?  All combined, these are the things that make micro-adventures so very worthwhile.

The Art of Living Simply - A new dialogue

The Art of Living Simply

You have attained great success in all phases of your life. Academically, financially and in your career. You have all of the things that you could ever wished for. Things, power, money, and more things dominate your life and your definition of success and happiness. You can buy what you want, go where you want, and do or obtain everything that you want, and yet what you want the most, true happiness, escapes you. The quest to find pure happiness avoids you, creating an endless cycle of highs and lows.

 

The Art of Living Simply is about breaking these bonds that keep you tied to the old way of thinking and doing. It is about how True Happiness can be achieved, not by doing and acquiring more, but instead by simplifying all that surrounds you. In the 21st century, we have been sold a bill of goods that all of us pursued as the 'de-facto' way to live our lives. We went to school, were challenged at an early age to succeed, then on to college, family, careers, possessions, debt, money, power, etc. This was the path we believed would lead us to personal Nirvana, the path that we believed would bring us personal happiness and fulfillment. We were told and taught that if we successfully followed this path that happiness would be found, and this is exactly what you did. You were an over achiever, easily crossing off the master list of 'To Do's', succeeding at school, career, money, and power. And yet, here we sit in the year 2011 with personal health and happiness at an all time low. What went wrong, how can this be, you did all that you were told to do, but it was never enough.

 

The disconnect between the two, achieving what we set out to achieve while still feeling an overwhelming sense of personal angst, is at the core of our 21st century lives. As a society we are living lives that have more stress than ever; we have lost touch with our natural environment; our health is in decline; and we are more miserable than ever! Our new quest must be to restructure our lives in a way that allows us to enjoy that which is truly important, to help us find true and LASTING happiness through the Art of Living Simply.

The Life of a Vagabond

I have been thinking about this word quite a bit these days because I seem to be getting asked quite often "where am I from?". Intuitively I recognize that this is one of those almost unconscious questions that we ask strangers in a veiled attempt to find some commonality with those that we don't know.  Needless to say, for 3 years now I have struggled with how to answer the question and it has only gotten worse of late. 

As you may know, for a little more than 3 years now I have been homeless, living the life of a travelling, expeditions, photographing vagabond.  And yet, when this question is asked of me I struggle with how to answer.  You see, people can't quite grasp the concept that I truly don't have a home.  It is often after a bit of back and forth that we settle on an answer which revolves around where I was born, where I went to high school and where I raised my children.  The answer has nothing to do with 'Where I am From' but it does seem to minimize the sense of angst that is plastered all over the questioners face. In the end, I think they feel somewhat satisfied, and yet not.  For me, these conversations happen on a daily basis so I rarely give them a second thought.

That is until today, when I sat in the living room talking to my friend Amy about 'where & what next'.  You see, that is the second most asked question of those living a Vagabond life; where are you going next or what are you doing next? These questions always elicit a smile and a giggle from me because I often don't know the answers to them, although I always have ideas.  Yes, I think about what is next, where I might go, what I might do, but those that know me best know that I never really decide until the bitter end.  But today, as I was going through this dialogue, attempting to list out my options or potential plans, it hit me that for almost 3 years I have managed to live this type of life.  That THIS type of life, for me, is no longer abnormal, it just is.

I don't know if that makes sense to you, but for me this was sort of a profound moment. The moment where I recognized consciously that my 'abnormal' life, was now my 'normal' life.  What does that actually mean?  Well, it means that I no longer spend any anxious time thinking about my situation.  I no longer devote any real brain power to the questions that originally dominated my thought process.  Questions like "How will I survive?"; "What will I do?"; "Where will I sleep?"; "How in the hell is this going to work!!".  Nope, now those are all gone, replaced by the peacefulness that surrounds knowing that all is as it should be; knowing that the patch I am creating is the path I am supposed to be on; Knowing that perfection exists in this imperfect world that I am living and that is just fine with me.

So, where will I go next? What will I do next?  How will it all work out?... The answer is I don't know, and that is just fine with me, because I have faith that everything IS as it should be?

Peace -

 

 

 

Time flies by

As I try and balance my down time with making a few dollars and keeping myself active I find that my writing time has dwindled.  It is disconcerting to me that I have found myself out of balance, even though it is self induced.  My gear has reached the critical state of disrepair with virtually no cold weather clothing and severely damaged photography equipment.  The fact is that if I don't replace some of this gear then I will not be able to continue with my grand adventure, especially my plans for 2012. 

The consequence of this decision is that I am now on the other side of the coin, working more than travelling or adventuring.  This has most definitely thrown me for a loop, and put my whole spiritual and physical being in a perpetual state of 'off balance'.  My writing has dwindled, my exercise has dwindled, and my body feels totally at odds with itself.  The situation is nothing if not ironic. The good news is that I am using the time as a constant learning exercise in how to apply what I have learned on the road and in solitude to what most people would call a more normal lifestyle.  One of my goals has always been to speak to groups about my experience and my life lessons, and being on the other side will help with that endeavor.

Satelite image of reversing falls and the downstream disturbanceAll is not lost however, as I was able to paddle with my buddies from New England this past weekend.  A group of 16 or so Kayakers descended on the area for training in the complicated waters of the Canadian Maritimes.  I was able to secure a day off and join them as they paddled the reversing falls. This is a tidal overflow area that sits between a mainland point and an Island.  The incoming and outgoing tidal rush creates a overfall that switches direction with the change of tide.  The area is known for its massive rush of water, huge whirlpools, large eddy lines, boils and just plain insane waters.  Our group used the area as both a playground and a training exercise, both planned and unplanned.  It was indeed an epic day of paddling.

I am now actively working on my remaining travel plans for the year as well as my two large adventures for 2012.  My goal is still to paddle the entire Sea of Cortez (Baja), as well as make my Fat Tire Bike - Packraft attempt up the Alaska coastline.  Details on both of these adventures will continue to emerge over the coming weeks.  I also shot a tremendous amount of video over the past 6 months that I currently am unable to process.  I am optimistic that I will find the time and disc space needed to edit and post more of what I shot.

Finding balance and peace amidst the chaos is never an easy task, and while I struggle, it is all good.  The path must always be built, one moment at a time.  Learning to not focus on the future, but instead on the now, is what living in the NOW is all about.  I am simply learning to practice what I preach.

P&L

Last day on the coast

My last day on the Pacific coast was spent with my good friend Andrea playing at Cannon beach.  Andrea was on a task to do another photo shoot involving biking and the ocean, to which I gladly agreed to play model.  After riding around the beach and the surf in my 'STEEL' Fargo I realized that might not have been such a good idea.  I quickly found a place to hose off the bike and hope for the best since several of my water bottle mounts are not in use, thus exposing the inside of the frame to dangerous salt water.  See, just one more reason to get a Ti Fargo :-)

Fargo does the beach

I get on the right side of the cameraAndrea does her thing, while I pedal the surfCannonn Beach

Street Photography

I have enjoyed the last week in Portland, riding, sampling some food & beer, tasting the Pinots, but most importantly really enjoying the biking culture.  To say that Portland is a biking mecca is truly an understatement.  While the weather has not been the greatest, I have enjoyed roaming the streets, taking pictures, and drinking too much fine espresso.  Here are some of my favorite images from the past week.

Track stand on a Dahon

Riding in the Columbia River Gorge

Bicycle rush hour

A rare day of sun, playing in the fountains

Rain stops no biker in Portland

 


 

Reality Check

I arrived in Portland Oregon about a week ago and it has been a whirlwind 7 days, especially when you take into account the simple life I have been living.  The first couple of days I was introduced to this beautiful city and some of its finer things.  A cool bar scene with great micro brews; a wonderful food culture with awesome restaurants; and lastly the very eclectic food cart scene.  All in all I would say my senses were in stimulus overload.  Good food, some nice wine, city riding and friendship all conspired to shake my senses and dizzy my mind.  To say I was slightly overwhelmed is definitely an understatement.

Since I am a glutton for punishment, I then hopped on a plain to Chicago to see my daughter graduate from Law School.  The hustle and bustle of Chicago is always both beautiful and overwhelming to me.  It was a joy to see family and watch my daughter successfully complete another milestone in her life, however, by the end of 2 days I was ready to return to the relative calm and peaceful energy of the Pacific North West. A 3:00 AM wakeup call and early walk to the L, got my senses really stimulated as I experienced a bit of Chicago night life all while walking a sleep and caffeine deprived state of mind.

I must admit that years ago I was getting tired of traveling by plane and now I just have no desire whatsoever to deal with that chaos.  Everyone rushing and stressed out is such a stark contrast to the quiet solitude of my current existence.  It was good to navigate the airways and make it back to Portland with no travel issues other than the extreme sensory overload of being around that many people.

Back in Portland I am continuing to enjoy the city, its people and its wonderful culture.  It is so nice to be able to navigate an entire city by bike and have the necessary amenities to make it easy and safe.  While Portland has some biking issues that are a result of the mixing of cars and bikes, it is by far the nicest bike city I have had the pleasure of visiting. I am going to spend the next couple of days here relaxing and exploring before I get back out on the trail.  I have been able to fix some of my bike issues and replace some of the broken gear, although I am still without a working sleeping pad solution.  My new ultra-light setup is finally coming together and it looks like I have resolved my tire issue once and for all.

The Pacific North West is really a special place and I am excited to explore a bit more of the region before heading to points unknown.  I am currently behind in getting images and video on-line due to some hard drive issues, aka, I need a new one and can't afford it yet, so be patient and eventually I will get it all sorted out. I have also started to do mini personal videos which I hope will give everyone a more intimate connection to my travels and what life is really like on the trail.  Stay tuned!

Peace -

What to do when the path is blocked?

 

This is a great philosophical question, and more than not, a very real metaphor for how we percieve our current life situation.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the philosophical question as it relates to your life and the path your are currently travelling. 

We all encounter times  that are challenging, times where we feel to our core, that the path ahead of us is filled with obstacles we think can't be overcome. One of my favorite songs has a lyric that goes "we all fall down", it is a lyric that reminds me that nothing in life is perfect, lest we make it so. 

The blocked path may be perceived as a problem or an insurmountable issue, but perhaps it is a gift?  I have my own thoughts but would love to hear yours.  Lets have a discussion about clearing the path of our lives; how would things look if we perceived everything as perfection, and obstacles as true gifts.  The mind shift that would occur is life changing and truly transformational.

Your thoughts?

Texas Hill Country

Well, leaving Austin TX I knew that I was in for some tough times.  The route from Florida to Austin had been largely flat with nothing more than a few hills thrown in, certainly nothing to very difficult.  After all, I had made it that far on a single speed, and while it was tough, it was not impossible.  Well, leaving Austin that all changed.  Simply getting out of town was a challenge for someone not used to vertical climbs.  It was a good thing that I was able to add gears or I would still be back within shouting distance of town.

As the days progressed, the hills got bigger and the scenery even more beautiful.  The people of the hill country have been spectacular.  For whatever reason, Texas has some different land rights issues, and thus every piece of land is fenced, and I do mean every piece.  This creates a whole set of challenges for finding a small patch of un-fenced woods to set up a tent.  Luckily, I have found people in towns that were more than happy to let me camp in their back yards, thus easing the burden of camping. 

The last two days, travelling down route 39 and the Guadelope river and then routes 55 and farm road 334 have been simply spectacular.  The climbs getting there were gruesome, with near vertical ascents in three places, but luckily Newton got it right and what goes up must come down.  The grade down from the peaks as I work my way towards Del Rio have been amazing.  The weather has been overcast in the morning, but the afternoon and evenings have been full of sun. 

Last night as the sun set over the distant mountains and the near full moon shown down I was reminded why I love to adventure travel so much.  It was simply a magical moment and one that I won't soon forget.

The Bike Around America image gallery has been updated with more pictures, so please enjoy!

Human Powered Transportation

Wabi Sabi in essence is all about simplicity and beauty in that which already exists.  For me, human powered transportation is at the core of my living simply.  Over the past 2 years, my choice of transportation has been by kayak and water.  The feel of my kayak gliding over calm and rough waters is ingrained in my soul.  I can close my eyes and feel the paddles entering and exiting, the glide of the boat, the drips of water as the paddle makes it's exit.   There is nothing like the perfect paddle stroke, one that enters perfectly, results in a strong pull with no cavitation and then exits with just a few silent drips of water.  Agh, I can feel it right now, it is a very zen like experience, especially on calm flat water where feedback is instantaneously felt.

The lure of human powered transportation is strong for many; it is liberating in its simplicity.  It empowers us to reconnect with our natural element, whether that is kayaking in the ocean or lakes, or biking through the city to work or the country side and the hills.  The health and well being benefits of stepping away from your car and powering yourself are many.  People physically feel better when they are moving themselves from point A to point B under their own power.  Pedaling a bike, an object which has changed very little in its basic form, is seeing a huge renaissance throughout the world and in the U.S. As we move into an age of alternative fuels and mass transportation, more and more people are choosing the bike as a viable way of transportation. 

There was a time when the bike was a major mode of transportation through our towns and cities.  With the advent of cars and the urbanization of America, many places became unfriendly for bikes.  While travelling from home to the grocery store was perfectly fine in your car, there were no bike lanes or paths that were suitable for the average biker to make the same trip.  Luckily, as we move through this renaissance, cities and towns are spending money to once again make the bike a viable and safe way to travel. States are passing laws that afford cyclists with the appropriate protections from cars;  cities and towns are working to make biking safer and easier within the confines of areas not typically bike friendly.  If it was easy and if it was safe, wouldn't more of us prefer to hop on a bike and peddle to the local grocery store.  How many gallons of oil would be saved by just this simple choice?

My upcoming Bike Around America will be all about promoting the path of simplicity and human powered transportation.  I will strive to get out the message that as a society and as a people, we must return to a life lived more simply.  That in order for us to survive and to prosper, we must take a few steps backwards and reconnect with a simpler way of living.  I am not promoting that we eliminate the automobile or give up our modern day conveniences, but instead make rationale steps that offer a better balance between where we are today and where we need to be in the future. The planet is under such duress and we as a people are so stressed, that this path towards simplicity offers to many rewards to ignore. 

Living a life of Wabi Sabi, of simplicity, allows us to focus on what we have and what is around us.  The more we engage our natural environment, through human powered transportation, the more we will be willing to protect it.  The more we realize how nice it is to bike through the hills and the country side, the more we will think twice about the destruction of wetlands to put in 6 lane highways that lead to no-where.  The more we paddle on a pristine body of water, the more we will care about the industrial waste that is bled into our lakes an streams killing the fish and grasses. 

It is all connected, and it all matters!  Driving through this world at breakneck speed in the bubble of the 21st century automobile, it has become to easy for us to get disconnected from that which is important.  Stepping back and stepping out, we can recognize that there are alternatives, and there are choices to be made.  There is another way, one that offers a bit more hope for us and for the planet.  Step outside, hop on a bike, smell the fresh air and connect with the natural world around you.  Mother earth needs our help and you can make a difference. 

Wabi Sabi Your Life and feel the power of making a difference.