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: Trip Planning

A bit of a circle

About 18 months ago I decided to give really small cameras a try.  I bought a Fuji X100s and rented the Fuji XE-1 along with two lenses.  I used that kit to photograph the Lost Coast, a story that has been one of my most popular ever and will be featured in a magazine this spring.  

While I enjoyed the size and weight of this kit, and felt the images were good, they still did not give me what I was personally looking for when my goal is to tell a story via the web and have the ability to print large.  At that time, I felt that the Fuji kit was nice, but just not up to the task, so I divested myself of the little X100s and moved on.

Fast forward to 2015, and one could argue that Fuji is on a roll, with big names jumping on their bandwagon and a host of my good friends signing up as well.  Since that Lost Coast trip I have seen one of my X100s images printed wall size by the wizards at Dugall which again reminded me that today's cameras have plenty of oomph to do just about anything we want of them.  

Still, I believe it is important to feel a connection to your gear, something that transcends simply taking photographs.  At least for me, this is an important element to my photography. So here we are, and I have now picked up a little Fuji X100T to be my 'grab' camera for my next two trips.  I have 3 weeks biking through Ireland, an environment full of spring time color and great old textures.  This will be a wonderful palette to play with the little Fuji.  Of course, it will not be my primary tool -- that task will belong to the Leica M240 and a 35/50 Summilux combination.  

Next, 2 days after returning from Ireland, I head to Alaska for 3 weeks of deep winter cycling through the barren AK interior.  A region known for white and shadows, dancing night lights and temperatures that will reach -30F at night.  An environment that is hostile towards people and electronics.  For that trip, I will again rely on the little X100T as a grab camera alongside my trusty Nikon D810.  

My last trip to Alaska I used a D800E for two months with much success.  I came back with images that to this day blow me away.  They have graced the covers of Salsa's catalogs; are all over their website; and are blown up life size in their traveling display.  The quality and image size of the D800 along with the large lithium batteries will be key to dealing with the environment of Alaska winter.  

This is not too say that a Fuji couldn't, but I am not prepared to make to big a jump as of yet.  So I consider these two trips as my attempt at dipping one of my toes back into the land of Fuji to see if the X series can appeal to my photographic needs.  Follow along as the X100T and its wireless capabilities should get a tremendous amount of action on my Instagram and Twitter feeds.  I will follow up after the trip with some of my thoughts on how this gear selection worked out and where I see myself going in the future.

Mirrorless updates - Going Light, final bits

It has been a while since I totally dedicated myself to traveling with just a mirrorless camera on a trip that I knew would have a great deal of photographic opportunity. For the upcoming Lost Coast trip, in an effort to go lighter and to do a more realistic evaluation I have chosen to fore-go the big Nikon/Zeiss gear and instead travel with a set of small cameras.  The Fuji X100s, the Fuji XE-1 and my small fun&gun Nikon V1. 

It will no doubt be interesting to see if this collection of cameras and lenses can provide me with the coverage and IQ that I typically require or even demand.  There has been much written in the blogo-sphere about people making the switch from DSLRs to Mirrorless cameras.  Well, I can say for a fact, as of right now, there is NO way I would make that a permanent switch -- It would require giving up way to much IQ for my purposes (The Nikon D800/Zeiss combo is simply incredible).  Instead, I choose to view these cameras as tools.  Each having a utility and a purpose along with pros and cons.  Weight and bulk typically versus IQ and focus speed/accuracy.

I wanted to go light on this trip and yet I still want a range of focal lengths.  I want something small, quick and relatively disposable (the Nikon V1) for my 'grab' camera and I want something with more meat, more flexibility, and yes, better IQ -- the X100s and the XE-1 paired with the 35 and 60.  I have always preferred the concept of two cameras with different focal lengths paired together over switching out lenses in the field.  Traveling in lightweight mode, it is simply not possible to carry two D800's, which is surely another great benefit to these small little cameras.

It will be a real life experiment with real life images and a real test to see how this all works out.  From a bulk standpoint they are collectively almost the size of my D800 with Zeiss lens.  From a risk standpoint, they are a fraction of the cost of that kit, which, having destroyed a few D3's on trips, is a relief. 

I have also added a few other bits to the kit, just to try and sort out a few answers for myself.  The RRS L plate for the X100s gives me a nice grip and a quality L plate all in one modular kit.  I have also added the Gorrilla Pod Focus unit mated to a RRS UL ball head.   New SanDisk memory cards and a manual cable release fill out the remaining parts. 

On a bike note, the Fargo has not arrived, so it will be the Ti Mukluk configured as lightweight as I could set it up.  My riding partners are going skinny and I am going Fat -- we will see how this all works out at the end.

Two days and counting so follow along, it is going to be a beautiful ride!!   

Trip Planning

One of the things I love most about upcoming trips is the planning process. What will the route be, what are the gear requirements, how am I going to carry what I need, and what camera gear is needed?  Early in the process I begin making lists, sorting through requirements and eventually bringing out the scale to insure that I have not gone overboard with the 'oh I could use that piece of kit' syndrome.

 My Gen 1 Fargo on the Oregon Coast

My Gen 1 Fargo on the Oregon Coast

Next month, I head to California to bike the lost coast.  A stretch of road, trail and beach that runs from the Oregon/California border down to the beautiful city of San Francisco.  I will ship my bike and gear out to Crescent city because their is simply no way to fly there on a plane big enough to carry all my kit.  I will hop from the east coast to San Francisco, meet up with my riding partners, Erik and Andrew, and then take one of those puddle jumpers up to our starting spot. 

 Camping amidst the giant redwoods

Camping amidst the giant redwoods

My goal for this 7 day trip, since it is short, and in the relative confines of civilization, is to go as light and fast as possible.  The exception to this could be my camera gear which largely rests on the issue of bringing the D800 and Zeiss lenses.  Over the next several weeks I will begin to share my process of planning, pairing and then packing.  This will be a SUL (Super Ultra Light) bikepacking trip for me, with a goal of coming in under 10 pounds for everything but food, water and cameras.  

Stay tuned as the Fall is about to get really fun! 

Four Days and Counting

Down to the wire as I rush to finalize my kit and begin the tedious process of packing.  The challenge is to twofold.  First leave nothing behind and second, maximize the amount of stuff that can go in the bike boxes.  For those of you that have never traveled with a Fat Bike, it is impossible to get a bike and two wheels into the same box.  Thus I have to use two boxes to get everything on the plane. 

With airlines being so stingy these days, I try and balance getting all of or most of my kit in the two boxes within the weight limit. The flight I booked allows for one of the boxes to travel free, so I will only have to pay for the second box.  I will use my HMG pack to carry gear that I absolutely can't afford to loose.  Things like my sleeping bag, cold weather clothes, cycling boots, etc. 

As part of my final prep, I have created a new section the site that contains two links.  The 'Where Am I' link will take to my satelite tracking page.  You can interact with the map by not only seeing my last known position, but also by requesting my current position.  This may take a bit to update as it actually sends a message to my device and then a location is returned.

The second link is to a Flickr gallery that I will be updating along with Facebook.  While I would prefer to just put images up on this site, the reality is that it is easier for me to bulk upload images to Flickr while on the road.  My workflow will include an Ipad Mini, my NEX & DSLR, and the Apple connection kit.  Using this kit, I can pull images from the camera's to the Ipad, edit them with Snapspeed and Luminance, and then upload to Flickr, FB, and tweet about them.

Now to go finish packing!  I hope you enjoy the journey.

Wolvhammers - Day 2

Ok, here we go, drum roll please..... These shoes rock.  Yes they are ridiculously priced; yes, if you did not get your order in already, your chances of finding them are dwindling by the day; and yes, if you can, but still haven't, definitely pull the trigger and get them.  I think they are going to be that good.

If you ride clipped and you ride in the winter, then you know that your choice of footwear has been severely limited.  For hardcore cold weather it has really been a one shoe show, the Lakes.  I rode the Lakes last year, and while they worked, I would not have used them in extremes.  For the really cold stuff, people were forced to be creative with home made outers to get those shoes working in really cold stuff. Top that off with the fact that they were narrow and really not comfortable to pedal in, and well, their was room for something new.

Enter 45Nrth and their Wolvhammer.  A winter boot designed for cyclists who want to ride in cold to extreme cold temps and conditions.  There are lots of detailed reviews on the shoes, so you can get all the specifics there.  I am hear to pass on my initial thoughts, along with some running dialogue as I get to know the shoes -- how they work as well as what they don't do well.  They are good, but they are not perfect.  Perhaps perfection will appear next year, but for now, these are the bomb.

Lumia 920_20121215_007.jpg

Today's ride was cold; 24 miles of hard trail in temps that started at 10 degrees and worked their way up to about 18, a bit more than 3 hours in the saddle.  All in all I would call those cold conditions, albeit not extreme.  Their was no snow today, no wind or any of those other things that come into play when talking about extreme temps. 

For my personal setup I am still playing with different layering strategies.  With these boots, I bought up one size and I think that was perfect.  I have plenty of room to run a liner plus a thin VBL and then an over sock.  There is also plenty of room to go the RBH way, and use a simple liner sock paired with their Vapr-Therm insulated VBL sock.  This sock combines 200 wt Polargaurd with a VBL barrier and an inner wicking liner all in one sock.  That is the combination that I chose to test out today.

From the start my feet and toes were comfortable and only got warmer as the ride progressed.  Yes the temps increased, as did my workload, which coupled with the warmth of the boot and the layers, had me feeling extremely comfortable.  For those temperatures I would say that I had too much on, and instead would next time use a liner paired with the Reed Aquatherm (VBL) socks and a mid weight wool oversock. The RBH Vapr-Therm socks are warm!

The good news is that I have no doubt that these shoes are very capable of going down into the negative zone.  How far down I don't know, but I believe that it will easily be to the -10 or -15 range.  I think below that may be problematic with either of the layering approaches above.  This leads me to what I consider to be a weakness of the shoe. 

In an attempt to create a boot that could deal with snow, 45Nrth made the upper part of the shoe very snug fitting.  What this means is that with typical thick wool socks, the kind that come up to your calf, you are going to have some challenges layering everything up and getting the zipper to close. As an example, while I can get a liner, a thin VBL, and an exped weight wool sock in the boot itself, with room for my toes to wiggle, I can't zip up the boot.  Another example is with the setup I used today, where I could not get my Craft pants inside of the boot and still have them zip up.  This meant I had to put the Crafts on the outside, which then meant I could not close up the ankle...  So, with the Lakes it was the footbed that was the limiting factor in layering, while in the Wolvhammers it is the ankle portion and the zipper.

So, like with all gear, especially gear for sport specific applications, there are compromises to be had and choices to be made.  My expedition socks and Craft pants were chosen before I had the Wolvhammers.  Obviously I would have preferred that everything work together as planned, but now I will have to revisit layering options as well as shell choices. I may even look at cutting down and then sewing some of my socks to eliminate the issues up to the calf.  That is not a zone I am typically cold in, but unfortunately most cold weather socks are bulky there.  Anyone know of options, bulky on the foot but tapered on the ankle?

With all of that said, I am stoked about these shoes.  I worked hard today on the ride, and hammered the flats and stood on the hills.  The boots are incredibly comfortable to pedal.  As they break in, I think they will only get more comfortable.  The feeling of my foot in the boot is warm, soft and comfortable. With the pull laces, you have the ability to easily snug the shoes up with lighter layers, or loosen them up when going thick.  Everything has big pull tabs for gloved operation, which is something that all winter gear should have.

Lumia 920_20121216_022.jpg

All in all I am incredibly excited about the boots.  More miles and conditions are needed, but for now I say get them if you can.  They are definitely worth the ching.

Trying new things

As the weather finally begins to dip below the freezing point I have been experimenting with new clothes that will keep me warm and dry in Alaska.  The two big areas of interest to me are my feet and my core.  For my feet, I have been experimenting with Reed Chillcheater wading socks as a Vapor Barrier Layer (VBL) and the Reed Chillcheater Transpire Fleece as a mid-layer.

While I have a set of RBH socks, which work fantastically, they are bulky.  The result of this bulk is that you are forced to move up at least one additional shoe size just to accommodate your VBL.  As a long time user of Reed gear for my kayaking exploits, I have always felt that their kit had direct applicability to other cold weather, high aerobic activities.  The Aquatherm layer is smooth and form fitting which makes for easy layering.  It is very warm, and definitely waterproof, something that is critical for overflow.  Because there is a fleece lining, it feels good on your skin and does not saturate through to the outer layer.

My initial testing with the socks as a VBL has been positive, although it has not been anywhere near cold enough for a proper evaluation.  Things that I immediately like are that they don't take up extra room in your boot and they are easily layered over.  The down side is they are form fitting and have 0 breath-ability.  On a long trip, you will need multiple sock liners because you are going to soak your liners each and every day.  The up side is liners of wool will easily dry out overnight.  My first ride in them, with the temps slightly below freezing was a success in terms of keeping my toes nice and warm.

The other two pieces of Reed kit that I am playing with are their Transpire Fleece socks and the Transpire Fleece zip top.  I love the socks, and imagine that they will definitely become a part of my AK kit.  I am still waiting on the colder weather, but I anticipate being able to layer them over the wading socks and under a mid weight wool sock.  The combination will give me a good deal of flexibility in insulation layers.  New Wolvahammers should be here in a day or two and I will see how it all plays together.

The Transpire Fleece top is a warm piece of kit, and really only usable on the bike in frigid temps.  It will be interesting to see how it works once I can really get out and use it.  Yesterday's ride was right at the freezing point and I simply wore the top with my Patagonia Houdini top and I was very comfortable.  The caveat is that I really was just out for a casual ride and my work load was minimal, thus no real sweating involved.  The two real weaknesses that I see are the overall temp rating and the fact that the zip is really too small.  The gold standard for zips is definitely the Patagonia R1 or C4 pieces, where that zip goes down to your belly button, which really allows you to vent off the heat.

More details to come as I play with the gear and sort out my cold weather gear.

Change of Plans

After much research and discussion with folks that live and ride up in Alaska, I have moved the dates of my winter Fat Bike expedition from Dec-Feb to Feb-March.  This will allow for more daylight (December has about 5-6 hrs a day) and somewhat less extreme temps.  The goal remains the same: fly in to Anchorage, put the Mukluk together, and go explore the wintery wonderland that is central Alaska.

This change will mean that I have some time to travel a bit in  December-January and possibly still put on the UL Winter Bikepacking/Bourbon/Craft Brewery trip that I had previously mentioned (Details in the works.).  The world of winter Fat is growing and there are some great events being put on in the US that I would love to attend.  Not the least of which is the Fat Bike Summit out in Idaho.  Wow, what a beautiful place to go cycle. If I can make the dates line up I hope to make it out there.

Cheers

Salsa Wide Racks

Well, after much debate I have decided that my trusty Porecelain Rocket 'Booster Rocket' seat bag is just not sufficient for this winter expedition.  It would be fine if I was racing, and even if I was traveling with others, but going solo this risks are just to great.  These risks can be mitigated by careful planning, on the fly risk management and carrying sufficient gear. 

The more I look at routes and potential temperature swings (-40F is freaking cold...) and I know that now is not the time to worry about being UL.  Instead, I will rely on all of my other Porcelain Rocket gear (Frame Bag, Winter Handlebar Bag, AC Bags, and a DIY concoction for camera gear), and I will augment this with a Salsa Fat Rack   for the Mukluk. This rack is totally bomber, able to stand up to the tough conditions, and help me to carry the necessary gear.  With a rear rack available to me I will use the space to carry a single large Dry bag with critical items as well as use its load carrying capabilities to strap on some essentials.  These will include additional fuel, my tripod, and an extra mat for sleeping warmth.

The rack should be here in a week or so and then I will begin the load out process.  I will still be attempting to minimize what I carry, as extra weight will just drag me down when I am pushing instead of riding.  Reading of some riders on the Iditarod Trail who claim in a normal year the push their bike upwards of 50-60 miles out of the 350 mile race.  Last year was insane, with massive amounts of snow, lots of pushing, and a good number of DNF racers.

Route Planning Update:

I am looking at a multitude of options right now, so everything is still in play.  Ideally I would like to hop off the plane, spend a day or two acclimating in Anchorage and then head out to Denali.  I plan to basecamp at Denali for a week or so and use this time to make sure my kit is working.  With this strategy, should their be an issue, I have the ability to take the train back to Anchorage or up to Fairbanks.  Should everything be good to go, I am toying with the idea of then cycling North to Fairbanks to get some Aurora Borealis exposures.  I realize it may be a bit early for this, and given the temps that they had last year, it may not even be practical, but that is my thinking. 

From there I can take the train back to Anchorage and do a major resupply before heading out on the Iditarod Trail. I am not sure how much of the trail is feasible for me, so right now I am focused on the section from Knik Lake to McGrath. This is the 350 mile section used by the Iditarod Ultrasport race and would give me some great insight into the trail and its history.  In a perfect world I would do the whole thing, all the way to Nome, but I am just not sure that is safe, let alone feasible. 

With all of this said, all of my plans will be loose so that I can maximize my time and my experiences.  In the end the goal is to have fun, push myself, and to explore one of the most amazing places on Earth.  Any opportunities to connect with locals would be fantastic and I am actively building a networking list.  If you have any suggestions please feel free to chime in.

Full on planning mode

After a great weekend of rough water paddling with Kayak Waveology and the Autumn Gales event I am now in full on planning for my winter expedition.  An attempt to travel the entire length of the Iditarod Trail on a Salsa Mukluk. 

Unlike many who travel this route, I am not racing and I am not looking to be fully self supported.  What do these two things really mean?  Well for starters I will have a time table, but it will be loose enough to allow me to document the trail, the people that live there and those that use it for recreational purposes.  The trail is legendary and the thought of coming back with video, imagery and words that help to tell the modern day tail of the Iditarod trail are exciting goals.

Secondly, while I will have no support teams, I am also not going to carry everything needed to carry me from start to finish.  Instead I will rely on mail drops, local services and the kindness of strangers to help fuel and heat my travels.

As for planning, I am currently working on two major issues.  First up is changes to my winter cycling kit that will allow me to safely navigate a region that regularly sees temperatures range from 30 degrees F to -40 degrees F.  Quite a wild temperature range for someone traveling by bike.  I have every intention of coming back with all of my digits so any help in this area is appreciated.  Last year my travels through Norway and the Chic Chocs taught me much, but you can never learn enough.

The second critical issue is working on resupply spots.  I am currently looking at the villages along the way and attempting to understand what resources are in place versus what I need to ship.  If you have some beta on these areas, your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Last up is your support.  I know many of you enjoy following my adventures and seeing my images.  I love the fact that I am able to share with you what I see and what I experience as I travel this beautiful world.  If you are able to help support my 2012 winter expedition, your donations would go along way in helping me to safely navigate the trail.  Donations can be made here.

More to come as the planning process evolves.

Lists, lists, lists

I am hoping to share the in depth process that I go through before each of my adventures begins.  I think that for many people, the daunting task of 'where do i begin' stops many folks from actually pushing through with their dreams.  My goal is to show that while it can be a bit daunting, there is no real rocket science in getting prepared. 

For me, the beginning stages of a trip are always a free form flow of thoughts that I put down in list form.  Over the course of several days, I focus on creating this list and not worrying about solutions; instead I am just trying to capture the world of potential.  Yesterday as I drove to the October Gales rough water kayaking event I created my first list. 

Here you go:

- Bike light
- Headlamp
- Batteries
- Base layer
- Booties
- Shelter (4 season v. UL)
- Navigation
- Comms
- Route
- Drop zones, Gen delivery
- Extending warmth
- Food
- Front or rear rack if I go with 4 season tent.  Salsa Minimalist Rack
- Contingency plans
- Exit strategies
- Soft shell/hard shell debate
- Rear rack v. Seatbag
- Water insulation
- Goggles
- Stove parts kit
- New saddle
- Memory cards
- Electronics
- Nex lens
- Wireless HD
- Charging?

This is just a random stream of thoughts, ideas, gear needs, perceived gear needs, questions in my mind and or real issues.  The list will grow and contract over the next week or two.  I will then set about sorting out what are actual issues and what are just random thoughts or perceived needs.  For my upcoming trip, I am trying to go with mostly existing kit, although their are a few things that I will need to add.  Feel free to chime in with questions, comments, or your thoughts as this list progresses.