Monday, June 28, 2010

Photo Contest,.....Judge?!

Yes I, a proclaimed canoeist was offered an opportunity to enter a
photo contest held by an instructional/guiding
kayak company!

As you can all pretty much guess, I don't leave for a canoe trip or any other outing for that matter without my camera gear. Rarely will you see any of my blog posts without photos. I believe they add so much more to the blog than just a ramble of words. Photos help to capture the wild unfettered imagination (which is not always a bad thing) and helps you to visualize either what exactly is taking place or what words cannot describe. Even though I take photos for myself to remember special moments of a trip, I also do so for my sponsors, publications, and the odd time photo contests.

I don't often end up in photos, but when I do, the camera is
usually with me or very close by.
Photo: Ben Albert

I don't really make it a priority to enter photo contests. I get the odd email from friends and family letting me know about them, but for the most part its last on my list of things to do. But occasionally I will depending on what the contest is about. Like when I was introduced to Dympna and James from at the Outdoor Adventure Show this spring. They are an amiable couple that were so easy to get along with. (Outdoor people usually are!) It was evident how they would be excellent instructors/guides for their kayaking company.

And of course when the camera is with me, I'm often found shooting.
But so do my paddling friends with cameras! Here they
decided to take a pic of my better side!!
(pay back time!!)
Photo: Dimitry Sapon

During the time we got to know each other, Dympna, who had already seen my photos and complimented me gave me one of their company's logo sticker and told me to enter their photo contest. (even though I don't have a kayak!) You simply have to have the sticker appear in the photo you take to enter. Simple enough. I already had ideas swirling in my head and was looking forward to it.

We kept in touch through email and I shared more photos with them from past canoe trips. It must have impressed them enough that one day they requested that I judge their photo contest. Wow! I was a bit shocked and flattered, but agreed to help them with the contest. (so much for my ideas for the contest!) In any case, I now get to judge a photo contest rather than being judged! How's that for a 180 degree turn!

Dympna and James from show how an effective
placement of the company's sticker can create an amazing
effective photo!! (to us devout canoeist!)
Photo: Al Hassabo

Well, do you want to enter?! First off, you need to get a hold of a logo sticker from them. Either email me or contact them directly. Then whenever you head into the big blue yonder, slap that sticker on wherever is most appropriate (like I said, APPROPRIATE!) and take that million dollar shot and submit it. You'll have until September before the contest closes which should be more than enough time to convince you to get out there, not just to take pictures, but to also enjoy time out paddling.

So the big question is, "What's the prize?!!" There needs to be some sort of "carrot" to get you out there taking pictures! The person with the ultimate winning photo will win a Werner kayak paddle. This is not just an ordinary paddle, it is one of Werner's top of the line paddle that is retailed for over $500!! (yes, holy crap!!) It is made entirely of carbon fiber and is not only super light weight but really tough as well. It has all the bells and whistles such as being ergonomically shaped and being totally adjustable. What more can you ask?! I know I know, it won't help the canoeist out there, but winning it might just be enough incentive to get you into a kayak. And who better to teach you than James and Dympna!

Sometimes luck and quick action can provide a moment for
a great photo op. Just have to be ready with a camera!

Here is some information that will help guide you as you take those amazing shots. Listed below is what I will be looking for and how I will judge in order of importance:

1) Relevance: The sticker plays a big part in the picture. It needs relevance. If you stick in on your arm and take a picture it is meaningless. But if it is on an arm and the muscles are bulging while taking a powerful stroke with a kayak paddle, that is relevance! Let me see how the sticker plays into the picture.

2) Creativity: Set your creative side loose and let your imagination take control. Have the picture paint a story, or have me wondering, guessing or questioning. And, a good sense of humour will not only be appreciated, but considered too!

3) Photography Skills: This is more the technical side of photography where I will look at things such as the subject being in focus, lighting, exposure and composition. As much as this area is important, I won't be too rigid here as long as the picture is decent. Remember, this is a fun photo contest. I expect the picture to be taken well, but not to perfection. (and if it is, all the better!)

Pictures can relay a lot, such as the above. Humour, creativity,
and questions all wrapped up together in a decent photo.
The only thing is to relate that with the sticker!

Well that's it folks! I look forward to seeing all those amazing photos from your various outings this summer. I usually try to inspire others through my photos, however I hope this time to be motivated and inspired by yours! Best of luck to you all! Happy paddling & shooting!

David and the crew from, Dympna and James

PS. Here the link to the photo contest page below:

Want to win these fancy Werner kayak paddles? Go ahead and enter
the photo contest and have fun shooting.
We certainly did, - or should I say, they did!!
Photo: Al Hassabo

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Best Deal in Town!

Yes, the subject matter refers to a lighter! Read on!

Now who doesn't leave for a canoe trip without a lighter?! Its almost like forgetting to take your paddle on a canoe trip! Okay, maybe not that bad since there are other fire starting devices out there. There's lightning!, (Neanderthal technology) fire bow and drill, (caveman technology) flint and steel, (Homo Sapien technology) matches, (advanced Homo Sapien technology) and then we hit the age of enlightenment and we get lighters! - those ubiquitous things on many outdoor outings that make starting fires so much easier. They are definitely very handy to have and convenient to use.

This is your standard refillable lighter.
No guff! Ho-hum.

One downside is when you run out of butane and you have to chuck it. (Like when you see spent ones lying around at a campsite! Argh!!) Not environmentally friendly until some brilliant person came along with the refillable lighter! Technology hasn't changed much with these gadgets over the years other than the child proof latches and the plethora of colours and designs. I've had my share of lighters on canoe trips which then changed when I got the refillable type. However, as most of us outdoorsy people know, once you have some wind, the lighters become pretty useless. (As does most other fire starting device!)

Now this is a state-of-the-art lighter! How
the heck would anyone know that?!

In this age of technology, there have been some advances to combat this problem, (I'm not talking about standing behind a wind block!!) - windproof lighters! The concept is simple, just force pressurized butane through a smaller nozzle so that when the stream of fuel is lit, you have something similar to a blow torch. The high pressure flame is then easily able to combat the wind. Do they work? The consensus seems to be mediocre at best. They are quite expensive, averaging maybe around $50 a piece so there is naturally a lot of expectation. When it works it definitely is better than a standard lighter, but there seemed to be lots of problems associated with them from leaky fuel, not staying lit, to not even lighting!! And we all know how important it is to be able to light a fire in the field!

This is the nozzle/head of your usual lighter. Click on
the picture to see it larger.

Initially it was something I was interested in and keen on getting, but like all new things, I often wait a while to see what the reviews are like. Needless to say, I decided to pass, or at least wait until something more reliable comes out. Well, one day I popped into a dollar store to pick up a few things. While waiting in line, I saw various lighters on the counter. I was curious about these particular ones and pulled one out to investigate. Opening the cap, I realized it looked a bit different from the usual typical lighters. I quickly fired it up and to my surprise was impressed by the force of the flame and its 'windproofness'! I quickly grabbed a couple, paid for them and left like I got the best deal in town! Once I was outside I tested it again to validate my find. I lit it and blew into the flame and found it didn't blow out! I did it several times and at varying distances and found it consistently stayed lit! Wow, I was blown away! (excuse the pun)

Hard to see but the nozzle opening is smaller and you have four
metal prongs that extend into the flame when lit.

Like the other expensive windproof lighters, the pressurized butane is forced through a narrow nozzle. What also helped this flame to stay lit was four metal prongs that was placed above the flame that glowed red hot and kept the flame from being extinguished. Brilliant! And like the "cherry on top", the lighter is also refillable! What's not to like about this windproof lighter for only $1!! Another test I did was click the lighter on in front of a fan (inches from the fan blades). I tried it with both speeds and found it not only lit but stayed on! (On the 2nd speed the flame was almost horizontal!) With a normal lighter the flame attempted to light as I saw a flicker of blue but didn't, whereas on the 2nd speed there wasn't even that! Impressive!

Look into the flame and you can see the four metal prongs
glowing white. The metal also turns the flame red.

So the other question is how does it work in the field? Well I've now used this lighter on several trips and found it to be very dependable and effective. Most of the conditions I found where normal lighters would easily blow out I found this one to work effectively. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure its not bullet proof but I've yet to have it blow out on me in the wind while lighting a fire. I have actually been able to blow the flame out either with a strong gust of focused air from my mouth (close to the flame) or strong consistent blows from my mouth that eventually cools the metal prongs and thus extinguishes the flame. However, I don't know how the air speed from my mouth equates in terms of wind speed, but I'd imagine if the conditions were that bad outside you probably shouldn't be lighting a fire anyways. (One pointer, once you click the flame on, wait till the prongs turn bright red before turning into the wind for more windproofness.)

Here's the typical flame of a normal lighter. Not much
pressure and easily blown out.

So needless to say, I am really impressed and very happy with this "gem of a find". I can't find a brand name for this lighter other than the "M" at the base of the lighter, (maybe Magic?!) but I'm sure if its at one dollar store it will definitely be at many others. (I bought mine at Dollarama) So if you are looking for a lighter, look no further! I guarantee you won't go wrong. Not to mention that you are only paying $1 and getting a steal! I hate to think about the companies that manufacture those expensive windproof lighters or those unlucky enough to buy one!! (oops!)

Happy Shopping! Don't blow your budget! ; )

This is what a highly pressurized flame looks like. And believe me,
it doesn't extinguish easily. All you canoeist out there, you
owe it to yourself to get one! Who doesn't
like a deal?!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Sponsors for 2010

Bending Branches will be providing several paddles to speed up
the long haul on big stretches of flat water when the
wind is not at my back.

Being involved in the paddling industry (presentations, shows, and with publications and sponsors) you get to meet lots of people and frequently make new contacts. Its great meeting fellow outdoor enthusiasts or even paddlers themselves that work as reps or are involved in sales and marketing. Just recently at the Outdoor Adventure Show, even though I've already met many prominent paddlers, I occasionally run into ones I still haven't met, - like Mark Scriver. He is one of Canada's best known whitewater paddler who co-wrote the book "Thrill of the Paddle" with Paul Mason. (And of course we all now who the Mason's are, right?! I'll forgive the non-paddlers that read this post!) We had a great conversation talking about canoes/trips and then left with a handshake and his business card. Its just even these brief encounters that make it all worthwhile! (And who knows where this association may lead too!)

Hooligan is a small Canadian company that is supplying me an
assortment of very rugged and tough paddling gear.
Essential for the many trips I plan to put
them through!

Known for their extremely tough whitewater paddles, Aqua-
Bound paddles with be a welcome addition to deal with
the extremely low water levels this year.

At the beginning of the year I always wonder what the new year holds for me in terms of canoe trips, experiences and opportunities. With canoe trips, you plan for it in advance and then hope for the best as sometimes weather, injuries, niece's birthday or even your paddling partner suddenly dropping out can make it a crap shoot. Experiences; well on a canoe trip it is as speculative as the stock market. Again dependent on things like route choice, partner, how many bears are hungry that year or even your luck! (Or is it the lack of?) However, opportunities are usually always good, such as solid dependable sponsors that support your sport and passion. Grateful to still have the support of many of my previous sponsors, I've also been fortunate enough to be signed on with a few new ones this year - AquaBound, Bending Branches, and Hooligan Gear. These companies will certainly be more dependable then some of my canoe trips, partners or even luck!

Salus has already saved my a** once in a hole so its nice
to have them aboard to keep me afloat!

Most people don't like wearing bug apparel, but all it takes is that
one time when putting it on helped you survive hell on
earth to truly appreciate it. Thanks for
keeping the bastards out!

My frequent excursions on canoe trips tend to work well with paddling gear companies as they get a combination of exposure, feedback, reviews and pictures. Especially when I push the limits of the paddling season or get myself into unusual predicaments. I believe its a synergistic relationship where we both get to benefit from this association. I'm truly lucky and grateful for these amazing relationships which has also meant some meaningful friendships as well. I am really looking forward to both working with these companies as well as putting their products to good use in the 2010 paddling season! There will be more to come as I will blog on the new gear being used and their reviews at the end of the season. I will also being using some new exciting tents this year from Eureka including a "paddle sock" sent to me to trial from Badger Paddles. So stay tuned, especially if you are prospecting for new paddling gear!

Eureka will provide quality tents to fend off the temperamental
weather including an assortment of gear that provides
creature comforts around camp.

An opportunity to trial a 'paddle sock' to
protect my paddle during its travel!

A big thanks to my new and enduring sponsors that trust I will survive another season of paddling adventures to eventually showcase their products! Now that's conviction! (What, you are not joining me on the canoe trip because of that baby shower!??!! - partners?!!)

Yeah right! They'd have to pay me to eat that stuff! I tried it
for the first time on a trip recently and despite giving
me calories, my body hasn't craved it since.
Coincidence?!! No thanks!