Gear

Wandering is not hard, most of us do it quite easily. It is a fact though, that as you get older, wandering can be made more enjoyable with certain accessories as the necessities of age start to creep in. When you're younger, simple things like what you're going to sleep on or where to go to the bathroom at are seldom considerations for impromptu wandering; but when you are <ahem> "young at heart" (as they say...) life dictates new requirements for those who yearn to explore and experience. Fear Not! You have at your disposal a wanderer who is borderline lazy and has a distinct aversion to anything uncomfortable, so I will outline different items I have either found or made to make the journey as pleasant as possible and at a minimal expense. I hope you find something here that helps your Florida exploration enjoyable and exciting!

Camera - Nikon CoolPix L840

Nikon L840I was looking for a smaller, lighter camera that would carry easily and be affordable. Many times I would abscond with my daughter's Nikon D300, but not only is it a very heavy and large DSLR, but it is also very expensive, and I don't like risking a drop in bumpy crowds or any of a thousand other ways to destroy a camera. I resorted to my cell phone's camera, and while it takes pretty good photos, it is no substitute for a real camera. Enter the Nikon CoolPix L840.

I looked at many cameras before deciding to try this one, my preference being a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) system with interchangeable lenses. I found many of this type that were close (but above) my price range for the body, but lenses put it out of my reach. Even the bundle deals were more than I can really afford right now, so I looked toward the lower end models and found the L840.

Nikon L840It looked like it had the features I wanted, lightweight, small(ish), and although it has a fixed lens, it replicates a wide field which was actually more important to me than the enormously long telephoto it boasts, which by the way, is quite good and lives up to the marketing hype. I watched several Youtube reviews and the one thing that stuck out was the lack of user settings for aperture, shutter speed, etc,  but I thought I could live with it. The video was reported to be quite good as well. I decided to go for it.

As described, the L840 has a bit of a "plasticky" feel, which leaves the impression similar to holding a much cheaper camera, despite the more ergonomically favorable feel of a full size unit. The weight is definitely much lighter than the higher end D300, but still heavy enough that you feel like you're holding a real camera despite the acres of plastic. There is no optical viewfinder, images are previewed in the generously sized screen at the rear of the camera, which pivots in the vertical plane for overhead or lower shots. Because it does feel like a "real" camera, I found myself raising it up to my eye to look through the non-existent viewfinder more than once...though I've never done that with my phone camera. Freudian slip?

Nikon L840The minor character flaws are not any surprise given it's price point, and the L840 displays gorgeous picture quality. The zoom is downright ridiculous,  and the video is very good. It is easy to carry, and doesn't wear you out toting it around all day. This sounds like the perfect camera - right? Well...not entirely.

It was described in the reviews I saw as a good "entry level" camera. I never know exactly how to take statements such as this, since the term "entry level" can be so subjective. I have a better grasp of that now, as it applies to this camera. Being used to the D300, I am very accustomed to being able to manipulate nearly any camera setting possible and I didn't realize how spoiled I am on account of it. The L840 has at best, a very rudimentary adjustment menu with no user control over aperture or shutter speed.  It does offer several ISO sensitivities to choose from as well as a simplified offering of white balance and autofocus controls. It also has a small adjustment menu for video, and wi-fi connectivity, but only for smartphone devices.

Nikon L840I would say this camera is perfect for those new to photography who want a little more than just a point and shoot pocket camera. If you are looking for more professional features in a small package, the L840 comes up a bit short. I must say though, for the features it does have and the quality of photo it produces it is well worth the $200 price tag. Just don't expect too much from this one if you are used to a more professional camera and you won't be disappointed. Overall, I think I am satisfied with this little beast, it is easy to use, easy to carry, and takes great pictures without any fuss. Ok maybe it is the perfect camera. Remember: entry level!

A Camper's Dream

tentMy wife and kids love camping, and I mean real camping! No campers or hookups here. Its tents, campfire cooking and a favorite bush for when nature calls. I used to camp a lot when I was younger, but I've gotten very attached to air conditioning, food at the ready, and my own bathroom when I need it! I can certainly work around the first two, but the third is a deal breaker. Enter - the Mini Tent (or whatever you want to call it).

I purchased one of these off of Ebay for about 30 dollars, and its the best thing since sliced bread. You can probably find them easily as well at any outdoor outfitters (Cabelas, Bass Pro...).  It is a small footprint tent - about 30 inches square with no floor - that stands about six feet tall. Very light and compact, it folds into a small flat bag for transportation, and is spring-loaded to self-erect when released. What do we use that for you ask? Well check out this shiz! (pardon the pun...)

Most places we would camp at would be primitive camping - meaning no waste or electrical hookups and at best a row of porta-potties. When we claim our campsite, we discreetly put this little tent up behind our main compound. We bring along a clamshell post hole digger, and dig a hole as far down as we can inside the tent. Then set a plastic bucket inside that has the bottom cut pottyout and a foam noodle attached to the rim. Taa-Daa! Your very own personal porta-potty! As you use the potty, you kick some of the excavated dirt back into the hole to keep the smell down, or bring along a bag of pine or cedar shavings.  When you leave your campsite, fill in the hole with the dirt and give the bucket a quick rinse. A nice offering to the Camping Gods would be to plant a flower or tree in your "special spot" once you are done. The good karma might go a long way in case you get caught by the potty cops, who (rightly so) don't want a whole village of these things popping up. Public health must be taken into consideration. However, if you are in an area that has few facilities or not in a campground at all and your options are limited to a variety of bushes, then this is a Godsend!

Remember , don't go against any laws or authorities to use this, and always clean up after yourself - leave nothing but footprints. You will find that this little beauty will make camping oh so much more enjoyable!

More To Come!