Sunday, April 29, 2012

A night in April

Finally I got away on an overnighter again, although a fairly short one. April has mostly been spent with a flu, not allowing any strenous outdoor exercises. But this time the weather seemed fine and I felt good enough to give it a try.

I started at 18:30 from my backyard. The bike was packed with only the necessary stuff for one night and only a single sandwich for the evening and some coffee for the morning. No stove, but instead I took a thermos bottle with hot water.

Riding my local trails...

... before arriving at the 24 km road section.

There is still not much spring green,  only the early spring flowers like the liverwort.

Arriving at the trail that should lead to my planned camp site.

Bushwacking. The map showed probable sparse forest and fairly even terrain, but the reality was different. After a while I turned back, since this was no shortcut. A half hour was then spent looking for the tripod that was lost during the bushwacking.

The sunset was coming closer and I still wasn't sure about the campsite. I continued to the trail I had seen on the map. It was supposed to lead close to a nice spot with a good view of a bog opening up right in the direction of the sunrise. Unfortunately, the trail was overgrown and it was not possible to ride or even walk on it, so I had to choose another spot.

A while after the sunset I arrived at another spot and set up the tarp, after having ridden about three hours. I bought the cheap Alpkit Rig 7 tarp earlier this year and this was the first time I used it. I don't see this becoming my main shelter, since a month from now the bugs will be out and the Tarptent Double Rainbow will be my main shelter, but a tarp has other uses as well. And it proved to be worth it over the simple bivy bag this time, since there was a little rainfall during the night.

The evening was clear and nice. Most birds went silent when it got dark, but the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) with its peculiar sound, held out a lot longer.

The night was quite silent, though through the night I heard the characteristic sound of the Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) flying over me. A couple of times I woke to some light rain showers and there was also some wind, but I had pitched the tarp in the right direction to give good shelter from the wind. It started to get light around five in the morning, with the sunrise being a little before six. The birds started to sing when it got light and I could hear the usual species. Nothing special, though. A few cranes arrived just as I got up around sunrise and I could also hear black grouses lekking.

Morning coffee. Coffee was my only breakfast this time, since I wanted to assess my fitness by riding with a good energy deficit.

Under the tarp.

At seven o'clock I started to ride.

Storm damaged on the trail.

A big one.

The Vajosuo bog looks even more depressing in black and white.

Turning back home, a ride on mostly roads.

After a while the I could feel my energy level bottoming out and for the last hour I was a zombie. The fairly strong headwind didn't make it any easier, either. I arrived home a little before eleven. Though this was a somewhat unrealistic test, since you still need some amount of carbohydrates to keep the fat metabolism going, I still feel that my fitness has taken a big hit during this winter, because of a lots of flus and almost no skiing due to the frostbitten toe.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Since I was out searching for spring a month ago, things have changed. When the spring seemed to be well on its way in the end of March, the winter struck back. Quite hard, in fact, with cold temperatures and snowfall. For a two or three weeks the spring did hardly advance at all. The birds returning from the south found themselves in difficult conditions and seemed a bit out of place.

Then spring arrived. The temperatures started to rise, but the winter made one more try. Four days ago this is what I encountered on my ride to work.

Today we had the first real spring day with a temperature of 15 C. I went for a slow ride, taking it easy after a nasty flu, to enjoy the warmth and the feeling of spring.

There are still some spots of snow and ice, but they are becoming increasingly rare.

The Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) is one of the earlier spring birds.

The ice is finally gone from the lakes, making it possible for the birds to return.

While riding along a forest trail, I encounter a couple of very curious Great Tits (Parus major). I decided to get off the bike and follow them for a while. The Great Tit is one of the birds that stays here the entire winter, bringing at least some life to the otherwise quiet winter forest.

The Christmas storm is still very visible in the forest.

The Coldsfoot is still the most common flower.

Small Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis urticae). Nice.

This one has survived the winter quite well. The colors are a little paler, but otherwise it seems to be in good shape. The one in the picture above has lost a small part of its left rear wing.

Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa).

Liverwort (Hepatica nobilis)

Now, this was more a nature stroll than a bicycle ride, but there is nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Camera support for video

For photography I have three different tripods for different purposes. The smallest one is a GorillaPod that holds a compact system camera with a big zoom, but not much else. It can be wrapped around branches and narrow tree trunks, which makes it quite versatile. The next one is a small Slik Sprint Mini II GM, which is stable when extended up to 1 meter, but not much more. I've used it quite a lot, and this is the one I bring when going out for a bike ride. Trying to attach some sort of pan head would be too much, though. My big tripod is an ancient Manfrotto 055C with a Slik Pro Ballhead 800. This combination is much too big and heavy to be transported any longer distances with a bike or by foot.

For videography I'm considering a panning head, though I don't know which one yet. It would also be used with the bird spotting scope, which I have used with the Ballhead 800 for now. The panning head would have to be light (and not too expensive), since I don't plan to use any heavy equipment with it. A long term purchase would also be a new big tripod, which in practice would have to be of carbon fibre to be light enough for me. I doubt that I can afford it soon, though.

For video shots not taken on a tripod I bought the CamCaddie, but it turned out to be a small disappointment for me. It didn't provide any additional stability over my monopod, a Slik Monopod 350 EX, while being a lot less versatile. For the most part the video below is filmed with the camera on a monopod (no image stabilization) with only a few static parts on a tripod:

I think this monopod technique is very usable and with some practice I should also get better at it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Early spring overnighter video

I made a short video from the overnighter with the seven year old son a week ago:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Early spring overnighter

The younger boy, just turned seven, wanted to go out for an overnighter during the winter. We had problems finding a suitable time slot, though, with all sorts of other events and occasionally too cold weather. Of course, it would have been possible to sleep in the backyard, but that is not the same thing. The winter turned to spring and then back, and suddenly suitable weather was forecasted. A temperature of -6C seemed like the perfect conditions for this.

I live next to a forest of about 2 square kilometers, so it would be perfectly possible to still do an overnighter very close to home, but since the weather forecast promised a nice morning I wanted to go to a place with a nice view eastwards. We got going slightly late, but since sunset was at 20:15 this caused no problems.

Looking at the planned tent place on the opposite side of the lake.

The higher route.

The sun had already set, but there was still plenty of light.

Haunisten allas. This is very close to the city and the tent spot was just 1.5 km from a large shopping center.

It is as fun as always to throw stones in the lake, though the ice prevented any proper splash.

Just a short bit left.

The tent is up. The Tarptent Double Rainbow is roomy enough for me and one child.

Getting darker.

And then came the night.

The night was actually surprisingly quiet for being this close to the city. Around six in the morning some amount of noise from the traffic started to be heard. We woke some time before sunrise, which was around seven in the morning.

The breakfast consisted of sandwhiches, hot chokolate and coffee (for me) made from water in a thermos bottle.

Indeed a nice morning.

The temperature was the forecasted -6C.

First test of my properly named new ultralight (250 g) summer down jacket.

There is always something to do while daddy takes down the tent.

We got started around eight o'clock. It was still a very nice crisp morning.

Checking the thickness of the ice.

Not much snow left, but many ice formations were found.

We were in no hurry and were done walking a little over nine o'clock.

A nice short overnighter that was much appreciated by my seven year old son.