Friday, May 30, 2014

Adventures at Rattlesnake Bar & Folsom Lake

The river called. The call is the thundering rumble of distant rapids, the intimate roar of white water . . . a primeval summons to primordial values. — (John Craighead, Naturalist Magazine (Autumn 1965)
  Where the North Fork of the American River flows into Folsom Lake is one of my favorite spots to paddle. At the far northern end of Folsom Lake State Recreational Area, Rattlesnake Bar is a little out of the way.  It is off the highway and down a winding road to the lake access. Because of the current drought, getting on the water is inconvenient.  Last time I was there, the boat ramp gate was locked, leading to a long  portage to the water. 
 Nevertheless, once on the water those troubles drifted away. The water was calm, flat and suited for touring. It's spellbinding to explore the towering rock formations and coves of the lake shore.  At  Mormon Ravine, if conditions are right, the water is boiling. Discharges from the nearby pump house have turned the mild stream into a rocky watercourse just right for surfing.
  The guys from Bayside Adventure Sports and I were lucky one evening to catch a flow release into the ravine. We tested our skills enjoying that thrill of whitewater before heading back home on the peaceful lake.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Action Cam

Over Folsom Lake in the golden hour
 Your adventure is not an adventure anymore unless you chronicle it with photos or video. Today's cameras and social media give us instant results to seeing and sharing our favorite spots and shots. Here are some tips to make your sure your biking, hiking, paddling and day-at-the-beach pictures shine on the social media pages.

Golden Hour
 Time of day makes a difference in capturing photos. The first or last hours of sunlight can produce  quality results for picture taking. Photographers refer to it as the "Golden Hour". Those early morning sunrises or evening sunsets provide wonderful light to create a mood for dazzle. What do photographers call the mid-day light of harsh shadows? Lunch time.

Available Light 
 Good lighting always makes good pictures. Front lit, with the sun behind the photographer, usually tends to make blue skies and scenic colors, but also can lead to harsh light on faces. Shooting into the sun, will cause the subject to be in the shadows against a bright background. A remedy, use your flash to fill in the shadows.
Paddling and pictures with the sun to your back.

 Back in my newspaper photography days,  people would look at my camera gear and say, "That camera must take some good pictures."
 The camera was a good one but the real trick is composing the photo and seeing the picture before you press the button. I look for simple images and clutter free backgrounds. Ansel Adams said it simple, "A good photograph is knowing where to stand."

Stay tight
 Fill the frame with the action. War photographer Bob Capa said "If your pictures aren't good enough, then your not close enough." A good action photo, will draws us into the the intensity of the sport. The closer you are to the action, the closer the viewer will be too. Hopefully you are only one shooting.

Right on top of the action on the Wolf River.

Panoramic Vistas
 You wouldn't think about going to Lake Superior, Yosemite or the Grand Canyon without bringing back a photo. Stay away from the traditional and create your own unique perspective.
"One reason that I love photography," wrote Minnesota photographer Bryan Hansel, " Is that it combines many different engaging elements, including some of my favorite aspects of life: curiosity, creativity, math, science and imagination."
 Something to think about while searching out your big picture.

Paddling across Lake Superior. this time the place is the star.

Waterproof & Floaty
 If you are into water sports you might look into a waterproof camera. There are many out there on the market with technology and durability in mind.  Attach a float strap to keep your camera from sinking if it gets away from you. I watched helplessly one summer day as my camera slipped out my hand, bounced on the bow of the kayak and into the Red River.  It is small investment to keep your camera from plunging to the bottom of lake or river.

Making a video on the Otter Tail River.

GoPro Video Tips
 You have all seen those static shots on Y-Tube. The camera is locked down with one long segment,   making thrilling video dull when it runs to long. When I'm working on my kayak videos I place the camera all around my boat to get different angles. For other shots, I  position the camera on rock to get video of my kayak paddling through the frame. GoPro has plenty of cool attachments to mount the camera anywhere.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Kayaking Fargo, Red River Reminiscence

Urban paddle through downtown Fargo and Moorhead

 The city of Fargo has been all the news this past year. It has a new hit TV series that shares it's name. ESPN College Game Day came to town for a visit last fall,  and it received rave reviews from the national media about it's urban trendy downtown nightclubs, restaurants and bars. It seems, Fargo is cool. After living and raising a family there for quite awhile it nice to see it get some positive attention. But, for me, the best part is it's river.

 Slicing through the communities of Fargo and it's next door neighbor, Moorhead, Minn,  is the Red  River of the North. This slow motion friend doesn't seem to be in a hurry at all.  It meanders 550 miles from it's source in Breckenridge, Minn all the way to Lake Winnipeg in Canada. In one of the world's flattest places,  the river can pick and chose it's own way.  There are not many straight lines in this waterway. In some places along the river, Minnesota is on west bank, while North Dakota is to the east. Moving very slowly and sloping at just a half-foot per mile, any beginner can navigate this river easily.

Sunset on the Red River.

 Kayaking or canoeing has never been so easy. Along with the cities' parks departments, the Riverkeepers, a non profit organization established to protect and preserve the integrity and natural environment of the river in the Fargo-Moorhead area, have developed several access points along the river. Two favorites are located above and below the Midtown Dam in Dike East Park. The dam has been retrofitted with a rocky slope. Fishermen hang out here daily during the summer months.
 From here one can paddle either north through the center of the cites to get views of the skylines and  bridges, or go south towards Lindenwood park to escape the bustle.
  It is hard to believe this is an urban paddle as one winds and weaves around with the stream. Willow, cottonwood and box elder trees cradle the river at each bend. In either direction don't be surprised to see beaver, river otters and white tailed deer. It feels like a trip into the wilderness.
 Of course in other places, one can tell they are in a city.  The sounds of traffic and train horn echo off the water. The music of a jazz guitar floats down from a riverside venue or the Oak Grove High School Band plays it's fight song at it's football field near to the river. It is always good to remember pizza or a glass of wine are minutes away after the kayaks are loaded up. 

Kayaking only stops when the Red River is frozen.
 One of the more popular events on the river is the annual Race the Red kayak and canoe race sponsored by the Riverkeepers.  Each year area paddlers come to challenge skills, raise money for Riverkeepers and have fun. The race features a 10 mile competitive race and a 2 mile fun paddle. The race begins at the Lindenwood Park bike bridge and ends down stream at the floating bridge above the Midtown Dam. This year's race is slated for June 9, 2014. For more information log on to

Lining up for the race.

Debbie and Nick after placing in last year's race.
 I'm now part of the Red River's history. I'm sure no one in recent times had paddle up and down it so much. It's muddy looking waters, ever changing direction and rumble of it's dams still call and always will. I have seen picturesque sunrises and sunsets,  cool morning mists and tranquil snow falls at each bend. I have enjoyed time with family and friends floating on the river as well as solo trips of solitude. The river was a wonderful friend in my journey of life.

Paddling the Red River.