Cooky Jason’s June Recipe – Quesadillas

Quickin’ Quesadillas

As far as quick snacks go, you can’t get much simpler than the awesome quesadilla. In its most basic form it’s only two ingredients: a tortilla shell and cheese. And it takes about 3 minutes to make and costs less than a dollar. But obviously, we can’t just leave it at that. So let’s check out some simple variations. We’ll start with the simple version and go from there.quesadilla2

Major Players

One soft tortilla shell: You can pick up a package of these for only a few bucks. (Get the blue corn ones if you can find them. Trust me…)

Shredded cheese: Use ¾ cup for a standard size tortilla shell, 1 cup for a large one. I like to use sharp cheddar and shred my own because it’s cheaper. But sometimes buying shredded cheese is worth the convenience.

Heat a skillet over very low heat and lay in your tortilla. (Or heat the grill up to medium. Lightly coat each side of a tortilla shell with olive oil and salt.) Sprinkle in your cheese on only one half of the tortilla. Salt and pepper to taste and add a few pinches of garlic powder. Or scratch the regular salt and use garlic salt instead. Fold over the other half of the tortilla to make a half-circle. Give it about a minute per side and you’re in business.

Game Changer

Sautee ½ cup onions with ½ cup sliced mushrooms in 2 Tbsps olive oil. Also add in one finely diced dehydrated chipotle pepper (dried smoked jalapeño) with the seeds removed. You can find these at most grocery stores these days. They are not spicy-hot and have an amazing smoky flavor. Also add 2 Tbsps water to your skillet to help soften the chipotle. Let this go for about 4 minutes and remove from heat. When you add your cheese to the tortilla, add only half of it. Then spread your onion/mushroom/chipotle mixture evenly on top of the cheese, then add the other half of the cheese and fold over the other half of the tortilla. Again, we only need to go about a minute per side.

Additionally, how can we forget a little poultry? Marinate 2 to 3 chicken breasts in the juice of 3 limes, a Tbsp of chili powder, and about a half cup of olive oil for a couple hours, up to overnight. Drain and grill over medium heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes preside. Slice thinly and add to the tortillas between layers of cheese.

*Note: if you can’t find chipotles, feel free to use diced fresh jalapeño. There are endless variations you can do here. We can add tomatoes, bell peppers, fresh diced garlic, avocado slices, blah blah blah… You get the idea. You can even use store bought salsa or guacamole. The point is to get in there and try some things and find what you like. This whole process takes about 10 minutes for two quesadillas. These are perfect for that late night snack or serve them up at a party or at the campsite. Score.

Celestial Navigator – June 2015

How to Photograph the Moonjune-2015-full-moon

If you own a DSLR or a point and shootwith an optical zoom, I’m sure that every once in a while you see a beautiful moon and you think about taking a picture of it, especially when the moon is full and beautiful. There are other times when you spot a news announcement about a Lunar Eclipse and you think about capturing the moment, but do not know how to do it right. Or you want to capture the moon together with a foreground object such as a house or a lone tree, but the picture is not coming out right because the moon is much smaller and looks like a white blob. If you had any of these situations or simply want to find out how to take a picture of the moon with a digital camera, then this guide is for you.

1) Why does the moon look smaller in pictures?

Before we start talking about how to take a picture of the moon, let’s first answer some basic questions. I’m sure if you have already attempted to take a picture of the moon, you probably ran into a problem where the moon looks tiny in comparison to what you saw while taking the picture. Why does the moon get photographed so much smaller? The simple answer is – you are probably taking a picture of the moon with a wide-angle lens. Keep in mind that your eyes are like a 50mm fixed lens and if you are taking a picture with a wide-angle lens that is shorter than 50mm, the moon will be captured in smaller size! So, if you want to capture an object like a big tree or a house with the moon, you would need to stand further away and photograph the scene at least at 50mm to try to match what you saw with your eyes. And even at 50mm the moon might look smaller, especially if it was near the horizon when you took a picture of it. This also happens because of a phenomenon called “Moon Illusion“, where the moon appears bigger to your eyes, when in fact it is not.

2) Why do I see the moon as a white blob?

If you have taken a picture of the moon after sunset and it looked in the picture like a white circular object rather than the moon, it is because the moon was overexposed. When you take a picture of the moon with other objects around it (as in the example with a tree above), your camera by default will meter, or calculate the exposure, based on everything but the moon. This happens because the moon is too small in comparison with the objects around it and a single spot of light should not affect the overall exposure of the picture. Think of it as a light bulb – if you take a picture of a dimly lit room with a visible light bulb, the room will be exposed normally, while the light bulb will be overexposed. If the camera measured exposure on the light bulb, the room would be completely dark, while the light bulb is properly exposed. The same thing happens with the moon – it works just like the light bulb at night and it will always be overexposed. During the day, however, this is not a problem, because the amount of light coming from the moon would differ only slightly in comparison with the objects around it, including the sky. So, why do our eyes see everything normally, while a digital camera cannot? That’s because our eyes and our brain can see a much broader range of light. In photography terms, this is known as “dynamic range“.

3) Where and when to photograph the moon

Obviously, you should be taking a picture of the moon on a clear night with no clouds in the sky. Even a thin layer of clouds will make it impossible to get a clear picture of the moon, so absolutely make sure that the sky is clear. Pollution in large cities, especially in hot summer days will also play a big role, so I recommend getting out of town and traveling to a remote location with no light or air pollution, preferably at a higher elevation. The less the distance between you and the moon, the better the pictures. In terms of when to photograph the moon, take a look at this US Navy Moon Phases page, where you can find out what phase the moon is currently in and you can also calculate what it will be by picking the date from the bottom of the page. As for the time of the day – any time works, as long as the moon is visible.

4) Required equipment – Camera and Lens

  1. A DSLR camera with a 200mm+ telephoto lens or a point and shoot camera that has an optical zoom capability.
  2. A stable tripod.
  3. Remote camera trigger (optional). If you do not have one, a timer in your camera will also work

If you want to enlarge the moon and show the details of the moon surface, a good telephoto lens longer than 200mm is almost required. The longer the lens, the better. If you have a telephoto lens that can take teleconverters, I highly recommend adding a teleconverter to increase the overall focal length. For example, a 1.4x teleconverter will increase the focal length of a 300mm lens by 40% or to 420mm total, while a 2.0x teleconverter will increase the focal length of the same lens to 600mm. The only thing to keep in mind, is that teleconverters negatively impact image quality and decrease the maximum aperture of the lens, so if you had a 300mm f/4 lens, it would essentially become a 420mm f/5.6 lens (which is not that big of a deal, because you will be using higher apertures for moon photography anyway). As the focal length is increased, camera shake can also become a big problem. At long focal lengths of 300mm and above, even a slight move can screw up the picture. That’s why if you are using a telephoto lens, a stable tripod is required to be able to produce a sharp image of the moon. Having a remote camera trigger also helps reduce the camera shake and if you have a Mirror Lock Up (MLU) feature in your camera, you can almost completely eliminate all vibrations.

The best setup for moon photography is an astro-telescope with a camera mount. Basically, you mount a digital camera to a telescope, which works as a long telephoto lens. But those setups can get very expensive and are suited best for dedicated astrophotography.

5) How to photograph just the moon

To photograph just the moon by itself, without any objects in the foreground, you will need a long telephoto lens like explained above to magnify the moon and try to fill as much of the frame as possible. Even with a good telephoto lens setup though, you will most likely be cropping the final image, simply because only a telescope would be able to provide enough magnification to fill the entire frame. With your telephoto lens mounted in your camera, secure it on a tripod and point at the moon. Make sure that your tripod is good and stable enough to accommodate and hold your lens and your camera. When it comes to shutter speedaperture and ISO, here is what I recommend for general use:

  1. Camera Mode: Set your camera mode to full Manual Mode.
  2. ISO: Set your ISO to 100 if you have a Canon DSLRand to 200 if you have a Nikon DSLR (basically, whatever base ISO you have in your camera). For most other brands, the base ISO is also 100. If you have a point and shoot camera, see if you can find a menu setting to set your ISO to 100. Make sure “Auto ISO” is turned Off.
  3. Aperture: Set your aperture to f/11.
  4. Shutter Speed: Set your shutter speed to 1/125 on cameras with base ISO 100, and to 1/250 on Nikon DSLRswith base ISO 200.
  5. Lens Focus: Set your lens to manual focus(either through a switch on the lens or on the camera) and set your focus to infinity. Be careful while setting the focus to infinity, as some lenses allow focusing beyond infinity. On more advanced DSLRs such as Nikon D300, there is a handy feature called “live-view with contrast detect”, which can accurately acquire focus on distant objects. I have used it many times for my moon photography and it works great! If you do not have such a feature in your camera, then try setting your lens to the center of the infinity sign, then take a picture and see if it came out sharp by zooming in the rear LCD of the camera.

Examples:
Nikon D90 DSLR: ISO 200, Aperture f/11, Shutter Speed 1/250.
Canon EOS Rebel XSi: ISO 100, Aperture f/11, Shutter Speed 1/125.

The above aperture and shutter speeds are derived from a Sunny f/11 rule, which is not necessarily very accurate for moon photography. I recommend starting with the above settings and adjusting the shutter speed based on the brightness of the moon. If it is too bright, set your shutter speed to a higher value. If it is too dim, set your shutter speed to a lower value. You can also play with aperture, but be careful, as changing the aperture to a small number can actually soften the image, while increasing the aperture to a very high number would mean slower shutter speeds. Remember, the moon moves pretty fast, so you definitely do not want to be photographing it with a slow shutter speed (certainly not below 1/100 of a second), especially when using a long telephoto lens.

Another thing I recommend doing is bracketing your shots. When I was taking a picture of the full moon, I noticed that some parts of the moon came out overexposed, while other parts were underexposed. I couldn’t get a perfect shot to properly expose all areas of the moon, so I decided to try taking multiple shots of the moon, then merging them into HDR in Photoshop. To my surprise, the result turned out to be better than expected – the first image in this article was done that way. If you do not want to do an HDR of the moon, I still recommend to bracket the exposures – in worst case scenario, you will keep the best photo and delete the rest.

Lastly, for those who have long telephoto lenses longer than 400mm, you might be able to use “Aperture Priority” mode instead of “Manual“, as long as you set your metering to spot metering. At 400mm and above, the moon fills enough of the frame to be able to use modes other than manual.

6) Why photograph the moon?

So, why would one want to photograph the moon? I was asked this question several times before and my answer is simple – because we only have one moon and it is beautiful, so why not? The moon also makes the otherwise boring night sky look more interesting and can add a sense of enigma to a picture. While photographing the moon by itself might be somewhat boring, including the moon as an element of composition can yield great results. In addition, there are moon phases (crescent to full) that give even more opportunities for various compositions. And lastly, why not experiment with something new and learn how to photograph bright objects at night? It is definitely a lot of fun, so get out and shoot some moon pics! 🙂

June Calendar of Night Sky Events

  • June 2Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 16:19 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Strawberry Moon because it signaled the time of year to gather ripening fruit. It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season. This moon has also been known as the Full Rose Moon and the Full Honey Moon.
  • June 6Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Venus reaches greatest eastern elongation of 45.4 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the bright planet in the western sky after sunset.
  • June 16New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 14:05 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • June 21June Solstice. The June solstice occurs at 16:38 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • June 24Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 22.5 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.
*excerpts from photographylife.com and seasky.org

The Gear Doctor – June 2015

The Gear Doctor

E-Z Tent Pole Repair

Have you ever been in your cozy sleeping bag, and heard that dreaded and sudden “snap”?   If it’s late at night in a windstorm, this can be a big problem if you’re not prepared.  Here are some tips for an easy way to fix broken poles on your tent.

Aluminum Repair Sleeve

Campmor.com, or any camping/outdoor store carries these in the Camping Dept.  They run about $5 or so.  The sleeve looks like a 6” tube.  It can be placed over the broken part of the tent pole like a splint, and taped into place.  This is a temporary fix, but it works well in an emergency situation.  When you arrive back home, be sure to get the pole fixed properly.  One place you can send the pole to is Tent Pole Technologies in Seattle (360-260-9527), where they will fix the pole for about $15 and ship it back to you.

 Tent Stakes

The stakes you used to guy out your lines or stake the tent make excellent “splints” for the tent pole, if you do not have a pole sleeve.  Additionally, long metal tools can substitute as a splint, such as a screwdriver or small wrench.  These can be placed along the broken edge of the pole and taped sturdily.  Wrapping string around the taped splint will reinforce the strength.

When all else fails, use a strong piece of a branch and follow the same instructions.

 Shock Cord

What happens if the shock cord inside the pole has snapped?  It’s not the end of the world….here’s an easy fix!

Find the two ends of the cord and slide them through the two pole pieces and ferrule tips.  These are the small metal pieces that cap off the tent pole.  Be sure to have equal tension on each side.  Usually, there will be tiny washers inside the ferrules that are tied to the cord end.  Untie them and use them on the new cord to keep the cord from popping through the ferrule.  If there are no washers, tie a large double knot in the end on each side.

You won’t want to place undue stress on a tent that has a splinted pole.  Try not to stake out the guy lines too tightly or the splint may break.  Remember, this is a temporary fix and the splinted pole should never be used again.  Get the pole fixed as quickly as possible.   Below are 3 suggestions for repairing your pole:

1. Contact info for Tentpole Technologies:  (360) 260-9527

2. You can try calling the manufacturer of the tent to see if they have replacement poles for sale.  This is especially great if your tent is under warranty, although many times pole damage is not covered unless the tent was completely and properly set up.

3. Local Camping Store is where you can drop off broken poles and damaged equipment, and they will ship it out to a vendor for repair.

That’s it!  You’ll become your own Gear Doctor in no time!!  Until then, stay tuned for the next issue of The Gear Doctor for more tips on fix-its, camping essentials, and fun ideas.

Happy Camping!

Anita the PahaQueen

We are very pleased to have Anita Hudson Easton back on our writing staff as author of our monthly Gear Doctor.  Anita is a 30 year veteran of the Outdoor Industry and is an expert in the design, manufacturing, care and maintenance of outdoor gear!

 

 

 

 

Camping Ideas to Fit Your Schedule and Budget

With warmer weather now upon us, it is time to make some awesome camping memories! What are your plans to get outdoors this month?  If you can’t decide, here are three ideas that just might help get you camping!

It really comes down to time and money.  Too much of one or too little of the other throws everything off balance.  In an ideal world, we would have enough of both to work when we want and play when we want.  Even with constraints however, here are three ways to get outdoors on any schedule or budget.

1.  BACKCOUNTRY   There’s lots of it around, even if you live in a big city.  Here in San Diego for example, it is only a 2 hour drive to total isolation in the mountains or deserts. As a kid growing up in Ohio near Cleveland, we always found plenty of State Park land that allowed us to get lost for a day or two.  On a budget, tired of crowded campgrounds or long lines?  Grab a map and find your nearest State Park, National Forest, or if you live in the west – BLM lands. All offer the opportunity to explore, escape, and get away from crowds. However, if you plan to backcountry camp, you may need extra time for travel and exploring, therefore proper planning is key.  Without resources nearby, if you forget something, you will most likely have to do without.

2.  LOCAL CAMPGROUNDS   Local areas to camp make sneaking in a quick trip easy on any schedule.  With most campgrounds hosting  a store, you never need to do without. With restroom facilities and other amenities, most campgrounds make camping easy and enjoyable.  And many offer activities such as fishing, bike riding, and hiking trails.  Check before going to make sure they have vacancy, and to scout out the most preferable sites. Whether it is a County, State, or privately owned campground, YELP is a great place to start checking reviews of the campgrounds nearest you.

3.  BACKYARD  When backcountry is not an option, and campgrounds are booked, there is always the backyard.  This is ideal, especially when there are kids involved.  Who says you have to be in the middle of nowhere to enjoy the night sky, or to spend a night sleeping in your tent or camping trailer?  As an old boat owner, I always liked to say that the best sailing I ever did was in the dock.  Same with camping – sometimes the best place to go is nowhere.  Have a longer trip planned for later in the year?  This is also a great way to check and test your gear beforehand.  Turn off the TV, leave the phone on the kitchen counter, and head out.  To your backyard.  No reservation required!