Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Searching for Sponsors

This is a picture of me this morning, after completing my usual 3-mile walk. As you can see, it's raining. What you can't see is that it's 32.1ºF. I actually have a plan -- I have a photo in mind that will require hiking in the rain -- in case you think I'm nuts for walking in the close-to-freezing rain. Of course, I'd be walking in it anyway -- even without a plan -- so maybe I am nuts.

Anyway, for anyone that still checks on this blog, I'm alive and well and still enjoying retirement. Most of my "work" time is spent on the Photography Park project. The rest of the time I'm "working" on doing exactly what I want to do. At the risk of repeating myself, I highly recommend retirement. Make sure yours is a good one.

My colleague on the Photography Park project wanted me to give him some ideas about possible sponsors. We all know how I avoid commercialism so this is a struggle for me. But, I recognize that a project of this magnitude will take money. A lot of money. And it will have to come from somewhere. We could do the Rockefeller/Acadia thing -- any billionaire could take care of the project alone. A single corporate sponsor could do it too. I hear Apple is doing really well these days. But I figure it will be a combination of efforts like most projects. A little money here, a little money there. So, let's jump in.

In order to commit outdoor photography, you have to get outdoors. And you have to stay outdoors. Usually at sunrise and sunset. Let's see what we have so far. I drove my 2000 Chevy Silverado to the lake this morning. It could have been a 2015 Toyota or Land Rover. My truck has a Leer camper shell on it. You wouldn't believe how much junk (props, tools, rafts) I haul around in the bed. Don't tell anybody but I have a pair of Leatherman pruners I carry around on occasion to cut off a small limb that might be ruining my picture. Okay, I've got a vehicle, camper top and pruners. (Admit it, you didn't think about pruner manufacturers as a sponsor for outdoor photography.)

I arrived at my usual photography location this morning at my usual time -- one hour before sunrise. Cue the flashlight sponsors. I have this cool piece of swag from Browning I got when I bought the Leer camper top (Browning Edition) for the truck. It's a rechargable flashlight with a car charger. It still works after 15 years. That's what I call a nice piece of swag. (By the way, I still use the fleece vest Browning gave away with the camper top too.) But back to the flashlights. My favorite one is a giveaway my wife bought for her charity organization. It's one of those little keychain LED flashlights. In that she had a lot of them, I keep one in the pocket of every outdoor jacket I own. Another piece of swag might be the best flashlight yet. It's a ink pen with a small LED flashlight built into the end. It's perfect for shining on the camera in the dark when I'm trying to find a seldom-used button. It's bright enough to see by but doesn't blast away your night vision. Hmmm, three freebies. Not many sponsors there. But I do have an Energizer headlamp in the truck. I just haven't gotten around to testing it yet.

I think I mentioned it was cold this morning. There has to be a wealth of sponsors there. I was wearing FoxRiver sock liners with Wigwam Ultimax socks. Today's thermals were from Duofold. I have more long underwear than is seemly for a Southerner. I've got silkies from GearGuide, Capilene from Patagonia and even a pair of expedition-weight thermals from somebody-or-other. (REI?) What can I say? I like winter in the South. My daily working uniform always includes Propper BDU pants (military-type cargo pants) and a t-shirt; short sleeve in the summer and long sleeve in winter. Yes, I am aware of the dangers of cotton in the cold. I'm not headed for the backcountry, I live in the South and I need a shirt pocket for glasses and a flashlight pen. (Hmmm, eye glasses sponsor for photography. I almost missed that one.) Believe it or not, on most days, I wear an old zip-up hoodie from Old Navy. I don't know how I wound up with an Old Navy anything but I've had it long enough that all the edges are frayed. It has to get seriously cold (teens) before I'll consider wearing a true winter coat. Because when it comes to staying warm, really, it's all about that base (layer). (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Staying dry is another thing. That's an L.L. Bean rain outfit I was wearing this morning. I keep it in my camera bag (I use LowePro bags) for the obvious reason but also because it blocks the wind and provides warmth. It's become one of my favorite pieces of gear (despite the problematic zippers.) Today's hiking boots are from Irish Setter. So far I've worn out a pair of L. L. Bean's, Wolverine's and Merrill's. I have a pair of Danner's already for the summer. I'm hoping they will be "the one". I don't really like trying new stuff but I wear out a pair of boots every 6 months walking on asphalt and there seems to be some law that says you can't make an affordable, size-14 (sometimes 15) walking boot.

I guess by now you've noticed the fingerless wool gloves. When all else fails, wool works. I've been researching this problem for the last few weeks: When you're walking in the cold rain, there doesn't seem to be a good solution for gloves. I normally wear a pair of LowePro photographer's gloves but they're knit gloves (with little nubs for gripping) and they aren't water (or wind) proof. If you stick your hands in the pockets of the rain suit, water drips down your sleeves into the pockets and the next thing you know, you're getting wet. (Yes, that cotton t-shirt does act like a wick and draws water into places you'd rather not get wet.)

I decided to put wool to the test today and just let it get wet. In the picture you'll see I'm carrying a stick (no sponsors for a dog-deterrent-dirt-scratching-exercise stick) I like to swing around to keep my arms moving while I walk. Keep in mind, I've had these wool gloves for ages. The gloves are soaked. They're so soaked I could literally wring water out of them. My fingertips aren't protected in any way and I'm swinging this stick around for an hour or two in the 32º weather. I was never uncomfortable. I was shocked at how warm my hands stayed. Here's why I was shocked.

As soon as I was finished walking, I decided to make this picture. That involves getting a wet, metal tripod set up with an umbrella attached and putting a metal camera on top of it, fiddling around with the switches and taking the picture(s). Everything is fine still. But while the camera is out, I figured I'd try to get a decent picture or two. In 10 minutes, my fingers that operate the camera are numb. That's what I am used to. Evidently, bare metal has the ability to suck the warmth out of your fingers beyond that of wood, water and cold air. Which makes me very, very interested in this product:

SealSkinz Ultra Grip Gloves

As you can see (if you click on the link), these gloves are made in the United Kingdom (where they know a few things about being cold and wet). If they really have cracked the code and have made a waterproof, windproof, stretch-knit glove that's thin enough to operate a camera with them on, I'll buy a pair. Even if they are 50 bucks (or so). And I bet a bunch of other photographers would too. Until then, I'll keep carrying around a couple of packs of HotHands.

Well, that should cover enough sponsor opportunities for today. We'll probably save the actual camera gear advice for the Photography Park's web site. (Coming Soon!) I suspect I'll still blog here from time. I might even tell you about the bluetooth headset I'm listening to while I took this picture, the iPhone I'm using, the ap I use for podcasts and even the playlist I was listening to this morning. (One of which was MarketPlace with this union story.) Y'all be careful out there.

Don Brown
February 24, 2015

Sunday, February 08, 2015