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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

When It Goes Wrong


Hit By Lightning • Hydrate! • Bad Rocky Mountain High • Sooooo Cold • Lost Going To The Devils Postpile• Bugs In The Amazon • All Images Lost

...The Rocky Mountain High That Could Kill You
Altitude sickness can be another great challenge for outdoor photographers. It typically occurs above 8,000 feet, but I’ve seen its effects at lower altitudes on older folk or those with heart issues. Don’t underestimate the effects of altitude sickness: They range from headache (also a symptom of dehydration) to fatigue, dizziness, light-headedness, disorientation, shortness of breath and rapid pulse to life-threatening pulmonary or cerebral edema. Always allow yourself time to adjust gradually to higher altitudes; if you experience symptoms, limit your activity and return to a lower elevation immediately.

...The Summer Day It Was Sooooo Cold
It’s a beautiful summer day, and you’re traveling light. After all, the tripod I recommended weighs a ton, and your well-sealed pro camera and your 500mm lens are killing your back. Who needs a jacket? A couple of hours out, clouds form and you anticipate a simple summer shower. Instead, it’s a freak summer snowstorm like we’ve experienced in Yosemite National Park in mid-August. In another scenario, it’s winter, you’ve dressed warmly, but you slip on the frozen bank and fall into the icy stream you’re photographing. In either case, hypothermia is a real danger. The symptoms advance from shivering, limited vision and disorientation, to violent tremors and confusion, to stumbling, amnesia, unconsciousness, organ failure and death.

The best defense against hypothermia is the right clothing. Synthetic and wool fabrics provide better insulation when wet and dry more quickly. Cotton (that means your favorite jeans!) retains moisture, so it’s a bad choice. If you’re suffering from hypothermia, keep yourself hydrated and nourished, drink warm liquids but not alcohol, and get yourself to a warmer place ASAP.

...The Lady Who Got Lost On The Way To The Devils Postpile

Here’s how to risk your life and make everyone in the class hate you: Get lost. This particular workshop participant was present at the orientation the night before, where everyone was asked to hike as a group and to stay in a particular area. For whatever reason, she took off on her own. The result: Workshop leaders (and rangers) spent a good part of the day locating her, much to the annoyance of the other students. When you’ve paid a hefty fee for a workshop with your favorite instructor, follow his/her directions for everyone’s benefit.

There’s really no excuse for getting lost when you’re on your own, either. Plan ahead, take your maps and GPS, and let others know where you’ll be. A nifty new GPS satellite messenger service called the SPOT Tracker (www.findmespot.com) is the latest way to stay in touch when you’re in the field and out of cell range. This small handheld satellite communication device tracks your location, which can be followed on a home computer. You can press a button to send a present message to your at-home contact that says “I’m OK.” Another option sends a 911 call and your GPS location to an emergency response center every five minutes.

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