Light Painting. Darren Pearson. Holy crap.

If you spend many nights outside, and I hope you do, at some point you'll try messing around with longer camera exposures.

20 years ago, that involved slow film, slow shutters, and lots of disappointing trips to the Fotomat. 10 years ago, it would take a digital camera with a good manual mode. Today, you can just use your mobile telephone/flashlight/camera/jukebox device!

If you're just looking to futz around and get a feel for it, I'd recommend the Slow Shutter app for the iphone. It'll put you back $1.99 but let you do pretty much anything you want related to long exposures. You'll need a tripod too. (I personally like the smaller Joby options but cheaper ones work fine, as does pretty much any stable area to place your phone.) Once you're set up, grab some different light sources and start messing around. And... this concludes the tutorial!

Now for inspiration, let's get to Darren Pearson. AKA Darius Twin. AKA a guy that's definitely not messing around. He creates the coolest creatures you could ever hope to see using nothing but light. In doing so, he also creates a momentary window into an achingly beautiful alternate reality that I so wish was real. 

Darren was originally inspired by Picasso's famous light paintings and it shows, in the most magical ways.

Just as impressive as his work, Darren's built a career, and business, around light painting. Another shining example of "do what you love, and the rest will come."

You can see more of his work right here yo.

The work of Dan Pearon, aka darius Twin.

The work of Dan Pearon, aka darius Twin.

5 Reasons to give Francis and the Lights a try

francis-farewell-starlite-bring limes.jpg

It's hard for me to know where to begin with Francis Farewell Starlight and his musical project Francis and the Lights.

Many of my favorite songs right now are his. Several of my favorite musical artists hold him in the highest regard (Justin Vernon, Chance the Rapper, Ye, etc.). I can hear his highly layered synth-y harmonic influence all over indie pop, rap, and R&B right now. 

And yet. There are times I just want to watch him dance.

Good lord, the guy can dance. Not like how dancers dance. He dances like little kids dance. He dances like your dog dances when she sees you heading to the back door with a tennis ball. He dances like it doesn't matter at all, while at the same time being the most important thing in the world. 

Musically, he's worked as a vocalist and/or producer with some of the biggest names in music (the above mentioned trio, Frank Ocean, etc.). But he's only released a handful of EPs and full-length albums over the past decade or so, but he's evolved his sound significantly along the way.

He's best known for last year's song Friends which also features Bon Iver. (Kanye claimed it as his favorite song of 2016.) Friends is off Francis' most recent album Farewell, Starlight! and showcases the floating harmonic sheen of his most recent work. There's definitely technology at work, but you (or at least I) can feel the humanity behind it all. An example would be a line in the song that hits me for reasons I can't even explain: "I heard you bought some land in Mexico/And I said "Way to go, man!"

And the video. It's a humdinger of simplicity. 

Anyway, here are 5 Reasons to give Francis and the Lights a try:

Looking for more? Try the Farewell, Starlight! album for a nice synth-based float. Go with It'll Be Better for some more traditional, but still damn sweet, songcraft.  

Summer summer summer!

 

This past weekend was Trout Camp.

It's an annual gathering, the first weekend in May, in the driftless region of SW Wisconsin. And yes, although temperatures routinely get below freezing at night, and my traditional Saturday swim is a cold one, this trip is the one that officially kicks off summer in my mind. So here we go.

Deep in the Driftless, May 6, 2017

Deep in the Driftless, May 6, 2017

Pornstar Nation!

Looking to add more sophomoric giggling to your next road trip? Here's something that might help.

A couple years ago we road tripped from Madison, Wisconsin to Midland, South Dakota (aka "the Bud Light in a bottle" capital of the world). All told, it's about a 10-hour drive. At some point, I noticed that one of the exit signs featured an especially pornstarry name. And, looky there, so did the next one. 

I've logged quite a few miles to quite a few places since then. And yup, this little game works pretty much everywhere. Here's a small selection of what you might find on your next drive to Midland, South Dakota.

How to choose limes: A cocktailer's guide

There's nothing better than a well-crafted cocktail. (Nothing!) Done right, it's a wonderfully nuanced thing – from the conceiving and concocting, to the sipping and savoring. 

But let's be honest. If you're short on time, tinctures, or both, you can pretty much grab a bottle of anything and a gang of limes and you'll be just fine. I know this because you're my people.

As we've already established, there's nothing the lime can't do. But while thwarting scurvy is a fine attribute, it's drink-making where the lime truly shines. A lime gives any drink worth drinking an added sense of oomph.

Lime is the cowbell of cocktails.

But what makes for a great lime? Let's start with a little background...

Limes have a twisted provenance: lots of hybrid this and crossed-with that. Most types of limes, though, can be traced back to a holy mash-up of the citron, the mandarin, and the pomelo. They probably joined forces in southeast Asia or Indonesia more than a thousand years ago. Although there's at least a dozen varieties of limes, the ones you'll find in the Corona section of your typical U.S. grocery store (or the produce section for that matter) are probably Persian limes which were grown in Mexico. 

Limes haven't been formally branded the way oranges and other fruit have. So you kind of end up grabbing whatever they've got. Since I've grabbed a lot of limes over the years, below are a few things I've learned.

As a note, I'm assuming you want a good juicy lime for cocktails, ceviche, beer accessories and the like. (I don't know shit, nor shinola, about baking pies.)


How To Choose The Best Limes

1) Heavier limes are juicier limes:  When choosing limes, compare the weight. Heavier limes, for their size, hold more juice. Simple!

2) Brighter is better: Limes ripen in the opposite order you might expect – they actually start green and, as they ripen, they turn yellow. That's not to say you want yellow limes, they're too far along. But a brighter green lime is riper and will have more juice than a darker green one.

3) Nipples aren't your friend:  You know how some limes have nipples on the end, kind of like a lemon? Often accompanied by darker green, bumpy skin? And sometimes, right in the same bin at the grocer, there might be smoother, rounder limes that are nipple free? Go with the rounder brighter nipple-free ones. A more boldy nippled lime usually has a thicker rind and, from my experience anyway, they produce less juice. Of course a nippled lime is still far better than no lime at all, so don't get too militant on this one.

4) Give it a little squeeze: A good juicy lime will give a little to thumb pressure. The skin will be shiny and healthy: Too hard and you won't get much juice. On the other hand, too soft, too wrinkly, too spotty, too dry, etc. and a lime's margarita-making days over. Just a little give is what you're looking for.

5) And yeah, about key limes: Those bags are tempting! Key limes are so cute! But key limes aren't much for juicing – they're tiny lime-scented marbles which serve little purpose in a proper cocktail. Unless you're making some sort of sugary key-lime-pie flavored martini which, if you are, gtfo anyway.


So alright! You went and got yourself some beautifully heavy bright green nipple-free limes! Now what? Glad you asked, friend-o. Here's what!


How To Store and Juice Limes

1) Store 'em in the refrigerator: Limes are fine on the counter for a few days, but they'll last a week or two in the fridge. No bag is needed because limes are basically sealed in a nice oily skin. However if you've broken the skin – by peeling, slicing, or zesting – all bets are off. Put it in a zip-loc at that point and you'll get another day or two out of it, but the flavor falls off pretty quick.

2) Warm 'em up before juicing: Cold limes store well, but they don't juice as well. I'll take them out of the fridge a few hours before it's time for juicing. Or I'll forget and juice them cold, because I'm a bad boy and you never know what I'm going to do next. Some people advocate putting cold limes in the microwave for 10 or 20 seconds before juicing them. But for whatever reason that just seems heinously wrong.

3) Roll 'em: I roll my limes against the table before juicing. Just press down good and hard with your hand and roll 'em around. It makes for easier squeezing.

4) Juice 'em: If you're looking to make the most juice, the quickest, go with an electric juicer. For aesthetic reasons, though, I prefer a hand-held citrus press or one of those old-school pointy cone things you put right over a glass. If you're hand-squeezing without tools (other than a knife), cut the lime into quarters and squeeze away. Quarters make for much easier squeezing than halves or slices. 

5) Timing is important: Have you ever squeezed an entire camping trip's worth of lime juice ahead of time? Me too! Bad call! Fresh lime juice doesn't last like store-bought bottled juices. After you squeeze limes, you've got eight or so hours to use the juice before it starts losing it's aromatic ooh la la. After 10 or 12 hours, you'll notice it turning bitter. I've read that lime juice is actually at its very best four to six hours after juicing. Verification is difficult though because my lime juice usually doesn't last that long.

So there you go! Yay limes!

If you're looking some additional ruminations on the wonder of limes, check out All Hail The Lime! 

Mister Sunshine

"Money don't make you happy. It just gives you a better quality of unhappiness."

Larry Woods was a millionaire. Today he's a shoeshine man. As a flamboyant businessman in the 1980s, he was royalty in New Zealand. As a shoeshine man today, he's still royalty in New Zealand. Only now its his wonderful perspective on life, and his connection to people, that drive him. He's known far and wide as Mr. Sunshine.

This three-minute documentary, made my Eldon Booth and Alex Lovell, shares Mr. Sunshine's story. The world could use more of him. Almost as impressive as his perspective? My lord this guys got style. Gobs and gobs of style. And a voice, seriously, that I could listen all day. 

 

Busting out of travel ruts

Ruts suck. That's just what ruts do.

The quickest way out of a rut, for me anyway, is travel. Some kind of an adventure to shake things up. But lately I've come to realize that my approach to travel has fallen into a rut of its own.

The root cause is one that I'm actually thankful for: over the years, I've fallen into a slew of annual trips. Buddy trips, family trips, and so on. Many of them are little more than long weekends (or regular weekend-length weekends). A few are longer. But I've accumulated a bunch of recurring commitments.

Given my hillbilly ways, many of these getaways include the word "camp," such as Trout Camp, Deer Camp, Ice Camp, etc. There are also several that go by "The ______ Trip" such as The Canada Trip, The River Trip, The Utah Trip. You get the idea. Each of these outings includes its own recurring cast of characters, a recurring location, and a recurring set of dates on the calendar. To be clear, I love them all. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to reconnect regularly with people and places and activities that I love. However. While these getaways get me away, they don't get me anyplace new. What I'll see on them, I've seen before. What I'll do, I've done before. And so on.

I've also noticed that even my non-recurring trips have recurring commonalities (typically blue sky, white sand, and mangoes for miles). If you're going to fall into a rut, of course, that's a helluva rut to fall into. But it's a rut nonetheless.

So anyway, all this has been on my mind lately. I've been thinking about how to get my brain onto a different track. Then, just a few days ago, I stumbled across what might be the world's finest oddball travel destination idea generator. It's the Explore tool on KAYAK.com. Just enter your home airport, adjust the $ slider, and it will tell you everywhere in the world you can get to for that amount. 

Why I dig it is this: The process doesn't start by asking "Where do you want to go?" (Obvious rut bait!) It starts with "Here are all the places you could go."

I quickly learned that 89 bucks can move me all over the U.S. (round trip, tax included). Of the options, Houston caught my eye. I've never been to Houston. I've never considered Houston. Left to my own devices, if I'm headed to Texas, Austin wins every time. As a result, I've been to Austin quite a bit. I've stumbled 6th Street. I've got a favorite spot for breakfast burritos the next morning. I know Austin. I dig it.

But I see that for the price of 10 six-packs or, say, eight jugs of Cheer laundry detergent, I could wake up in a place I've never been before.

What if I up the budget a bit? For less than $500, I can get to Oslo, Barcelona, or the Philippines. Or Lima, Guangzhou, or Copenhagen. And yeah, I see flights to plenty of my old haunts in the Caribbean too. But it's the farther flung, more rando destinations that are capturing my imagination.

I haven't even looked at when these rates are available. I assume they're short-notice though, and/or awkwardly timed. I could set preferred dates and see what comes out. But for me the random timing somehow adds to the appeal. After all, getting out of a rut is rarely a smooth transition. More often than not it's a herky-jerky affair. A sudden lunge. A clumsy up-and-out and grace be damned.

But then. Then! You're free. On your way to a different place entirely.

Mesmerization and cracks in time

You may have noticed a dip in activity around these parts as of late.

I'd like to attribute it to several months at sea with only occasional wifi access. Or maybe an extended session with a purloined case of Plantation Pineapple Rum. But alas, no. Shit just got busy, as shit does.

To help stay sane during this stretch, I leaned heavily on a new ukulele. She's a real beauty, wonderfully figured willow, in the tenor size: a bit bigger than the itty bitty soprano most people think of when they think of a ukulele. To be clear, when it comes to the ukulele I'm not what you'd call "talented." Or even "a musician." I mostly just fall in love with certain chord progressions and loop them over and over. There's nothing fancy about it whatsoever. As Leonard Cohen put it: "It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift." But it's mesmerizing to me. And it can make 20 minutes feel like I just spent an entire weekend away.

The other thing I started dabbling with recently is meditation. I liked it from the start, combining the breath awareness of yoga (and freediving for that matter) with the blankness of driving four chords into the ground on a ukulele. In its own way, meditation is mesmerizing too. An hour spent meditating can feel like a lifetime, in the best possible way. 

It's an interesting word "mesmerize." One of those that sounds like what it means. It originated with Franz Mesmer who was a German physician (1734-1815). He had a theory of energy transfer between animate and inanimate objects that he called animal magnetism. In 1843, Scottish physician James Braid expanded the theory to include hypnotism which... ah hell, Wiki page here.  My main point: Mesmerization = Hypnotism. I'll move on. 

When we're mesmerized by something, it's like discovering a tiny crack in time – a place to explore, or just hide within, that's completely removed from the machinations of the day. Fly fishing, drum circles, laying on the ground and looking up at the trees...they've all provided me with spiritual hidey holes over the years. Places to expand or recover or just chill tf out. 

Invisible Oregon, the video below, did the same thing for me this morning. 

For the record, I didn't think I needed to see any more time lapse videos in my lifetime. Of course many of them are beautiful.  But at a certain point, I came to the conclusion that I've probably gleaned everything there is to learn from fast clouds and twitchy trees. I was wrong about that.

Invisible Oregon was shot by Sam Forencich using infrared converted cameras. They capture the infrared portion of the spectrum which produces amazingly ethereal imagery. It exists somewhere between conventional and thermal photography, both technically and visually (here you go nerds). 

But "hey, pink trees!" is far from the whole thing. Sam's landscapes are stunners, the edit is fantastic, and the sound design takes it all to a higher level. 

I truly find it, yep, mesmerizing. If you could use a little escape, I'd suggest full screen mode, some headphones, and seven uninterrupted minutes to climb inside. 

On catching songs and other things

There was a pretty awesome article in the New York Times a few days ago called Three Iconic Musicians on Artistic Creation - And Its Importance Now. It features Kendrick Lamar, Beck, and Tom Waits, all three of whom I adore. And all three of whom are really articulate about their music. 

This quote right here though, from Tom Waits, really stands out to me. It's about songwriting, of course. But in a way it's about life writing too. Good energy attracts more of the same. 

5 Reasons to give Trevor Hall a try

As you might expect, I find myself feeling in an island way from time to time. When that's the case, it brings to mind certain things: The squeezing of limes, for example. Starfruit and fresh fish. Bikini ties and tanlines and open-ended days. And of course at the center of it all is music. 

My problem with music, though, is that when it comes to the island flavors I've wrecked a lot of it for myself. I'm an overplayer, you see, an obsessor. Over the years I've driven poor Bob Marley into the ground, along with Toots and Peter and Yellowman too. It's not that I don't still LOVE them, and reggae overall. I just, damn... I just need to lay off for a while. Until I can actually hear it again. Dancehall has weathered my relentlessness better than reggae, but dancehall isn't everybody's cup of rum when they're looking to chill. And you need a majority in these situations.

Stepping in to fill the island music void for me, over the last 10 years or so anyway, is a bunch of musicians that, for the most part, aren't from islands and don't write songs about islands. It's just that the vibe feels right to me. The group would include people like Xavier Rudd, Michael Franti, Nahko, Mishka, Donavon Frankenreiter and, sure, Jack Johnson would be in there too. (Sidenote: Why are these all guys? I'm at a loss for women in this realm. Jesus. Even Related Artists in Spotify just brings up more dudes. Help?!?)

More than any of them, though, the person who hits the sweet spot for me is Trevor Hall. Working late one night, I heard his song "The Lime Tree" on a compilation album of some sort. I happened to be looking at the wiki page for the island of Carriacou at the time, which has several old lime plantations on it. That night I decided a trip to Carriacou needed to happen, and it did. Several times actually. This was all before Bring Limes existed and, I'd say, those trips and that song played a major role in the inception of this site. 

Anyway: Trevor Hall. His quick story is that he was an incredibly talented kid living on Hilton Head island, South Carolina. He studied classical guitar, recorded his first album at 16, signed a deal with Geffen while still in high school, and... you get the idea. His less specific (but more important) story is that he's obviously a seeker. I can't speak to his success from a mystical standpoint, you'd have to ask him about that. But his search, musically, has lead to a deeply joyful blend of reggae, sanskrit chanting, and just plain old killer hooks.

Trevor Hall strikes me as an old soul. But even old souls know it's important to shake your ass from time to time.

Below is a little sample pack to get your started. If you're looking for an album of his on the island-vibier side, I'd suggest This is Blue

He's great live too. Here's an older version of The Lime Tree that I've always dug. 

Paul's Boots + the Many Feet that Filled Them

I was in southern California last week for a photoshoot. We were about five miles off the main road in the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest when I heard a voice: "That's my hula hoop!"

It came from an area where I knew we didn't have any crew. I looked over and saw two people coming up a trail that I didn't realize was there. If you're going to overhear a single snippet of dialogue in a wilderness setting, "That's my hula hoop" is about as good as it gets. Two fully loaded backpackers, a man and a woman with dreadlocks both, passed by with a friendly "hey bro" and disappeared down the trail to the south. 

That's when I first noticed a small trail marker: Pacific Crest Trail. We were on the famed PCT and I didn't even know it. The trail runs the distance from Canada to Mexico (the PCT is the trail in Cheryl Strayed's book, and the movie, Wild). I like to think that the hula hoop duo started their journey on the British Columbia border. When I saw them they were about 20 miles from Mexico. 

Anyway, this sighting got me thinking (again!) about thru-hikes and routes like the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Appalachian Trail, or even the Superior Hiking Trail along the north shore of Lake Superior. On my flight home from San Diego, I pulled out an issue of Backpacker magazine that I had been carrying around unread for a few weeks. And what do you know, coincidentally (or sign from the universe?) it was a special thru-hike issue.

Now, getting to my original point: Paul's Boots!

One article that hit me especially hard was a tribute called Paul's Boots. It's about a man named Paul Evans whose dream it was to hike the Appalachian Trail. He never made it. But Paul's boots did and it makes for a great read

It also makes for a great documentary which you can watch below. The film tells the tale of Paul's Boots, of course, but then also expands so far beyond that – telling the tales of all the wonderful people who volunteered to bring Paul with them on their journey.

The AT stretches 2,181 miles. And yet, the sense of community and caring is about as tight-knit as you'll find. This story captures it all so well.