Friday, April 21, 2017

Portable HF Operations Under Adverse Conditions

The Drive

With spring like weather happening for the past several weeks, and having been waiting to take a drive west along highway 66 that's leads to the end of the road west of Bragg Creek Alberta, today was that day to make it happen.

I had actually been waiting for the snow to have resided somewhat in the high-country, and although I had enjoyed the outings that I took over the winter, I was looking forward to getting out and operating with the portable manpack that I had designed and built back several months ago.  Of course I managed to pick a day that had light rain coming down in the city when I backed off of my driveway earlier in the morning. I knew that snow in the high country was a possibility, and it made no never-mind, as I was headed out regardless of the weather.

With my manpack loaded in my mobile, a stop made for a cup of tea, part of my morning ritual, I pointed my mobile south, driving a meandering route consisting of a 60 kilometer looping continuous curve to the right, picking up highway 66 just south of the hamlet of Bragg Creek. Unlike the more famous Route 66 that traverses the US, this highway 66 located in Kananaskis Country part of the southern Alberta Rockies, is only 28 km (17 mi) in length from beginning to end.

My destination on this morning, at least as far as I planned on driving my mobile, was Elbow Falls located on the Elbow River that flows out of the Rockies, where the Elbow river has its beginnings at Elbow Lake located 12 kilometers further west just off of highway 40 in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, also located in Kananaskis Country near the border with British Columbia. I have visited Elbow Lake many times in the past, including camping in the back-country campground located on the west side of the lake. Being a hike in destination, you will be packing your gear with you, having left your vehicle parked at the staging area located just off of highway 40 south of Kananaskis Lakes. Of course you can also hike in to Elbow Lake from the Little Elbow Recreation Area at the end of highway 66 if that is more to your liking.

Before leaving home, and knowing that I would be making the hike in to my operating location several kilometers from the trailhead at Elbow Falls, I had made the decision to only take one camera body and lens along with a light-weight tripod, as I would have a load as it was, what with the manpack that my radio gear consisted of also needing to be packed in. As far as the weather and photography, I wasn't concerned, as I discovered many years ago that some of the best photos that a person can shoot is when the weather gets bad, like when there are clouds, rain, or storms, it’s not time to put your camera bag back in the closet.

Some of your most dramatic shots can come from bad weather. Don’t let the rain or wind ruin your day; get out and shoot photos. We tend to think of stormy days as no good for photography. Sometimes that's the case. But a foggy, light-rain day can be fabulous, with delicate pastel tones and bejeweled plants. There are some technical challenges: wet equipment that must be somehow kept dry, plus low light levels to deal with.

Also remember that if you try to meter a landscape with lots of rainy-day sky, the white of the clouds will throw off your exposure and you'll have a foreground that's way too dark and lacking in detail because there's no sun to add a three-dimensional effect.
One of the neat things about rain filled skies, all that water cascading down off of hillsides creates miniature waterfalls, that take on a gossamer texture when photographed at 1/2 or 1 second exposure. Of course you can accomplish the same thing with any flowing water by setting the shutter speed for a 1/4 second or slower exposure.

 If your wondering how to keep your camera dry while out in the elements, and your camera is not of the waterproof variety, there are a number of things that can work. Keep your camera inside your jacket to protect it during a downpour, and for added protection, use a plastic bag to waterproof your camera. Just cut a hole for your lens to poke through. A UV filter screwed in place on the lens, as well as a lens-hood will help keep water away from the front element of the lens as well. Keep a soft, clean cloth handy to wipe water droplets off the camera when required

Although the camera that I had with me is supposedly waterproof, I still manage to expose my camera to a lot of rain on occasion, and I keep a towel handy for mopping the water off from time to time. However I may not be the best role model, as over the years I have had cameras that did not like getting wet and I have had to get them serviced. Of course dropping one in a river once did it absolutely no good. So protect your camera, seldom is one shot worth the price of your favorite camera and lens!
Once I had arrived at the trailhead located at Elbow Falls, and with my gear loaded in my pack along with the other necessities, I headed down the trail that followed the river in a southwesterly direction, with stops made along the way to capture photos that I couldn't pass up on. Of course that entailed removing my pack each time, but the effort being worth it, I didn't mind. Beside what was to mind with stunning scenery to be photographed in all directions.
Once I arrived at the location that I'd last hiked through back a year or so ago, and promised myself to return,  I found a likely looking boulder bordering the stream, that proved perfect to set my manpack on, and in short order I was up and operational with the tip of my vertical 10-60 meter vertical scraping the low cloud cover!
With the bands not in all that great of shape,  I still managed to make a number of contacts on 17 and 20 meters, making the hike in worth the effort on what turned out to be a fun day playing radio and photographing in the high country, and even taking the time to brew a cup of tea on occasion.

NOTE....all photos expand.

No comments yet