White Turtle III 1 Year Update

1 Year Update

Hard to believe but the White Turtle is 1 year old. Or al least it is 1 year since I got most of the Turtle III finished. Well by finished I mean to the point that I can enjoy it. Over the year I have loved using it for shoots and for driving. Plus over that year I have had a chance to evaluate how I use it and what I want to change / add / modify.

A lot of the changes that I am planning have more to do with how I use the van than anything. For me the van is a place to sleep, carry gear and if in an emergency to cook and use the washroom. I am / was not planning on living in it. If I changed the use of the van I would have to change a lot more.

Many of the things work as planned and I am really happy with them.
  • The bed is VERY comfortable and while it is short it fits me perfectly without using up a lot of space. I have thought long and hard about whether I should have gone with the longer wheelbase van so I could have a larger the bed. But after thinking about it I am happy I went with the 148″ wheelbase. Like I have said before the main purpose is to drive the unit and a longer unit would make it harder to turn around and park.
  • Insulation is more than enough. If there is a weak spot it is the doors (back & side). I have solved this with a couple moving blankets over the doors. I was out the other night and it got COLD, went to bed around 10:30 and it was warm without the furnace running till 4:30, then I turned the furnace on for a few minutes to warm the van up. Then shut it off the furnace and went to sleep till 7:30. Turned it on again at 7:30 and it was toasty warm. I did not use the moving blankets that night for the doors or to block off the cab so I still could have kept it warmer. The other day I took the van out shooting. I drove around for an hour with only the vehicle heat on. After coming home and leaving the van parked for a couple hours I went out to do some work and when I opened the side door I could feel the heat come out. Pretty good for just sitting in the cold parked.
  • Bathroom. While the bathroom is nothing more than a porta potti in a closet it is perfect. I have not used it much but it sure is nice to know it is there should I need it. The porta potti could have just put it in a cupboard, or on a slide under the bed but having it in the closet gives more privacy and I have storage above the toilet for towels and toiletries.
  • I love the size of fridge that I went with. I could always use a larger fridge but honestly don’t need it. Again I use the van mainly for driving so the fridge is for short term storage and I am not filling it for a week at a time. It cools fast and does not use much power. I have had a issue with the second coldest level and that it runs a lot more than I figure it should but I am going to add a vent fan for the rear cupboard and see how this does. SO happy I did not go with a propane fridge as I never worry about the angle of the camper when the fridge is running
  • When I built the cupboard that houses my food and dishes I thought it may be too small. I was wrong big time. At this time it is just a cupboard with two shelves and I use a couple containers inside. It holds a lot of stuff!!! Added a slider and put in a platform so I can pull out the food and dishes easier. Works great!!!
  • I originally was going to put a stove and sink built into the counter. So far really happy I did not. Have yet to use the portable stove. I have changed what and how I eat when traveling and just have not needed it. Not that I won’t use it just that when I am shooting I eat small snacks / meals all day rather then a huge one at the end of the day. Plus I am eating more food that does not require cooking. Sandwiches, vegetables, fruit have taken the place of cooked meats, eggs etc.
  • Sink / water was a big issue for me to decide on. I wanted running water/ hot water but did not want the extra stuff to do it. So I did not even add a sink and I carry a collapsible water container under the bed. So far it is working perfectly. I do not miss the running water. I have started to wash up at gas stations, tourist information stops and in campgrounds that have hot water. If I do need hot water I have the portable stove to heat some water on.
  • Flooring was another area that I struggled with when planning. Do I build a wooden floor, or leave the floor with the cargo mat and cover it with carpet? I decided on the cargo floor insert that came with the van, underlay and carpet. It works / feels GREAT!!!! Again I am not on it 8 hours a day but even then I think it would be enough. AND the time / cost / weight that I saved is HUGE!!

Some things I still want to tweak

  • First is the house battery. Currently I have the group 31 battery under the passenger seat. When I put it there I did not cut any of the bolts or modify anything so I can easily remove the battery and return to stock. After 1 year I have decided that I want to move it to the back under the bed for a number of reasons; The battery weight will be at the back for some extra traction. Also I can add a second battery easily. With the battery out from under the passenger seat I can add a swivel to the passenger seat. I cannot add the swivel now as the battery is too high. The battery(s) will be close to the external power and I can add a charger / maintainer to the set-up easily. I can also add a inverter (lots of space) to get 110v power when on the road.
  • Exhaust fan and roof vent is being added. This is still a question with me as I am happy without it but I know in the heat I will appreciate it.
  • I really want to finish the wiring as it has been 1 year. I did not know what I wanted for power & wires when I built it and now I think I do. So far the wires are rough run and I want to finish that up. I also want / need to run power to the exhaust fan I am adding. May also add another light over the bed for reading but honestly the light I have is really bright.
  • Slider for the food cupboard. I have some bins in there now and it works but I think if I have a slider then it would work even better.
  • Fan on a switch to move more air from behind the fridge. Will run it while I am driving to keep it cool behind the fridge.
  • Passenger seat swivel. After 1 year of use I decided that I want it.
  • Considering a bench by the door for sitting. It would add a lot of storage space as well and the space could be used for easy outside access. Really not sure about this, will have to keep designing and thinking about it. Have some cool ideas but really do not need it. May be a fun project! Could add some lights and a drop down table.
  • Screen door(s) and screen for the side windows. I have inserts for the side windows for at night but will make some screens for during the day. Also may make a screen for the side door with magnetic closer.

I really do LOVE the van. It is not a luxurious as many campers but it is homey enough for me and I love it. Now all I need to do is to get out some more!!!

Still comfortable after 1 year
Still comfortable after 1 year

American Goldfinch – Break Time

When I am trying to do some work on the van and a Goldfinch shows up I have to take a break and take some pictures. I have seen Goldfinches in the river bottom in Lethbridge. This one must have heard about the amazing food that we have and decided to do a road trip for lunch. Of course I had to sneak into the house to take some pictures. I always have the 150 – 600 Sigma ready to go on the 70D body. So I grabbed that set-up and shot off a few pictures before I had to get back to work.

He was a very cooperative subject and I got some great images. One question that I am asked about shooting birds in your backyard is how do I do it?

Do I have windows without screens on them?

Do I open windows to shoot?

Well it is yes and no. I try and remove the screen from the window and quietly open the window. But many times if I do that I scare the birds away. If they are at the back of the yard I will try and open the window. If they are close to the window I will shoot through the window. All these pictures are shot through the closed window. I do not shoot through the screen part of the window. Fortunately for me half of the window is screen. The rest is glass. So I can shoot from any window and use the non glass part.

Goldfinch and House Finch
House Finch and GoldFinch
Why is there a Goldfinch on my branch??
Why is there a Goldfinch on my branch??
Those seeds look good
Those seeds look good

Learn how to get better images

External Hard Drives – WARNING

I am a BIG advocate of using external hard drives to store your images and data. This is of course in addition to other back-up sources. Things such as DVD’s, extra external hard drives and additional computers.

External Hard Drives

New Drive

Recently I went out and bought another external hard drive. Picked up a Lacie to transfer all my nature pictures to. That way I would have them in one place and be able to take it with me when I am on the road without taking other files. Spent a Saturday night and part of Sunday transferring and organizing the new drive. I have several other Lacie drives as back-ups and have had no problems to date. Then I took the to the studio to download the files there.

I plugged the drive into one of the studio computers and watched as it said “New Drive Detected”, “Installing Hardware”, “New Device is now ready to use”. Then I clicked on My Computer to find that the device is not there. Tried a second computer then a third, all with the same results.

External Hard Drive
External Hard Drive

That not good

I was finally able to locate the drive through a couple of backdoor routes and found that the drive was running. But after a lot of research I found that even with the computer recognizing the drive it was not accessible. After looking into it I found out that it is the way the drive was set-up from the factory.

So a word of warning, if you have an external drive that you are using make sure that it is readable on other computers! You should do this ASAP!!! I would actually try several computers to make sure if your computer should die, or be upgraded, that the external drive is accessible.

Check your drives NOW!!!

Again as a word of warning, if you have an external drive check it on another computer ASAP to make sure that it can be read, before you need the drive to work and it doesn’t. This is one of those issues that if you find out when you have a computer problem it is too late!!!

Equipment for the wildlife photographer

What equipment do I need?

One of the most common questions that I am asked is – “I would like to get more serious with my photography, what equipment should I buy to get better pictures?”

Well it is not an easy question to answer as a lot depends on the type of photography that you want to do.  I will address this post from the nature / wildlife photographers area.

Camera

A DSLR camera, one that will take interchangeable lenses. Yes you can use other cameras and I know some great photographers that do. A DSLR allows you to switch out lenses and do upgrades using the same camera body. Also a camera that is at least 8 megapixels is a good place.  If your camera meets the above specifications then I would upgrade other equipment first.

Lenses

A good wide angle lens for landscape and a good telephoto lens for wildlife is a must. You do not need to go with the $14000.00 lens but small improvements in your lens quality and range will help you to properly frame your pictures better. I have a amazing Sigma 150-600 that I LOVE for my wildlife. Well worth every penny!!!

Flash

For nature and wildlife I would stay away from spending on any flashes.  In my opinion more important areas should be updated first.

Tripod / Monopod

If you do not have a good tripod this is an area that you should look at. The cheaper tripods are fine as a platform to hold your camera in bright light but nothing less. A good tripod will hold your camera still and allow you to pan with your lens.  You can use your tripod for long night exposures and also to hold your larger lenses. Monopods are a great option if you like to hike or just need some extra support for a big lens in bright light.  They are cheaper than a tripod and a lot lighter. These are designed to add some additional support when hand holding.

Carrying bag

A good carrying bag is a must to keep things organized and safe.  If you do a lot of hiking get a good backpack and you will never regret it.

Equipment Paterson Photography Lethbridge Eye cup
I bought a larger eye piece for shooting wildlife so it is easier to see through the viewfinder in bright sun

Batteries

Extra batteries are relatively cheap and a great idea.  Nothing is worse than getting out to a location and running out of power.  A in-vehicle charger is also a good idea to charge your batteries if you are going to be on location for a number of days.

Accessories

Other items like filters, remotes, etc can also help improve your photography. My way of telling if I need something or not is if I have needed it at least a couple times I will put it on my list to buy. I NEVER buy something if I don’t need it for some type of shooting.

Waterton May 11 2019

Headed to Waterton yesterday, May 11 2019. Was an AMAZING day. Not many people outside of the town site. The town site was PACKED. Was going to spend the night at Belly River campground but decided to head home as the wind came up later in the day.

A few pictures of the van in Waterton.

first stop has been the same for the last year and that is up on Chief Mountain Highway. I head up to the border then turn around and work my way down.

It is cool looking into the US without crossing the border. From this lookout I headed to Belly River Campground to see how busy it was. Not busy at all but that will soon change.

Waterton May 11 2019
Looking across the border into Glacier

After a tour and shooting around Waterton it was off to find a quiet place to rest. Maskinonge is the perfect spot, lots of people drive through but they don’t stay, must be because there is no services there. I do not mind, better for me. Also being May 11, 2019 it still is not tourist season.

Read moreWaterton May 11 2019

Van updates

I have several van updates that I have on the to do list. In the past year I have not done a lot on the van. Using it and has been the most fun! I do have a number of little things planned but the weather sure has not been helping me. This past weekend I wanted to get into a couple projects. But it was so cold I only got one done then went back and hibernated.

Sliding drawer Van Upadate
Build shelf, toss stuff on and hibernate again
Top shelf is easier to get into.
Top shelf is easier to get into.

I had thought for a while about adding a slide to the cupboard where I keep my food. Was going to do both shelves when I thought about it. But after doing just the one I realized that that was all I needed to do. Now I can pull out the bottom shelf to see what is in there. The top shelf I can see into so I am happy.

I managed to get the shelf built and installed. Then it got cold and rainy so I tossed everything back in and went to work in the garage. Took a couple pictures today as the snow was melting!

Another project done a few weeks ago in a brief warm-up was the towel rack in the bathroom. Not a big deal but helps to keep me organized.

Now all I need to do is to wait till it warms up so I can do a couple more van updates.

Bathroom van update
Bathroom just about done.