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  • Welcome to the new site. Here's a thread about the update where you can post your feedback, ask questions or spot those nasty bugs!

Invading Nature: Protecting yourself from disease and injury.

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief

We all love Nature nand Natural sounds great. However, when we penetrate the ecosystems of the wild or they invade our own, there can be life-threatening consequences.

I'll write an article on this, but for now here's some pointers.

Insects/"bugs"/ticks/spiders/snakes in general:

1. Although one sees sandles and bare feet and shorts when adventurers on TV searching for and capture snakes and other critters, that is very risky where there are disease vectors!!

Ticks carry Rickettsia including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and wait on trails, drawn by carbon dioxide of passing animals. They jump at the first target for a blood meal. If the tick is there long enough, it can inject the activated germ into your blood stream and 3-12 days later you may have a rash, get very sick and be hospitalized. A hidden tick might even cause a paralysis that baffles doctors until it is found and removed.

Always use forceps close to the skin to remove a tick. Never squeeze it, crush iy oy try to treat i with hot wax or anything else! Get a buddy to check your back!

Mosquitoes need a blood meal too. In the USA, any non fast moving water, even in a bird feeder or a (commonly) in a dumpled old tire, can house the breeding mosquitoes. In Africa and the Fae East, they can bring you Malaria so take prophylactic tablets) and in wherever they are, West Nile virus and other Arboviruses which can cause fatalities.

2. So wear shoes, socks, long pants and have the least amount of target area to attract a bite! Don't think you can be "Natural" or that good diet helps you. You are fair game for any bug that needs a meal or gets pissed off! So protect yourself.

Naked skin must have insect repellant!
At night, check for ticks!

3. Spider or other bites that swell rapidly, progressive rash and have lines going up a limb or cause faver, malaise, headache means you must get to a hospital urgently.

4. Don't share food with animals.

It threatens infection of animals, infection of humans, (zoonoses) and can destroy their ability to survive on the food they need. It also makes them too friendly with humans.

5. Carry water and if it can work, a cell phone and GPS device, but you know that already.

Asher :)
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Mike Spinak

pro member
Thanks, Asher, for bringing up this important topic. A bit of inconvenience spent on prophylaxis is much better than the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever that I now appear to be wrestling with. If you need a prod to take this seriously, anyone, ask me to email you frightening pictures of what I look like right now.

It is worth noting, in my own case, that I was wearing a long sleeved shirt and long pants (my thinking was more towards prevention of skin cancer, actually), and lots of DEET. And I looked myself over for ticks (though, obviously, I missed one). I was barefoot, though... I was raised a barefoot beach baby, and I have never been able to get used to covering my feet. I also have unusual shaped feet, and there are no non-custom shoes made to my foot size and width. But I'm going to investigate this wacky shoe-wearing fad more seriously.

Anyway, the moral of my story is that half-assed vigilance is not always sufficient. I'm going to start wearing mosquito netting in addition to long sleeves and long pants, and apply permethrin in addition to DEET. I'll start using my emergency-signal-mirror to look carefully at my entire backside for ticks. And I'll seek out some solution to this shoe dilemma.

Stay vigiliant and safe against pathogens!

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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
And aren't you happy you could call a specialist and get a diagnosis over the phone. What other photography forum matches that?

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Sid Jervis

pro member
Thanks for the inspiration, it really makes me want to get out in the country :)

Deet is certainly a good defence, as is limiting the amount of open skin, sadly both can be a royal pain.
But, I suppose prevention is better than the results...

Mike, When did you get the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?
Not on the Yosemite / Mono / Alabama trip.

Mike Spinak

pro member

No other forum matches that!


It appears that I was exposed to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever while photographing the hummingbird migration at the Audubon Preserve near Lake Isabella (the same Lake Isabella you camped at!) in Kern County, the weekend before last. It became full-blown yesterday.

  • Ensure others know where you are and when you should be back. In some (if not all) US National Parks clilmbing registries or camp site permits are used. Use them. Use the climbing registry even if you are just out hiking solo. A 2 day wait with a broken leg may suck, but having to wait a wait a week for someone to just happen by is worse.
  • Wear a hat. This serves several purposes.
    • Sun Protection
    • Warmth or cooling.
    • Insect protection (less hair to grab and a hat makes a wonderful surface to put on excessive amounts of pure DEET without it touching your skin*.
    • A wide brimmed hat that sticks out over both ears and below them at the back changes your aural reception (hearing) and makes your hearing more directional. This can help you sort out the direct a sound comes from (i.e., find that babbling brook rather than chasing echos off of trees to get water).
  • Bring adequate survival gear for your locale. I never leave home without survival gear to last 4 hours** close to home and overnight out in deep wilderness. In the summer this may be a plastic garbage bag to protect my camera gear and a windbreaker for myself. In winter, my pack contains more clothing. Band aids, moleskin, and a pocket knife fall in this category.
  • Food is an element of the above.
  • Water is another piece of survival gear.
  • Carry maps in the deep woods. Learn to use it.
  • Carry a compass in the deep woods. Learn to use it.
  • Carry adequate water or a filtration system if you know you can replenish your supply. Lack of water will kill you weeks before lack of food. (I know this is a repeat, but it is also vital).
  • Know your way out.
  • Carry at least 2 light sources with fresh batteries. A bulb can fail and changing it without light may not be possible. It can get very dark beneath the forest canopy past midnight while hiking out after shooting the sunset. Spare batteries are wise too. Take this number up to 3 for spelunking.
  • Make noise. Few things are likely to be more dangerous than quietly sneaking up and scaring a large predator (bear, cougar, ...) or a large animal (moose, bison, ...). A loud hollar every few minutes will help the locals know where you are.
  • Carry a weather protected lighter or matches. Hypothermia kills
  • Pay attention to your body as it will tell you what is going on.
  • If you do not know better, then do not touch. A simple example is hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum, whose sap makes human skin insanely photo-sensitive:
  • Respect Nature! Nature is dangerous, powerful, and stunningly beautiful.
These are just a few ideas that anyone in the deep woods should know about. I always have a compass in my camera bag***. I do not leave home without water or some fluid (Nalgene liter bottle in my camera backpack which has the camera bag inside it).

Nature photography is only slightly different than what many hikers and climbers do. Photographers just tend to do silly things like stand in the same cold windy spot until well after sunset as the angle of that ridge against that peak is just fantastic.



* I nearly soak my "lucky fishing hat" in pure DEET so that the scent surrounds me without it touching my skin.

** Enough time to get the shot/s, pack your camera gear, and then slog it out towards home after it gets too nasty to keep shooting.

*** A compass is useful beyond orienteering as you can spot a landscape composition and use the compass reading to decide when to come back to get the sun and/or moon where you want it.
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Sid Jervis

pro member
Mike Spinak said:
It appears that I was exposed to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever while photographing the hummingbird migration at the Audubon Preserve near Lake Isabella (the same Lake Isabella you camped at!) in Kern County, the weekend before last. It became full-blown yesterday.

Yuk !
Speedy recovery, to you.

Is this natures way of saying we are taking too many pictures ?

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Sid Jervis said:
Yuk !
Speedy recovery, to you.

Is this Nature's way of saying we are taking too many pictures ?
Sid, It's Nature's way of getting Mike and I to

1. know each other better,

2. realize that one cannot just assume competence in health care, if you are not sure, check!

3. get the word out that we are really quite fragile creatures!

Asher :)

Dave New

Don't depend on cell phone coverage in the 'outback'

I'll just point out that cell phone coverage is definitely not a given in a lot of areas away from well-traveled roads. Also, a lot of the more recent phones do not have AMPS (the old-fashioned 800 MHz analog cell) roaming coverage, so you may be really stuck for communications. AMPS coverage is almost universal (again, except for where you might really need it), but most digital coverage is still confined to populated areas.

Even in an area with decent cell coverage, the deep ravines and other structure around you may block signals, making it all but impossible to 'get out' when you really need it.

Finally, even if you manage to call someone, will you be able to accurately describe your current position. "Down in a hole" won't help searchers very much. Know where you are! I mean really know where you are. Park rangers have been annoyed quite a bit in the past by ill-equipped 'day trippers' that get into a bind, and then call for help on their handy cellphone, with no clear idea where they are located.

Being a ham radio operator, I tend to carry something with a bit more punch than a cell phone (which I also will have). Having a five-watt VHF handheld can make a big difference in making yourself heard from difficult terrain. Of course, there are limits to even that kind of coverage, but it certainly will carry farther than the typical cell phone, and requires no working infrastructure, although mountain-top VHF repeaters can extend handheld range for 50 miles or more.

If you are backpacking far enough out for an overnight stay, and have the equipment (and license -- see below), consider a small, portable shortwave transceiver with portable whip or wire antenna. With a couple of watts (and a knowledge of Morse code) you can make contacts for literally hundreds of miles.

You can get a license for the VHF ham bands (with no Morse code test required) by taking a written test given by your local radio club. Check out http://www.arrl.org and look for the local club listings to find one in your area that is holding license classes. Hams are a friendly bunch, and are generally willing to 'Elmer' someone to help them get their license.

Access to the shortwave bands (still) require Morse code expertise, but the five-words-a-minute requirement is essentially glacial, and can be learned in a few hours of practice.


Dave, WB4SBE