Second most exciting

The second most exciting part of producing a book or DVD is having the barcode and ISBN barcode on DVD caseplaced on the cover.  Up until then, the cover art, DVD and everything else doesn’t feel like a real product.

As soon as we had the UPC on the back of the DVD slip cover for Introduction to Off-Camera Strobe Flash Photography, the product looked complete.  It felt real.

For all the years I worked at Aztec Shops, California State University, San Diego’s book store in the receiving department, I wondered how someone figured out how to secure an ISBN, UPC and all of the selling information necessary to make a book or DVD “sellable”.  Now I know, as I have been part of producing quite a few DVDs and very soon a book.

The thrill is almost palpable. Of course, the most exciting part of this is when sales start rolling in. That is when I know the product actually has life.

You can pre-order the DVD at a hefty discount right now. Once it becomes available on Amazon and in stores, the price will go to regular retail.

I can’t wait!

Filters in the digital age

Yes, you need or at least want filters in the digital photography age.  Some people say you

Singh-Ray Filters
Singh-Ray Filters

only need a polarizer, as that can’t be done in post.  As Peter Hill illustrates, filters still and probably will always have a place in photography.

The Ultimate Guide to Neutral Density Filters

I have always wanted one of the variable ND filters to give me flexibility for me shots.  However, they’ve notorious for color casts and weird polarizer effects.  Not good, especially after I spend $400 on something.

However, the discussion on Hoya’s 9 stop filter made me finally throw the switch and purchase on at B&H Photo out of New York.  They’re one of the only safe, reputable houses to purchase photography gear from, aside from Adorama & Amazon.

This 9 stop filter will allow me to take 1 second long shots in the middle of the day – something I’ve wanted to do for some time but, without a filter, on a digital camera, was not able to.

Note – if the price is too good to be true, far  below the market, it probably is.

One freakin’ step

When you were ten years old, you thought 30 years old was a gazillion years away, that the age was ancient and that there was no way you were going to get there. And then, one day, you woke up and realized it was your 30th birthday. How had you gotten here? Certainly not beamed through time in a parallel timeline like Star Trek. No, you simply lived out every day. Some days were the best and others were certainly the worst. Yet there you were, getting out of bed every day because you had to.

Maybe, just maybe, you completely stayed in bed by choice in the ensuing years between 10 and thirty. Sure, some times you were sick and you were forced to stay in bed. And you really wanted to feel better so you could get out of bed and do whatever it is you needed to do. There’s a peculiar point in this. When you are forced to do something you don’t want to do, it sure tastes and smells bad. Like meat that’s long since forgotten in the freezer and why the heck isn’t the Arm n Hammer doing it’s job? That white junk is supposed to suck up all this malodorous stank, yet it eventually gets overwhelmed. The little yellow box just can’t take it any more because something has finally run it down by doing its thing one tiny slice at a time.

Take that bad smell. How did it get smelly? Did it smell instantly when you brought it home from the grocery store? No, of course not. Because otherwise you would not have bought it. And, if you did purchase it knowing full well that it smelled bad, you have either a defective nose or some very strange things going on. That’s the subject of other blogs, not this one.

That now bad smelling meat got noticeable one day at a time, slowly. And likely with you totally forgetting about it. Yet, there it is. Completely enveloping your fridge in rotting stench. Now you are forced to take care of it. Again, this is something you don’t want to do, yet you are forced to because you don’t want it ruining the rest of the contents of the chiller and, eventually, the entire fridge. Imagine how much money would go to putrefaction if that smelly meat ruined everything, even the invincible ketchup and mustard. If you took the time to add it up, that would really blow your mad tachometer because you see that something that did its best to do something, aka rotting, one day at a time just became a bigger deal and now it has to be dealt with.

It happened one day at a time, one hour at a time, one second at a time.

That is the same with you.

No, hopefully you don’t smell like rotting meat. Take a shower you doof. In fact, if you smell like rotting meat, you probably better go to the hospital because that nasty gangrene is just about to turn your whatever into an amputation and you just don’t want to go there. Bad news. Again, something you don’t want to do.

Now that you’ve taken care of your wretched gangrene mess, you look at yourself. How did you get to this point? That’s right, if you didn’t get it before – one day at a time. How about that homework you’ve been putting off? The book you’ve been meaning to read? Like all that entire series of the Three Musketeers, all 5 books of it. Did you even know there were five?

While watching fail videos on YouTube, though entertaining, you could have taken that 10 minutes you wasted watching dumb people do dumber things with shaky grainy video, you might just have learned something. Enriched yourself. Made yourself just the tiniest bit more intelligent, well rounded (whatever that means), and maybe even have the guts to brush the hand of the cute girl who just walked by. And you know what, you’ll actually have something interesting and intelligent to talk with her about. Maybe she likes Jude Devereux and hates French authors but would certainly like to go to France. Or, more likely, Italy.

But that’s not the point. Don’t get all excited because you think you’re going to woo a girl because you read a translation of a book in French. It’s just not the same. If you were really slick, you would have spent your time learning French, read about D’Artagnan in French, and then been super sexy because you’d be able to order that French meal in French at a French restaurant and have your date go much better, not because you’re buying a French dinner but rather you’re showing the girl you bother taking the time to learn something, better yourself, and show her you might just take the time to get to know her. But, the only way you got that date in the first place is because you knew French.

And how did you know French? Yes, again, by taking a daily step. A single step, and learning that first French word, bonjour. D**n, there you go! You just learned one word. What does it mean? Look, if you can spend endless hours watching entertaining but meaningless videos on YouTube, you can certainly take less than the fifteen seconds it takes to open a new tab, copy “bonjour in english” into google, click search – yes you have to do that – and find out what it means.

Now, you have just learned a language. Granted you only have a tiny part of the few hundred words you need to communicate. What was that? Only a few hundred words? That’s right – you’d be amazed how far in the world you can get with just a few hundred words. And how did you learn those few hundred? By starting with the first.

You took a step. Now, was that very difficult? NO! And, if it is, you should see your doctor because you’re having trouble walking. And for those unable to walk, move yourself one foot forward, however you can get that done. And if you’re bed-ridden, roll over. And if you can’t do that, as the person who is taking care of you to shift your head slightly. There, you have now done it, you have taken that tiny little step.

Yes, I know, it’s only a figurative thing. How many texts do you send per day? Do you know how long that really adds up to? How about those meaningless web surfing sessions? If you only tossed in one more French word search, say “merci”, you would have increased your knowledge of French by 100%. Doubled. Wouldn’t you like to double your income in fifteen seconds? I sure would. But are you going to do that by following those 364 spam messages you received about instant, free home income with no work what so ever? No selling? Just get ten of your friends to sign up…

No. It doesn’t work like that. You have to take that one, singular step. Heck, maybe you think French is stupid and French people are stupid. Fine. Learn “hola” and “gracias”. That’ll sure come in useful if you’re ordering a taco. Or, if you want to be really cool, learn “konichiwa” and “arigato”. Are you going to be able to speak with someone on the street for very long with those two words? No, probably not. But, you just communicated with someone from another country and shown them that you aren’t such an American clown, unable to learn anything, ranking at the bottom of every measure except prison rolls and bad education results.

All you now have done is taken two steps. Holy heck, that won’t even get you to the refrigerator to take care of that bad meat. You’ll need a few more. But, if you’ve already taken two, what the heck is the problem with a third? Even if you face plant ending in an elegant scorpion fall because you failed to note your untied shoe laces, you still moved forward.

Get up and take care of that rotten meat, look up those two words, then go back to the stupid YouTube video. But know that you’ve just expanded your world.

Doubled, in fact.

Up to here, I’ve written 1395 words. My book, Antarctic Tears, is expected to be 80,000 words. I just typed 1.74% of my book in word count in half an hour, if the above words counted. I don’t type as fast as I used to but that’s another matter. But, string together another 28.6 hours and I’d have 80,000 words cranked out, give or take. That’s not even a freakin’ work week. Unless you live in France.

Granted, my book would suck because typing stream of consciousness will make a mess of a book, but at least I’d have something down on paper that I could add to, shuffle around, and make less sucky. And how did I get to the point of having a small but measurable percentage of my book done? That’s right, I stopped watching stupid youtube videos, which I laughed when the guy scorpion fell off his skate board, and sat down to this jazzy Macbook Retina and started clicking keys. That was it.

Nothing grandiose or amazing. No comet from afar flew past, lit up the room and I was inspired. No, only I, from the inside, did it. I want to see my book in print. How am I going to get there? That’s right – sitting down and typing that crap out. You probably don’t want to write a book or cross Antarctica dragging 300 pounds of supplies. But, there IS something you want to do.

Put exactly one minute into it. Since you’ve put in zero thus far, that’s an incalculably vast improvement to what you did before. Why is that? Because it’s that whole division by zero thing. My math PhD buddy can explain it better but most anyone wouldn’t understand the explanation anyway. The time would be better spent, that one paltry minute, in moving yourself forward to your dream of getting X done.

X = whatever you wanted to get done.

Go do it. Now. Stop reading this blog post and do it. Then, come back to the blog for more motivating.

Take the step

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Degree symbol on the Mac

Extended ASCII character set
Extended ASCII character set

When typing on a PC, I had access to the complete ASCII set of characters.  I did this holding the ALT key and then typing the three number code for the desired character.  It allowed me to put all sorts of things into my text.

Not so on the Mac.

While editing my book on the Macbook Retina, I was at first writing deg to indicate degrees after a particular numeric coordinate.  That doesn’t look very sexy and it takes more typing and space for nothing added.  After a little surfing, I learned how to create the degree symbol on the Mac.

On the Mac, click OPTION+0.  That is, hold the OPTION key down and then click the 0 (zero) key.  This will give you the degrees symbol.

GPS South Pole coordinates
GPS South Pole coordinates

In my blog editor in Chrome, this key combination doesn’t work.  I’m not sure why.  It only seems to function in text editors like Open Office and TextEdit.

Getting the proper symbols into text is sometimes troublesome because web browsers, word processing programs, and the like may not be able to display them right.  This is especially true on smart phones.  Sometime things just don’t look right.

Good thing book printers have this down pat, otherwise I’d be killing myself and wasting time.  They can print anything.

Audio Dispatch

Zoom! Hello Aaron in Antarctica, final day, I don’t really have a day count anymore cause well I finally made the Pole a day and a half ago. Had a super nice reception by Antarctic Logistics (ALE) here. I had a full plate of food, I mean a bunch of peo…


Zoom! Hello Aaron in Antarctica, final day, I don't really have a day count anymore cause well I finally made the Pole a day and a half ago. Had a super nice reception by Antarctic Logistics (ALE) here. I had a full plate of food, I mean a bunch of people stayed up til 1 to meet me, it was so nice. The flight back from the South Pole took 5 - 5 and a half hours, it was really really long, it's definitely not conducive conditions. It was fascinating to see the landscape that took me almost 3 months to ski over. My actual vision of sustrugi and wall that from the ground I couldn't tell what they were so seeing from the air was a real treat, so that was really good. Then in the camp I'm just packing up my gear now and the Russian jet the Ilyushin suppose to be her early afternoon when we're suppose to pack up, so that was really good. I've met a couple climbers and guides and all sort of nice things or people. One thing everybody asks me is I gotta see if I can find a scale to weigh myself, everybody said I look like a ridiculous scarecrow with my clothes hanging off, apparently lost more weight than I though, so that's kinda funny how my pants keep falling down so it's rather annoying. Uh one, a couple bad notes, a French Filmer I met yesterday, they flew out to the dome and well he broke his leg and also there's an aircraft lost out here in the Trans Antarctic, no news but it's out in the British news and the New Zealand news, so if you look you Tim Borek you'll be able to find more information, definitely want to send some prayers out to them. They don't have any communication so it doesn't mean anything when the transponder went off so that's never a good thing unfortunately so. The family down here is definitely hoping and praying for those folks, that's for sure. Thank you so much for my sponsors and supporters for making this trip entirely possible for, without you I wouldn't have been here or even had the chance to ever fulfill a dream I've had for over 10 years, I mean, just the opportunity to do that and then apparently I was told I believe I'm the second only American ever to solo to the South Pole, ever. The first was Todd Carmichael in 2008, he has the speed record for solo, unsupported and apparently I have the anti speed record, but I'll deal with that, that's ok with me so. It was pretty interesting to meet a couple people that are actually amazed at what I did and I don't maybe I don't think about it right but I'll uh I guess I'll have to learn to think about it differently. Anyway, I've got to get packed up cause I definitely don't want to miss my flight home, can not become a permanent resident here. Again, thank you so much for everyone who followed me, all my supporters and all my sponsors, you guys really made this dream a total reality and all my tough times, the last 10 days, 12 days where I got worked over and skiing blind and just having a hard time. I knew I would grind it out but trying to handle the mind junk is just an experience so. Hopefully it will alter my life a little bit and I'll become a better person and move forward and move on and move up. Thank you very much and I'll hopefully shoot an update once I get back to the states. Thanks! Out!

Audio Dispatch

Hello Aaron in Antarctica, day 80. Hahaha, Camp position South 90 degrees, West, East, it really doesn’t matter cause you can walk in a circle and I already subtracted some days off my life, not such a bad thing. Still quite a white out out there, um, …


Hello Aaron in Antarctica, day 80. Hahaha, Camp position South 90 degrees, West, East, it really doesn't matter cause you can walk in a circle and I already subtracted some days off my life, not such a bad thing. Still quite a white out out there, um, visibility is really good so hopefully they'll be able to get a plane in tomorrow and pick me up, it's actually quite a long flight to get back to Union Glacier, 6 or 7 hours. Um, fortunately I was able to see a target and then fog kinda cleared and I was able to see the station, where I needed to go and I'm now camped, oh gosh, 600 yards out of the South Pole station, what an experience. The station manager Weiks, Shannon and Andrea, thank you very much for giving me the tour of the station and giving me the low down and being very patient with my questions there I really appreciate it. Also Jeffrey, I hope to meet up with you, what would be for me, tomorrow morning to chit chat about my expedition, I really appreciate you following my blog. Jeffrey works at the South Pole station, real nice guy. Thank you so much to all of my sponsors and all of my private donors that made this adventure possible, it would have not ever happened without you guys, that's for sure. Special thank you to Kelly, my expedition manager, for keeping me alive and keeping me going and I'll begin making calls as soon as I can here. It is white out so I only have so much battery, I have to be really really careful. Thank you much, hopefully I'll be back in the states in a week or two, it's gonna take a while to get there, that's for sure. Thank you, oh my gosh! Your right dad, all of a sudden, it's over, just like that. Out!

Audio Dispatch

Hello Aaron in Antarctica, day 79. Camp position South 089 degrees 52 decimal 668 minutes, West 032 degrees 17 decimal 367 minutes. Distance traveled 8.4 miles, time 9.5 hours, elevation 9,100 feet, distance to South Pole 7 miles, way point 4.8 miles. …


Hello Aaron in Antarctica, day 79. Camp position South 089 degrees 52 decimal 668 minutes, West 032 degrees 17 decimal 367 minutes. Distance traveled 8.4 miles, time 9.5 hours, elevation 9,100 feet, distance to South Pole 7 miles, way point 4.8 miles. One bummer is I can actually see the station now but I can't get to it at all because there's a high voltage transmission line that runs right through that area so you actually have to take quite a detour which is a real bummer, meaning I'm gonna end up having a full full day tomorrow. Unfortunately I got a butt kicker of sleep last night, as you wake up and your head spins, man what I wouldn't give for some Advil pm. Doing ok, it was white out for, fudge, 6 plus hours, I was fully navigating on instruments, that sucked. Needless to say It was quite challenging, you pretty much stumble around, look at your instrument, look up, ski 60 seconds, look down, oh man, totally crazy, but. Little bit better now, I'm able to charge the phone so I should be able to make my phone calls. Please note, I will do my absolute best to make my phone calls, cause there's suppose to be clouds coming in so I have to keep my phone available for airplane calls and such, so I will promise to do my absolute best, gonna be tight so what ever phone number you gave me please have it ready or your cell phone. Other than that just tired, excited, nervous, after 10 years of planning, thinking, dreaming and doing, I just gotta crank out another 8 milesish tomorrow, oh boy. Hope all is well with everyone. Out!

Audio Dispatch

Hello Aaron in Antarctica, day 78. Camp position South 89 degrees 46 decimal 357 minutes, West 064 degrees 35 decimal 881 minutes. Distance traveled 6 miles, time 6 miles, distance to South Pole 14 miles, elevation 9,100 feet. VLF way point 12 miles. F…


Hello Aaron in Antarctica, day 78. Camp position South 89 degrees 46 decimal 357 minutes, West 064 degrees 35 decimal 881 minutes. Distance traveled 6 miles, time 6 miles, distance to South Pole 14 miles, elevation 9,100 feet. VLF way point 12 miles. Four rations of food left. Today was one of the most punishing traveling days I've had in I can't even remember. It was complete white out for over 5 hours at 30 knot either head on or slightly off access wind, holy moly, plus I had my goggles iced up so it was pretty much as Alf said, zin travel, so I activated my little game of counting steps and then counting sets of 60 steps up to 80 or so and that's a session. And every, when it's white out, play with my chest harness with compass because in 60 steps I'm stumbling on a little sastrugi, getting shoved around by the wind, instead of heading south you could actually start heading southwest in as little as 60 steps. It's unbelievably disorienting, kinda funny cause you get that same thing that pilots have sometimes where you don't actually believe your instruments, you look your compass, your like, no way I'm heading east, that's crap and then you wiggle around wiggle around, oh, or you think oh the wind has shifted, wow, that's an incredible shift, yea no not quite. So yea that was interesting. And I definitely took my expedition managers advice and slept a little bit more and felt so much better. My throats getting sore, I've been seeing spots for over a week and a half, ..., all sorts of weird stuff. I looked at my journal and realized that I have been going 9 hours a day for 40 days straight. Imagine hard work, pulling a sled in brutal weather, freezing, for 40 days straight and I haven't had an off day since 70 days. The only reason I had an off day at 70 days ago was because I had bronchitis. As long as the weather cools down, and hopefully it snows, forecast is I should be at the pole in 2 days, I know I keep saying that but hopefully that will improve. And soon as I get there I'll start making my phone calls, so please be ready. Also my phones already all at half battery of course cause I haven't had any sun to charge and currently there are ice crystals in the sky, needing my other favorite thing, snow, so crud (laugh). I was hoping for easy, boring weather to roll into, no no no no Antarctica is giving me the royal send off. Took me an hour to unbury my tent this morning, love it. Hope all is well. Out!