Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio

Sebastian Junger says in his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging “When people are actively engaged in a cause their lives have more purpose... with a resulting improvement in mental health.”  Rambo has championed the cause of Art and used her ingenuity and hard work to convert an old bluebird school bus into a home for her and her kids as well as an art studio for veterans in need of an outlet.  

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Fenix SD20 Light Review

Fenix SD20 Diving Light Review

Shining Dace fish in a river in North Western North Carolina.

Shining Dace fish in a river in North Western North Carolina.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I am an ambassador for Fenix Lighting and I truly believe in this company as they have lit our Catching Creation adventures for the last 5-6 years. This is my most recent review of their Fenix SD20 Dive Light.

Before I dive into this review, pun intended, I want to clarify that I am not a scuba diver and as such I will not be delving into the specifics of how this light performs at depth on a coral reef or gnarly shipwreck.  So, if you were looking for an extensive review in regards to this light’s functionality in that regard I hate to disappoint you but with that out of the way let’s plunge into this review…see what I did there…ok no more diving quips.

 My ultimate purpose for getting this light was that I wanted something that could throw a good deal of light and also not worry about it taking a spill into a swamp or creek.   I often find myself in wild wet places like this while shooting photographs of wildlife and videos for my YouTube channel.   At 1000 lumens on full blast and 400 lumens on the low setting I wasn’t lacking or light while on my last few nighttime adventures. Not only is this light bright but it also has quite the throw of light, on the highest setting it can project clean white light for over 170 meters. One of the features this light offers is a red light setting and I actually really liked having the alternative to switch this thing over to the lower output red light while looking for skittish pine barrens tree frogs in the NC Sandhills and later while shooting photos of stars over the North Carolina coast.

 My initial reaction to the light was that it was way bigger than I anticipated which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  This thing weighs in between half and three quarters of a pound with the batteries included so as you hike or swim with it attach the supplied lanyard and get some curls in while you shine into those murky depths.  I noticed personally that after a couple hours of holding this light in one arm at eye level shining for nocturnal snakes and tree frogs I did feel like my triceps were beginning to hit muscle failure, ok maybe that’s a bit dramatic but I definitely noticed the light’s heft while using it.  

 A positive to the weight of the light is that you can truly tell it is well constructed.  Not only is it waterproof but it is also quite impact resistant.  I took a bad spill and basically launched my light on the concrete on accident and was panicked thinking that I just shattered the lens because it fell lens first. It barely had a scratch on it.  I was really impressed by that.  Another plus to the weight is that if, let’s say, you’re alone in the backwoods and you’re being pursued by a surely sasquatch you can most likely knock that cryptozoological beast unconscious and get your name in the science and history books all thanks to this hefty light.

 When I inspected the light after it came in the mail I was kind of bummed that the batteries weren’t included in it since previous lights included a battery or had one built in so for whatever reason it just slipped my mind and I had to wait another week to order the batteries and subsequent charger for them.  This wasn’t the end of the world as had I paid attention to detail I would have read that the batteries weren’t included and would have ordered them originally.  

 You don’t HAVE to use the Fenix batteries since this light could also use either two Fenix 18650 series batteries or 4 CR123A batteries that you can pick up at any local gas station or box store at a premium.  The rechargeable Fenix batteries are the way to go in my opinion since you just pay for them once for the most part and are able to recharge them.  I opted for the Fenix ARB-L18-3500 Rechargeable 18650 Batteries and sprung for the Fenix ARE-X2 Battery Charger.  If you go this route, like me, you will quickly realize you may feel like these batteries never die.  I actually haven’t had to recharge my batteries more than once and I only did that as a formality between trips.   The tech specs say that you can run this light for 3 hours on high and over 7 hours on low (and red light) continuously before the batteries die which is impressive considering most people are going to be flipping it on and off as needed in many cases thereby lengthening their use.  

 I tested this light both above and below water and it performed well in either environment.  It does get a little warm after continuous usage out of the water but in all truth, I expected it to be much hotter considering it’s a sealed waterproof flashlight.  After 3-4 hours of usage in 90 degree heat it was noticeably warm but never got hot or uncomfortable to use.  I tested this light in both ocean water and local fresh water rivers and streams at approximately waist deep.  In the ocean I just tested the light throw in the shallow green North Carolina coastal waters and it did much better than anticipated in that turbid water.  In the fresh water ecosystems, I was able to shine this bright light underwater and spot little creek minnows of various species, chub, and some trout while on a fly-fishing trip with a friend.  

 One thing I do wish this light offered was some sort of mount for underwater cameras like the Fenix SD11 offers.  For my particular usage I think it would have been advantageous to have the ability to mount this to a GoPro or camera rig underwater because it definitely provides good clean light which is advantageous when trying to film underwater in shallow water.  The pros for this light far outweigh the cons for me and truthfully it was hard to find things I didn’t particularly like about the light.  All in all, this light is a great buy and if you’re in the market for a new waterproof light I highly recommend the Fenix SD20 Diving Light.

 

 

Gorges State Park

The alarm broke the silence of my sleepy bedroom at 4 am last Saturday as a reminder of the adventure to come.  I scrambled half asleep in the pre-dawn light of my bedroom to get layer after layer of clothing pulled onto my exhausted body.  I was up until half past midnight the evening prior out of sheer excitement for the day to come.  After fueling my body with coffee and my truck with gas I drove 30 minutes west to meet up with Stephen LaVine for him to load up his gear and accompany me on this journey. 

During the week he and I both scrolled endlessly on hiking apps and google maps and decided that the approximate 4 hour journey to the western wilds of North Carolina's Gorges State Park was our preferred destination.  Even though we would spend twice as much time driving as hiking, we decided that if the day panned out the way we thought it should; then it would be more than worth the effort.  

I made the mistake of looking down at the temperature gauge on my truck while en route and was shocked to see that it read a balmy 5 degrees.  Yikes!  I can't remember the last time it got this cold.  This day had all the makings of a great adventure and we were ready to seize it with vigor and purpose once we arrived in the parking lot at the State Park.  We opted for a 4 mile hike to see Rainbow Falls because from our research it seemed like this trail had the most bang for our buck and was doable in our short time table.

The river was frozen!  Everything was frozen actually.  North Carolina has been stuck in a frigid death grip from polar vortexes and bomb cyclones and a bunch of other made up words that meant it has been REALLY cold.  With huge camera bags and tripods and other various pieces of equipment strapped to our backs like pack mules Stephen and I trudged down the trail taking in the awe inspiring beauty at each stop.  Nothing could have prepared us for what was in store though.

The falls were massive!  It's hard to explain just how beautiful Rainbow Falls was to experience in real life.  I love any opportunity to be humbled by the grandeur of creation and this was truly an experience that made me realize my insignificance in that way only nature can.  My feeble attempt at photographing the landscapes here and Stephens expert cinematic eye for video all pales in comparison to really being in the presence of this natural wonder.  This area creates a temperate rainforest ecosystem making it more humid and slightly warmer than the surrounding peaks which lends for a unique microclimate.  With the added humidity and plunging temperatures my beard began to tighten and freeze to my face.  Not even that could break this stupid smile from my face though.  I can't remember a time recently where I felt truly this happy and overwhelmed with the joy that can only be experienced when you're outside.  This was just the medicine I needed to quell the turmoil in my soul that cabin fever and cubicle servitude lend to.  Get outside and create some of those happy endorphins!  

I highly encourage you to make the trek West and check out this natural wonder!

Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest - the cleared fields, the cities, the highways - and re-enter the woods. For only there can a man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence. Only in this silence and darkness can he recover the sense of the world’s longevity, of its ability to thrive without him, of his inferiority to it and his dependence on it. Perhaps then, he will grow humble before the place and begin to take it in - to learn from it what it is.
— Wendell Berry

Stephen is on a mission to film the beauty in National and State parks and he did not disappoint with his newest installment "In the Silence of Gorges State Park" that he filmed while on our adventure last weekend.  Check it out and let us know what you think and what you'd like to see us film next.  I foresee many more adventures along these lines in the near future so stay tuned!  

Neophyte In The Woods Podcast

Hey guys I was recently interviewed by Andrew McDowell on the “Neophyte in the Woods” podcast about Catching Creation and conservation issues.  In this episode, Andrew and I discuss at length issues facing conservation and the importance of properly understanding the place critters have in the natural world – and the modern “civilized” world.  Listen and let me know what you think!  Click HERE to visit the Neophyte in the woods Podcast episode page on the Change Your POV Podcast Network for the description and links to other episodes of their shows.

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Lazy 5 Ranch

We recently took a trip to Mooresville, NC to the Lazy 5 Ranch to see what all the fuss was about. I am not too sure what I was expecting but it definitely wasn't what we got.  It was much better than I anticipated and I was truly overwhelmed (and maybe even a little concerned at times) about the sheer volume of animals that were readily available to come up to my truck while we drove through.  On a practical level it was great because getting good photos and videos was super easy but on the other hand I worried about the animals being in such close proximity to vehicles.  Most of the animals greedily rushed my vehicle and we all eagerly either fed them pellets we purchased at the entrance or snapped picture after picture until we got the desired shot.  All in all I definitely want to visit the place again and it may be the closest thing to a real safari I get to experience for a while so I'll take it.  Check out the video from our trip.

We recently took a trip to Mooresville, NC to the Lazy 5 Ranch to see what all the fuss was about. I am not too sure what I was expecting but it definitely wasn't what we got.  It was much better than I anticipated and I was truly overwhelmed (and maybe even a little concerned at times) about the sheer volume of animals that were readily available to come up to my truck while we drove through.  On a practical level it was great because getting good photos and videos was super easy but on the other hand I worried about the animals being in such close proximity to vehicles.  Most of the animals greedily rushed my vehicle and we all eagerly either fed them pellets we purchased at the entrance or snapped picture after picture until we got the desired shot.  All in all I definitely want to visit the place again and it may be the closest thing to a real safari I get to experience for a while so I'll take it.  Check out the video from our trip.

Where Dem Turtles At

Check out our new jam!  "Where Dem Turtles At" is all bout turtle conservation!  Be sure to get this over at Bandcamp while it's free.  The song will be live on all platforms to include iTunes, Spotify and all other music sites within the week but in the meantime get it for free on Bandcamp!  

We will be coming out with stickers and shirts with this graphic on them in the coming months and a portion of our profits will go towards turtle conservation organizations we believe in.  More to come on that soon.  We plan on filming this music video in Feb/March timeframe and hopefully release around April.  The time table may shift one way or another but for now jam out to this glorious song and get hyped because we want YOU to be in the music video with us!  

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Fenix HP30R Headlamp Review

Fenix HP30R Headlamp Review

Having recently been given an opportunity to become a brand ambassador for Fenix Lighting I took great pleasure in testing and reviewing their new HP30R headlamp.  Fenix has the tagline “illuminate your adventure” and that’s exactly what this light will do for you!  Being used to my trusty Fenix HP25 for the last 3 years I was reluctant to change but this is a worthy upgrade and you’ll thank yourself once you purchase yours.

I recently tested the Fenix HP30R on one of my Catching Creation filming adventures and from the moment I pushed the buttons to illuminate this intensely bright 1750 lumen (max combined output) headlamp I was impressed.  The Fenix HP30R uses Cree XM-L2 and XP-G2 R5 LED’s which give you a really even white light that will quickly make you the envy of your friends on nocturnal adventures with the floodlight topping out at 750 lumens and spotlight at a whopping 1000 lumens.

This light does get quite warm and actually has a built-in feature that once the light reaches a temperature that is approx. 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65*C) it will downshift the light output and then as it cools it will slowly return to the previous output.  If you’re like me and you want to run this thing at full blast with the spotlight and flood light both at their max lumen output then you will run into this issue.  Both the flood and spot light in their own right are most likely brighter than anything you’re currently using and when used together they give you a good mix of bright flood with a focused spotlight.  It took close to two hours for my light to overheat and start downshifting its output so in the grand scheme of things that is not a bad tradeoff. 

I’ve never used a headlamp that had to be belt mounted and I was a bit apprehensive as to whether or not I would like this configuration. Once I got the battery pack settled in a comfortable spot I immediately forgot I had a wire running down my back to a power source on my belt.  I will advise, however, that if you’re wearing a backpack to consider your placement because the only minor downside is that if you are a taller person sometimes you can accidentally unplug the light from its base if you bend over as I did a few times in the woods.  This minor inconvenience is far outweighed by the stellar performance of this light.

The coolest part about the battery pack, with its rechargeable Li-On 18650 batteries, is that you can not only push a button to check the battery level with an indicator light but you can also charge your devices with the built-in USB and Micro USB ports.  I do a lot of filming with GoPro cameras and Smart phones as secondary cameras in the field and having a portable charger that doubles as a remarkable light is truly a great addition to any adventure.

While filming in the humid deciduous forests of South Carolina, where I recently used this light, it dwarfed the lights of those with me, illuminated my entire field of view, and lasted the length of my adventure deep into the early morning.  The HP30R is a game changer for anyone that spends a lot of time outdoors after dark.  When you’re in habitat riddled with vipers, rock outcrops, and uneven terrain this light will become your best friend.  It takes the mystery out of where you’re putting your feet and truly turns night into day.  If you’re looking for the last headlamp you’ll ever need to buy then look no further than the Fenix HP30R.

Leaping Lizards in the NC Sandhills

Leaping Lizards in the North Carolina Sandhills

Come Join the Adventure as Stan and the Catching Creation team re-visit the North Carolina Sandhills and film several species of lizard, snake, and some frog species.  Have you ever seen a legless lizard?  What about a spade foot toad?  Did you think we'd NOT film snakes while down here?  Of course we did!   We were able to incorporate drone footage and some stellar close ups of animals as we spend hours in the North Carolina Sandhills.  I hope you enjoy our most recent adventure and be sure to share!

Ain't no Copperhead

Ain't No Copperhead

If you've been following all the news lately on the Catching Creation Instagram and Facebook pages you will be excited to know that today is the day.  We are finally done recording "Ain't no Copperhead" hip hop song.  It's all about snake identification or rather the misidentification.  Every year I get countless tags on social media, texts and frantic messages about people finding copperheads.  Nine times out of ten the "copperhead" is one of two harmless snakes; the Dekay's brown snake or the juvenile black racer snake.  Both have patterns and in the dim twilight at a hazy wood line I guess I can understand the confusion. This misidentification happens frequently enough that as a team we decided to make this funny song about it.  I hope you enjoy it and please share it on all social media platforms!  What should we make a song about next?  Leave a comment and let us know!

This song was recorded and mixed by Stephen LaVine, filmed and edited by Stan Lake.   It was performed by Daniel Charles, Chance Feimster, Thomas LaVine, Stephen LaVine, and Stan Lake.  Special thanks to Barry McGee and Deric Cook for dancing their hearts out on a hot summer day for this video!

If you liked this song be sure to check out our other song "Slippy Slimy Salamander" and get your wiggle on as this catchy song lays eggs in your brain.

Thomas LaVine and  Stephen LaVine both have lots of amazing stuff going on with their music careers, please take a second and check out their new albums and go follow them on social media!

Thomas LaVineAmazoniTunesFacebookStephen LaVine iTunesYoutubeFacebook

Ain't no Copperhead
Ain't no Copperhead

Hammer Down Film

If you're interested in checking out my documentary called "Hammer Down" about my tour in Iraq and the men I served with you can now do so online for free!  We have made the film available over at our film website http://www.hammerdownfilm.com/watch/ so be sure to check it out.  It has been many years in the making and specifically the last year and a half of hard work to make this thing a reality. https://vimeo.com/162833061

Garter Snake In My Back Yard

Woo Hoo!  After working on my back yard habitat a bit and mowing tonight I found a beautiful garter snake!  Check out the video below.  Leave a comment on the video on youtube about all the cool things you're finding in your backyard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbDQRM_dieM

Bucky the Tegu Update Video

Hey guys, I know I know it's been a minute since I've posted, but don't fret there's going to be lots more coming soon along with updates and all sorts of goodies so hold on to your snake hooks cause it's gonna be gnarly!  I decided to make an update video to my video from a while back about my Tegu, Bucky, and basically just checking in and letting everyone know I'm still alive!  haha God is good and there are some cool things in the works that I can't wait to share with you. https://youtu.be/HPYfQWUoZQg