Bert Gildart’s art

He’s got it down to a science, and it comes out as iconic art.  Former back-country ranger in Glacier National Park, writer/outdoor photographer/Airstreamer Bert Gildart has been providing spectacular photos and enriching stories for Airstream Life ever since it’s first issue in 2004, right up to his current article in the Fall 2012 issue, “Dark Skies – Deep in the Heart of America with Your Airstream”.

Last December I got a chance to observe Bert’s science and artistry up close as we hiked Moonlight Canyon Trail at Agua Caliente County Park in Southern California and came upon Bighorn Sheep and glorious California Fuchsia.  I got another chance last month when Bert and Janie joined us for 5 days of camping here.  Bert and I decided to go on a slow, early morning hike to avoid the midday heat while looking for interesting subjects.  Janie had already found one on the other side of the road across from their trailer, a Desert Shaggy Mane Mushroom, Podaxis pistillaris, pushing its fruiting body up after the previous week’s rain.  When it dries out, it will release its spores.

On the Moonlight Canyon Trail Bert and I came across clusters of Monarch butterflies feasting on the nectar of the yellow flowers of the Honey Mesquite shrub.

According to Wikipedia, “The monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south as the birds do on a regular basis.”  (Note: the Monarch can be distinguished from the co-mimic Viceroy butterfly by the lack of a black line running across the veins of the hind wing.)

“Suddenly, we saw butterflies and then, a few steps further, we found the most lavish growth of California Fuchsia I have ever seen…”, writes Bert in his weblog article, “Limiting Factors Check A Population’s Expansion…“, which includes his beautiful and colorful close-up images.

Bert’s artistry and “science”, such as his camera, settings, and use of strobes, are detailed in my article, “Photographic artistry of Bert Gildart“.  Bert now has a new and lighter tripod, a Gitzo Series 2 Carbon Fiber 6X Explorer with 3-section legs, and he says he carries it everywhere.  Bert selected a BH-30 LR Ballhead with lever-release clamp for his tripod.  He says, “… it’s expensive, but I use it all the time for fine adjustments, and at this stage of my life I said what the heck.”  (A similar set up is demonstrated here.)

Bert tells me that he will be presenting a two-part seminar on photography at Alumafiesta in Tucson, Arizona, in February.  The first part will be an hour long slide presentation on where photography has taken him around the world (such as Egypt) and will cover lighting, composition, and modern techniques that are available to people using Photoshop and Lightroom.  The presentation will conclude with how Bert assembles an article for Native Peoples Magazine.  The next day, Bert plans to lead a photographic field trip, utilizing the techniques that were discussed the day before.

Through his photos and stories, Bert has captured the beauty of nature and native peoples, even as they are being threatened on many fronts.  Bert Gildart’s art underscores the importance of recommitting to the preservation of our national parks and icons, such as the spectacular Glacier National Park!

Aye, there’s the rub rail

A rub rail covers the bottom edge of the exterior aluminum panels, along with the bottom line of rivets that attach the panels to our 2007 Safari trailer.  This rub rail area is susceptible to water in at least two places, especially in the rear of the trailer where much rain water and dew run down.  The trailer was only two years old when we found part of the chrome/vinyl rub rail insert hanging down during a trip.  Moisture can loosen the self-sticking adhesive backing of this vinyl insert.  We reattached this vinyl strip using 3M Plastic and Emblem Adhesive #08061 and details are posted here.

Click on the image above to enlarge it and you will see that the factory applied sealant along the top edge of the rub rail bracket.  The integrity of this seal is important, because if enough water gets behind the rub rail it could lead to floor rot.

Last summer, I found areas of cracked sealant along the top edge of our rub rail.  In one respect, we are fortunate to have a relatively dry climate in San Diego, but we do get plenty of dew.  So after I replaced our Marathon tires in September, I sealed the rub rail cracks with Acryl-R and applicator from the Airstream Store.

Actually, I put a bead of Acryl-R along the top edge of the rub rail around the trailer, and then the trailer got its annual big washing and waxing.  For the occasion, I got a new, sturdier stepladder and more of my favorite wax, Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Sealant #20.  This sealant, along with the nail polish that I applied last year, has prevented any further growth of filiform corrosion.

So now that the trailer is washed and waxed, and presented with new tires (and new AGM batteries last May) it seems happier and ready for our fall camping season. We celebrated by observing the Chinese Moon Festival, also called Mid-Autumn Festival.

Larry set up a display featuring the many symbols of this festival, including mooncakes with an egg yolk in the middle.

We gazed at the full moon as our Chinese paper lanterns seemed to dance, and the Tillandsia secunda (in the foreground) seemed to wave in the breeze, and we remembered the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess who lives on the moon, a love story.

Summer of ’12

Summer began by my thoroughly rinsing off all of the salt deposits that accumulated on the trailer during our beachside outing last May.  An important part of this annual process is to fully extended our three awnings and wash off the accumulation of salt and dirt.  The details of our trailer awning care are seen in my post, “Trailer Awnings“.  I am always amazed at the amount of dirt that accumulates along the very top edge of canvas where it attaches to the trailer (and can’t be seen or washed away until the awning is fully extended).

Diesel prices rose to $4.599/gallon this summer and the cost to fill up the F-250 tank was an even $100 here in San Diego, but the upside of living here is that we don’t have to go far to enjoy the great outdoors, even our backyard is a tropical oasis.

Summer projects included Larry’s application of finishing touches to our trailer sun shade screen seen in my last post, “Drift and the land yacht“, and in my research into replacing our six-year-old trailer tires.

San Diego’s Old Town is a great place to work and play.  Larry and I put on our Victorian era attire and went to Old Town State Historic Park where Nick & Dave were photographing anybody for free as long as they were wearing vintage clothing.  Nick & Dave do tintype photography using the wet plate collodion process.

(Photo credit: Joe O’Dell)

They took our photos, showed them to us and, after they applied the finishing application of clear lacquer, we returned in two weeks to pick them up.

Nick & Dave’s assistant photographer Joe O’Dell took pictures of us with his Nikon camera and used Photoshop to make the image below showing us with the backdrop of Bodie, a ghost town in California.

Our Renaissance faire friend, Jim M., died in late summer, reminding us that life is fragile and brief and of the importance of cherishing and sharing each day with our loved ones, from season to season.  Summer is now over, the leaves are beginning to fall, the air is cooler… but love endures, along with our memories of the summer of ’12.

Spring ‘stream reading: Bert Gildart

Just in time for spring reading, our Safari Airstream’s magazine rack now holds two new publications, Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent, by Bert Gildart, and the “new and improved” Spring 2012 issue of Airstream Life magazine.

This first edition of Glacier Icons, published February 21, 2012, by Globe Pequot Press, features 50 large, stunning photographs of Glacier National Park‘s iconic places, animals, plants, and people, along with short and succinct essays packed with information.  In the “Introduction” to his book, Bert writes, “this northwestern Montana park offers a multitude of diverse flora, fauna, and scenic geography, thanks to its dramatic geologic history… born of volcanic fire… and gouged by great continental ice sheets.”

Unfortunately, one of the most photographed glaciers in the park, Grinnell Glacier (named for George Bird Grinnell, influential in establishing Glacier National Park in 1910), is a disappearing icon.  “According to Dr. Dan Fagre, Glacier’s climatologist, Grinnell Glacier could be the poster child for global warming… conditions are changing and that can best be appreciated by hiking to the Grinnell Overlook… from there, the panorama dramatizes the now-accelerated rate of global warming,” writes Bert on page 20.  Listen to Dan Fagre as he talks about his mountain ecosystems research in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park, with its thrilling Going-to-the-Sun Road, is included in Bert’s “Our Favorite National Parks” Airstream Life article, Spring 2011 issue.  “I worked here in the late ’60s and ’70s as a seasonal ranger – and have returned almost every summer since then to hike,” wrote Bert in his article, “Glacier National Park – An Exploration of Glaciers, Bears, Sheep, and Tiny Pikas,” in the Spring 2006 issue of Airstream Life.  The article covers Bert and Janie’s visit to Glacier National Park with their 28-foot Safari in the summer of 2005, where they joined a group hike on Grinnell Glacier Trail led by Dr. Dan Fagre, who pointed out the recession of Grinnell Glacier.

Bert’s stories and articles have appeared in most Airstream Life issues since the first one in 2004, including the current Spring 2012 issue that features his article, “Chaco Culture National Historical Park in Winter – Explored by Airstream.”  This article covers Bert and Janie’s adventure into Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico in a brutally cold November, 2009, where they completely ran out of trailer power and generator gas as outside temperatures dipped to -11° F after midnight.

According to Editor and Publisher Rich Luhr, starting with the Winter 2011 issue, Airstream Life has improved its readability by its choice of fonts, a “cleaner” article template, and more dramatic layouts with larger pictures.  Airstream Life has a new feature, the “Buyer’s Guide”, which reviews specific Airstream models, and continues to feature quality articles such as those by Bert Gildart, with rich, poetic and majestic images.

As mentioned in Glacier Icons‘ “About The Author” section, “Bert Gildart is the author of more than four hundred magazine and newspaper feature stories.”

“He is the author of fifteen books, seven of which he coauthored with his wife, Janie.”  (He is also a daring and creative photographer.)

When Bert and Janie are not busy hiking and photographing, or writing, you might find them around a crackling campfire, chatting with friends, or listening to performers, such as their friend Tony Feathers, who has a knack of mesmerizing kangaroo rats with his music such as “Old Black Crow.”

In pursuit of dragons and pearls

There were reports that a dragon has been sighted in Borrego Valley of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, so we set up our Safari in Borrego Palm Canyon and joined writer/photographer Bert Gildart and his wife Janie on a hunt for dragons and other game along the way.  We rendezvoused with Bert and Janie at Borrego Springs’ Christmas Circle and traveled north on Borrego Springs Road.  The topography here reminded me of Ernest Hemingway’s description of parts of Africa where “the country began to open out into dry, sandy, bush-bordered prairies that dried into a typical desert country…” (Green Hills of Africa, Scribner, 1963, New York, page 160).  It wasn’t long before we spotted big game off to the right and we pulled off the road for a photo shoot.

It looked like elephants and camels were here.  Bert started taking photos a safe distance from these creatures, but one seemed to become wary and turned abruptly toward him.

As the space diminished between us, it became obvious that these creatures were actually large metal sculptures, Sky Art, created by sculptor/designer Ricardo Breceda for Dennis Avery’s Galleta Meadows Estate, depicting Gomphotheres, Camelops, and other creatures that roamed here during the Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Miocene eras, millions of years ago.  Larry and I had visited this Sky Art two years ago as seen in my “Springtime in Galleta Meadows” post.

We retreated back to our trucks and resumed our pursuit of fabled quarry, the dragon.  Further down the road, we caught sight of its humps and pulled over to visually take in all 350 feet of The Serpent with a Chinese dragon’s head and rattlesnake tail undulating in and out of the desert sand.  We then respectfully approached for a planned photo shoot.

Janie held the strobe while Bert used his Nikon D7000 camera to photograph Larry wearing traditional Chinese clothing of the late 1800s.  (See Bert’s photos in his posting “Year of the Dragon“.)

Larry wore traditional clothing in the Manchu style of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) such as this long blue gown (changshan), black skull cap with a jade ornament, and hair in the queue style.  (Historical note: “To frighten the Chinese, in 1873 San Francisco adopted the Queue Ordinance, which allowed prison wardens to shave the heads or cut off the long braids of Chinese prisoners,” writes Jean Pfaelzer in Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, Random House, New York, 2007, page 75.)

Larry used a long bamboo pole to levitate a white Chinese lantern symbolizing the pearl of wisdom and knowledge, which the benevolent Chinese Dragon is fond of pursuing. The pearl also symbolizes truth, enlightenment, wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

The idea for this sculpture began with Dennis Avery.  “Dennis also is keenly attuned to Chinese culture through his wife, Sally Tsui Wong-Avery, who is founder of the Chinese Service Center in San Diego and the principal of San Diego’s Chinese Language School,” writes Diana Lindsay in her new book, Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist, Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2012, page 205.

The arrival of this Chinese dragon is timely and auspicious as we enter the Year of the Dragon, which begins on January 23, 2012.  It’s a time to say “Gung Hay Fat Choy,” and watch the Dragon Dance!

Oh, there is one more thing… the second day of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration is considered the birthday of all dogs!