Off-Course Airplane Gets Shot At By Cambodian Troops

airplane And most people get jumpy when their flight hits turbulence. Passengers of a Bangkok Airways airplane were in for a unnerving surprise when Cambodian troops opened fire at the them. The airplane was supposed to land in Siem Reap Airport; however, due to bad weather, the plane was forced to fly off course.

The shooting was a misunderstanding, as troops believed the passenger airliner to be a spy plane. This border is where, just last year, deadly clashes over territory had taken place between neighboring countries. Typically, commercial airlines do not fly around the Cambodian border, while Bangkok Airways had been six miles over it.

Luckily, nobody was hurt during the incident.

“It was dark so we could not see what type of plane it was. But it was circling many times and then our soldiers fired 18 shots from a machine gun, but it missed the plane because it was flying very high,” Commander Seng Phearin said.

[Image via Big Stock]

Tutorial: how to properly shoot / photograph the Northern Lights

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.

Ah, the Northern Lights. Aurora Borealis. Pure magic. Regardless of what you call them, these mysteries of our universe are truly impossible to forget once you see them, and now that I have, I totally understand why people plan entire trips around the sliver of a chance to witness them with their own eyes. The Northern Lights don’t come out for humans to see that often, but February and March are considered prime viewing months in the frigid wilds of Fairbanks. The northern half of Alaska is one of the only places in America where you stand a chance at seeing this phenomenon yourself, and it’s yet another incredible reason to visit The Last Frontier in the winter. Seeing these colored swirls dance across a starry Alaskan sky stirs the soul like few other experiences can, and if there’s one thing you’ll want to do when spotting them, it’s capturing the moment for years to come. Photographing the Northern Lights is no easy task; it’s more like a science, but it’s far from impossible. Read on to learn how I was able to capture the images seen here in the gallery on one bone-chillingly cold night north of Fairbanks.

%Gallery-118384%For one, it’s important to position yourself in a place that’ll provide the best possible chance to spot the Northern Lights. The Northern Alaska Tour Company runs overnight trips to Coldfoot and Wiseman for this very purpose, and Chena Hot Springs Resort — located some 60 miles from the city lights of Fairbanks — also has a specific area setup to view them. But of course, they don’t emerge every single night, and their appearance is both varied and unpredictable when it comes to timing. You can read more on exactly where I camped out to capture these shots here, but the long and short of it is this: Fox, Alaska is just far enough away form Fairbanks to get a non light-polluted view of the sky, and Goldstream Road is known by locals as having great vantage points. If you’re looking for an easy spot to go in your rental car, Fox is it. Here’s a more detailed look at how to reach this spot.

northern lights

Now, for the equipment. If you’re making the effort to capture the Northern Lights, you’ll need to come prepared. Being that it’s the winter, you’ll need to dress in pretty much everything you have. Spotting the lights requires patience and time. I started my campout session at 1:00am in early March, and didn’t see any activity until 1:40am. Once you see any activity at all, you’ll need to move fast. I saw them dance for around 60 minutes before vanishing, but there are no guarantees that you’ll see them hang around for that long. Heavy coats and pants, thick socks, a face mask and hand warmers are all a must.

Here’s a breakdown of what camera gear I’d bring when camping out to see the Northern Lights:

  • A DSLR (two if you have them!); the nicer the model, the better. My gallery here was composed with a Nikon D3S and a Nikon D90.
  • A sturdy tripod. This is essential. I know it means you’ll need to check a bag, but you simply have to have a tripod for each camera.
  • Wide-angle lenses. Dedicated wide-angle lenses (like Nikon’s 10-24mm DX lens) capture the widest amount of sky, but even a standard lens (like the 24-70mm FX lens) is “wide enough” for most.
  • Fully charged batteries. -20 degree temperatures can zap a battery in no time, so make sure you’re at 100 percent before leaving home. If you have spares, bring them!
  • Flexible gloves. You’ll need to be able to tweak your camera settings, so make sure you wear gloves that allow you that luxury.
  • A remote shutter. This is optional, but having a remote to activate each shot means less opportunity for blur in long exposure shots.
  • A flashlight / headlamp. This is super useful for lighting up the buttons on your camera so you can tweak settings in the dark of the night.
northern lights

So, that’s about it as far as kit. Now, let’s talk settings:

  1. Widen your lenses as far as they’ll go — you want a vast image, and having the ground / surrounding buildings visible on the lower portion of the shot provides outstanding scale and context.
  2. Place your DSLR in full manual mode; you’ll want total control over every single aspect of these shots.
  3. Switch each lens to manual mode, and dial your focus ring to Infinity. Be careful to align that Infinity symbol precisely (rather than just cranking the focus wheel past it).
  4. Lower your aperture as far down as it’ll go. I’m talking f/2.8, f/3.5, etc. Whatever your lens will stop down to.
  5. Lower your ISO to 200 – 1,000. This varies greatly depending on the camera, so you’ll need to start at 200 and raise it notch by notch if your shots are simply too dark.
  6. Adjust your shutter speed to 30 seconds. If your camera will only go to 20 or 25 seconds, you can probably make that work as well. Those with a remote shutter can use “Bulb” mode for even longer exposure shots, but remember, the longer you leave that shutter open, the lower your ISO needs to go (and / or higher your aperture value needs to be) to prevent too much light from “whiting out” the shot.
  7. Set your file capture type to RAW! This is an extremely vital step. Feel free to shoot in RAW + JPEG if you want both, but RAW files grab the rich blackness of the sky far better than JPEG will.
  8. Align your shot on the tripod. Peek through the viewfinder and make sure you’re getting the angle you want; I’d recommend various portions of the sky to be in various shots to add some variety.
  9. Gently press the shutter button, and remain still. Even the slightest shaking of the ground could introduce unwanted blur into your shots, so it’s important to remain still as the long exposure takes place. You can dodge this by using a remote shutter from a distance away.
  10. Evaluate your results. If it’s too dark, bump the ISO value higher or lengthen the exposure time (i.e. shutter speed) beyond 30 seconds. If it’s too light, raise the aperture value a notch or two or bump your ISO value closer to 0. You could also slow the exposure, but I’d use that as a last resort.
northern lights

The only other major advice I have is to shoot a lot. A whole lot. You aren’t guaranteed to see the Northern Lights, so if they come out, you need to be quick in your setup procedure and continually fire shots in hopes of grabbing a handful of keepers. You also cannot assume that you have “one great shot” based on what your see on your DSLR’s LCD. Those are often misleading, and can hide subtle amounts of blur that’ll show up later. Take as many shots as you can stand to take, as each one is guaranteed to be somewhat different than the last. If you execute the shoot properly, you won’t have to fiddle much with the shots in Photoshop afterwards. The Northern Lights pretty much accentuate themselves. I’d also recommend a lot of patience, and if you don’t see them on your first night out, try again. Trust me, it’s totally worth the effort.

Have any tips of your own for capturing the Northern Lights? From prime viewing locations around the globe to helpful photography tips, feel free to share in comments below!

My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

Native Americans in Oregon hunt buffalo for first time in a century

Native Americans, buffalo, bison, native americans, native american, Native American
In the old days, the Cayuse people used to rely on the buffalo hunt. Like many other Native American tribes, the buffalo gave them meat, hide, bone, grease, bone, and other materials. But once European settlers swept across the continent the buffalo all but disappeared. The Cayuse haven’t had a buffalo hunt in a hundred years.

All that has changed now that the Cayuse have won the right, initially given to them in a treaty dating back to 1855, to hunt buffalo on Federal land. It’s the latest in a string of victories for Native Americans in various states pushing for traditional hunting rights. In 2006, the Nez Perce and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai won the right to hunt on Federal land outside Yellowstone National Park, although they are forbidden from hunting within the park.

White settlers hunted the buffalo nearly to extinction by the early twentieth century. A couple of generations of careful management has helped the population rebound, and they’re now classified as “Near Threatened“, which is a lot better than “Endangered”.

Now the Cayuse and Shoshone-Bannock of Oregon have begun to hunt again. In addition to hiking, swimming, bird watching, logging, and a host of other uses, Federal land now has a new use, or an old one.

[Photo courtesy John Hill]

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Gun-toting Mexican “pirates” shoot to kill on border lake

One man is presumed dead, and his wife was able to get away. The couple was jetskiing on the Falcon Lake reservoir. They crossed to the Mexican side of the water, according to Zapata county Sheriff Sigfredo Gonzalez, where they came under fire. The shooters are believed to be “Mexican drug operatives,” the San Antonio Express-News reports. Two “boatloads” of men unleashed a torrent of bullets, shooting the husband in the head.

The San Antonio Express-News continues: “They saw them approaching and started revving it up back to the U.S. side,” Gonzalez told the Associated Press. “The guys just started shooting at them from behind.”

This isn’t the only instance of “piracy” along the border recently. Back in May, two boaters were said to have been “shaken down” on the Mexican side of the water. And, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there were other incidents, as well. The DPS has issued a warning about crossing the border to the Mexican side of the lake.

[Via Gawker, photo by Ack Ook via Flickr]

Paws Up Resort Deal: Celebrate Glamping

The Resort at Paws Up has reason to celebrate. It’s celebrating its fifth birthday and the opening of its third luxury tented camp, and these milestones, of course, come with a reason for you to head out to Montana to check the place out for yourself. There’s a five-night, all-inclusive package for $2,413 a night that can’t be missed.

In addition to staying in a two-bedroom tent at the new Creekside Camp (for a family of four), you’ll have your choice of five wilderness activities, with a half-day activity per person per day for four days. The hot air balloon ride will take you high enough to see the entire 37,000 acre resort, and back on the ground, you’ll get to take one sporting clays lesson at the five-stand Shooting Club at Paws Up.

Logistically, there’s no reason to sweat: airport transportation and airport transfers are included. And, for $3,100 a night, you can upgrade to a 1,900-square foot Big Timber Home. This deal is available from July 1, 2010 through September 30, 2010.