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Night Photography at French Creek State Park

By Alan Murray,
Uncharted Staff

Stars peek through patches of cloud over French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pa. This exposure was taken with a Nikon D800 at ISO 1000 with a 24mm lens at f/2.8 for 20 seconds. (© 2013 Alan Murray/Uncharted)

Stars peek through patches of clouds over French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pa. This exposure was taken with a Nikon D800 at ISO 1000 with a 24mm lens at f/2.8 for 20 seconds. Click on the image to view larger. (© 2013 Alan Murray/Uncharted)

Things don’t always go the way I plan. This is especially true when it comes to photography. I was reminded of that this week as I kicked off a long-term project that includes photographing night skies for Uncharted. The idea is to document different astronomical events taking place at various locations around the world, and show how different cultures perceive and interact with the cosmos. It’s a great excuse for taking a break from web programming, project managing, and other forms of tedious office work that have kept me inside more than a person who works at Uncharted should be required to do.

It’s going to be some time before I finish, but I’ll be sharing how things are going, including some occasional glimpses of images I collect along my travels. I’ll also share some helpful tips for taking your own photos.

This week I decided to explore French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pa. Once an industrial complex for the United States, the park is the largest contiguous block of forest between Washington D.C. and New York City, offering a variety of activities that include hiking, fishing, camping and biking.

Even though I grew up only 50 miles away, I had never been there and was hoping it might provide a good backdrop for portions of my project. I was also hoping to capture some glimpses of the Perseids meteor shower which peaked over the weekend.

I knew a couple factors would affect how my images turned out. The Philadelphia area is no friend to dark skies, and even though French Creek is more than 50 miles from there, its proximity to smaller cities such as Reading and Pottstown could pose some challenges, especially for capturing glimpses of meteor showers.

I confirmed my suspicions with the Dark Sky Finder, a helpful online tool that maps light pollution levels around the world. Areas highlighted in black, blue and green are more ideal for stargazing, while the ambient light emanating from nearby cities limits visibility in yellow, orange, red and white zones.

French Creek was in the orange.

The weather forecast was ambiguous, promising anything from thunderstorms to clear conditions. This, coupled with a typically humid and hazy climate, threatened to make things even more difficult than usual.

I scouted some locations and planned the night. Visibility was good and the weather looked like it was going to cooperate. I set up camp, ate dinner, and prepared my gear for the evening.

For this shoot, I used two cameras, a Nikon D800 and a Nikon D700. Both cameras, mounted on tripods, were focused on different scenes to increase the likelihood of capturing more meteors.  I set the built-in intervalometer in both cameras to take 20-second exposures every 21 seconds.  This is helpful because you can increase your chances of having the shutter open when an unexpected meteor passes, and it frees you up to take other photos, take a nap or grab an evening snack. If your camera doesn’t have one, there are a variety of wired intervalometers compatible with different brands and models. To avoid camera shake, I also used a cable release to trigger the camera.

I won’t go into too much more detail about exposures and camera settings except to say that I set my ISO at 1000 and used a 24mm lens at f/2.8. I also used a white balance in the area of 3800 Kelvin. I suggest experimenting with different ISO, white balance and exposure settings until you find what works best. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn, and when we learn from our mistakes we begin taking better photos more consistently.

I was planning on shooting from about 11 p.m. until sunrise, but at 2 a.m. clouds slowly smothered my view. They were followed by a storm that lasted until morning. This reminded me of a couple months earlier when clouds covered my view while photographing the supermoon at Valley Forge National Historic Park. 

I snapped this photo while scouting out locations for my night photography. It's important not to lose site of other opportunities even though your primary objective might be something completely different. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I snapped this photo at Scotts Run Lake while scouting out locations for my night photography. It’s important not to lose sight of other opportunities even though your primary objective might be something completely different. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I’ve learned on a number of occasions that when things don’t quite work out the way you expect, that there are often opportunities to use the very things keeping you from getting the shot you want (in this case clouds and light pollution) to capture an improvised alternative shot. This philosophy is easily adaptable to just about anything else that I do at Uncharted or in life.

Even though the clouds obstructed the meteors I was trying to capture, they provided a unique effect as they moved across the sky over those 20-second exposures. This, combined with light pollution from nearby cities somehow worked to my advantage and gave the scene a more colorful and layered look. Earlier, as I scouted locations for my night shots, I found a nice scene of a fisher at Scotts Run Lake during sunset. While I hadn’t planned on these alternative shots, being open to other options helped me see moments I otherwise might have passed over.

If there is anything I haven’t covered here or you have more questions, post a comment below and I’ll do my best to help out. If you’re looking for more hands-on learning, you can sign up for my travel photography course. 

Alan Murray is the President and a co-founder of Uncharted. He likes scuba diving and snowshoeing. When Alan was five, he wanted to be an astronaut. If you’d like to learn more about Alan or view samples of his photography, check out his personal photo site. 


First Cameras and Learning Travel Photography

By Alan Murray,
Uncharted Staff

My very first camera was a Canon AT-1. It survived 11 years of pounding, dropping and water damage before I finally decided to upgrade my equipment. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

My very first camera was a Canon AT-1. It survived 11 years of pounding, dropping and water damage before I finally decided to upgrade my equipment. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

I still have my very first camera. It hangs on my office door, a reminder of when cameras didn’t automatically focus, set exposure and advance frames. Covered with a thin layer of dust, its once shiny metallic body is now stained with rust and engraved with scratches. There are smudges on the lens and its battery door is ajar, exposing an old six-volt lithium that once powered the camera’s only electronic function – the light meter.

That was the camera I used in high school while working for the school paper. It was the camera I used when I went to college. It was the camera I used at my first job.

With it I documented the life of Catholic Cistercian monks in a small western town. I used it to cover professional and collegiate sports, accidents, fires and severe storms. And despite the absence of sophisticated electronics and automatic functions, I somehow won several state and national awards with it.

Eventually, I reached a point in my photography where I needed to upgrade my equipment, but the things I learned using that very first camera still help me today as I use the latest digital photographic technology to document the world’s people, cultures and hidden places for Uncharted.

Uncharted's Alan Murray works on a photo shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Northwestern Utah. (© 2013 Alan M. Murray/Uncharted)

Uncharted’s Alan Murray works on a photo shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah. (© 2013 Andrew E. Clark/Uncharted)

I love photography and I love exploring the world, so it’s great when I get a chance to bring my two passions together. That’s why I’m excited to offer personalized travel photography instruction through Uncharted. If you’re a beginner with your very first digital camera, I can help you figure it out. If you’re an advanced amateur or somewhere in between, I can help you polish your skills. If you need help picking out your first camera, I can give you some advice.

To get started, sign up for a free online consultation. I’ll talk with you about your personal goals and skill level and come up with a training plan just for you or your group. I’ll also keep you informed about upcoming photo workshops and other learning opportunities in your area. Speaking of other opportunities, our resident geographer and orienteering athlete is offering instruction in both land navigation and map reading. These are helpful skills for avoiding getting lost on your way to capture a cool photo.

At Uncharted, we love exploring the world and sharing our adventures with everyone. We’re excited to offer these learning opportunities and hope they will be helpful as you create your own adventures.

Alan Murray is President and a co-founder of Uncharted. He likes scuba diving and snowshoeing. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and has lived and traveled extensively in South and Central America. Alan resides in the Philadelphia, Pa. area. To learn more about Alan and see some of his photography, take a look at his personal photography site

New “Do” Menu and “Learn” Options Activated

By GeoJoe,
Uncharted Staff

We’re happy to announce that the “Do” menu is now active, and the first submenu, “Learn,” is also active!  In practical terms, this means that you can start learning and improving your explorer skills through Uncharted. The first learning opportunities include personalized custom training in map reading and land navigation.  We’ll add additional learning opportunities as we move the project along.  We’ve been eager to provide this kind of support to our audience, so we’re very happy to have reached this milestone and look forward to delivering this training many times over!

Redesigned Uncharted Website

By Alan Murray
Uncharted Staff

We’re back! Explorers now have a new home in the making. We’re excited to unveil a newly redesigned Uncharted website. We’re working hard so that  you can share your own adventures and connect with people from around the world. Sign up and we’ll let you know when you can set up camp on Uncharted with your own personal “My World” page where you can share your own adventures, link up with others, and enhance your travels with advice from local experts.

In the meantime, our staff and contributors will whet your appetites for exploration with photo galleries, stories, upcoming events, and new features. To kick off the sharing, check out our story and photo gallery on Wind Cave, a hiking trail in northern Utah.

Your suggestions over the past year have helped us bring Uncharted to where it is today. We’re always eager to hear more of your ideas about how we can improve and what kind of things you want to see on the site. Send us your suggestions through the site’s notification form and we’ll respond as soon as possible. And if you don’t like email, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Lost Parking Brakes and Founded Companies

By Alan Murray
Uncharted Staff 

I keep missing the parking brake. My left foot rises into the air, hovers over the pedal, and pushes downward, only to hit the floor mat in disappointment. I try again, this time moving my foot in circular search patterns and hitting the floor mat again. I look down. There’s no parking brake. It’s back in Salt Lake City in the rental I used for ten days on a recent trip for Uncharted.

Aside from getting into the bad habit of using my rental’s parking brake, my trip proved productive and significant. I’m pleased to say that we have further translated our vision for Uncharted into reality by forming a new company, Uncharted, LLC. We’ve been working on this for a long time now.

It began a few years ago when a group of friends and professionals came together to find ways to explore the world and lead active lifestyles. Back then, there was no Uncharted, just an idea. We worked full-time jobs and funded the project with our own time and money. We even formed a company called Great Divide Media, L.L.C.

The idea evolved and us with it. We learned new skills, met new people and broadened our understanding of things we’d never thought possible. We made some mistakes, and we learned from those mistakes. We also achieved some goals. With limited time and funding, we launched the Uncharted website and gathered a small community of friends focused on exploring the world’s geographic and cultural marvels. We brought each other to our own corners of the globe one journey at a time. With your help, we saw experiences from Africa to Asia, to the Americas, Europe and Oceania. We even acquired trademark ownership of the Uncharted name and decided to embrace this opportunity by moving on from Great Divide Media to Uncharted, LLC.

Last year, I left my full-time journalism career and moved from Utah back to my home state of Pennsylvania to devote a more serious effort towards the Uncharted idea. It’s been an exciting year. As the President and a co-founder of Uncharted, I have spent most of that time setting up our new entity and working with our Director of Presentation, Andrew E. Clark and his team of programmers to get our website redesigned, developed and launched for 2012. Each day we get closer to realizing that goal. The new website will be home for our community of explorers and their many adventures, but it is only a small part of our vision.

Our small team is working on a variety of ways to help you explore the world, connect with like-minded people and share about your experiences. We want to thank our explorers and each of you for your feedback and patience as Uncharted, now pointed to this blog, undergoes its transformation. We’re excited about the next few months and the many opportunities our new site will provide as we once again prepare to explore the world with you one journey at a time.

Alan Murray is the President and a co-founder of Uncharted.
He likes to scuba dive and snowshoe. To contact Alan about
becoming involved with Uncharted or to give him advice on
how to use his parking brake, write to alan@uncharted.net.

Slow! Construction Zone

By Alan Murray
Uncharted Staff

Work continues on our little project, now a noticeably larger, gigantic project that has spanned several years in the making. It’s a true cyber construction zone to say the least. If you thought you were going to www.uncharted.net, you may be wondering why you were taken to our blog instead. Uncharted is undergoing some server maintenance over the next day or two and we appreciate your patience as we clean things up a bit.

And yes, you heard correctly. I was talking about our “current site.” We’ve taken some of your feedback and have been working like crazy around the clock for the last few months on a totally new site with some much-requested improvements and new features that will make sharing your adventures and linking up with other explorers a bit easier. We’ll be giving you some glimpses into those changes as we get closer, but for now we’d like to say thanks for your support over the last few years and especially for your patience over the last few months as we’ve taken some much needed time to regroup and plan for the future. We’ll keep you posted about the new site as it gets closer to launch time.

Alan Murray is the President of Uncharted. He
wishes he were out scuba diving right now instead
of fixing websites and writing business documents.
You may contact him at alan@uncharted.net

Trying to Get “Le Grille” Working Again

By Brian Davidson
Uncharted Staff

You may have noticed (in fact, we hope you have; that means you’re a regular Uncharted visitor) that we’re having a little difficulty at Uncharted.

Our photo uploader works, well, kinda, and you have to treat it like an old pickup, whapping it here and turning up the radio to drown out the noises there. The story uploader, well, that isn’t working at all.

We’re sorry.

We’re working on a solution that includes rewriting some of the programming that lies behind Uncharted.net, and doing so on a shoestring budget. We’ll try to do a better job of keeping you up to date on our progress so your visits to Uncharted.net are fun, not frustrating.

Rest assured that the experts we have working on Uncharted.net’s woes are much better at their jobs than Homer is at masonry.

In the meantime, we’re working on a few solutions that’ll keep us all sharing our photos and adventures until we’ve got the site working as we’d like.

1) The photo uploader is still working, but you just have to be patient with it. If you get an error message, just reload the page, or open up Uncharted.net in a new browser and try again. Most of the time (and trust me, I’ve done a lot of trial and error on this ) your photos will be there, waiting for more to join them or for your muse to help you write captions.

2) If you’ve got an itch to write a story, simply post it to your blog, on Facebook, Google+ or whatever space you’ve got and send us a link at Uncharted’s Facebook page, which you can find here.

3) If you’d rather leave the hosting to us, contact us via our Facebook page and we’ll work things out.

4) If you have any suggestions, want to make a donation so our site upgrade goes faster, absolutely let us know.

Thanks for your patience. We love seeing your photos and reading your stories. We hope this interim solution in keeping your enthusiasm alive will, well, keep that enthusiasm alive. Let us know what we can do to do better.

An Oil Change’s Worth of Stories to Come

By Brian Davidson
Uncharted Staff

We just finished traveling over 3,000 miles, mostly on interstates but a lot – notably in Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa – on more minor roads, on our annual vacation. That’s an oil change’s worth of traveling.Lots of Uncharted stories to come, obviously. Not necessarily stuff off the beaten track, but some stuff, I believe, well worthwhile to future explorers who want a little advice on whether or not to take the road less traveled. And we certainly did hit some less-traveled roads. If it hadn’t been for that one slow truck we got behind while winding down out of the Big Horn Mountains on US 14 through central Wyoming, for instance, we wouldn’t have seen another soul on that trip. Well worth it, by the way – spectacular views of the mountains, the valleys, lots of snow still on the ground and, at the top in that odd little alpine valley, a roadside spring for refreshment.

And more to see. Now that we’ve traveled those roads, we’ve got more reasons to go back when we have the time and the inclination. Maybe that’s the magic of Uncharted: Knowing where you’re going to go next.

Global Vomiting

By Alan Murray
Uncharted Staff

Students participate in a press conference with the cast of “Sister Act:
Musical,” on Broadway in New York City. (Alan Murray/Uncharted)

I’m an expert at throwing up.

I have an extensive resume of losing my lunch in various settings around the globe.

There’s that time when I was doing some aerial photography from a small plane. We had only been in the air for a few minutes when I realized that my stomach was the stage for a people’s army revolting against my choice of breakfast, a pair of strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups. 

I warned the pilot. There were no vomit bags. He opened the window, rolled the plane slightly to the right and told me to empty myself over a small unsuspecting section of an equally small and unsuspecting town, unaware of the chemical warfare about to be unleashed onto its quiet, clean streets as reddish goo fell from the sky.

Then there was the canoe. And there was the amusement park ride and the racquetball courts, all rather far from any type of bucket or other suitable container for such contents.

And most recently, a New York City cab as it weaved in and out of traffic towards JFK Airport to catch my flight home to Salt Lake City after an intense week teaching online reporting and writing at Columbia University for the Columbia Scholastic Press Associations’ summer journalism workshop.

The workshop, held each year, brings students from around the world to study a variety of topics, anything from photojournalism to design, to writing and multimedia.

This was my first experience teaching several hours each day for an entire week. The organizers invited me to teach a writing and reporting workshop focused specifically for the web, a first at the event that has been running for some 30 years.

I wanted to teach my students things that would not only help them become better reporters, but skills and techniques, albeit somewhat indirectly related to journalism, that would enhance their reporting.

At Uncharted we have a motto that each of our staff is taught to apply. “If you do things in ways that have never been done before, you attain results that have never been achieved before.” It was with that concept that I entered my preparations for this particular workshop.

I asked myself, “What are some things that have never been taught in a reporting class focused on the web?” Answering this question inspired a whole section on teamwork and asking Uncharted’s Director of Presentation, Andrew Clark, to join us as a guest speaker via Skype to discuss with my class how reporters can work in teams with designers and other visuals staff to enhance their reporting.

And Uncharted’s Internet Coach, David Densley, connected in from Oregon to share with students some techniques reporters can employ to bring more readers to their stories. Given the state of the industry, with possible jobs diminishing due to cutbacks and media owners becoming more and more concerned with web traffic, a reporter who knows how to get people to their story will have more job security than the one who, despite high quality reporting and writing, knows nothing about teamwork, interacting with an audience and taking personal initiative to get readers to the story.

Students worked in an online newsroom brainstorming ideas, submitting their assignments and receiving feedback and editing that simulates a professional working environment, very similar to the one we work in at Uncharted. And Brian Davidson, Uncharted’s Editor-in-Chief, volunteered his time as a guest editor to provide the class with another point-of-view slightly different than their teacher. It was a packed week with little time for sleeping.

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association does a fine job providing students and teachers with resources, ideas and opportunities to grow through attending their educational programs. CSPA’s administration and staff are incredibly passionate and dedicated to making a difference in the lives of every student. It was an honor to be invited to participate in such an incredibly well organized educational program. For more information on CSPA check out their website athttp://cspa.columbia.edu.

By the end of the week I was completely exhausted as I exited my cab and scrambled to catch my flight, hoping for a somewhat less eventful trip than my cab ride to the airport.

Alan Murray is the President and Executive Director
of Uncharted. He’s currently driving across the
country in an attempt to find Buffalo Bill and UFO sightings
in Iowa. Feel free to contact him at alan@uncharted.net

Alan Murray: Detecting Gorillas All Week Long

By Brian Davidson
Uncharted Staff

Within the next hour and a half, Uncharted’s Alan Murray will be detecting gorillas. Much better than Dr. Bunsen Honeydew here.

Gorilla detecting is a good metaphor for what Alan is doing this week. In case you’ve forgotten, Alan is teaching a week-long writing and leadership seminar at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s summer workshop series. The gorilla detecting comes in as Alan teaches his students that we have to go beyond the obvious and stretch ourselves as writers and communicators to succeed in any kind of writing endeavor, not just journalism. (I wish I’d realized the importance of the communication part when I was a journalist; that would have helped avoid several unpleasant problems.)

We’ve had a busy month, getting Alan ready for this week’s adventure. And we’re not done. Andrew will work as a Skyped-in guest speaker on coordinating writing with visuals, while Dave will also Skype in to talk about SEO and other ways to generate web traffic. As Uncharted’s director of creative content, I’ll be working with Alan all week as well, offering feedback on his students’ writing. It’s going to be a challenging week.

Alan is up to it, through. He’s good at detectoring gorillas.

It’s Just This Thing I Have . . .

By Brian Davidson
Uncharted Staff

I don’t know what it is with me and ghost towns.

Back in the late 80s, a Dutch exchange student we were hosting wanted to go pan for gold. He’d gone to the local army surplus store and bought an authentic gold-panning pan — they have everything at our surplus store, except the gold — and wanted to try it out. I figured, why not go gold-panning where the prospectors had found gold years before?

So we headed to Stanley, Idaho.

Stanley itself is nto a ghost town, though it is almost. Nearby, however, is the ghost town of Bonanza, which sounded as a likely spot.

We camped, made a fire, monkeyed around as high school kids will do, then went panning for gold. Didn’t find a single flake. But we had a ball poking through the old buildings at Bonanza, wondering who lived there, why they left, and why in the world they used such splintery wood for the seats in their outhouses.

Then on out, I was hooked.

I’ve been through ghost towns in extreme southern Idaho, where they built their homes out of stone because trees were scarce. I’ve been through several in central Idaho, where the roofs have crumbled and trees are growing up through the buildings.

And I’ve been to Gilmore, Idaho, time and again, hoping against hope that on the next journey, I can convince my wife to buy a lot there. They’re for sale, you know. Owning part of a ghost town. How cool would that be? Read more about it here.

Gilmore, Idaho, from the surrounding hills. (Photo Courtesy Michelle Davidson)

App Review: iSurvival

By Brian Davidson
Uncharted Staff

The time hasn’t come yet that an iPod Touch is the first item I think of when I’m compiling a list of wilderness survival essentials, but a friend of mine recently recommended a survival app that just might change my mind.

It’s called — maybe this won’t win points for originality — iSurvival. But as I mock the name, I have to say that for an occasional wilderness wanderer like me, it’s got some handy stuff, though I’m hard-pressed to way when, in the future, I envision myself becoming lost at sea. Published by Utah-based Fishington Studios, the app is billed as a “military grade” wilderness survival manual. And considering the friend who recommended the app worked as a paramedic and in California and follows military minutia as he has a son who is a soldier, I have to believe that this app lives up to its billing.

Wilderness Survival, ten-year-old style
There are small tells throughout the manual that reveal the text in iSurvival wasn’t originally written for the leisure wilderness crowd — the chapter on shelters, for example, advises that you choose a place to build your shelter that “provides concealment from enemy observation” — but, in general, the tips therein echo those I’ve read in more expensive manuals, including a few I’ve got lying around the house because I haven’t yet gotten around to getting lost.

Though I’ve poked fun at the manual a bit, it’s certainly something I’d have at my side if I were wandering off into the wilds. The app’s clear textual presentation, accompanied by clear, useful illustration of survival techniques ranging from shelter-building to identification of edible wild plants.The link provided above says the app is available for $1.99. I searched iTunes and got it for free, though perhaps the “free” was a short-time promotional price.

The only fault I can see in this app is obvious — run out of power for your handheld device and the app is locked away forever. Perhaps they’ve included a chapter on locating current bushes . . .

Fixed the Photo and Story Modules

By Geojoe
Uncharted Staff

Great news! We successfully fixed the “share” function of theUncharted website so that you can once again share your photos and stories from your adventures! Feel free to use your Explorer account to sign in and publish away on Uncharted’s website. Invite your friends to do the same by sharing this link with them so they can become an Explorer too: http://uncharted.net/account/register

We look forward to seeing whatever you have to share with us as you continue exploring the uncharted and keep shooting for 2011 Explorer of the Year. For 2010 we gave away a nice Uncharted t-shirt and a couple bumper stickers to the winner, and well do the same or better this year, so share your adventures often!

Now we are working on new upgrades to the site and we will have some more news, tips and information to send to you again soon. As always, if you have anything you’d like to share w/ the whole Uncharted audience or have feedback, we welcome you to send it tofeedback@uncharted.net. You can also keep in touch with us at our page on Facebook or Twitter. In the mean time, all the best!

What We Learned

By Brian Davidson
Uncharted Staff


The workshop is done. I’m feeling a lot less stress now. I’m used to giving presentations, but I still get that stage fright right before it’s time to go on.

And that’s what we’ll do with the writing workshop offered through Uncharted: Go on.

The March 4th presentation was a good experience. I used about 50 percent of what I had prepared and built the remaining 50 percent on the spot, drawing on what I know works when you’ve got a bunch of photos, sound clips and souvenirs on hand but you’re staring into that blank screen maw, waiting for inspiration to strike.

The next Uncharted writing workshop will be better than the first. And then they’ll keep on getting better as more people attend and as more people tell us what they’d like to see in this workshop, and in other workshops we’ve got in the works.

What did I learn from this workshop?

There’s a lot of talent out there. My Uncharted compatriots, shy about sharing what they write, can write some magnificent stuff. Maybe they’re lacking a little bit of confidence, or a road map or plan on how to begin. I’m hoping with what I taught them about outlining, making lists, making story diagrams and other such stuff helps them find that confidence and those road maps. I’m expecting great things from them. And you, too. Toddle on over to http://www.uncharted.net and show us what you’ve got.

Uncharted Workshop: Reconnect to Your World

By Brian Davidson
Uncharted Staff

One of the best things about visiting a place – unless you’re one of those secretive fishermen types – is telling the rest of the world about what you just saw. And felt. And smelled. And ate.

But when you sit down to write it all out, do you get that proverbial writer’s block?

Me too.

But by using a few simple tricks and exercises to get your writing juices flowing, you can get past that writer’s block beast and reconnect yourself to the places you love through the lively art of writing.

What to bring:

– Computer or notepad and pencil for note-taking
– Your sense of adventure
– Photos, video clips, souvenirs, sand from your shoes – anything to act as a memory trigger

Who is Presenting:

Brian Davidson, workshop presenter, spent ten years in community journalism followed by nearly five years in technical writing at a nuclear waste dump in Idaho. He babbles a lot on his blogs and has written “Considering How to Run,” a novel he aims to publish before he’s dead.

What to Expect:

Expect to have one Uncharted-publishable story done or well underway by the time the workshop is over, with a clear path on how to write more. Also, some of Brian’s blue nuclear glow might rub off. Don’t worry. It’ll fade with time.

When and where:

March 4th, 2011, 5pm – 6:30pm in Logan, UT at the Cache Business Resource Center (CBRC) Room 1901.

Best thing of all:

This is a free workshop. Come be Brian’s guinea pigs and help him make the next workshop even better. Though that shouldn’t be hard.

Cross-Culture Skills Workshop

By Geojoe
Uncharted Staff

We are happy to announce Uncharted’s first ever Cross-Culture Skills workshop! We will present the workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Saturday, 9 Apr 11 from 9:00am until 12:00 noon at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

For those who attend, the Cross-Culture Skills workshop will help you gain useful skills in adapting to new or unfamiliar cultures while travelling, working, or volunteering in another country or culture, or it will help you while hosting visitors from another culture. The training will help you avoid some of the common mistakes travelers, expatriates, and hosts make when interacting with people from other cultures, and it will also help raise your own self-awareness to your personality and traits which either help or hinder your effectiveness when adapting to another culture. You will also leave the workshop with helpful resources that you can reference long after the workshop is over.

We are excited to provide this opportunity and hope it can serve as another useful tool to you in your efforts to explore the uncharted.

You can register for the workshop online and get additional details at http://kzoocrosscultureworkshop.eventbrite.com/ and the workshop’s event page on Facebook where we will continue making updates as the workshop date gets closer.

The registration fee is $30, but Uncharted Explorers will receive a $10 discount reimbursement at the workshop. Anyone can become an Explorer for free by signing up here.

If you are going to attend and would like the instructor to emphasize a certain culture, region or aspect of training, please don’t hesitate to reply to this post with that information. We want to make this as useful to you as we can!

If Kalamazoo is to far away for you to attend, but you are still interested in having this workshop brought to your area, reply to this post to let us know of your interest. We are considering holding other workshops in 2011 and if there is enough interest coming from a location we might be able to make it happen. Also feel free to let us know if there is another workshop topic you would like us to provide.

Looking forward to seeing you at the workshop if you can make it! If you have any questions or need additional info, please feel free to reply to this post or make a post on Uncharted’s Facebook page.

Your friends in the journey,
“GeoJoe” and the whole Uncharted team

Explore. Live. Feel.

Uncharted Explorer of the Year 2010

By Geojoe
Uncharted Staff

Uncharted is happy to announce the winner of the 2010 Explorer of the Year!

The Explorer of the Year is recognized by Uncharted’s editorial staff as having made the highest quality, most innovative, and most influential contributions to Uncharted and the community of Explorers through the course of the year.We are happy to announce Explorer “Lisa M Dickson” was selected as the Explorer of the Year for 2010! 

Lisa’s content was endorsed by the Uncharted staff and featured on the http://www.uncharted.net/ homepage in 2010, in particular her story, “Italy – A Permanent Etch Into My Heart”. She has also posted content from her discoveries in the past at the following locations: Bahamas, Tetons (Wyoming), Alaska, France, Niagara Falls, and Switzerland, just to name a few. Now that’s an Explorer! Head over to her profile to see where else she has been and drop a line to congratulate her. We are very impressed not only with her photo and writing talent, but also her continuous commitment to explore the world. Congratulations Lisa! And thank you for everything you have contributed so far.

Lisa will receive an Uncharted T-shirt and bumper sticker, and she will be featured in our blogfacebook page, and historical archives.

There were many other excellent contributions from other Explorers, and we wish we had the ability to give something to everyone who contributed. Just about every story or photo we get from each Explorer inspires us and motivates us to reach higher, so thank you again to all Explorers.

We will continue recognizing the Explorer of Year winner annually, and hopefully we will get to the point that we can provide even better incentives not just to the winner, but to all Explorers. In the mean time, we wish you the best in your journeys and encourage you to “shoot” for Explorer of Year in 2011!

All the best,
The Uncharted Team

Explore. Live. Feel.

Happy New Year! The Journey Continues in 2011

By Geojoe
Uncharted Staff

Happy New Year to everyone, including our fellow explorers, friends and families! All of us with Uncharted want to wish you the very best at the start of your 2011 journey.

In the coming weeks we will reveal new Uncharted tools, content and opportunities that we hope will help make your start to the new year even better. But before that, and more importantly, we will announce the Explorer of the Year award winner for 2010!

We also continue working on fixing the photo uploader “share” functionality on the website. We apologize to anyone who was affected by the problem. Once we get it fixed we will let you know and it should run even better than before, so don’t stop taking photos you can share with the rest of the audience once it is repaired.

We can’t thank all of you out there enough among our friends and fellow explorers for the shared adventures, advice and support since we published our first website content about two years ago. Special thanks also to everyone who took the survey and provided the great feedback which will help make the website even better. The website was only a beginning in our journey to explore the uncharted. 2011 will bring new firsts in this journey, and we look forward to sharing them with you soon!

MSNBC Featuring Andrew’s Pink Bunny Suits Sunday Morning

By Geojoe
Uncharted Staff

Uncharted’s own Andrew Clark, our Director of Presentation, will be making an appearance on MSNBC’s “Your Business” show Sunday morning, Jan 2nd, at 7:30 am to talk about his experiences as an entrepreneur in the pink bunny suit manufacturing industry. Yes, that’s right, the pink bunny manufacturing business! Let’s just say that we are lucky to have such a creative go-getter with us. Here’s the show’s website: www.openforum.com/msnbc

Following is a preview from MSNBC:

“It’s a classic holiday movie enjoyed by families every year, but “A Christmas Story” has actually been the source of inspiration for some small business owners. Find out how Brian Jones went from selling “leg lamps” in his garage to purchasing the actual house from the movie and running a full-scale retail operation with a licensing deal with Warner Brothers, and see why Andrew Clark, seller of bunny suits, has chosen to avoid licensing deals.”

Check out http://www.pinkbunnypajamas.com/ while you’re at it. Chances are you know someone that would just love to receive one!

Photo Uploader Getting a Fix

By Geojoe
Uncharted Staff

Hold off on uploading photos for bit. We are working on some fixes and upgrades to the website. Once we’re done with that, we should have the photo “share” uploader fixed and an upgraded slide show application operational. Hope this saves you some hassle and our apologies if the photo uploader has caused you any frustration. Thank you for your patience with our tinkering!

We are very excited to get this done because once it is finished we get to start working on making some of the improvements many Explorers suggested through the recent survey. A big “thank you” to all who provided such great feedback. More to come on that later.

Conferences, Hair, and Teaching

By Alan Murray
Uncharted Staff

There was no doubt in my mind they’d be sitting by me. The moment they entered the plane I knew it was destiny. Even from the distant vantage point of my seat in unlucky row thirteen it was obvious I would be seated by yet another set of eccentric travelers.

Aisle seating on airline flights always seems to yield unusual travel companions. Some of you may remember my encounter with the vomit puppet and a quarrelsome married couple on a flight out of Ohio. Others may also be familiar with my encounter with Nestor the Argentine Ninja (a story for another blog) en route to Buenos Aires.

Today I am pleased to introduce yet another entertaining inflight experience as I traveled home after my recent trip to Columbia University in New York. It was likely the pink hair that caught the attention of passengers as my two travel companions walked down the aisle and took their seats next to me complete with matching pink wardrobes. I did my best to hold in laughter as they raised their arms high in the air and screamed roller coaster-style as our plane took off.

Setting all things pink aside for a moment, I return to my recent trip to Columbia University to represent Uncharted at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s national journalism conference.

Every six months, students and advisers from various publications gather on campus to learn from each other and the many qualified instructors who come from around the country to serve at the conference. These instructors come from a variety of disciplines, teaching anything from reporting to photography, to design and leadership. And they all do it for free, donating their time, money, and resources to make the event a success.

This time, Uncharted participated by teaching on the Power of the Huddle, a leadership and organizational session designed to help students and advisers faced with low funding to work effectively as teams and save time, money and resources.

Uncharted is made up of many professionals and students from a variety of career paths and employers who have benefited personally from similar organizations such as CSPA. We are committed to any opportunity to help students as they prepare for their careers, just as others have done for us. It’s a cause worthy of attention and we are honored to participate.

So speaking of causes, you may have noticed a lot of pink around lately, usually in the form of ribbons displayed on clothing, a tactful but sobering reminder that there are well over 200,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

And, of course, hair salons have joined the fight as well, sending out armies of pink-haired patrons to support the fight. So while my two roller coaster-riding pink-haired aviation marvels provided an unexpected diversion near the end of a long trip, it should be noted that their efforts reached beyond entertainment and reminded this weary traveler that it’s important now and again to take up a good cause.

Alan Murray is Executive Director of Uncharted 
He likes snowshoes and seahorses, traveling, 
taking photos and getting away from home.
You can contact him at alan@uncharted.net.

Thanks, Aunt Betty

By Brian Davidson
Uncharted Staff

When I was a kid, my Aunt Betty Saltzgiver of Salt Lake City, who knew people who knew people who worked for Morton-Thiokol, the Utah contractor that built the solid rocket boosters and main fuel tank for the United States’ space shuttles, had them send me a bunch of photos of the shuttle, the rockets, and just about everything to do with the shuttle, including a little patch I had Mom sew onto my jacket.

I literally wore those photos out looking at them, poring over every detail, wondering what it would be like to be one of those astronauts flying up into space in that magnificent black-and-white bird.

One thing led to another, as life often does. I went on to a career in small-town journalism, followed by another career as a technical writer at a nuclear waste dump. But space always remained that final frontier.

Now Joseph Burkhead, Uncharted’s resident pilot, has taken me on a voyage to a shuttle launch — one of the few remaining launches before what’s left of the fleet is retired in 2012. Thanks, Joe. Read his story here.

And thanks, Aunt Betty. I’ve still got those photos somewhere.

That Mad Accursed River

By Brian Davidson
Uncharted Staff 

I’d love to go do this, as John Milligan says, before I don’t.

There are problems with that: I tend to fall out of boats. A lot. My wife Michelle says she’ll go with me, but only in a complete body wetsuit with a plug-in heater.

I do have one thing going for me: I can pass the Ed Norton Test necessary to get a job alongside him in the sewers: I can float. So maybe, just maybe — when the kids are older, our oldest in is Scouts and the Scouts want to go do this — I’ll get to go.

Until then, I’ll live vicariously through Alan Murray’s wonderful story and photographs on the adventure he, John, Mike and others had rafting down the Snake River in Wyoming. You can read the story and see his photos here. Enjoy.

Uncharted, meet Android

From what I hear, smartphones are all the rage. They’re the latest thing. They’re – I think the word is – keen.

I’ll tie an onion to my belt and take your word for it. And John Milligan’s. He successfully used his Android smartphone to take a photo and upload it to his personal profile at www.uncharted.net.
Big deal, you say. Folks have been doing similar things since the time we called nickels bees and could say nonsensical things like “Gimme five bees for a quarter.”
But this is significant.
We want our Explorers to use our website through a mobile world. Why be tethered to a desk to make an update to your profile, upload a photo, or even a story, if you’re good at touchscreen or itty-bitty keyboard typing? We expect our Explorers are mobile now, and will only get more mobile as the future unfolds.
John’s shown us it can be done. Huzzah for him, I say. He makes me want to replace our circa 2001 T-Mobile cameraless cell phone with that nifty little bowling game on it for something newer. Tell me, do they make a smartphone with dials now? I like to make sparks when I place a call . . .