Our New “Toughest” Canoe Trip

Four months ago I reported on what was at the time our toughest single-day canoe trip everblog. That was an eleven-mile trip in Lake Kissimmee State Park which, although not the longest day trip we had ever taken, was, because of the winds (17 to 24 knots), our toughest trip so far. That trip happened in early March. Less than a week after telling the story, we broke that and other records, maybe permanently.

Toward the end of June, Nancy decided to head back down to Flamingo, expecting the Saharan dust that was forecast to hit South Florida that weekend to create some spectacular sunsets. We were there a few days, but the dust must have passed us by. But we were up until after three o’clock one morning trying to capture a Gigapan of the Milky Way, and we did spend another full day in our canoe. This is that story.

The Start

The day started out beautifully. It was sunny, and by the time we launched the canoe at the marina around 10 am, the temperature was in the upper 80’s and climbing. Winds had been calm but were starting to build slightly from the northeast. Nancy decided to head toward Lake Ingraham instead of Snake Bight, our typical haunt. In our small cooler, we had lunch and drinks. We each had our regular 1-quart water bottles. Nancy was going to bring the 1-gallon water jug from the van, but couldn’t find it. As we came out the channel around 10:30, we headed west.

Lunch

After a leisurely 5 miles, we started our lunch break just before noon. As we got back underway, Nancy mentioned that she was starting to feel bad, but I convinced her to proceed west for just another hour. Looking back, that may have been a mistake. For the next leg, the temperature was in the low nineties and the wind was a steady six knots from behind us. Averaging about five knots, we made it to the entrance to the East Cape Canal at 1:40 pm. Nancy rejected my suggestion to check out the lake, so we headed back.

The Return Trip

Before lunch, when the wind was light and off our quarter, I expected the return trip to take about 50% longer, but now that we were paddling directly into the wind, that estimate was starting to look a little optimistic. For the next hour, we went less than 2½ miles and decided to rest a few minutes just off the beach. Then the wind started to pick up. We rested again less than a mile later. I was already beginning to wear out. About ⅔ mile later, we stopped again, this time long enough to do a beach cleanup. By then the wind had increased to almost 15 knots. During the cleanup, I finish off my water bottle. Twenty minutes later, we got back in the canoe. The wind was still strong. We had trouble making headway and after less than ½ mile, we stop for another beach cleanup. Besides tired, I’m also feeling dehydrated. Nancy shared some of her water. After removing all of the lobster/crab trap lines on the beach, I was greatly relieved to discover that there were still drinks in the cooler. I finished them. More than fifty minutes after we arrived, we again left the beach. The canoe is now fully loaded with debris.

The wind is still about 15 knots, but I feel refreshed. Still, we only cover two miles in the next hour. Around 6:30 Nancy notices a feather floating by and wants to circle around to pick it up. We make one pass, but as I mentioned in the previous article (Our Latest (Toughest) Canoe Trip), winds above 15 knots begin to adversely affect our maneuverability. For one thing, they can make it very difficult to turn into the wind. We missed the feather, and I didn’t have enough energy for another pass so we head back to the beach for another rest. We still have 4½ miles to go and sunset is in less than two hours. I don’t rest long. But then after taking half an hour to travel just ¾ mile more, we rest again.

The Final Push

Now it is only an hour before sunset. Nancy is too quiet. There will be no more stops. The winds are back down to ten knots out of the east, though, and dropping. The sun sets at 8:17. I’m running on fumes. We have headlamps in our dry bags, but at that point, I thought we were closer to the harbor than we actually were so we don’t pull out the lights. We keep paddling. And paddling. As we round the last point into the marina, it is dark, and there is a giant splash just off our port quarter. It must have been that large crocodile, but I was just too tired to jump. We kept paddling. We got to the dock at 9 pm. The winds were still six knots. We were met by a park ranger. He helped remove the trash. I wasn’t much of a conversationalist, but fortunately, Nancy did our talking. We managed to remove and stow the gear, but it took everything I had to get the canoe back on top of the van. The next morning, we slept in.

Conclusions

All total, we canoed just over 20 miles (shattering the old one-day record). The winds weren’t as perilous as they got on the Lake Kissimmee State Park trip, but they did become quite a challenge. Although we didn’t get to look around much, I was glad that we finally made the trip to Lake Ingraham. I was really glad when it was over. I felt obligated to tell this story only because it changed some of the claims I made in the original story so soon after the first story was published. We probably won’t need to update this story again for a long, long time.

Burrowing Owls – Our Newest Addition

In May we visited Brian Piccolo Sports Park in Cooper City in the early morning with our friend, Brian Rapoza, to get burrowing owl pictures.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
Brian is an old friend who we first introduced in 2012blog and later contributed to Why You Haven’t Seen Any Painted Buntings.


While there, Nancy got a few pictures. This is the one she likes best.

Burrowing owls


For more information, you can go to our Burrowing Owls page. If you hurry, you can have Print #1 either on fine art paper or canvas up to at least 23″ by 35″. Soon we will be making a few prints for our next art festival, which is still scheduled for Odessa in early Decemberannounced.

We Made New Printable Instructions

revised 8/26/2020

While I was making updates to some of our How-To articles’ formatting and adherence to Internet standards, I also took the opportunity to improve clarity for some of them. Some, but not all of the articles have downloadable printable versions, so I also updated the printable version if warranted.

I created new printable versions for the following articles:

Our New Technique For Signatures & Titles,

Color Matching – Part 1,

How We Digitally Stretch Our Gallery Wrap Edges Before Printing, and

Using The Vanishing Point To Keep The Size Right When Moving Wildlife Around.

Other printable versions that might be added soon are:

Using Multiple Moulding Widths In One Frame, and

Finding The Area Of An Object Using Photoshop.

Here are the other articles that we’ve improved (along with the printable version, if available). If you had trouble understanding them before, you might want to try again. You could also leave a comment about the areas that still need work:

Changing The Color Of A Signature,

Create A Signature Brush,

Another Method For Adjusting A Logan Precision Sander,

Making A Cardboard Box To Ship Art,

Create A Signature File, and

Our Display Panels.

An Apology And Activity Update

Some of you have been flooded with “new blog post” announcements just this week. Some of these had unintelligible titles, but all of them lead to “file not found” messages. I’m sorry to bother you like that. Among other things, I’ve been working on deferred maintenance on our website and blog this extended off-season. Some of the changes didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated. Most of the errant blog notices were created while I was online with our web hosting provider trying to identify and correct the problems. The good news is we fixed virtually all of the problems. And I’ll know to shut down my notification services before sending fake posts (or even calling my host provider).

Most of the changes were behind-the-scenes stuff that you might not even notice, like bringing the website and post up to ever-evolving standards, making our information easier to find to Google, et al, and so forth. For what it’s worth, our site is now secure. In fact, it was that change, which should have been straight forward, that caused many of the problems. Oops!

I haven’t quite gotten to my list of Nancy’s new pictures to show you but hope to have something by the end of the month. Most of the certificates of authenticity I had promised have been sent out, although there is more to do still. And I have plenty of new ideas to check out – printing on rocks, a new angle on gallery-wrap moulding, printing on aluminummentioned, continuing my weird-wood seriesintro, maybe even a discussion of hanging hardware. My midnight rainbowdiscussed may have to wait a little longer. Stay tuned and stay safe.

Tips For Using Exposure Compensation

I’ve already discussed some of your camera’s limitationsarticle. In another articlelink I discussed the three equally-important methods to control how much light your sensor collects and the side effects of each method. Today’s discussion is about how to use your camera’s semi-automatic exposure modes. We will briefly review some of the earlier principles but will move beyond the single basic assumption that most experts cover as we discuss the impact that metering modes have on your camera’s control of an image’s exposure.

Why Not Manual Mode?

Although Manual mode gives you the best control, there are times when lighting conditions change too fast. And sometimes it is just more convenient to use one of the advanced auto-exposure modes. This lets the camera set the exposure level by adjusting one of the three controls – shutter speed, aperture, or ISO – while you control the other two. For Canon cameras the mode is called Aperture-Priority if you set the aperture and ISO (and let the camera control shutter speed), Shutter-Priority if you set the shutter speed and ISO (letting the camera control aperture), and Manual Exposure with Auto ISO if you set the shutter speed and aperture (leaving the camera ISO). Never let the camera control more than one variable. Keep in mind, the camera now has TOTAL control to adjust the exposure; your two controls are only for the side effects – motion blur for shutter speed, depth of field for aperture, and noise for ISO. Although your two parameters always have an impact on exposure, the camera gets the last word and uses its parameter to overcome those impacts. If you want to have any say at all about exposure, you must use exposure compensation. But why would that be necessary?

What The Camera Considers

The main reason you need to use exposure compensation is that the camera programmer has no clue as to where you are pointing your camera or what kind of picture you are taking. So s/he is forced to make assumptions. (There is an old saying about when you ASSUME you make an ASS of U and ME. Unfortunately in this case, as an inanimate object the camera is incapable of accepting its share of the responsibility.) The most important assumption the camera makes is that your picture (subject) is of average light intensity. No matter what you shoot, the camera will let in enough light to make it a medium gray (or colors that would translate to medium gray with black-and-white film). Many times this is fine, but nobody likes gray snow in their winter vacation pictures or pictures of the rare gray bear from their trip to Yellowstone. To make your snow white again, you would need to apply a positive exposure compensation before taking your first shot to tell the camera to let in more light than it really wants to (for a brighter subject than it was expecting). To bring those black bears back to life, you would need to apply a negative compensation. Regardless of the subject, to tweak the exposure in subsequent shots, increase the exposure compensation to make the picture lighter, and decrease the compensation to make it darker. Once you’ve nailed it, you shouldn’t have to change the compensation on later pictures of the same subject, even if the lighting changes. You should be prepared to change the exposure compensation every time you change subjects, but not every time the light changes (that’s the only reason those three auto-exposure modes are so attractive).

And this is where most discussions of exposure compensation end.

What The Camera Can’t Consider (But You Must)

The camera can’t differentiate between your subject and its background. It further assumes that everything you might be interested in is at the same gray level. It’s fine if that happens to be true. But if they are not the same level, and if you go from a close up of the black bear (in an obviously lighter background) to a general landscape shot that includes the bear, then you might need to change the exposure compensation, or you might want to change your metering mode.

Metering Modes

The metering mode determines how much of the view is considered in adjusting the exposure. On Nancy’s Canon EOS 7D, there are four modes. Spot metering, as you might guess, covers the smallest part of the center of the screen – about 2.3% of the viewfinder area. Next would be Partial metering, covering 9.4% of the total area. Then they get a little trickier. Center-weighted average metering gives an undisclosed, but presumably larger center area most of the weight, but does consider everything else in view. Finally, Evaluative metering, in which “the camera sets the exposure automatically [ed: read as “magically”] to suit the scene”. Right.

For consistent exposure compensation, the area considered should be smaller than the size of the subject if you want exposure compensation to behave as described in the “What The Camera Considers” section. If your backgrounds are more stable (whether or not they happen to be the equivalent of a medium gray), then a wider-looking metering mode might be better. Then you might be able to go from shooting a (black) crow to a (white) ibis as you hiked the consistently-lighted trail without having to adjust the exposure compensation at all. But this is starting to get into personal preference. Experiment with all of your metering modes and decide what works for you. Just be aware that if your settings or situation changes (as when you are metering on the background and the subject moves ‘too’ close, or when you are metering on the subject and then widen out for a cover shot), the computer may start behaving in the opposite manner than what you were expecting. Now you know why. It is (probably) just because you and your camera weren’t on the same page as to what was the important part of the picture.

I hope this helps you work with your camera instead of against it in your efforts to get the best shot. Good luck.

Our Latest (Toughest) Canoe Trip

We May Not Have To Trade In Our New Canoe After All

As I mentioned in the discussion on our page for Royal Terns, I managed to flip our new canoe shortly after Nancy got that shot. Although I believe that was the first time I’ve ever done that to Nancy, it really damaged her confidence. She has been more hesitant about our canoeing adventures ever since. She has even been considering trading in our new canoe for another model. It might be too early to tell, but that may have all changed after our last trip out of Lake Kissimmee State Park.

Our New Canoe

We bought the Kevlar Flex-core Wenonah Escape, a 17½-ft, 53-pound canoe, because our old 75-pound, 17-ft, aluminum Grumman seemed to be getting heavier every time we used it. We got that canoe less than six months before our Cedar Key trip and had used it only about eight times. But we had already noticed that although our new canoe was faster in calm conditions, without the small keel of the Grumman, it was much more sensitive to weather conditions. Especially in a crosswind, the weight distribution of our gear was now critical; too much weight aft and the wind would tend to turn the vessel away from the wind, and having the center of gravity too far forward would turn the canoe into the wind.

The Cedar Key Trip


We were in Cedar Key for the 53rd Annual Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, but decided to stay around for a few days to explore. When we began the canoe trip that morning, it was a beautiful, sunny day. The winds remained about 5 knots throughout most of the day. Our first stop was on the first island, Atsena Otie Key, about a mile south, to get pictures of downtown Cedar Key. Then we were off to Seahorse Key, a couple of miles further to the southwest, to get lighthouse pictures and such. The “Royal Terns” was one of Nancy’s last photos, taken just before 5 pm. The wind started to pick up as we headed back to Cedar Key. By the time we passed Grassy Key (about 2/3 of the way back), winds were approaching 15 knots and we were in the trough of a chop that was higher than one foot. As the wind was picking up, I was spending more and more effort maintaining our course and less force was devoted to making forward progress. I was wearing out, so decided that I needed to shift some weight forward. That’s when I made some critical errors in judgment. Without alerting Nancy, I raised up just enough to lift a gear bag over the next thwart. But that was too much. I clearly overestimated the stability of the canoe and the seriousness of our situation. We flipped.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
So how should we have handled these conditions? There’s always more than one way to skin a cat, but I should have first told Nancy what I was about to do. Instead of staying in the trough, we could have let the wind help us to a downwind heading (which is much more stable). Then Nancy could have stabilized the canoe with her paddle while I made the necessary ballast adjustments. And although I tended to attribute my lack of judgment to a lack of familiarity with our new canoe, I can’t guarantee the Grumman would have survived the original operation either.


Most of our gear was in dry bags but Nancy hadn’t put away her best camera and lens before we started the crossing. From the water, we righted the canoe, rounded up and returned most of our gear to the canoe, and from inside the waterlogged canoe, paddled or swam to shallower water west of Atsena Otie Key. There we could stand up and touch bottom, bail out the canoe, and continue to the Cedar Key harbor. From there, we immediately called Canon to see how best we could preserve the equipment. They said we didn’t need to do anything except mail it to them so they could take care of it. But they couldn’t. We had to buy a new Canon EOS 7D body and 100-400mm zoom lens. Oww.

Lake Kissimmee State Park

At Lake Kissimmee State Parkofficial website, there is the Buster Island Loop Paddling Trail, which winds over eleven miles. Nancy has brought her school camping club here before and they have canoed this trail. We planned to follow our traditional routine of launching just west of the bridge to the cow camp, heading west along Zipprer Canal into Lake Rosalie, then south to Rosalie Creek, where we paddle to Tiger Lake, then east-northeast to Tiger Creek.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
For what it’s worth, on an earlier trip with Nancy’s school camping club, it was at a spot on Tiger Creek, just before you get to Lake Kissimmee, on a decent beach before the line of trees on the right (south) side that parallels the Lake Kissimmee shore, that they found the subject model for Barred Owl.


Tiger Creek leads to Lake Kissimmee, and then it’s a shorter paddle northwest to the east entrance to the Zipprer Canal. From there, the journey ends at the State Park Marina, just a short hike around the water structure from the starting point.

The Trip

This trip started normal enough. It was mostly sunny at first and windy, but we didn’t feel the wind below the banks, and especially in the tree-lined sections of Zipprer Canal. Lake Rosalie was another story. By then, the wind was seventeen to twenty-four knots out of the southwest, which means its fetch was essentially the whole length of the lake. As we entered the lake we were paddling directly into waves of at least 1½ feet. We were paddling full speed ahead and Nancy was really getting pounded riding up (and down) in the bow. (Where I came from, you’d have to pay at least a quarter to get this much excitement). It was Nancy’s understanding that we should be hugging the shoreline where it would be flatter, a misconception apparently held by many people. It is only flatter near the windward shore, where there is no fetch, or distance the wind has blown over the water to build up the waves. On the leeward (away from the wind) side where we were, there is no relief; the waves are as high as they are going to get.

Protocol

Whether in the front or the back, a straight stroke along the side of the canoe will tend to turn the canoe away from that side. Normally, the two paddlers would be stroking on opposite sides of the canoe – one on port and one on starboard (right as you face forward) to cancel out their individual turning forces. You should change sides on a regular, but not too frequent basis. When one needs to change sides, they call out so both paddlers change sides together. The weaker paddler (or the photographer if they are not the same person) would usually be in the bow. The stern paddler is normally responsible for course corrections and casual maneuvering. S/he does this by adding a little side flip or “J” to their stroke as necessary. If the strength of the paddlers is the same, few “J”s would be necessary. In other circumstances, they may be required on every stroke. Tight curves, as found in many creeks in Florida (like the two mentioned below, for example), require turning effort from both paddlers. Nancy taught canoeing in her previous day-job. She knows more strokes than I do and is very good.

Since we’ve owned this new canoe, I’ve had to make modifications to the standard tandem canoeing protocol/etiquette. As a crosswind picks up, I’ve started making sure the stern paddler (which is I) is stroking on the lee side (or on the same side as the wind is trying to blow the bow) to better counteract that force. When the wind is really strong, I ask the bow paddler (Nancy) to shift so that we are both on that side.

Lake Rosalie

At first, we are paddling directly into the wind. Our next waypoint, the next creek entrance, hidden in the tall grass, is about 45° off the port (left) bow. The problem is, under our current wind conditions I soon discovered that if I let the bow get over 30° off the wind, then even with both of us paddling hard from the leeward side or even using one of the turning strokes, it takes quite a while (and a lull in the wind) to bring the bow back on course. Paddling in the trough of an occasional 2-foot chop isn’t something I was going to let happen. As we got into the middle of the lake (and the bearing to our waypoint approached the beam), the waves are slightly smaller and the wind shows signs of weakening (at least part of the time). We changed course so the wind came from about 30° off the starboard bow, which is as far off the wind as I felt we could reliably recover from. Then we eased off on the power a bit (when not recovering from a gust) and let our leeway (the sideways direction and speed that the wind is impacting us) make up the difference in course angle. We eventually find and enter Rosalie Creek.

Rosalie Creek is narrow, winding, picturesque, and protected for the most part. Nancy is able to photograph. There is some current, which makes station-keeping a little more difficult, especially since I’m already tired. We enjoy the view and the rest, and then we enter Tiger Lake.

Tiger Lake and Lake Kissimmee

As we enter Tiger Lake, we see an osprey catch a fish. Then an eagle tries to take the fish. We watched a remarkable aerial display that lasted at least five minutes. The osprey had a tighter turning radius but the eagle was never far behind. Finally, the osprey dropped the fish. Maybe it decided that it was expending more calories defending the fish than it would have gained from eating it. The eagle made a low pass looking for the fish, but unsuccessful, it flew off, as did the osprey in the opposite direction. Just a few minutes later the osprey flew by again and grabbed another fish (without interruption).

Although not quite as strong, the wind is still alive and well. But we are a little more rested. From Tiger Lake, our next waypoint, Tiger Creek, is close to directly downwind. The wind is now helping with our speed. But the waves, which are growing as we cross the lake, are trying to broach the canoe (turn it sideways to the wind, possibly burying the bow in a wave or capsizing the boat when it gets in the trough). This takes heavy corrective paddling from the stern paddler as every wave goes by until we reach Tiger Creek.

Tiger Creek is wider than Rosalie but still serpentine. Again, Nancy is taking pictures (including close-ups of a snail kite eating lunch).

In Lake Kissimmee, our intended track was to the northwest just off the windward shore of the lake, and the lake was full of water plants so the waves aren’t too bad. The wind had even started subsiding. We found our way to the canal entrance and then to the marina. Although we were completely bushed, we did manage to get the canoe secured back on top of the van right at sunset.

Conclusions

This wasn’t our longest paddle. We’ve done more than fifteen miles on a day trip on more than one occasion. The most recent time was around Snake Bight east of Flamingo (which is at the end of the road in Everglades National Park). And even though almost half of that trip was through water about two inches shallower than the canoe with a thick muddy bottom, the weather was mild and the trip wasn’t as tough as this one. (Interestingly enough, on our last trip to Flamingo, Nancy mentioned canoeing to Ingraham Lake, which is at least ten miles west of Flamingo. Now that would be quite a day trip for us.)

But more importantly, the wind and waves were worse on this trip than on the Cedar Key trip that caused us to capsize. I’m hoping that was enough to rebuild Nancy’s confidence. Stay tuned.

Answers To “Is This Picture Level?”

A few weeks ago, I asked a few questions about a picture of me on the Turner Riverlink. I even offered a reward for the best answers. Here are my answers.

First Question

NO, the picture is not level. The photographers’ usual reference point for getting a picture level is the horizon. One of the rules of composition says that your horizon must be perfectly straight (unless it is so far off that the viewer will know that you did it on purpose).

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
What some people call “The Rule of the Horizon Line” is just an implementation of the Rule of Thirds. In the section “Horizon Lines” in his article Using Leading Lines and Horizon Lines in Photographic Composition, Todd Vorenkamp discusses both aspects.


But what if the horizon is not available, as in this picture? Nasim Mansurov, in his article The Importance of Straightening The Horizon and Aligning Lines, discusses (and shows examples of) several options for getting your picture straight. But he didn’t mention this situation.

Bruce on Turner River (annotated)

Q2: How Do We Straighten It?

First, let me say what won’t work: allegedly horizontal elements on a canoe, like seats and thwarts, even in calm water, can be expected to deviate from horizontal as a matter of routine. This case, as it turns out, is no exception. So what can we use?

When you have a calm body of water, as we do here, and the horizon is not visible, you can still depend on the levelness of the water. As I discussed in Reflections – My Answer To “What’s Wrong With This Picture (Version 2)?”, the angle of incidence of a reflected light ray equals the angle of reflection, which means, since the surface of the water is a horizontal plane, that the reflected object will be directly under the object itself, or the line between the two will be vertical, or 90° from the horizon. In the picture above, I have identified four different reference lines. Once you are convinced that this works, you really only need one. Two things make this more challenging, however. There are floating obstacles obscuring good reflection candidates. Also, as I discussed in “Reflections…”, the reflection won’t look exactly like the reflected object due to the changed perspective. Since identifying the exact point reflected may be subject to slight errors in estimated position, the further they are apart (meaning the longer the line connecting them) the better because the error in the angle needed to rotate for the picture to be level is proportional to the positional error divided by the distance apart (for small error angles). In the above picture, the flower (labeled “A”) is an easy choice, but it and its reflection are close together. The hole in the canopy (“B”) and the more prominent branch (“C”), although less identifiable in the reflection, do have good separation distances. “D” shows that in a pinch, when no well-marked points are available, you could even use the point on a curved line where the slope of the curve and the slope of its reflection are the same (or parallel). Expect a higher positional error in cases like that.

Once you have a reference line, most editing software has a horizon-straightening feature, or at least the ability to rotate the image until your reference line is vertical. For what it’s worth, this image needs to be rotated about 8⅓° clockwise. To see the corrected version, go to the bottom of our Red Mangrove Maze image page, where you can also find the identity of the person who took this picture.

Bonus Question

For the last question of the article, which was a math problem to find my age, see the note below.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.

Timeline for age problem

As you can see in the above illustration, there are three related timespans (years before 2008, years after 2008, and total years); if you know any two, you can find the third. This is true whether you are talking in years or percentages. We want the answer in years, but we only know one of the three. As a percentage, we know two of the three, so we can (and will) know all three. What we have to do, then, is find a relationship between years and percentages.

Twelve years is less than 19% of my current age,

or 12 \leq 0.19 \times Age

Age \geq \frac{12}{0.19} \approx 63.2

Actually, I’m about 64½.

Your reward (including bonus) would be \frac{1}{0.81} \approx 1.23 times the original award, meaning your bonus would be about 23%.

And The Winner Is…

There were four responses to the original post. All addressed the title question. Nobody addressed the follow-up or bonus questions. The judges have concluded that the first correct answer and winner of this contest, receiving ten dollars off of any Bee Happy Graphic product or service, and all bragging rights, is M. Alexander (former member of Kendall Camera Club). Congratulations!

Tips For Setting Up Your Booth Canopy

We have a Trimline Canopy by Flourishabout, with lower StaBars and a small (30″) front awning. Although we’ve also heard good things about the Light-Dome canopywebsite, I don’t know how many of the following tips would apply to other manufacturers. Not all of these concepts are brand-specific, however.

Booth at ArtsFest in Stuart February 11, 2017
Our booth at ArtsFest in Stuart on Saturday, February 11, 2017

This will not replace the setup instructions provided by the manufacturer. I refer to the latest information on the Flourish website as appropriate (I’ve noticed they have made a few changes since we bought our canopy in 2010), and suggest you read your instructionsFlourish and even watch their video (For ours it would be TrimLine Canopy Detailed Setup Video With Chris) before starting.

Storing Gear

We don’t completely disassemble our poles after each show. Since we carry all tent gear and art in our van, we follow something very similar to the “Fastest set up” on Page 8 of the “Trimline Canopy 10′ x 10′ Instructions for Assembly” (373.pdf). Specifically:

Illustration of roof poles with rafter hardware attached
Figure 1: How we store our Rafter Base Poles (from Page 3 of the “Trimline Canopy 10′ x 10′ Instructions for Assembly”)
  • The rafter base poles have rafter base joints and corner joints attached, as shown in Figure 1 above.
  • The Ridge Pole has Ridge Support Joints on both ends. The Riser Poles get stored with the Rafters.
  • The Awning Ells are attached to the long awning pole (described as the no-color 116½” pole in the “Trimline Awning Assembly Instructions” (394.pdf). The short poles for the side of the awning are stowed with the Rafters.
  • The legs are stowed in the “Rest-Stop position” with the top half against the Rest Stop Button. The StaBar Ell or 3-way is attached, as is the foot and the LD (a.k.a. Awning Support) Ell (as appropriate). All of these attachments are locked in their base positions.

We store the tent walls and other small parts in a large tote box (outside dimensions 32″L x 20″W x 18″H).

Setup

We set up our canopy with the heat/wind vents on the sides instead of front and back so that I don’t have to reach over the awning to open the vent. The downside of this is that if the tents are too close together, I may have to open the vents from inside the booth.

Illustation showing map of tent and offset for raising roof
Figure 2: Sample Booth Setup Scenario

When placing the roof in position, either while assembling or afterward, place the wall that will go up first exactly 24″ inside (toward the center of the booth from) its final position.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.

This is assuming a ten-foot tent with legs in the Rest Stop position (roughly 79″ long). It is based on the Pythagorean Theorem (Notice that in Figure 3 below, the roof poles, legs, and ground form a right triangle with the ground being the hypotenuse since the legs connect to the roof poles at a 90° angle. The general formula (in case you have longer roof poles and/or longer legs) would then be

Offset = \sqrt{(PoleLength^2 +    LegLength^2)} - PoleLength


Its two adjoining walls should be in line with their final position. Which side of the roof goes up first may be dictated by the placement of neighboring tents and other obstacles. For example, if you are in a line of booths that are being set up with their back wall against the curb and both of your neighbors have already set up, you should place your back wall two feet from the curb, meaning the front wall will be 24″ further out in the street but the sides will in their correct plane (see Figure 2). As you tilt the top up and attach your back legs first, their foot will land against the curb (see Figure 3).

Illustration showing how much canopy moves when raising tent
Figure 3: How the roof creeps as you install legs

When attaching the roof to the frame, we connect the straps and buckles on the vent sides and the wide Velcro on the rafter sides. But if we were to connect the thinner corner Velcro straps at that time, they would get in the way of hanging the weights.

Leveling The Tent

Roof Poles

We don’t see many other artists do this, but we use a small level to make sure our walls, and subsequently our panels, are vertical (and our roof poles and StaBars are horizontal). As you can see in Figure 4, it is important to have your framed pieces against the wall and straight. With all four legs in their lowest (“Rest Stop”) position, find which corner is highest by placing the level along your roof poles on all four sides (and “follow the bubble”). Since the poles sag over time due to the weight hanging from them, you should take measurements at more than one location along each pole. The leg in the highest corner will remain in its lowest position. Lengthen the adjoining legs as appropriate. Since one can only raise a leg in 1¾” increments, it is possible that the ‘true’ adjustment will fall between two holes. Pick one.

Illustration comparing leveled and unleveled canopy frame
Figure 4: Leveling the tent

StaBars

Since the lower bars are only held by thumb screws, positioning is continuous (no 1¾” increments), so we could do an even better job of leveling them than we do with the top bars. But because of the way our panels hang from the horizontal bars (see www.beehappygraphics.com/panels.html), it is more important to get the lower bars parallel to the top bars than it is to get them level. After measuring the change in length of the leg (which should be in agreement with the formula

HeightDifference = AdjustmentHoles \times 1.75" ,

move the StaBar joint up accordingly. After measuring each leg for each festival for about nine years, I came up with a shortcut.

Top and bottom sections of canopy leg, showing added markings
Figure 5: New markings on canopy legs

Notice in Figure 5 that I labeled the holes in the top section of the leg and pre-measured, marked, and labeled the correct adjustment distances on the bottom of the leg. This has already saved me much more time than the time I invested in making these improvements. The figure also mentions my suggestion for Version 2. Although the important measurement is the distance from the bottom edge of the StaBar Joint to the top of the foot, it would be better to have the markings and labels on the top edge of the StaBar Joint so you can read them without having to bend over so far to look under the joint.

Weights

Trimline canopies come with Ground Screws and 10” Steel Spikes for anchoring the canopy to the ground. These are almost never allowed at the art festivals in Florida that we attend. We can use weights anywhere. Flourish has their GreatWeightsabout, heavy-duty vinyl bags that will allegedly hold up to 40 pounds of sand or pea rock, at an additional cost. We built our own from parts readily available at any hardware store, namely a 30″ section of 4″ PVC pipe with a flat endcap, a bag of cement, and an eyebolt with nuts and washers. Ours weigh 34 pounds; some festivals want more, but our panels and art hanging from the roof make up the difference. Construction details for the weights will have to wait for another day (in the meantime, email me or comment below if you need details). We hang the weights from the canopy with ratchet tie-downs and strap them to the leg with a bungee cord at the top and bottom. It is very important not just to have them dangling but to have them held firmly in place (so they don’t turn into wrecking balls in heavier winds). If you look closely, you can see our weights in action in the picture at the top of this article.

Our Skirt

Typically, the bottom of our walls are less than three inches from the ground, so we were amazed to see how far up from the ground our panels (and art) got wet after a rain. To solve this, Nancy got some clear plastic sheeting to wrap around the bottom of the tent before the walls go up. The plastic should come at least 24″ up from the ground, plus a couple of inches extra on the ground. Ours is at least 4 mils thick. We need about 42 feet to go around all four walls. We use the clear 2″ shipping tape to attach it to each leg (which works much better if you get the skirt up before it starts raining). Start with one of the front legs, and then go around past the back legs to the other front leg. At this point, there should still be about eleven feet of plastic to go across the front, but while the tent is open we roll up the extra and stow it behind the nearest weight. When we close up, we pull out that last bit of skirt, stretch it across the front, and tape it to the last/first pole. Then we lower the front wall and secure the tent according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Instead of using the skirt, we recently considered extending the walls about 18″ and including straps to keep the bottom of the wall lying on the ground under all circumstances but Nancy decided it wouldn’t keep the walls as clean as our current method does.

The Awning

Occasionally awnings are not allowed, but we usually put up a front awning. It doesn’t go up while setting up the tent, and it is the first thing to come down after closing on Sunday afternoon so that it is out of the way of other artist vehicles coming in to drop off or pick up their supplies. We also take it down Saturday night so that we don’t have to lose sleep over the weather or other artists driving to their tent. The awning zips to the same zipper the front wall would use, but there is another zipper on the bottom edge of the awning for attaching the wall.

Daily routine

Our procedure Saturday and Sunday mornings would be to unzip and roll up the front wall, unzip it from the roof and set it aside, attach the awning poles, zip on the awning to the roof, and attach it with the bungees to the awning poles. Then we would zip the front wall back up to the awning and leave in the rolled position (on immediate standby in case of sudden severe squall). Finally, we would reconnect or adjust the Velcro at the top edges of the front walls and the corners of the canopy. Saturday and Sunday evening we would reverse this procedure.

In Case Of Rain

During light rain, we would stay open and continue working with customers. I would move the LD or Awning Support Joint on one side, which is normally at the top of the leg as described in Step 3 of the “Trimline Awning Assembly Instructions”, up as high as I can get away with and lower the joint on the other leg a couple of inches or as much as it takes to stop the water from forming a puddle in the middle of the awning that would ultimately spill over onto unsuspecting customers. If the rain became too severe, we would drop the front wall and hang out with whatever crowd needed a dry place in the middle of a storm.

In Closing . . .

That’s about everything we’ve learned so far. I hope it helps. If you have a better solution, or a solution to a different tent problem that could save our readers some grief, please explain in the comment section below. Thanks!