Category Archives: Road Trips

My Top Video Gear for Road Trips and Travel

(Side note: The above photo is just a stock photo, not my actual gear. I thought it looked nice.  But who puts a potted plant in their lineup???)

Many times when people watch my travel videos, they ask “what’d you shoot that on?” or “you must have brought a lot of gear on that trip!”  And what I’ve realized is that many people think gear is everything. They think having the top gear is how you make a great video.  I used to believe this too.  I’ve been guilty of saying “Well, if I had X camera, I could do that too.”  But the truth is I couldn’t.  Good story and execution is what makes a video great.  Everything else are just tools (although I fully admit great gear can elevate your work).  Once I learned this, I stopped focusing so much on having the best gear.  I still buy stuff and I still plan on upgrading from time to time, but the gear I don’t have never stops me from trying to make great videos.

But, when people are just starting out and getting into video as a hobby, sometimes they don’t even know what’s what.  “What do I even need?”  It helps to peek into someone else’s bag and get an idea.  So that’s why I’m making this list.  This is the gear I use to make my videos.  It’s in no way the best, the only way, or even comprehensive, but I hope it serves as a good starting point.

Bag – Almost all my gear can fit in this bag.  It’s great knowing that it’s all in one place. Plenty of space for a few lenses, the front opens for easy access, and there are compartments for batteries, cables, and random things you want to throw in there.

Lowepro Fastpack 250 DSLR Camera Backpack

Day Bag – When you don’t need your full-size backpack and all of the accessories, this one is much easier to take on a hike or go to the beach.  I actually started with this one and bought the bigger 250 once my gear grew.

Lowepro Fastpack 100

Camera – I have the Canon 60d.  It’s old now.  It doesn’t shoot in 4k or capture slow motion footage.  But it’s still capable of shooting great looking video and photos that I’m happy with.  Until I make some serious extra cash, it’s not going anywhere.

Canon 60d

Lens – My Canon 17-55mm lens gives me variety to shoot things both close and far away, portrait style and wide.   I use this lens the most.

Canon EF-S 17-55mm

Wide lens – When I’m shooting landscapes and I really want to show the vastness, I’ll pop on this lens.

Tokina 11-16mm

Circular Polarizer – Improves color and contrast while reducing glare. Really helpful on bright days.  Kinda like sunglasses!

Tiffen Circular Polarizer

Microphone – The microphone on most DSLR cameras is pretty lousy.  I like this one because it’s small, produces good sound, and mounts directly on top of the camera.

Rode VMGO Video Mic GO

GoPro – When I’m going in the water or want to try something creative/risky with the camera, I’ll pull out my GoPro.  I like the accessibility it provides.  You can get shots you normally wouldn’t be able to.

GoPro Hero 4 Black (Previous model)

Cell Phone Battery Packs – If you film with your phone, you’ll want the extra juice to last you through the day.

Anker PowerCore+ mini

External Hard Drive – Having an external hard drive to store all this footage is key.  I like the rugged drives because of their durability.  That’s important when moving around all the time.  A little pricey, but good.

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 2 TB

Phone Tripod – I’ll shoot time lapses or just set up an establishing shot with my phone.  Being able to place it exactly how I want is key.

Tripod or Bendy Tripod – Useful for your big camera too.  Great for night-lapse, long exposure photography, or interesting angles.

MacBook Pro – This is what I have, but there are plenty of great Windows options for editing too.

 

 

Let me know if you have any questions.  I hope this short list was helpful for anyone interested in video and photography.

-Randy

 

DISCLAIMER

Road Trip Randy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP: See As Much As Possible and Ignore the Trolls

california road trip plan

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP:         See As Much As Possible and Ignore the Trolls

 

I’m not the type of person who wastes time during vacations.  If I’m visiting a new place I try to see everything I can in the small amount of time I have.  Only once I feel like I’ve seen everything, then I can relax.  It’s just how I’m wired.

Most people hate going on vacation with me, especially if I’m filming.  These are the types of things I say:

“THERE ARE TWO HOURS OF SUNLIGHT LEFT.  WE CAN GET TO THE NEXT 18 PLACES IF WE HURRY!”

“WHY WOULD YOU TAKE A NAP RIGHT NOW?!”

“I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WORRY ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS.  WE HAVE TO GET THIS SHOT.”

Believe it or not, I managed to convince two friends to come on a week-long road trip with me through Northern California.  I probably won them over when I pitched the beautiful bluffs of the Pacific Coast Highway, the scenic drive up to Glacier Point in Yosemite, and the peaceful Emerald Bay of Lake Tahoe.  But I knew it wouldn’t be all pretty landscapes.

Meet Charles and Jinelle.  Actually just Jinelle.  You already met Charles in my Salton Sea video.  I’m just going to assume all my readers have my videos memorized and know exactly who I’m talking about.   Jinelle is our friend from Michigan who actually flew out just for the trip! I must have really pitched road trip idea well!  We go way back to the middle school years.  And we met Charles in college. The three of us get along great, especially when they do what I want them to do.

Anyway, we had one week to make this trip happen.  I told them where we’d be going: Yosemite, Tahoe, Shasta, Avenue of the Giants, San Francisco, and Big Sur.  It was an ambitious plan to see so many world-renowned places in seven days.  And each place would probably be better explored in seven days on their own.  But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from having an awesome adventure.  I was going to see as much of NorCal as I could.

Jinelle flew into LAX at 10:30PM and we began our adventure at 3:50AM. Actually, that’s the perfect lead in to this video.  You’ll see why:

I promise it’s somewhat entertaining. And it’s short.

I posted this video to Reddit and other social media sites.  These were some of the responses I got:

“You go to see beautiful sites in nature and then B**@#($& about not finding a hotel? Try camping. LOSER!”

“I hate when people travel just to check things off their bucket list instead of actually spending time to enjoy a place.”

Personally, I think a more constructive criticism would have been about Charles’ wardrobe choices:

charles wardrobe

charles wardrobe 4
Look at that sock game!

As the video showed, the trip was fast, fun, and full of some amazing scenery.  This is the type of trip I like to take and I hope I can do more in the future.  Unfortunately this thing called real life gets in the way right now.  If you’d like to sponsor me, I’d be willing to take monthly payments so I can buy a tent, take longer, more meaningful trips, and silence my critics.  I’m very sensitive to their opinions.

Don’t wait for the perfect moment, situation, or right way to travel.  As always, go trip yourself!

-Randy

Yosemite tunnel view
Tahoe emerald bayShasta lake damRedwoods avenue of the giantsSan Francisco painted ladiesBig Sur coast

 

Vasquez Rocks and Charlie Brown Farms – Day Trip Near Los Angeles

Vasquez Rocks and Charlie Brown Farms –  Day Trip Near Los Angeles

 

Hey.

I wanted to write a quick post and share two new videos.  A few weeks ago, my friend Charles and I took a day trip to Vasquez Rocks.  I’m sure you’ve seen Vasquez Rocks, even if you don’t recognize the name, because it is in about 29384720639680 films and TV shows.  Most notably: Star Trek, Power Rangers, The Flintstones, Austin Powers, and Planet of the Apes.  It’s very easy to get to and right outside LA.

movie list star trektv shows films here

On our way back, we stopped at Charlie Brown Farms.  I didn’t really do much research before we went, so I was very confused when I arrived and there was no farm.  Basically it’s a shop that sells nostalgic candy, Texas BBQ, deliciously-unhealthy desserts, toys, gifts, and strange, life-size statues.  Outside you’ll find Santa, locked in a fence with a Pterodactyl, lion, horses, and the Eiffel Tower.  Why they are locked up, I have no idea.  Why they are even there, I have no idea.  I’m pretty sure you can buy some of them, though.  I guess putting dinosaurs outside your home would be kind of awesome.

“Which house does Randy live in?”

“Oh you can’t miss it.  It’s the one with the triceratops in the front yard!”

Anyway, if you’re planning a road trip near LA, make a pit stop at Charlie Brown Farms.

strange attractions california road trips

Salton Sea Road Trip: 4 Things you Absolutely, Undoubtedly, No-Question-About-It, Must See at Salton Sea Before You DIE

Salton Sea Road Trip: 4 Things you Absolutely, Undoubtedly, No-Question-About-It, Must See at Salton Sea Before You DIE!!

Wasn’t that such a Buzzfeed-esque/clickbait title? I feel like I could have perhaps pushed it a little further by adding “OMG!” or “…You won’t believe #4!”

Anyway, if you don’t want to read about my Salton Sea road trip, just watch my video of it here.  It’s short, upbeat, and gives you the gist of things:

That’s all.  Thanks for reading.

Just kidding.  I guess since you’re still reading you want to know the four things you absolutely, undoubtedly, no-question-about-it, must see at Salton Sea before you die.

Salton Sea is about three hours southeast of Los Angeles and used to be a top vacation destination for Californians.  Over time, the sea has slowly shrunk, and died, turning the once pristine beach community into a smelly ghost town.

1.  The Big, Smelly, Great Sea

The shrinking sea that smells like rotten eggs is definitely a must.  Different locations have different amenities.  If you go to the Salton Sea Recreation Area ($5) you’ll see a nice-looking beach*, with beautiful picnic tables and a visitor center.  You’ll also see piles of dead fish.  Or a fish on a stick!

*only from afar

Salton Sea Recreation Area

Salton sea palm trees

Salton Sea dead fish

If you go to Bombay Beach (free), however, you’ll first enter a town where you’re unsure if there’s anyone left living there (there are).  It’s tiny, but fascinating.  A few houses and trailers are in okay condition, while others are completely abandoned and falling apart.  The beach itself follows the latter. Rusted machinery, a pier, and random furniture litter the shoreline in each direction.

Salton Sea Bombay Beach

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 1

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 4

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 3

Salton Sea Bombay Beach 5

salton sea history

2.  Niland

If you follow the coast of the sea down to the southern tip, you’ll find the city of Niland.  Niland is a town that also looks like it is abandoned, yet isn’t.  It takes about 30 seconds to pass through, and there’s a gas station, a motel, a restaurant, and a broken pay phone.  We tried to stay at the motel, but there was no answer when we arrived.  Luckily, the restaurant we tried for lunch not only answered, but they were serving lunch until 2pm, and provided edible food.

Salton Sea niland cafe

Salton Sea niland pay phone

3.  Slab City/East Jesus

If you love hippies in the desert making art out of junk, you’ll love this place! The hippies also provide free tours in East Jesus.  Definitely go there.  The art is literally made out of junk.  I wasn’t being rude.  The rest of Slab City is unique too, as I was never quite sure what I was looking at.  Again, you’ll find trailers, “homes,”  art installations, and communal gathering areas for those individuals who enjoy living off the grid.

Salton Sea East Jesus 6

Salton Sea East Jesus 5

Salton Sea East Jesus 4

Salton Sea East Jesus 3

Salton Sea East Jesus 2

Salton Sea East Jesus 1

4.  Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain is probably the most popular stop for people visiting Salton Sea.  It’s, in my opinion, the most impressive piece of work in this area as it was created by one man, Leonard Knight.  Salvation Mountain is a hill that’s been painted in colorful Bible verses and Christian sayings.  There are rooms, passageways, stairs, and painted cars and trucks to explore.  Knight died a few years ago, but many people volunteer to keep the site from turning into the rest of the area.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Although my Salton Sea road trip was an enjoyable one and I find the abandoned/post-apocalyptic theme of the area fascinating, it was also kind of depressing to see.  Everything is dead or dying, and you’re essentially driving through a barren wasteland.  The remains of what used to be an exuberant and thriving community are found everywhere.  You can find homes that still have food in the pantry as though, one day, everyone rushed out and left for good.

empty road

To end on a less depressing note, I might be getting a new camera lens soon.  And last night, I ate six slices of pizza.

Go trip yourself!

Palm Springs Road Trip – Don’t Visit in September

coachella nature

Update: Check out my Palm Springs road trip video above.

If you’re thinking about taking a vacation in Palm Springs, I have one piece of advice for you: Don’t visit in September.  I made the non-SoCal native mistake of assuming September would be cool in temperature like most normal places.  Apparently, September is California’s hottest month of the year.  The weekend I went to Palm Springs seemed to verify that.  And being in a desert only made it worse.

Basic Info

For those of you, like me, who know nothing about California (except that its residents believe it’s the greatest place on earth) Palm Springs is a small town located in the middle of the desert.  It’s about a two hour drive east of LA, right outside Joshua Tree.  The drive there is interesting because at first you look around and just see mountains, sand, and dirt everywhere.  Then all of a sudden, everything turns bright green and you see a welcome sign for Palm Springs.  Every road is lined with perfectly straight palm trees and well-groomed plants.  Shops, streets, and restaurants are up-to-date yet still have a lot of character.  It’s hard to believe such a clean, wealthy, and modern city sits in the middle of a desolate desert.

One great thing about Palm Springs is that the city can act as a central hub to all the other sites and attractions on your road trip or vacation.  the Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree, and Salton Sea are all easy day trips from Palm Springs.  People go to Palm Springs to get away for a weekend.  Golf, bars, pools, and casinos become their relaxation.  Many people move there to retire.  It’s not exactly a city to go do and see stuff.  But don’t let that stop you from making a visit there!  Spend an afternoon exploring the city and then spend the rest of your time outside it.

Let’s get back to why you shouldn’t visit in September:

  • It will be a scorching 115 at any time of the day.
  • You won’t see other people (This might be a positive thing depending who you ask).
  • The people you will see are mostly old.  Although this has nothing to do with September, I’m sure.
  • The #1 attraction is closed.  The tram/cable car up to Mt. San Jacinto was closed for two weeks when we visited. 😦

coachella oasis

This makes it sound like a really depressing place, but I want to make it clear that I did have a good time.  Here’s what I enjoyed:

The people are very friendly- probably because they never see anyone in September and get lonely. Pam, our dinner waitress, would strike up a five minute conversation with us every time she came to bring our food or drinks.  The single woman (probably age 65) behind us joined in too.

Cheap prices.  Did I mention I bought a beer for $4 dollars?

Abundant streets signs that said: “Free Unlimited Parking”.  It was almost like they were trying to taunt people from LA.

So if you’re visiting Palm Springs, what should you see?

Cabazon Dinosaurs. If you’re coming from LA, stop in Cabazon and see the giant dinosaurs.  There’s also an exhibit you can pay for, but the giant dinosaurs in front are completely free.

Wind turbines.  You can’t miss them.

Downtown.  Plenty of parking, nice shops, and a “Hollywood Walk of Fame” sidewalk.  Unfortunately, I have to admit the one in LA is a little better.

Mt. San Jacino tram.  I’m sure it’s open now.   About $25 to take a ride to the top.  #1 attraction on TripAdvisor.

Coachella Nature Preserve.  Palm trees, lizards, oasis, and a view of the San Andreas fault.  I highly recommend it.  I’d also highly recommend bringing water and staying on the trails…

Any lake, pond, or swimming pool you can find.

Tip: Don’t ask your hotel concierge what to do because ours just said this: “Oh, the tram is closed? Then, there’s nothing to do here.”

IMG_3491

Interesting Facts:

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation (that’s how you have to say their name every time) owns most of the land in Palm Springs. $$$

Apparently, there aren’t street lights on most of the main roads (truth) because the citizens want to be able to admire the stars at night (questionable).  How does star gazing trump common safety practices??

Most restaurants and bars close around 9PM.  Although they do have some clubs and a casino.

Premium beers in many of the bars are Heineken and Corona. We went to one place and they only had four kinds of beer.

They got rid of the giant Marilyn Monroe statue earlier this year.  Now, it seems, the city really has nothing to attract tourists.  Seeing giant dinosaurs and a giant Marilyn on the same trip would have made my day!

mt san jacinto

Who should visit:

  • Old people who just want to relax.
  • People who like taking trams up mountains.
  • People who like nice, wealthy cities in the middle of deserts.
  • People who don’t mind driving without street lights at night.
  • People who like wind turbines.

Palm Springs Road Trip Preview

I went to Palm Springs this weekend.  September is the wrong month to go (unless you enjoy 115 degree temperatures and closed mountains).  More on that in a later post.  Here’s a 7-second time lapse I made of Palm Springs at night with Mt. San Jacinto in the background.

HD. Full Screen. HD. Full Screen.

EDIT: I just realized you can’t see any of the stars in the video 😦 I’m going back to YouTube.