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The advantages of keeping it simple.

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Old Thursday 22nd February 2018, 09:10   #1
black crow
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The advantages of keeping it simple.

I've greatly benefited from the expertise on these forums as far as finding good binoculars. Many of the regular posters here are IMO experts in optics and I'm grateful for their skills and willingness to share them with an amature like me. I've tried to learn a little but it's really not what I'm good at or why binoculars hold great interest for me in the end. Different strokes for different folks and I'm a different folk for sure.

When I think back on my binocular history I find that I have the most fondness for my first pair of binoculars. I believe they were Nikon in a 7x21 compact configuration and cost around $75 which was a lot of bucks for me. I carried them for about 30 years and even though they were not waterproof I never go them wet and they always worked great. I finally gave them away to a very dear friend who I knew would never buy any for himself.

I got them soon after I left my childhood home on the run from a abusive situation. I had a backpack and a couple hundred dollars and those binoculars. For most of the next twenty years I drifted from one minimum wage job to the next until I had stashed $3-500 or so and then quit and lived out of my pack in Washington, Oregon and Northern California wilderness areas for the summer season and then repeated the operation year after year. Something like that. I didn't know anything about FOV, CA, or any of the technicalities of optics and for me that wasn't a loss because I saw so much of interest and beauty in those binoculars that my life has been forever enriched far beyond any career or any mainstream life I might have had, had things been different for me. At least that's how it looks to me now all these many years down all those roads. Going nowhere but always being fully there.

I only came into money just before it was getting to be close to retirement age. Then two unexpected inheritances set me up and allowed me to even retire a few years early and start buying "better" binoculars. Being the type of person I am with all my personal strengths and weaknesses I can't say that I enjoy any of my "much better" optics over that first beloved pair of binos. In fact in some ways for me trying to get technical over optics is a drawback. That first pair was more of a means to an end than to an end in themselves which is a trap I occasionally fall into when getting all caught up in the hunt for the perfect optic in my price range.

I'm not sharing this to dis anything that goes on here. There is great joy I'm sure in really understanding the fine details of optics for many here and it doesn't mean anyone enjoys the what they see in them any less. That's obvious. In fact it just adds more to the pot. However it's not the only way to do the binocular thing for sure and that's why I'm saying all this.

From having many pair of mid range and slightly above binoculars and also inheriting a top end pair of Swarovski's I can honestly say for myself and likely for many others that one pair of $1-200 binoculars is all it takes to get just as much joy from optics as anyone else. It's not less in any way but just different. It's simple, simple like when you were a kid just starting out and looking through that binocular was a door into wonder on the most basic level.

Those years alone, on the road with my pack and binoculars, and up in the wilderness areas ( mostly Eastern Oregon High Desert Great Basin and Northeastern California's Warner Mountain wilderness. Mostly trailess and roadless areas) I was about as free as I've ever been and could have been and more at peace and less alone than I've ever been since. Sitting on an open mountainside or a desert canyon at a little base camp, glassing at dusk as the wildlife came out into the open was really nurturing, peaceful and fun, especially because of what I had gone through at home as a kid. It was the best time in my life even though it cost me a career and a family and most of the normal ways of being grounded in this culture and for that, looking back over a somewhat seedy or at least weedy past, I can say I'm really and truly grateful.

I'll never own a better pair of binoculars.
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Old Thursday 22nd February 2018, 09:31   #2
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Nice share.

There's nowhere really to go if you've already arrived (and we ain't talking no bino journey! :)

I think I've an unusual attachment to my current bins myself ....



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Old Thursday 22nd February 2018, 12:48   #3
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Touching story,

Forget the glass, with your journey through life, it is likely you have seen more of nature than anyone here, and that my friend is true knowledge.

A.W.
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Old Thursday 22nd February 2018, 14:54   #4
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Thanks for sharing this with us Blackie.
For sure nature is a force for healing.
I have just been birding with a friend who has some troubles in his life and to see his face relax and light up when getting good views of birds was a tonic for me as well as for him.

Lee
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Old Thursday 22nd February 2018, 16:08   #5
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Seems to me you got your joy from this, and not a $100-$200 optic. I've done the same thing many times.

Psalm 19 ESV
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice[b] goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat
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Old Thursday 22nd February 2018, 17:11   #6
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Hello Black Crow,

You have lived some great experiences. I have lived a very urban life, hundreds of miles from any wilderness, parts of the Adirondacks. A rather old binocular, even in Brooklyn, allowed me to see the beauties of the heavens, which my naked eye could not. A fairly maligned binocular helped reveal the world of birds, even if it was only in Central Park.

One does not have to concern oneself overly with aberrations, light transmission, FOV to make a connection with nature. Today's mid-priced glass may provide a valuable tool to reveal the natural world.

Happy bird watching,
Arthur Pinewood
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Old Thursday 22nd February 2018, 21:28   #7
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Nice post, Black Crow. I think many of us have found binoculars to be fascinating, fun, expensive and occasionally irritating. But many of us have also found Nature to be healing in a way that mere man-made instruments can never be.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 01:31   #8
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But many of us have also found Nature to be healing in a way that mere man-made instruments can never be.
I think that's because our injuries so often specifically involve human relationship. Black crow, you might be interested in reading about John Muir. I saw a documentary a few years ago that made very clear how getting away from home into nature as a young man was an escape from his abusive father. Even better, he was able to express the feelings he found in wilderness in a way that connected him with others again, and did a great deal of good.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 02:05   #9
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Yes I've read about his life. He was the outdoors man par excellence. I sometimes put myself to sleep with his audiobooks when insomnia strikes. Like him I found a way to connect with some fine people later in life and then I lost the thread in these last 10 years. I'm pretty much a recluse now but inside I've always been somewhat a loner and preferred my own company and that of a good dog or two. The world's a little overcrowded for me now and just a tad crazy. I think the neverending march of technology has left me a little undone. A little is good but a lot is not better for me. I liked our state of technology in the 60s and 70s. and I liked the cars back then too. The optics were plenty good enough also.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 10:16   #10
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Well, you can't beat the company of a good dog. And I agree about the '70's (don't remember much of the '60's). I still prefer cassette-tapes and a small mono-player for language learning, for a variety of reasons. I think Henry Willilamson (of "Tarka the Otter" fame) was a recluse for years after returning from WWI, and the company of the injured otter he found helped him to find balance again. I'm sure there are lots of of similar examples of people returning from conflict who need to have their "forty days in the wilderness" before overcoming their trauma. Mind you, I can only manage five hours or so at a time in nature before the normal middle-age duties of work/family etc. drag me back. But that's the deal some of us bought into, so I can't complain. Ten minutes looking at the sea (with or without binos) is a wonderful restorative. Best Wishes to you Black Crow, I do enjoy your observations.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 13:16   #11
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Muir wrote a great story about a little mongrel mutt ("short-legged and bunchy bodied") that accompanied him on one of his journeys. It's called "Stickeen," and is probably available online. Recommended reading.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 14:28   #12
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For some, having a good mutt at your side and looking into the embers of a good campfire can result in a fine night's sleep and a better outlook on life come the next sunrise.

Using Bushmen repellant and thermacells makes a happy woodsmen these days - Wasn't all that much fun living out of a base camp back in the 60's whether you were Stateside or in that place far, far away - mosquitos and other biting insects/creatures ruin those National Geographic pictures of Nature at its finest.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 15:01   #13
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Yes that's true, I learned to pick my environments carefully after growing up in Michigan with all kinds of bugs that wanted to bite.

They Great Basin and High Mountain ranges of the High Desert are usually very good in that respect. Even empty of most flies and mosquitoes over much of the year. I never needed any repellent out there and I had a good sleeping bag. I didn't hike with dogs until later in life but they became one of the greatest pleasures when out "alone" for a long spell. They always wanted to come and go at exactly the same time you did and never complained about the grub and were warm when it was cold.

Eastern Oregon and NE Cal. is an amazingly empty place and tremendously beautiful. The Mountains out there can reach 10,000 ft and in summer are pleasant. Many of those ranges are unknown to most Oregonians. The Pueblo, Trout Creek, and Owyhee are almost empty much of the time and finding arrowheads and indian hunting camps was never unusual. Only the Steens range is well known and still that only gets a handful of people and birders. I did five weeks of Aboriginal Survival Training at the now infamous Malheur Field Station about 35 years back. It was based on how the Paiute Indians survived out there. It was so tough that the tribes had to break into family units and only united as a tribe a couple times a year due to food scarcity. It was just what I was looking for. Summers, it was easy to feed oneself in many places so extended excursions were easily possible. In winter you just stayed out if you were smart.

BTW there are a lot of birds in those well watered canyons that often run 40 miles or more. Maybe a couple of cowboys visit them in a season. Raptors and Buzzards are everywhere and I've even found raptor skulls intact due to the dryness. It's where I first saw eagles doing that mating spin. It's a great place to be with a pair of good long range binoculars. I'd say 10x is a good one out there.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 16:46   #14
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Joe and Blackie
Its good to hear about the country that you roam around in and how you feel about it. It probably won't surprise you, considering Great Britain is an island, that the presence of the sea is big factor for me and Troubadoris, and especially the sea off the west of Scotland.
I can assert that this is because you never know what might come into view at any moment whether it might be our beloved otters or our two species of seals, or the many whales, dolphins and basking sharks or just any of the dozens of bird species.
But there is something else that I can't put readily into words that makes us feel at peace, even in the face of an Atlantic storm, when we are next to the sea. It is healing for the soul and spirit.

Lee
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 16:55   #15
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Black Crow,

Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed your read and can relate to much of what you say then and now; although for me it was my own choosing and not a case of escape from adverse home conditions.

At 55 and looking back, without question my best memories are the times I spent living out of a backpack in what was infrequently visited national forest (a little known paradise) nestled in our western slope. I did this most every summer from my late teens to my early thirties. Yep, jobs were mostly temporary and short term to be able to do such a thing - I guess there are some things more important than career and money - to some of us anyway.

A full frame pack; a two man tent; a down bag; a single burner stove and a small pot to heat water; a knife; a water bottle; a fishing pole and reel with a small tackle kit (hand tied flies, leader material, a couple plastic bubbles, a few swivels); not much in clothes and some rain gear; a sleeping pad; a small bottle of musk oil w/ DEET were the essentials. Fresh water from ground springs and fish were a given so there was never a worry about water or food.

My strongest and most lasting attachment to physical items are mostly this small collection of goods. Perhaps these kept me alive and there is a special bond to them because of it. It was difficult for me to part with these items, just recently during a needed house purging - a deteriorating backpack, a rotting tent, an archaic stove. A broken fishing pole remains which for some reason I can't let go of; and that same knife continues to clean fish, birds and big game - there is no better.

I look around me now; it is not the immense beauty surrounding camp in the morning, or at sunset, or the stary night enjoyed by a small fire late into the night; it is 2,000 square feet of room, closet, basement, shed and garage filled with tons of material things that everyone wants. I frequently wonder how it got this way? Whatever happened to keeping it simple? What have I become? And how did I ever manage to live with so little and be so fulfilled?

I'd gladly give it all up if I could go back again....

CG

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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 16:56   #16
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....." but inside I've always been somewhat a loner and preferred my own company and that of a good dog or two. The world's a little overcrowded for me now and just a tad crazy. I think the neverending march of technology has left me a little undone. A little is good but a lot is not better for me." .....
Ditto!!!

CG

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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 17:17   #17
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I have tried to return to these places and times on occasion.

What was once quiet stretches of road is now people crawling over people; and more of the same when you get there, people crawling over people to enjoy it.

Although technology has gotten significantly better; quality of life has gotten significantly worse.

CG
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 18:25   #18
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Although technology has gotten significantly better; quality of life has gotten significantly worse.
Cause and effect? "Beauty spots accessible to whole populations cease to be beauty spots..." Aldous Huxley, Boundaries of Utopia, 1931. The nexus here is a longish story...and the solutions are not simple...
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 19:29   #19
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I have tried to return to these places and times on occasion.

What was once quiet stretches of road is now people crawling over people; and more of the same when you get there, people crawling over people to enjoy it.

Although technology has gotten significantly better; quality of life has gotten significantly worse.

CG

Nehh, it's just generation over generation.
Nepal is now overcrowded (but aren't we the ones who do it?) and Bhutan is like a virgin landscape. Look at it now and come back later 40 years from now. Same experience.
Quality of life is just what you get out of it. We are only visiting this planet for 80 years? Mother planet is billions years old and has seen it all, again and again and again

Jan
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 21:45   #20
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The musician Sting sang. "When the world is running down, you make the best of what's still around".

What else can you do? I'm glad I grew up when I did. I loved the 60s and 70s and even 80s and my tent my fishing pole and my binoculars. And the music.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 21:57   #21
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Mind you, I don't know about other countries but there were many, many ways in which this one had a darker, more ominous side in the sixties and seventies, which I won't elaborate on. Kids growing up nowadays are far, far better off, better nourished, more aware of their rights, less likely to accept authority unquestioningly, etc. It's just a pity so many of them are detached from Nature, Cycling, Swimming, etc., and attached to screens for much of the day. Although I'm writing this on a screen....
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 22:08   #22
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You bet it was hard for many then. Women's and minority rights were just starting to be addressed. When I ran from home though the road was full of roaming hippies and I got some great rides and ended up in some great places and back then hitchhiking was very doable. I even hitched from Seattle to Grand Rapids Mich with no problems. I used to hitchhike to Yellowstone to fish with a buddy from Mich every year for many years. And hitching from Seattle to the Redwoods often only took one or two days. I loved being on the road more than anything but a lot of what was going on was not good for sure, as is true in every age. It all depends on your luck of the draw.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 22:15   #23
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thanks black crow. i'm new here and new to watching birds but i am old at being a fool so i nearly left after a few weeks at seeing garden hose bill's ban. it just p's me off and i've had enough of this regimented evil world. i am a recluse and sometimes lonely and a misfit still at 67. watching backyard birds has been the best thing in a bad year and reminded me of some simple realities after a time. they get up early after a frosty night and carry on. they do their thing and dont have time to mess about and play the fool or otherwise, as happened a few days ago to my favourite blackbird, the sparrowhawk gets them and a few feathers blow on the wind.
your post put me back in balance, thank you.
when it comes to bins, im too poor. always wanted some. i have owned a $10 plastic pair once (why is one binocular called a pair?). they were amazing. i didnt care about distortion and one eye being a bit fuzzy, they meant i could see things at a distance i otherwise couldn't. amazing! more than that, because of remoteness i could observe creatures in nature that were not reacting to me. i saw them just living their lives, nothing special except very special in that as a hunter i learnt empathy. they were no longer prey, hunted, they were creatures just living. i gave up hunting despite the real love i had for that. and now as i am old and ill, those creatures, especially small, common garden birds give me daily pleasure and satisfaction more than in all my endeavours, most humans have. thank you for your simple philosophy, it reminded me to be patient. the best comes to you then.
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Old Friday 23rd February 2018, 22:48   #24
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Well, you have lived, and done well for yourself, in spite of your homelife, and I take my hat off to you for that. Wow, you spent a lot of dosh on your first binoculars-mine were only about $32 with tax, if I remember; a pair of Bushnell Sport View 8x30's with oblong black vinly case in the late 60's. They took me away from my always fighting parents, and kept me company in the woods a fields, thankfully within walking distance to my home. I bought them at a Herter's store close-by, and by advice I got in Outdoor Life, or Field & Stream about which power to buy. And someday I would be like Jack O'Connor hunting big game in the USA, with a .270 rifle, no doubt! That never happened, though I walked the fields looking for Pheasants for hours and hours! Which have been gone from here for many years now, along with the flocks of Pigeons too!

I did a lot of walking, and looking, and when I wasn't hunting, I was just walking around in those same fields and woods with my binoculars, just to be out of the house and I got used to being a loner, and I liked it. I remember seeing rabbits playing in the clover, with my bins one day, and it was great. I've been that way ever since (OK, I did get married, but all we had were cats), and still find the solace of nature the best way to spend any time in this world, without conflict and noise. I'm pretty touchy about noise and have been since my youth-no surprise there after all the yelling I heard.

But those first binoculars probably helped keep me engaged in nature, in a way not possible before, and that has stuck with me til now, and I am so grateful for being introduced to them, even if it was only from reading about them. Once you see for yourself how great they are, you're hooked! One of man's best inventions, to take you to a different plain of awareness for sure!

I may have been a very different person if my VW bus's engine had not blown up, in 1971 (just had it rebuilt-a 1963 bus), when I was planning a trip around the US after high school. But that floored the attempt to escape, and I had to go to work to make ends meet, (and worked ever since until no one wanted old guys anymore). Getting away never did happen, but I did marry a great girl, that I met in college, and we're still together...and living on this amazing earth with the permission of our cats, for sure.

Black Crow, it seems your drive to get out, and be in nature paid off for you, as your living in it is what many aspire to, though never find it in their own lives. Good for you, and your sentiments and actions to be a naturalist by heart and soul, should make you proud of your convictions and doing it for your preservation. The best medicine that you can get for any money, no doubt! You found a way to survive, and got something irreplacable in return.

I don't think you missed anything in a career, as sometimes that is very overrated, and people get lost in them. You're a survivor, and naturalist and to be congratulated on following your own path. Yes, keep it simple, and keep it yours.
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Old Saturday 24th February 2018, 00:40   #25
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Thanks for your kind words. I fully agree that finding and owning binoculars really added a dimension to my adventures in nature. What is so surprising to me is that of the many people I have known in a long life very feel get hooked on binoculars or even own a decent pair. That's a complete mystery to me. There is nothing like a close up of a beautiful bird in a tree with a blue sky in the background. It's like music. It's magical. It's like being in a technicolor dream.
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