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Updated: 37 min 6 sec ago

Venturing’s Epic 20th Birthday Party at the Summit Bechtel Reserve

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 5:33pm

They tell you to trust your harness. To remember your safety lessons. That you’re not going to fall.

Solid advice, but it goes fluttering away when you’re 40 feet in the air standing on a metal wire as thin as your pinkie.

“I’m so terrified of heights,” says Larissa Johnson, a 16-year-old Venturer from Crew 514 of Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Larissa is making her way through the Summit Bechtel Reserve’s high ropes course. She must walk from treetop to treetop, conquering a series of obstacles along the way. In one direction, she’ll step across a row of vertical logs suspended in midair.

In another, she’ll cross a rope net like a spider.

Brenna Emery watches the whole thing. The staff member, whose yellow helmet makes her easy to spot, reminds Larissa that she’s protected by two strong straps attached to her harness. It’s scary, but it’s safe.

“You’ve just got to trust the system and know that it works,” Brenna tells Larissa. “You’re not going to fall.”

Larissa completes the course. Her confidence buoyed, she’s ready to go again the instant she’s back on solid ground.

“I was thinking, ‘Physically, I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough,’ ” Larissa says. “But I did. I did it.”

Moments like these are why guys and girls join Venturing. Not to impress others but to prove something to themselves.

It’s why Larissa and 1,800 other Venturers gathered for Venturing-Fest, last summer’s weeklong celebration of the program’s 20th birthday. They were there to share ideas, meet new friends and conquer this giant Scouting playground in West Virginia.

Something for Everyone

Name an outdoor activity you enjoy, and it’s likely SBR offers the best possible version of that activity.

“You can do almost anything you can do at a regular camp, but it’s better,” says Lucas Cornelius, a 19-year-old from Crew 55 of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Are you into mountain biking? Try 40 miles of trails that twist and turn like a roller coaster. Rock climbing? Enjoy one of the largest manmade outdoor facilities in the nation. Zip lining? Soar down a zip line more than half a mile long. And don’t forget the world-class venues for whitewater rafting, shooting sports, skateboarding and BMX biking.

“Do not take it for granted,” says Mason Jones, 18, of Crew 62 from Spring, Texas. “Do something that thrills you. Do something that makes your life exciting.”

‘You’ve Got This’

A climbing wall can be a lonely place. That’s why it helps to have friends on the ground cheering you on.

Lauren Gogal is attempting a climbing route called “The Butterfly Patch.” Do not be deceived by the name, which might make you think of frolicking in a field of flowers.

The 14-year-old from Crew 91 of Gainesville, Virginia, has tried this route about a dozen times already. Each time, at around the same spot, she loses her grip and falls.

A few of Lauren’s crewmates have gathered to watch her latest attempt.

“You’ve got this, Lauren!” one of them yells.

Lauren doesn’t respond — at least, not with words. She just exhales deeply and reaches for the next handhold. Then the next. Her legs propel her upward. Moments later, she triumphantly slaps the top of the wall.

“It does help,” Lauren says of the encouragement. “They were saying, ‘You got it,’ ‘Come on.’ I feel accomplished.”

A Second Home

For Crew 300 of Wasilla, Alaska, just being at VenturingFest is an accomplishment.

Most other crews drove to SBR, but the Alaskans took a 3,200-mile journey that required two flights and eight hours in the air.

But in this new place, four time zones from Alaska, Crew 300 feels right at home.

“The people are really nice,” says Maddie Barlow, 15. “We’ll walk around, and they’ll just say ‘hi’ to you.”

That’s what it’s like in Venturing. Your green shirt creates an instant connection.

Soon you realize all Venturing crews deal with the same basic challenges. They want to improve crew meetings, recruit other Venturers and plan better trips.

You learn that everyone comes to SBR for the same basic reasons, too: They want to stretch their limits, try new things and meet people they’d never otherwise meet.

“Just being surrounded by all these other Scouts who are in the same shoes as you — looking for an adventure that they can’t grab back home,” says William Burns, a 20-year-old from Crew 503 of Dacula, Ga.

“Everyone’s on the same level.”

Finding the Right High Adventure Base for Your Trek

The Summit Bechtel Reserve is just one of the BSA’s four national high-adventure bases. Exciting outdoor adventures await at each one. Here are the other three:

  • Florida National High Adventure Sea Base features aquatics programs, including deep-sea fishing, sailing, scuba diving and trips to the Florida Keys, Bahamas and U.S. Virgin Islands. 
  • Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico offers legendary backpacking treks to themed backcountry camps, horseback riding excursions, a winter experience and a variety of training programs. 
  • Northern Tier National High Adventure Program serves up epic lake-hopping canoe treks and winter camping experiences from its bases in northern Minnesota and Canada. 

Love stories like this? We’ve got exclusive stories just for subscribers. Get a year’s worth of the best and funniest and most interesting things you need to know for $12.

9 Things to Know About Merit Badges

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 3:34pm

There are more than 135 merit badges. By earning them, you can learn about sports, crafts, science, trades, business, and future careers. Here’s how to get the most out of your merit badge experience.

#1: Pick a Good Subject

There are two ways to think about choosing a merit badge to pursue.

The first is to choose something with which you’re already familiar. Do you like sports? There are merit badges in Athletics, Golf and Personal Fitness. STEM? Try Digital Technology, Electronics and Robotics. Do you enjoy art? Think about Art, Graphic Arts and Sculpture. Chances are, whatever you like, there’s a merit badge for that.

Another option is to choose something you aren’t familiar with in an effort to broaden your horizons. Never fished with a fly rod? Try Fly-Fishing. Never experienced Whitewater? There’s a badge for that, too.

#2: Feeling Blue?

The Application for Merit Badge (more commonly known as the “blue card”) is the nationally recognized merit badge record. Your unit leader should sign first on the front and then give you the entire card. From there, it’s up to you to arrange a meeting with your counselor.

Although you can begin work on a merit badge at any time, it’s the counselor’s decision whether to accept that work, so it makes sense to review the requirements with your counselor before pursuing them.

Your counselor will sign your blue card when they’re satisfied that you’ve met all the requirements. Then you must take your card to your unit leader and discuss your experience.

#3: A Reminder About Prerequisites

Some merit badges appear to have requirements that must be satisfied before beginning work on the badge. The Emergency Preparedness merit badge, for example, requires the earning of the First Aid merit badge. But since the requirement does not state that First Aid must be earned before beginning work on the other Emergency Preparedness requirements, it is not, by definition, a prerequisite. It is just another requirement.

Make sense?

One exception is with Scuba Diving and Swimming. Requirement 2 for Scuba Diving clearly states the Scout must earn the Swimming merit badge before completing the remaining requirements.

#4: There Are 17 Eagle-Required Merit Badges Available

Thirteen merit badges from this list are required to earn Eagle. Not surprisingly, these are the most common merit badges earned. Based on the latest data available at the time of this magazine’s publication, the most popular merit badges are First Aid, Swimming, Citizenship in the World, Environmental Science, Citizenship in the Nation, Cooking, Camping, Communication, Personal Fitness and Personal Management.

The BSA has installed “checkpoints” on your trail to Eagle to make sure you are headed in the right direction. For example, the rank of Star requires you to earn six merit badges (including four from the Eagle-required list). Life requires five more (including three more from the Eagle-required list). And Eagle requires an additional 10 (including six more from the Eagle-required list) to complete a total of 21 merit badges.

#5: Read the Pamphlet

Seriously, people. Read. The. Pamphlet. They’re available at Scout shops, through scoutshop.org and maybe in your troop library. There’s all kinds of good stuff in there that your counselor might not have time to cover, especially if you’re attending a one-time class on that merit badge. And speaking of merit badge classes, most counselors will come up with a list of requirements that must be done in advance and maybe a second list of requirements that should be done after the class.

Have questions about those requirements? Read. The. Pamphlet.

#6: Some of Your Requirements Might Already Be Done

It’s OK if you started work earlier on a subject you were interested in. Just be sure and review your work with your counselor. Some requirements can be satisfied by schoolwork or by participating in non-Scout extracurricular activities as long as you were a registered Scout at the time.

The most obvious one is Scholarship, which requires you to show an improvement in grades and demonstrate good leadership skills at school. If you have found and read six books from a variety of genres, you’ve completed a requirement for Reading.

Are you active in your school theater? You’ve probably completed some requirements for the Theater merit badge. Do you play on a sports team? You’re on your way to earning Sports. Just remember: Don’t assume anything. Talk with your counselor to make sure you’re doing what you need to do to get credit for these activities.

#7: Let’s Call the Others “Rare”

Calling them “unpopular” just seems rude.

The rarest merit badges to earn are Bugling, American Business, Surveying, American Labor, Stamp Collecting, Drafting, Journalism, Composite Materials, Gardening and Landscape Architecture. Dare to be different and earn one (or more!) of these.

#8: Beware of Unofficial Merit Badge Worksheets

Printable documents available from non-BSA websites aren’t necessarily against the rules — as long as you’re still fulfilling the requirements of the badge.

The problem comes with requirements like “discuss,” “show,” “explain” and “identify.” By filling out a worksheet, you aren’t “discussing” anything with anyone. Worksheets are good for organizing your thoughts and fulfilling requirements that must be done in writing. That’s it.

#9: Working With Your Counselor

Many troops have their own list of counselors. Set up a meeting with your unit leader to talk about which badge you’re interested in. After your discussion, your Scoutmaster should provide you with contact information for a counselor.

When working with a counselor, always use the buddy system. If you email a counselor, copy a parent or trusted adult on the email. When meeting in person with a counselor, always have someone with you. Why not grab another Scout so you can work on the badge together? These actions ensure the current youth protection policies are being followed.

RECOMMENDED MERIT BADGE PROCESS

Below is the official BSA-recommended process of earning a merit badge. Your personal experience may vary.

1. The Scout develops an interest in a merit badge and may begin working on the requirements.

2. The Scout discusses interest in the merit badge with the unit leader.

3. The unit leader signs a blue card and provides the Scout with at least one counselor contact.

4. The Scout — with a buddy — contacts the counselor.

5. The counselor considers any work toward requirements completed before the initial discussion with the unit leader.

6. The Scout, their buddy and the counselor meet (often several times).

7. The Scout finishes the requirements.

8. The counselor approves completion.

9. The Scout returns the signed blue card to the unit leader, who signs the applicant record section of the blue card.

10. The unit leader gives the Scout the applicant record.

11. The unit reports the merit badge to the council.

12. The Scout receives the merit badge.

How to Make Invisible Ink for Writing Top-Secret Messages

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 12:49pm

Create your own top-secret notes with this simple technique using grape juice and baking soda.

For the chance to win a cool spy prize, click here read the rest of our invisible ink message.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE INVISIBLE INK
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • ¼ cup of water
  • Grape juice concentrate
  • Paintbrush or cotton swab
  • Paper
  • Two small bowls
HOW TO WRITE A SECRET MESSAGE WITH INVISIBLE INK

1. Mix the baking soda and water in a small bowl. This is your invisible ink.

2. Dip a finger, cotton swab or paintbrush into the “ink.”

3. Write your message on a piece of light-colored paper.

4. Let it dry completely.

HOW TO REVEAL AND READ AN INVISIBLE INK MESSAGE

1. Lightly paint grape juice concentrate across the paper with a brush.

2. Your message will slowly appear as the juice saturates the paper.

WIN A SPY PRIZE

For the chance to win a cool spy prize, click here read the rest of our invisible ink message.

Write a Funny Caption For This Photo

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 10:44am

What’s going on in this picture? What are those fighter pilots saying, doing or thinking?

If you can think of a funny caption for this photo, just post it in the comment form at the bottom of this page. After we approve it, your funny caption will be on this page for everyone to read.

Click here to write captions for more funny photos.

How to Wash Your Dog

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 4:23pm

Being a responsible dog owner means keeping your pup clean. Try these dog-bathing tips from the Dog Care merit badge pamphlet.

TAKE IT SLOWLY

Start by getting your dog used to an empty tub. Work your way up to adding warm water.

SOAP UP

Never use shampoo made for people. It is too strong and will dry out your dog’s skin.

TAIL FIRST

Start at the tail. Your dog’s head should be the last thing you wash because once it gets wet, your dog will want to shake. Rinse thoroughly and make sure no soap is left on the dog’s skin.

EAR ALERT

When you wash its head, keep soap and water out of your dog’s ears and eyes.

BE HAPPY AND ENCOURAGING

While bathing your dog, talk gently and give it praise for sitting still.

TOWEL TIME

Dogs can easily catch cold, so dry your dog thoroughly after each bath. You can use a hair dryer after towel-drying, but make sure the heat and power are set to low. Otherwise, use heavy towels and keep your dog warm.

TO WASH OR NOT TO WASH?

Unless your dog gets really filthy, it should only need a bath about once a month.

How to Fuel Your Body in the Backcountry

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 4:07pm

Q. What’s the trick to having enough energy while on a big outing?
— Jack, Boston, Massachusetts

Whether you’re backpacking, climbing, paddling or taking a simple hike, the key to maintaining your energy is food. Fuel your body right with these simple rules for eating in the backcountry:

1. Start the day with food. Hitting the trail on an empty stomach puts you in a caloric deficit that’s hard to catch up on.

2. Eat a mix of carbohydrates (stuff like dried fruit, pasta, oats) and fats (granola, nuts, trail mix) during the day. The former delivers quick energy; the latter burns slow to last all day. You should also increase your usual percentage of daily calories from fats (normally 20-35 percent) to nearly half your calories for better stamina.

3. Eat protein (beef jerky, energy bars, nuts) in the evening. It’ll help your muscles repair for the next day.

4. Avoid simple sugars (cookies, candies, cakes), which just cause a rapid crash in energy level.

Inside the January 2019 Issue

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 4:43pm

Here’s what you’ll find inside the January 2019 issue of Boys’ Life magazine. Remember, many articles are only available to subscribers and are not available online.

Please visit boyslife.org/subscribe to subscribe to the print or digital editions of Boys’ Life magazine.

JANUARY 2019 FEATURES

The Ultimate Hump Day

A rugged hike to the peak of Camel’s Hump makes the spectacular views even sweeter.

The Great Escape

Venturers put their teamwork and leadership skills to the test at SOAR.

The Nature Crew

Manatee spotting: It’s hot when it’s cold.

BL How To: Wash a Dog

Being a responsible dog owner means keeping your pup clean. Try these dog-bathing tips from the Dog Care merit badge pamphlet.

ONLY IN OUR BOY SCOUT EDITION

Scouting Around: Be Prepared; Be Safe

According to the National Safety Council, half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before they graduate from high school.

Visit the Scouting Around blog

A Community in Need

Scouts offer their best after a wildfire hits their town.

Prepared For Life: Goal Setting

Here are some tips for tackling your goals for the new year — and beyond.

ONLY IN OUR CUB SCOUT EDITION

Let’s Look at the Pinewood Derby

Read it! Color it! Get it all in this special Cub Scout section.

How to make a fast pinewood derby car that looks awesome

That’s How It’s Done

Fun, family & food. Life as a Cub Scout is pretty great.

AND MORE!


Look for the regular score of comics, jokes, games, Scouts in Action, Tradin’ Post and more! Only in the January 2019 issue of Boys’ Life!

The Wacky Adventures of Pedro
Pee Wee Harris
Tales From the Campfire
Scouts in Action
More S.I.A.

It’s Boysies Time! Vote For Your Favorite Videogame of 2018

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 4:30pm

Boys’ Life is ready to celebrate another epic year for videogames! Our list of the best videogames of the year will be available here on Dec. 21.

In the meantime, we want to know your favorite game of 2018! Vote for your go-to videogame in the poll below:

Take Our Poll (function(d,c,j){if(!d.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;pd.id=j;pd.src='https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/mu-plugins/shortcodes/js/polldaddy-shortcode.js';s=d.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);} else if(typeof jQuery !=='undefined')jQuery(d.body).trigger('pd-script-load');}(document,'script','pd-polldaddy-loader'));

Don’t forget to come back on Dec. 21 to see all the Boysies Award winners!

How to Prepare for a Long Backpacking Trip? Try This!

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 1:10pm

Someday, you’ll be able to think big when it comes to backpacking.

Maybe you’ll go to Philmont Scout Ranch and backpack 100 miles in the New Mexico backcountry. Or maybe you’ll walk the entire length of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail.

Until that day, it’s OK to think … not so big.

Venturing Crew 413 from Elburn, Illinois, has some veteran backpackers who could probably handle Philmont. But they also have plenty of inexperienced guys and girls who aren’t ready for such a massive trip.

On their outing to the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri, the veterans in the group backpacked the entire Berryman Trail, a 24-mile loop that ends right where it begins. It’s a good, solid three-day trip for experienced hikers.

In the meantime, the less experienced members hiked part of the way on the trail, and then rode back to base camp to spend the night. That way, they avoided the stress of setting up camp in a different spot each evening, while still getting enough experience to learn about the basics of backpacking.

They started small, so that someday they’ll be able to think big.

First-Time Backpackers

For Megan Steffey, 14, the Berryman Trail would be her first backpacking experience. She had joined the crew a few months earlier for just this kind of trip.

Megan knew that Crew 413 had the perfect plan: 10 miles on each of the first two days, followed by a short third day. That way, they’d have time to visit Elephant Rocks State Park and St. Louis’ famous Gateway Arch before the six-hour drive home. And she was ready. She had the right gear. She had completed a 5-mile practice hike with a full pack to get the feel of backpacking.

And, most important, she had the right attitude.

“I was nervous because I had never done it before,” she says, “and I was excited to see everything that was going to happen.”

It wasn’t long before Megan and the rest of the crew learned something else: It’s easy to make a wrong turn, even on a trail for beginners.

No worries, though. The veteran backpackers teamed up with the adults to solve the problem. They realized where they had made the mistake, and in no time the group was back on track.

A good lesson for everyone, beginners and experts alike.

“Everybody was working together to figure out where to go,” Megan says. “We ended up getting lost, but it was fun. We worked together to get through that to get back on track.”

Good Advice for All Backpackers

For Kyle Roethemeier, the 16-year-old president of Crew 413, the Berryman Trail would be pretty similar to the handful of backpacking trips he had already experienced.

As the youth leader of the crew, one of his jobs was to keep an eye on his fellow backpackers, especially the ones with less experience.

“For some of the time, we were setting the pace,” Kyle says. “We always tried to make sure we could see everyone. There were times when I couldn’t see everyone, so we’d stop and wait for them to catch up.”

Kyle and the other experienced crew members also provided advice when needed, carried extra gear when required and overall made sure everyone was having fun.

One of the biggest challenges of backpacking, Kyle has learned, is how you approach it with your mind.

“On my second backpacking trip, I remember we had an older Scout with us who always said, ‘The camp is just around the corner.’ ” Kyle says. “And if you think of it like that, it tends to go a lot easier than if you think, ‘This has been going on forever, and we’re never going to get there.’ ”

Make Backpacking Fun

For Tim Bohanek, 16, the Berryman Trail was supposed be his eighth backpacking trip. That was, until his doctor advised him that it wasn’t a good idea to go backpacking with an injured knee.

Still, he was happy to provide advice to the rookies when needed.

“Make sure you have good, broken-in hiking boots,” he says. “And make sure your backpack is fitted right.

“After my first two trips, I finally figured out how to do it right. Some of the older Scouts let me know what worked for them in the past.”

For Brianna Stiles, 20, the Berryman trek was an opportunity to experience more than a one-night campout.

“It was totally new to me,” she says. “I’d been camping before, but never for that long.”

The forecast called for pleasant weather, but Brianna saw how fast that can change when the crew was met with light rain and chilly temperatures, especially at night.

She also learned how awkward it can be to walk on an uneven trail with a 30-pound pack on your back.

“It was a lot of switchbacks going up and down hills,” she says. “If you looked up from the trail for a moment, you could have tripped on a rock and fallen.”

And these hardships don’t even cover the mediocre freeze-dried food. In the end, though, Brianna learned the most important backpacking lesson of all.

“Don’t push yourself too hard,” she says. “You’re gonna make it. It’s not that difficult. You’ll have a good time.

“The last night we were there, we all got together and had dinner around the campfire and talked about the entire trip. It was a lot of fun.”

Click to view slideshow. Know Before You Go

The Berryman Trail is listed by the U.S. Forest Service as having a difficulty level of “moderate.” Motor vehicles aren’t allowed, but hikers must yield to bikes and horses.

Unless you’re an expert, plan on three days to hike the entire loop. You can camp anywhere along the trail, but remember to dispose of human waste at least 100 feet away from the trail and campsite.

Learn more about Mark Twain National Forest.

Boots and Packing Tips

Don’t buy a fancy new pair of hiking boots the day before your backpacking trek. Instead, break them in by wearing them for several weeks in advance.

When packing your pack, make sure the weight is on your hips and not your back. It’s easier for your bones than your muscles to support the weight of the pack.

For more backpacking tips, check out our other backpacking articles.

Love stories and expert outdoor advice like this? We’ve got insider tips just for subscribers. Get a year’s worth of the best and funniest and most interesting things you need to know for $12.

Don’t Freeze! Here’s How to Take Cooler Cold-Weather Photos

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 11:49am

It’s cold outside.

So what? There’s pictures to be had out there. And fun. And adventure.

And, it’s cold outside.

Okay, there are some things to improve the pictures, fun and adventure side of the equation.

No, there is no math. Well … maybe a little.

DRESS IN LAYERS AND KEEP WELL-HYDRATED

First rule of photographing in cold weather is to protect your equipment, and the most important piece of gear is YOU!

Dress in layers. Cold-weather photography, particularly in snow, often involves being very active (snowshoeing hard to just the right spot) and then being very still (waiting for your buddy to finally come down that ski hill). This is a recipe for hypothermia.

Layers let you adjust your comfort level by removing outer garments as you get warm moving around and then putting layers back on as you cool down waiting for that perfect shot. Check out go.boyslife.org/cold for some layering tips.

I’ve photographed in some really severe weather and so layering applies to my hands too. Gloves are a given, but sometimes I need a little more dexterity. I often wear a thin pair of glove liners, so I’m not totally exposed when I pull off the big mitts to adjust some camera settings.

In sub-zero temperatures or severe wind-chill, any bit of exposed skin can be at risk, like your nose. Not only is it out there all by itself in the wind, your nose tends to get mashed against the cold metal back of your camera.

You know that scene in “A Christmas Story” when the kid puts his tongue on the cold flag pole? Yeah, same thing.

Once after hours of photographing on a bitter cold but sunny day at Northern Tier, I noticed some condensation had formed on the back of my camera. I didn’t think much of it as I wiped it off and continued working. It wasn’t until I returned to base when some staff members asked what happened to my nose.

So, you might think about a scarf or some sort of cover for your face like what was worn by just about every Boy Scout I was photographing. So much for age and wisdom.

Don’t forget to keep well-hydrated and well-fed. Your body is acting like a furnace to keep you warm, so you need to stoke those fires with food. And it may not feel like it, but your body is losing a lot of water through sweat and your breath.

KEEP YOUR CAMERA BATTERIES WARM

Now that you’re well taken care of, let’s look after your kit.

Layering isn’t just good for you. It can be good for your batteries.

Cold temperatures drain batteries quickly even when not in use. Tuck those spare batteries in a pocket of one of your inner layers as close to your body as possible while still being fairly accessible. It will depend on how cold it is, but while photographing in minus 20-degree temperatures at Northern Tier I was going through batteries three-times faster than normal for my pro camera. All batteries are not equal. The batteries for my small “action” video cameras were dead in minutes.

If possible, tuck those “spent” batteries in another inner layer pocket. Sometimes with a little warming they might have some life left, which might be handy on a long day.

WATCH FOR CONDENSATION AND SNOW ON YOUR LENS

You might want to bring along a shammy cloth and maybe a blower brush because you will get snow on your lens. Yes, you will, and you’ll want something other than your snack-stained glove to clean it.

I’ve always liked having protective filters on my lenses too. In rough conditions, I’d rather an inexpensive filter take on the weather than my very expensive camera glass.

Time for a break and head inside to warm up. What’s good for your toes and fingers isn’t necessarily good for your gear. Bringing your cold metallic equipment into a warm humid environment will cause massive condensation on your camera and fog up your lenses for long while, plus as we know water and camera gear isn’t a great combo. If I’m popping inside for just a few minutes, I’ll leave my gear with someone staying outside or find a safe place in the cold. If I’m taking a longer break sometimes burying the gear in a camera bag or backpack will slow the warming process and reduce the condensation.

I read some people put their camera in a large sealable plastic bag, and the condensation will form on the outside and not on the camera. Just remember to remove any batteries you want to recharge or memory cards you want to download while indoors.

TOO GRAY? ADJUST EXPOSURE TO MAKE SNOW BRIGHT

Exposure isn’t just about frostbite. Ever find that your pictures of a snowy scene tend to be dark? Camera meters are very good, but still basically they see the world as 18% grey.

Yeah, here comes the math.

Snow is definitely not 18% grey, even when it’s cloudy. If you rely only on the auto exposure of the camera, you might find your pictures are often too dark. The camera is trying to make that bright white snow 18% grey. Almost all cameras, even camera phones, will have a way to compensate. Usually it is listed as an exposure setting and can be adjusted as pluses and minuses. If shooting on snow, you might want to tell the camera to give the exposure a +1 or +1.5 making it brighter. It works the other way too, so if you’re photographing dark trees, you may need to tell the camera to reduce the exposure with a -1 or -1.5. The cool thing about digital is you’ll be able to tell right away what works.

Winter is a great time to take pictures. The sun is lower in the sky longer extending those hours of “magic light” at the beginning and end of the day. Even high noon light isn’t that bad.

Whether it’s a light dusting or a big dump, snow can transform a ho-hum landscape into art.

So, bundle up, grab a camera and go take some pictures!

Garth Dowling, the Director of Photography for the Boy Scouts of America’s magazines, occasionally writes about photo shoots and assignments. Topics include interesting backstories; talk about tips, tricks and techniques; or even a few Q&As.

Becca’s Blast-Off Pinball

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 3:17pm

See if you can beat the high score in our out-of-this-world pinball game.


See if you can beat the high score in our out-of-this-world pinball game.

Write a Funny Caption For This Photo

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 11:21am

What’s going on in this picture? What are those raccoons saying, doing or thinking?

If you can think of a funny caption for this photo, just post it in the comment form at the bottom of this page. After we approve it, your funny caption will be on this page for everyone to read.

Click here to write captions for more funny photos.

3 Fun Wintertime Projects When It’s Cold Outside

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 1:03am

When Old Man Winter bares his cold, sharp icicle fangs, don’t turn into an indoor flake. Bite back!

Here are three cold-weather projects to sink your teeth into during winter and walk away with a few cool souvenirs.

MAKE A SNOWFLAKE FOSSIL

A tiny, one-of-a-kind snowflake lands on your coat sleeve. You look; you breathe; it’s gone. How can you make a flake stick around longer?

Try superglue. It can seep into small spaces, and trace amounts of water cause it to harden. Put these properties to work and make a lasting snow crystal “fossil.”

On a snowy day, pre-chill a tube of superglue (not the gel kind) and some glass slides and cover slips outside. Be sure to read the safety precautions on the glue’s label before you start.

Catch some snow on a dark surface. Find a crystal you like and move it to the middle of a glass slide. “Use a small paintbrush or a toothpick,” says snowflake expert Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht. “The crystals are delicate, and metal tweezers can conduct heat from your fingers.”

Cover the flake with a drop of superglue. Touching only its sides, gently place a cover slip over the glue. It can take as long as a week for the glue to completely set. Until then, protect the snow crystal by storing your slide in the freezer.

Later, view your snowflake “fossil” with or without a magnifying lens or microscope.

MAKE A PLASTER CAST OF ANIMAL TRACKS

A blanket of snow covers the ground: It’s prime time for animal tracking. So why does your cast of that picture-perfect raccoon print look like it came from an eight-toed alien?

Don’t give up just yet. Making plaster casts of tracks in snow is tricky but not impossible.

Before you cast, reinforce the track so it can stand up to the weight of the plaster. If the snow is wet, dust it with some powdered plaster and let it set. If the snow is dry and powdery, spray a mist of water over the track and wait for it to freeze. You can also try using Snow Print Wax — crime-scene investigators use it to collect evidence.

Plaster gives off heat as it hardens. When casting in snow, mix the plaster to the thickness of half-melted ice cream, adding some snow to cool it down. Pour from a short distance to minimize damage to the track.

If the plaster freezes before it sets, turn the cast track-side up and bring it inside to thaw and finish setting.

New to tracking or just want to brush up? Check out these books:

  • “Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks” by Olaus J. Murie and Mark Elbroch (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95 softcover)
  • “Tom Brown’s Field Guide: Nature Observation and Tracking” by Tom Brown Jr. (Berkley Trade, $14 softcover)
  • “Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow” by Louise R. Forrest (Stackpole Books, $16.95 softcover)

For younger readers:

  • “Nature Detectives” by K.C. Kelley (A Boys’ Life DK Reader, DK Publishing, $3.99 softcover)

MAKE A HOARFROST SCULPTURE

Feeling artistic? Team up with the cold and make some hoarfrost. These large, fragile ice crystals might look complex, but they are easy to grow.

When temperatures are below freezing, set out an open pot of water. Put it somewhere that’s wind-free, such as in an unheated shed or barn. Keep the water warm with a hotplate or other heat source. Position a tree branch or other object for the hoarfrost crystals to grow on a few feet above the water. Now wait patiently for at least a day.

The air temperature and amount of water vapor coming from your pot will affect how the hoarfrost crystals grow. You might end up with crystals that look scaly, feathery or needle-like.

Want to hold on to your natural masterpiece in warmer weather? Take a picture!

Make Your Own Homemade Snowshoes

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 1:04am

Webelos Scouts in the Daniel Boone Council in North Carolina use plastic CPVC pipe to make homemade snowshoes for their winter outings. Here’s how they do it.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED (makes one pair)
  • 1 six-ounce can of CPVC clear cement
  • 2 pieces of ¾-inch hot/cold CPVC pipe, each 10 feet long
    (Although they look alike, CPVC piping will work better than PVC because CPVC tends to be a bit more flexible and less likely to crush. Schedule 80 is recommended.)
  • 4 ¾-inch CPVC pipe tees (they’re shaped like the letter “T”)
  • 20 45-degree-angle CPVC elbows (they’re shaped like elbows)
  • 200 feet of ¼-inch hollow braid poly rope
  • Bungee cords, rope, Velcro or other materials to hold snowshoe to foot.
Tools
  • Yard stick or measuring tape
  • Hand saw, hack saw or PVC pipe-cutting tool
  • File or sand paper
  • Clamp vise or an extra set of hands
  • Flat work surface
WHAT YOU’LL DO

1. Cut the 10-foot-long pipes to the following lengths:

  • 2 pieces, each 4 inches long
  • 2 pieces, each 8 inches long
  • 4 pieces, each 6 inches long
  • 4 pieces, each 18 inches long
  • 6 pieces, each 1-1/4 inches long
  • 8 pieces, each 3 inches

You should end up with 26 cut pieces of pipe.

2. Using a file or sand paper, deburr — or smooth — the cut edges.

3. On a flat work surface, start building the front section of the shoes following these steps. The shoe is built in two halves; start with the front half and glue the pieces in place as you go.

Front Half

1. Put one 45-degree-angle piece of piping on each end of one 4-inch piece of pipe.

2. Put a 3-inch pipe into the open end of both angles.

3. Put another 45-degree angle on the open end of each 3-inch piece.

4. Put a 1 1/4 inch pipe into both angles.

5. Put 45-degree angle pieces onto the 1 1/4 inch pipes. Angle should face up slightly.

6. Put one 6-inch piece into each of the angles.

7. Put one T-angle joint onto the end of each 6-inch piece, then connect with 8-inch pipe.

8. Set this half aside so the glue can harden.

Remember to continue gluing the connections as you go!

Back Half

1. Put 45-degree angles on one end of each 18-inch pipe.

2. Put a 3-inch piece into each angle.

3. Put 45-degree angles onto both 3-inch pieces.

4. Connect the 45-degree angle pieces with a 1 1/2 piece of pipe.

5. Connect the back and front halves of the snowshoe together and let dry for 24 hours.

Lacing the Shoe

Use an eye splice to start and end all lacings. Weave the rope back and forth around the pipe in an over-under pattern to create lacings.

Keep the lacings in place by using CPVC cement where laces meet the pipe.

Attach to foot (boot or shoe) using bungee cords, rope, Velcro or other materials. For best results, attachment method will be similar to an ankle brace bandage.

PHOTOS OF COMPLETED PROJECT

Check out these photos of the completed project sent to us by Boys’ Life readers. If you have a photos of a BL Workshop project, please use the form below to send them to us.

How to Make a Fast Pinewood Derby Car

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 4:23pm

Packs around the country are preparing to hold their annual Pinewood Derby. There are many ways to make your Pinewood Derby car go faster. Here are some of them.

Basic Guidelines for Pinewood Derby Car Design

The possibilities are endless when it comes to picking a shape for your Pinewood Derby car. Before you begin, consider the following general guidelines:

Avoid designs with a pointed nose. A pointed nose will make it difficult for your Pinewood Derby car to rest on the pin at the starting gate. It may also cause your Pinewood Derby car to get bumped around when the pin drops, and it can create problems for electronic timing systems.

Leave enough wood in the rear of the Pinewood Derby car so you can place additional weight there. You will end up placing most of the weight in the rear of the Pinewood Derby car.

Make the maximum weight. Your car should weigh as much as it’s allowed. In most races, a Pinewood Derby car’s weight is limited to 5 ounces. If your car weighs less than that, add coins or other weights.

Be sure that it is very clear which end of your Pinewood Derby car is the front and which end is the back. In many races, the race officials —- not you -— will actually place each Pinewood Derby car on the track. Sometimes the officials put the Pinewood Derby car on the track backward because they can’t tell which end is which.

Choose a design that allows the air to move over and around the Pinewood Derby car body in a smooth manner. Pinewood Derby cars with aerodynamic profiles go faster.

Click here to see photo galleries of hundreds of Pinewood Derby car designs.

Designing and Building a Winning Pinewood Derby Car

You don’t have to strive for the fastest Pinewood Derby car to have fun competing in your Pinewood Derby. But if you and a helpful adult are willing to put in the extra time and effort, these tips are for you.

1. Bake the Block: Start with your block of wood, and before you do anything else, bake it in the oven at 250 degrees for around two hours to remove moisture and make it lighter. This will allow you to place more weight to the rear of the Pinewood Derby car where you actually want it.

2. Create the Design: Draw the outline of your Pinewood Derby car on a sheet of paper, cut it out and attach it to your block of wood.

Remember, a rectangular car is not an aerodynamic design. The most basic aerodynamic design is a simple wedge. If you don’t have time to design a complex car, a wedge will work just fine.

Click here to download a Pinewood Derby car template PDF to help you create your design.

3. Rough Cut the Design: Use a coping saw to cut out the rough shape of your Pinewood Derby car. You can also ask a responsible adult to make these cuts using a power tool.

4. Shape Your Car: Use sand paper to smooth your car’s edges and shape it to your design. An adult can also use a rotary tool or other tool to help you.

5. Sand and Paint the Pinewood Derby Car: Make it smooth to reduce friction and paint an awesome design to make it look great.

Click here for tips on painting your Pinewood Derby car to give it a shiny finish.

6. Install Axles and Wheels: Make sure they are aligned perfectly straight. You can test the alignment of your axles by pushing your car across a smooth floor or table. It should roll smoothly in a straight line.

— Make a Three-Wheeler: Raise one wheel about 1/16 inch higher so it never actually touches the track. Less friction = more speed. Rules vary from pack to pack, so make sure to check your pack’s Pinewood Derby rules to make sure three wheelers are allowed in your race.

— Extend the Wheelbase: The front and rear wheels should be as far apart as possible. Again, make sure this is allowed in your race.

Click here to learn about polishing Pinewood Derby axles and wheels to reduce friction.

7. Create Glue Holes: Glue the axles firmly in their holes to ensure that they stay perfectly placed, but make sure you don’t get glue on your wheels.

8. Add Weight: Remember to make your Pinewood Derby car as heavy as the rules allow. In general, it’s best to place weight to the rear of your car because a heavier rear increases speed.

Click here for scientific Pinewood Derby speed tips from a former NASA engineer

9. Lubricate the Wheel Well: Add graphite or another dry lubricant to reduce friction. The less friction between the body and wheel, the better.

And finally, remember the No. 1 rule of a Pinewood Derby is that it’s supposed to be fun. While you should always strive to do your best, don’t get caught up in winning or having the fastest car. Just enjoy the ride.

Adapted from the book “Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets,” DK Publishing, $12.95 softcover.

Use Science to Build the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 4:22pm
A former NASA engineer explains how you can use science to build a fast Pinewood Derby car.

For seven years, I worked at NASA on the Mars Curiosity rover. It is just like a Pinewood Derby car, except it has six wheels, it’s nuclear powered and it shoots lasers.

My Cub Scout son and I decided we would take the science principles I used while building stuff at NASA and apply them to making his Pinewood Derby car.

Take a look at some of those science principles in this video and check out my list of the most important steps for making fastest Pinewood Derby car possible.

Seven Steps for Making the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car

1. Max out your Pinewood Derby car’s weight at 5 ounces and make sure the heaviest part is about 1 inch in front of the rear axle. This is the most important step. Science shows if you do this correctly, you will beat a Pinewood Derby car built exactly the same — except with the weight toward its front — by 4.6 car lengths. It works because the farther back the weight is, the more potential energy you have because your center of mass is higher up on the track. (Don’t put it too far back, or your Pinewood Derby car will become unstable and pop a wheelie.)

2. Use lightweight wheels. This is illegal in some races, but if it’s not in yours, this is a must-do step that will give you a 2.1-car-length advantage at the finish line versus a car with normal wheels. It works because heavy wheels take away from the kinetic energy (the energy something has due to its motion), which makes the Pinewood Derby car slower.

3. Use bent polished axles. Bending your Pinewood Derby car axles with a bending tool will make the wheels ride up against the nailhead, which creates less friction than if the wheel is bouncing around and rubbing against the wooden Pinewood Derby car body. See video above for details.

4. Railride. Railriding means you steer your Pinewood Derby car into the center guide track just enough that you keep the car from bouncing around. This helps reduce friction and saves energy for speed. See video for details.

5. Create a Pinewood Derby car that is reasonably aerodynamic, meaning its design cuts down on drag caused by air. No need to get crazy here, but simply having a wedge-shaped Pinewood Derby car instead of the standard block out of the box will equal a 1.4-car advantage at the finish line.

6. Ride on three wheels by raising one wheel off the track. (Check your pack’s Pinewood Derby rules to make sure this is allowed in your race.) You will move faster if you have to get only three wheels rotating, giving you a 1.1-car advantage over an identical Pinewood Derby car riding on four wheels.

7. Use lots of graphite. There isn’t a big difference in types of graphite, so buy the cheap stuff and use as much as possible. Be sure to get plenty around each wheel and on the axle.

It works! After my research, my son and I wanted to do one final test to prove that this is a good list. So we built a simple Pinewood Derby car using this list in 45 minutes, and we beat the fastest Pinewood Derby car in our local race by two car lengths. Turns out, science works!

Meet Mark Rober

Mark Rober worked as a mechanical engineer at NASA for nine years. During this time, he worked on Curiosity, a car-sized robot that left Earth in 2011, landed on Mars in 2012, and has been exploring, conducting experiments and sending back pictures ever since. Now Mark makes high-tech Halloween costumes.

How to Polish Your Pinewood Derby Car’s Axles and Wheels

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 1:01am

The quality of your Pinewood Derby car’s axles and wheels may be the most important factor in building a fast car. Here’s how to choose and polish your car’s axles and wheels.

Polishing Pinewood Derby Axles

1. Start with a set of raw axles.

2. Can you tell the difference between the axles in the top row and the ones on the bottom? The ones on the bottom aren’t straight and will slow your car.

3. To tell which are straight and which aren’t, mark each axle with a marker about 1/2 inch from the pointed end.

4. Have an adult clamp a power drill into a vise, a device that will hold it perfectly still.

5. Have an adult help you insert each axle into the drill at the location you marked in Step 3. Have the adult turn on the drill.

6. Bent axles will wobble as they turn in the drill. Straight axles will hardly wobble at all. Pick the ones that wobble least.

7. Once you’ve selected the four straightest axles, use a file or fine-grit sandpaper to remove small burrs and mold marks that can cause friction and slow a car. These imperfections should be removed from both the axles and the wheels. Watch this video to learn one way to do this.

8. Use polishing compound from the auto supply store to polish the wheels and axles. One easy way to do this is to clamp the axles back in the drill and let the drill spin the axle while you polish it.

9. When you install the axles and wheels, make sure they are aligned perfectly straight. You can test the alignment of your axles by pushing your car across a smooth floor or table. It should roll in a straight line.

10. Don’t forget to add graphite or another dry lubricant to your wheels and axles.

Tips for Getting an Eagle Scout Service Project Done Right

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 4:15pm

Earning the rank of Eagle Scout isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were, everyone would do it.

The fact that it’s difficult is what makes it so great.

In addition to continuing to live the Scout Oath and Scout Law, before you earn the rank of Eagle, you must be active in your troop for at least six months as a Life Scout. You have to explain how your understanding of the Scout Oath and Scout Law will guide your life in the future.

You have to earn a total of 21 merit badges (10 more than required for the Life rank), including 13 Eagle-required and eight optional. And you have to serve actively in your troop for a minimum of six months in one or more positions of responsibility.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff. And we haven’t even gotten to the part where you have to plan, develop and lead others in a service project helpful to any school, any religious institution or your community.

Don’t worry. You’ve got this. We’re here to show you the way.

Here are the most important steps in completing the most challenging — and rewarding — part of Scouting: the Eagle Scout service project.

EARN THE RANK OF LIFE SCOUT

First things first. While there’s no harm in talking at any time with a parent, Scoutmaster or other trusted adult about what might make a good project, we suggest you focus on the present. The first four words of the Eagle Scout service project requirement stated in The Boy Scout Handbook, Boy Scout Requirements book and section 9.0.2.0 in the BSA’s Guide to Advancement read: “While a Life Scout … ”

CHECK OUT THE ‘EAGLE SCOUT SERVICE PROJECT WORKBOOK’

Check out the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook and the Guide to Advancement topics 9.0.2.0 — 9.0.2.14. It’s a lot of reading, but there’s tons of valuable information in there — and knowing this stuff in advance will keep you from wasting your time working on a project that doesn’t even qualify.

GET WITH YOUR UNIT OR DISTRICT’S LIFE-TO-EAGLE COORDINATOR

Get with your unit or district’s Life-to-Eagle Coordinator (or similarly named adult leader) and avoid these common mistakes:

• Eagle Scout projects can’t be fundraisers. You can raise funds necessary to execute your project, but you can’t stage an effort that primarily collects money, even if it’s for the worthiest charity of all time.

• Your project must benefit an organization other than the Boy Scouts of America. So don’t worry about doing anything for your local council, district, unit or camp. Focus on something like your unit’s chartered organization or another worthy organization.

• Wait for your project to be approved before you start. The form for preparing a proposal appears in the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, No. 512-927. Again: Don’t waste your time raising funds and recruiting volunteers for a project that might not even be approved. It happens. It stinks. Don’t be that person.

THINK OF WHAT YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT

Does your house of worship mean the world to you? Maybe there’s a project there. Talk to your religious leader about what they need. Are you a sports fan? Maybe your local youth sports leagues need some help with their facility. Do you have fond memories of a particular park or playground in your neighborhood? Talk to local officials about what can be done to improve it. Love to read? Visit your local library and see what it needs. Were you ever under advanced medical care? Did you ever need physical therapy? Health-care-related places would be excellent beneficiaries of an Eagle Scout project.

PLAN AND DEVELOP YOUR OWN PROJECT

Volunteering at a blood drive that’s already been organized would not be an Eagle Scout project. Organizing a blood drive using a set of instructions from the blood bank would not be an Eagle Scout project. However, creating a blood drive from scratch — with your own marketing plan and everything — could meet the requirements.

GIVE LEADERSHIP TO OTHERS

An Eagle Scout project should not be so simple that you can do it on your own. You need to give leadership to at least two other people. The helpers can be of any age appropriate for the work, and they don’t have to be already involved in Scouting.

BE SAFE

An Eagle Scout project is an official Scouting activity. Everything in the Guide to Safe Scouting applies. You don’t have to read the whole thing, but you can search for terms such as “tools” or “helmets” in the online guide. Additionally, projects are considered part of the troop’s program and are treated as such with regard to policies, procedures and requirements regarding Youth Protection, two-deep leadership, etc. Your troop’s adult leadership has the same responsibility to ensure safety in conducting a project as with any other unit activity.

HAVE FUN!

Completing an Eagle Scout project is a lot of work. It will also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Take a deep breath and do your best. It’s something you’ll remember forever.

Inside the December 2018 Issue

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 2:48pm

Here’s what you’ll find inside the December 2018 issue of Boys’ Life magazine. Remember, many articles are only available to subscribers and are not available online.

Please visit Boyslife.org/subscribe to subscribe to the print or digital editions of Boys’ Life magazine.

DECEMBER 2018 FEATURES

Cooking Up Kindness

This MasterChef Junior contestant has the recipes for good food and Good Turns.

Cooking on the Trail

Don’t wait until you’re in the backcountry to practice your backcountry food prep.

Gear Guy: Backpacking Cooking Gear

This cooking gear belongs in your backpacking kitchen.

Cooking gear buying guide

Five Activities to Try During Your Next Winter Campout

With colder temperatures comes a great opportunity to try something different.

Fiction: Saving Baxter

They were on a rescue mission, and now they need to be rescued.

Read “Saving Baxter” by Michael P. Spradlin

BL How To: Make a Tangram Puzzle

This classic puzzle makes a great holiday gift for family and friends.

Step-by-step guide to making a tangram puzzle

ONLY IN OUR BOY SCOUT EDITION

Scouting Around: Keeping the Animals — and Humans — Happy

Wildlife management is the applied science and art of managing wildlife and habitat to benefit everyone — humans and animals alike.

Visit the Scouting Around blog

Fair Traders

Tomahawks, trading and more trading at the Trappers’ Rendezvous.

My Favorite Caves

Here’s the lowdown from an expert caver on the best places to get started caving.

Video: How Scouting helped him get his start in caving

ONLY IN OUR CUB SCOUT EDITION

Let’s Look at Robots

Read it! Color it! Get it all in this special Cub Scout section.

Battleship STEM

Slimy sharks, roving robots and a giant battleship are all part of the Nauticus experience.

AND MORE!


Look for the regular score of comics, jokes, games, Scouts in Action, Tradin’ Post and more! Only in the December 2018 issue of Boys’ Life!

The Wacky Adventures of Pedro
Pee Wee Harris
Tales From the Campfire
Scouts in Action
More S.I.A.

Take Tastier Food Photos With These Professional Tips

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 12:09pm

Sure, any time of year you are probably taking photos of food, but what better time to talk about it than THANKSGIVING!!!

So, I’ve pulled a few food shots I’ve done professionally, on BSA assignments and just for fun. All of us have taken photos with our phone of tasty tidbits that hit the table in front of us, perhaps a little too much. But with a little effort maybe those posts will get more “yums” than groans.

BEST LIGHTING? EASY LIGHTING!

I’ve found that keeping lighting simple to be the best. I often use window light or if stuck in a studio I’ll try to recreate window light with a single light source. Often, the most complicated I might get would be using a white card or piece of paper to reflect or “bounce” some of that light into the shadows so it doesn’t look too dark.

Notice the direction of the light and use that to the food’s advantage. I was shooting some desserts for a hotel, and as they came out of the kitchen, I placed them on whatever table had terrific sunlight coming through the windows.

A Sea Scout ship brought an amazing breakfast on deck during one assignment for Boys’ Life and Scouting magazines. Those pancakes looked great no matter how you looked at them. And yet, by taking an angle so the sun wasn’t coming over my shoulder but raking across the peaks and valleys of fresh whipped cream, strawberries, chocolate and fluffy pancake the texture and deliciousness comes through in the picture. No additional lighting needed!

Being aware of how light and subject combine is important in all photography, from people to landscapes to action to food. During an assignment paddling 50 miles on the Delaware River the troop made campfire pizzas one night.

Mmmmmm, pizza!

I got some okay shots using a little bit of flash, but by watching how the sun was setting and waiting a few minutes for the light to come streaking across the firepit I was able to snag some Instagram-worthy entrees.

KEEP IT FRESH

Food always looks best freshly prepared. There are stories of what commercial outfits will do to make food appear “heroic” for a photo, and the results make look tasty but actually be quite toxic.

Blech!

Fortunately, there has been a move to keep it real, and it’s not that difficult. Just don’t wait around to take the shot. Have a plan in place before the prize soufflé emerges from the oven.

Of course, having backups is a good and delicious plan. I was shooting a dessert for a friend’s restaurant one day, and we went through a few of them. I promise I didn’t initially “miss the shot” a few times knowing who would be eating the “extras!”

Keeping it fresh can also mean trying more than one view. At the same restaurant, I was able to try a couple of different shots of a salmon potato pancake all using simple window light and not moving around too much. The photos are different enough that I’m not sure which one I prefer, but I do know I’m now hungry for a salmon potato pancake!

  DON’T BE SHY

A famous war photographer said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” The same can apply to food and not nearly as dangerous. Maybe.

A fresh-baked rhubarb pie looks awesome, but to almost taste the buttery flakiness of the crust it might be best to get right on top of it.

I practically became “one with the batter” for this simple shot of morning pancakes during a Boys’ Life assignment hiking the Point Reyes National Seashore in California.

Showing just a part of the dish can be more attention-grabbing like the salmon pancake photos or the pie photo. Channeling my inner Bugs Bunny, I used only part of the finished shake with some ingredients in the background to visually scream “CARROTS!”

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD

Photographically, a lot can be learned shooting food. For centuries artists have sharpened their skills sketching, sculpting, painting and photographing their meals. Vegetables make great subjects for working with color and light.

Doing some closeups of breads and vegetables for a friend’s grocery story I felt like I was shooting landscapes rather than edibles.

 

So, go ahead and play with your food to learn more about lighting, composition and magic.

I even made a few friends when I did!

 

Garth Dowling, the Director of Photography for the Boy Scouts of America’s magazines, occasionally writes about photo shoots and assignments. Topics include interesting backstories; talk about tips, tricks and techniques; or even a few Q&As.

SHARE YOUR FOOD PHOTOS

We want to see your amazing food photography and share it with the world. Just use the form below to send us a photo. After we review it, we’ll post it in a photo gallery on Boyslife.org so everyone can see it.

Submit Your Photo
Name of your photo
Describe your photo
Photo upload

Important Note: Please only upload food photos. Because of privacy rules, we can’t post any photos that show people’s faces. Always ask for your parent’s permission before uploading anything to a website.

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