Find Me Spot!
I just picked up the latest gadget in my quest to be the well-equipped yet responsible photographer. The reasons for this gadget are several and the thought that went into its purchase considerable.
“I am always out of cell phone signal
and I rarely see another soul. “
I was talking with John Pennoyer the other day at the Minnesota Nature Photography Club’s annual international Botany Competition where I was serving as judge. I remarked to John that I do my best work, in my opinion, when I am out in the wilderness on my own. I was not surprised to hear that he felt the same way. Nature photographers do their best work when they are alone and can focus-pardon the pun-on their craft.
Herein lies the problem. When travelling alone-even in this age of cellular phones and wireless internet it is possible to be in places where you can’t check in with your loved-ones. It is also very likely that should you have an accident or an episode that incapacitates you partially that you will be far from help and in big trouble! Spot to the rescue! The Spot is a portable GPS Tracking Unit that allows you to check in remotely, call your designates for assistance or even request emergency responders.
By pushing the “I’m OK”, “I need help” or “911” buttons you can send a message via satellite to email contacts, cell phones and/or emergency responders. The message appends with your latitude and longitude so that you can be found and rescued. You can configure the OK and HELP buttons to broadcast to as many individual addresses/numbers as you would like.
It doesn’t tell you where you are-
it tells others.
The Spot also acts as a tracker. You can put it into a tracking mode that will send an automated signal every 10 minutes so that you or your designates can track your progress in real time as you drive, hike, canoe or otherwise move about the countryside. This information is sent to a website you can share so that your wanderings are displayed via Google Maps. You can password protect the page, or have multiple pages for different levels of personal contacts. It is also handy for retracing steps and plotting your moves on maps for return trips and staking out those special locations.
As I prepare to leave for the Badlands to serve as Artist in Residence for the National Park Service, I decided it was best to get some sort of method to check in daily. Cellular phone service is spotty at best and the park is very desolate-especially in the winter. With the Spot, I can let my designates know I am OK or that I am in trouble and I can always press the 911 button and know that help is only minutes away-regardless of the number of bars my cell phone displays.
This idea was presented to me by a caring friend over a year ago who knows that I have had a close call or two. The remote nature of the places I shoot make getting help problematic. I am always out of cell phone signal and I rarely see another soul. My spouse agreed that it was probably a good idea too. I trekked to Gander Mountain and picked one up this week so I could test it out.
The cost of a unit is about 150.00 and there is currently a 50.00 rebate in effect through the end of the year. The subscription service costs about 9.00/month with an additional 4.25 per month for the real-time tracking option. That is about 1/4 the cost of my monthly cell phone and gives me that added layer of protection. For the cost of unlimited text messaging I can have (and give) some piece of mind.
Of course the Spot is satellite activated so it doesn’t work if you can’t see the sky as in a cave, building, etc. But in a canyon in the Badlands or the Costa Rican Rainforest on a photo tour with Rikk, where your cell phone won’t work it can save your life. Remember though-it is not a GPS unit for navigation. It doesn’t tell you where you are-it tells others where you are.
Don’t photograph, hike, hunt, fish, or go off trail without one!
Rikk Flohr © 2008