The Three Keys To Consistent Success – Making Adjustments

Sometimes it isn’t easy to break old routines and habits, these things often providing a familiar comfort zone that’s difficult to abandon. However, it’s also this familiar comfort zone that can often prevent us from learning new and better methods and strategies. At some point we’ve all been there, those moments when we realize that changes are required and yet we are reluctant to jump that fence.

Part of this hesitation is due to the fact that in order to make those required changes it means throwing out everything we know and trust in exchange for things that are completely unfamiliar to us that we yet have reason to place any trust in. Sure, there are learning curves that are going to have to be endured, also periods of new frustrations and frequent moments of uncertainty and second guessing. To make matters worse we know all of this beforehand which makes it all that much easier to talk ourselves out of making those changes. Such is human nature. But here’s the thing, if it isn’t already working to our satisfaction as it is then it never will if we don’t jump that fence and leave that current comfort zone behind.

Making changes and adjustments all begins with evaluating our goals and expectations and we need to do this in each phase of our hunting, both in how we hunt and where we hunt. Obviously we’re not going to find gold and silver consistently unless that gold and silver is consistently there to be found. And second, if that gold and silver is consistently there to be found then we’re not going to consistently find it unless we possess the skills and methods required to consistently find it. This is the blunt of it, the reality of the situation.

(By making the required adjustments these type of recoveries are now becoming the routine rather then the exception.)

This is something I had to put into practice for myself this past year, my rate of recoveries not being nearly what I had hoped they would be. Part of this problem was that I wasn’t hunting high percentage locations, the other part of the problem is that I was still applying methods that had worked for me on the crowded beaches in Florida. Yet here I was in Indiana and I was still going about my hunting as if I was still hunting those crowded east coast Florida beaches with long histories. Clearly I needed to make some major adjustments but I just couldn’t force myself out of my typical comfort zones. Sure, I was still making a few good recoveries on occasion but after a few months of this continued struggling it was either time to throw in the towel or it was time to completely revamp things. I chose option number two and the results have been well worth it.

First and foremost I had to change where I was hunting, I needed to find locations with long histories and continued usage by the right type of crowds. I spent hours online looking for such places, as did my hunting buddies and we also made numerous phone calls and inquiries. Slowly but surely we started to locate the type of places we were looking for and just as slowly we started to gain access to some of those places. This, by itself, was a huge improvement. Now we were hunting ground that maintained a long history of use with the right type of atmosphere and human interaction and because these locations were still being used in much the same way these locations were always being replenished with the type of losses we were hoping to recover.

When we stop and think about it successful metal detecting is no different then a successful business, a successful sports team, etc., etc., etc. What it really comes down to is management, how you manage your time and the manner in which you select your places you hunt. In other words it doesn’t matter how many times I return that same old park or school yard or home site if those locations are depleted of recoveries with little or no chance of their being replenished. Sure, we might pluck a few goodies every now and then but they certainly aren’t the formula for consistent success. So how you manage your hunting time and the locations you select to hunt plays a big part in consistent success.

The other area that required quite a bit of adjustment was in how these locations were hunted, those old trusted methods that were part of my old comfort zone not always being the best methods for these new environments and their existing conditions. Of course this is something we can’t determine until we have actually hunted these new locations a few times but if we are observant of the differences then we can more easily make the required adjustments. It does us no good to continue swinging our coils over this same ground if we are applying the wrong coil, the wrong method, the wrong strategy, and the wrong machine settings. So we need to be observant of the different conditions that may exist at each of the locations we hunt as this is the only way we can make the proper adjustments to each of them so we can get the most efficiency from our equipment and effort. Again, it all comes down to managing our hunting time and methods so that we can achieve the best performance and results possible each time we go hunting.

Know your machine! Here again it becomes rather easy to stick with what we know VS experimenting with things that we don’t fully understand. Now I’m not suggesting that we need to know all of the technical aspects of our machine but I am suggesting that we need to understand the action/reaction aspects of our machine features, coils, etc. In other words we need to understand what our machine is doing and how each machine adjustment is going to effect its operation. We also need to understand how the various coil sizes are going to react to the conditions of the ground we are hunting. Unfortunately, our understanding of this stuff is the only way we can make the appropriate adjustments in the field. There simply are no shortcuts here, we must take the time to learn all of this stuff if we want to get the most from our hunting time and our equipment.

Where we hunt. How we hunt. How well we understand our machine & equipment. These three areas are critical to our success. So what are your expectations and personal goals? By evaluating and then managing these three areas you should eventually be able to reach those expectations and goals. If what you’re doing now isn’t meeting your personal goals and expectations then what do you have to lose? You can either jump that fence and make the required adjustments or you can except being content with your level success now. It’s really that simple.

Hope this article helps, and as always, good luck and be safe out there! ………..Cheers!

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Minelab Excalibur & Threshold Mode

Threshold Mode – How To Achieve Maximum Depth & Sensitivity

(The threshold feature is key to reaching deep old goodies like these.)

No, there is no actual “threshold mode” switch on your Minelab Excalibur but perhaps there should be because that feature is always available to those savvy detectorist who realize it’s vital importance in achieving maximum depth and sensitivity. In truth, you can’t get there without it. So in this article I’m going to explain this feature and how you can learn to apply it in the simplest fashion possible. It truly is the key in achieving monster depth with maximum sensitivity. So here we go….

On your Excal machine you have two volume controls, the machine “volume” pod and the “threshold” volume pod. Both of these pods are separate “volume” adjustments for two completely different machine functions, the first adjusting the volume of actual target returns and the second adjusting the volume of the threshold hum. So in essence we are adjusting the volumes of two completely different machine functions. So let’s take a quick look at each of these separate machine functions and what each one is actually doing.

Machine Volume, or the pod that is simply marked “Volume” on you Excalibur machine controls. All this pod is doing is adjusting the volume of the actual target returns in your headphones, and that’s it. Turn this volume control down and it becomes possible to miss hearing those very faint or very weak target returns. Turn this volume all the way up and with a good set of headphones you can hear a gnat fart, though extremely shallow and/or large targets might blow your head off. So think of this pod as being a feature of comfort, an adjustment that allows each hunter to control the actual volume of all the “target returns” in his headphones. This is all the machine “Volume” pod is doing.

However, also keep in mind that if you turn this volume pod too far down you will likely miss hearing any of those really faint or really weak target returns. This is because the machine cannot control the actual strength of each individual target return, all this being factors of depth, target size, target shape, target density, etc. This is why most experienced hunters run their machine volume on the high side, so they have less risk of missing those really faint and really weak returns. But this IS NOT how you achieve maximum depth and sensitivity with you Excalibur machine, this misconception being the root cause in all of the confusion surrounding the Pin Point mode and the popular method of hunting commonly referred to as, “Reverse Discrimination.” Let me explain.

Yes, the Pin Point Mode of operation provides a little more depth, but only slightly so when employed by itself. Put your machine in Pin Point Mode and crank the machine volume all the way up and it is true that you are hunting a little deeper then can be achieved in the Discrimination Mode, however, this difference in depth is only a slight improvement, nothing too earth shattering in regards to a significant improvement. On the other hand, however, when the machine is placed in the Pin Point Mode and the machine volume is cranked up, and this is used in concert with the threshold feature, then this is where that monster depth and maximum sensitivity can be achieved. You see, the real trick here is understanding what the Threshold feature is doing and how to best employ it.

Machine Threshold. This little understood machine feature is key to everything deep and sensitive because it is penetrating the ground way deeper and with way more sensitivity then either the Discrimination Mode or the Pin Point Mode. In reality one could easily think of the Threshold feature as being it’s own mode of operation because it is. This is why you have a separate volume control for the Threshold feature, because it is it’s own mode of operation that sets the parameters for everything else such as your Discrimination Mode and Pin Point Mode and your machine’s built-in ground balance feature.

So in essence your machine Threshold feature is constantly measuring the stability of the surrounding matrix so that your other modes of operation, such as your Disc Mode and Pin Point, can operate as smoothly as possible. Are you starting to see where this is going now? If not, you soon will.

You see, your machine Threshold is monitoring the ground and it is constantly reporting back to the machine processor so that the processor can make immediate adjustments and perform its job. This means, and here it comes, that the Threshold feature is going to report back on “every metallic anomaly that it encounters, regardless how small or faint or deep.” In fact, and here it comes again, “it’s even going to file report on those encounters that are too weak to generate an actual target response.” And this, my friends, is where all of that extra sensitivity and depth can be achieved because all of these Threshold anomalies can be heard in your headphones, even the ones that are too weak to generate actual target responses, even when hunting in the Pin Point Mode. In all of this lies the real secret in accessing those really deep goodies that most other hunters simply miss out on.

The Proof Is In The Pudding. And this pudding is something every Excal user can experience for themselves by simply taking a half-hour out of their hunting time to perform this very simple and very clear test. And I do mean “very clear” as by performing this little test you’ll instantly understand what all of the fuss is about and you’ll instantly understand how to employ this vital Threshold feature for yourself. Thirty-minutes is all it will take and once this is done you’ll be on your way to accessing those really deep goodies that you’re only hearing about from other experienced and routinely successful hunters. I promise you that you won’t regret this thirty-minutes and that it WILL finally turn the light on for you.

Take your Excal to the nearest beach, park, field, yard, anyplace that is free from a lot of EMI. Now use the following settings; Discrimination 1, Sensitivity 3/4, Volume 0, Threshold set so that you can just lightly hear a steady hum with the machine switched to the Pin Point Mode of operation. What we have done here is that by turning the machine volume all the way down we have eliminated all target returns from reaching our headphones, now all we have at our disposal is the light Threshold hum and we’re now actually going to go looking for potential targets with just this Threshold hum. Prepare to be amazed!

What you’re going to be listening for are any Threshold disruptions, these generally being referred to as “Threshold Breaks”. Sometimes these breaks will be very long and noticeable while other times they will be very faint and quick, some of these being barely detectable. Now here’s the thing in all of this, “something metallic is causing all of those faint and weak disruptions.”

Now each time you encounter one of these disruptions, regardless how faint or strong they might be, turn your machine volume all the way up and see if you get an actual return in Pin Point and take note of the strength of that target return. Sometimes these returns will be very strong, sometimes they will be very weak, and sometimes you will get no actual target return at all. It is these last two types of target returns that we are most interested in while conducting this test because those returns are either very weak or none existent for one of two reasons, and those reasons are, they are either very small targets or “they are very deep targets that can’t generate strong enough target returns to be recognized as actual targets of value.” It is this last case scenario where all of those really deep goodies you often read about are coming from. And the best part, you just experienced the biggest Excal secret for yourself!

Now you should have a much better understanding and feel for the Threshold feature and why it is so vital in our ability to access those deeper goodies. In reality we are Threshold hunting, we are not Pin Point hunting, we are simply using the Pin Point mode in conjunction with our Threshold feature. This little test should help to clear up the confusion that hunters often experience when they hear all of that praise and touting for the Pin Point mode and the Reverse Discrimination method of hunting. By itself the Pin Point Mode and increased machine Volume isn’t all that much deeper then the Discrimination Mode of operation, however, when the Pin Point Mode of operation is used in conjunction with the Threshold feature MONSTER depth and EXTREME sensitivity can be achieved. So if you’re just hunting in the Pin Point Mode with maximum machine volume and you’re not utilizing the Threshold feature in conjunction with that mode of operation then you’re still missing the boat, still only achieving modest machine performance and efficiency, even with a great set of headphones.

Why Does It Only Works In The Pin Point Mode? Unlike the Discrimination Mode of operation there is no automatic iron reject feature which results in a null each time iron is encountered, this null too easily confused with, and/or mistaken for, the Threshold breaks and disruptions that we are seeking. This is one issue. Another issue is the slow recovery speed that is often encountered when hunting in the Discrimination Mode, this slow recovery speed allowing for targets to be passed over without detection whereas the Pin Point Mode suffers no recovery speed issues which means that we have much better target separation and also instant target recognition, a huge advantage when targets may be encountered laying so closely together that a masking effect is created. And last, when in the Pin Point Mode it is much easier to maintain a smooth and steady Threshold hum without all the typical Discrimination Mode noise and chatter invading the headphones.

The old saying that “silence is golden” has never been more true then when trying to listen for extremely deep goodies inside your headphones, too much noise and chatter and it becomes far too easy for those faint Threshold breaks and disruptions to get lost in all of that additional noise. Make no mistake about it, this deep detecting is an intense listeners game and controlling the amount of noise and chatter inside your headphones is critical to the chase, as is a quality set of headphones. Once those faint and weak breaks and disruptions have been detected then you can proceed to chase the source of those returns in both Pin Point and Discrimination Mode but you have to find those deep faint and weak returns first. This is how Reverse Discrimination really works, but first those deep targets have to be detected before that chase can begin. The Threshold feature is what allows us to do that.

Hope this article helps and as always, good luck and be safe out there….Cheers!

 

Have You Been Tricked By The Trash?

It was a 10k gold ring, laying right on the surface of the sand next to where someone had left a rather deep hole. It wasn’t the first time I had encountered this same type thing, and in fact, this was the third such occurrence in the last hour, the other two recoveries being a 1961 silver dime and an older nickel. Before that hunt was over I also recovered a few other coins right next to existing holes as well. Why? Well, the answer is a little simpler then you might think as in the past I’ve even fallen victim to it myself when hunting trashy bottoms. Allow me to explain to you what had really taken place here.

Trashy bottoms, layers of various metals laying over, under, and next to each other. The detectorist gets a good return, say a mid-tone, and he goes after it with his scoop. Now before he ever checks his scoop he rechecks his hole and that mid-tone is still there so he dumps his scoop and he goes after the target again. Guess what, he may have just dumped his initial target right back onto the bottom near the hole he has just created in favor of chasing what he thinks is the same initial target that’s still in his hole, however, when hunting trashy bottoms it might actually be a new target of similar tone. This happens a lot more often then you might think when hunting trashy bottoms. How do I know this? Because this unmasking of a second target happens to me all the time, in fact.

(A Few Targets within the mid-tone range.)

Gold rings, pull-tabs, nickels, and even some bottle caps, just to name a few, they can all return similar mid-tone responses when hunting in the discrimination mode. And of course, as we’re all painfully aware, with the exception of gold rings all of these items are extremely common in these trashy areas. So here we go, there is a gold ring suspended in the bottom and just a few inches below that there is also a pull-tab suspended in that same space. Initially we get a good return on the gold ring and when we attempt to recover it we remove several inches of overburden and then we stick our coils into that hole to see if our target is still in the hole, but now, because we have unknowingly already removed the gold ring in our scoop and also several inches of overburden, we start to get a similar return on the second target, the pull-tab which we mistake to be the same initial target. So now we empty our scoop and we go after our target again. Now then, where’s the gold ring?

This wasn’t the first time I’ve recovered a gold ring right next to a hole that had already been dug in these trashy bottoms. The same can be said of old coins, modern coins, and other good recoveries as well. Just last week my long time hunting partner, Mike, recovered a 14k man’s wedding band right next to several holes that had already been dug, that gold ring sitting not more then a couple of inches deep in the fairly deep layer of soft overburden. I would be willing to bet that Mike got the gold ring while the other hunter walked away with a pull-tab as the place is absolutely loaded with them.

Another thing that happens quite often, a radical change in tonal response once the scoop has removed some of the bottom and rearranged the debris. Always check your scoop whenever this happens. Sure, it could just be that the target has changed position but maybe it’s something more, as in my experience is often the case. Don’t let those trashy areas fool you……..Cheers!

How To Find More Gold Rings

Believe it or not, when a detectorist continues to consistently find gold rings it isn’t luck, not by a long shot. In reality these detectorist have learned how to target these items and they have full understanding of the elements involved in their pursuit, and, they are also very dedicated to that pursuit. Gold rings are their main focus, period! I personally know detectorist who will find over a hundred gold rings this year, just as they have done each year for the past several years. Now I’m going to explain to you why they’re able to do it.

First and foremost, they understand the defining properties of gold and it’s reaction in the various substrates, or soil-types. This may sound complicated at first but it really isn’t, in fact it’s really fairly easy to understand and to trust because it is accurate. All one has to do in order to understand this basic information is to perform a quick study into the reasons why gold panning works. Let me explain.

Basically matrix is loaded into a gold pan and it is agitated, this agitation allowing all of the heavier sediments (gold) to settle onto the bottom of the pan. You see, the heaviest sediments will continue to sink until they reach a point in the substrate that is either greater or equal to their own density, in this case it is the bottom of the pan, a solid surface that is able to support dense objects, such as gold rings. They do this same thing when panning for diamonds, the heavier diamonds eventually settling on the bottom because they are heavier then the other sediments being agitated. This understanding is one of the biggest reasons why these detectorist remain so successful in their dedicated pursuit of gold rings each year, because they have a full understanding of how gold rings are going to react in the various substrates that they swing their coils over, or don’t swing them over.

When I lived on the coast of Florida there was a long section of beach that formed sandy tough each summer, this trough over 100 yards long and maybe 60 feet wide, the outer bar serving to turn it into a perfect swimming pool at low tide. Each day at low tide this trough would be absolutely packed with upper and middle class beach-goers, and each day items of value were lost, literally hundreds of people all crammed together in this perfect lounging and playing area. Yet despite all of this traffic and the depositing of targets few experienced detectorist bothered to hunt this trough because they knew it was pretty much fruitless to do so. Why? Because when they stepped into this trough they would immediately sink to their ankles and shins in the deep bed of soft sand that existed there. Those who did venture into this trough usually returned with only pulltabs, pieces of foil, bottle caps, pennies and dimes, and cheap sungless as their reward, all of the heavier jewelry items having already sunk beyond their reach.

The currents, the constant stirring of the deep sand by thousands of feet, the stirring of this deep sand by the high tide waves, when conditions are right I can routinely reach the average sized gold ring to 15-16 inches with my machine and I didn’t stand a chance unless I could catch that ring practically falling off the finger. Once that heavy/dense gold ring hit that deep bed of sand it was going to sink out of reach with the speed of a rocket. So why waist one’s time hunting here? This is what those constantly successful gold ring detectorist understand, they’ve learned to spend their time hunting for gold rings that they can actually access.

“Research! Research! Research!” And this doesn’t just mean in search of those places where people congregate, or have congregated, in the water. Literally speaking, the depth of their research goes why deeper then this. In fact, once they locate a potential spot they next thing they’ll do is to research the conditions of the bottom that exist there. If these places have loamy bottoms or deep overburdens of soft sand then they’ll likely avoid them in search of places with better odds, or, they’ll only hunt these locations when conditions have removed some of that overburden, such as after storms when the wave action has stripped a lot of that overburden away. So as you can see there’s a great deal of dedication in what these detectorist do and also a great deal of sound reasoning in why they do it. They have complete understanding of the pursuit that is afoot. They don’t just go detecting and they don’t just count on blind luck. These dedicated hunters are always playing the best percentages possible.

I know one such hunter who is already over 100 gold rings for the year and he never sets foot on a public beach, and it’s only the end of September. If the weather holds out he’ll still be hunting until the ice forms. Imagine that, over a 100 gold rings in just a few months and never stepping foot on a public beach. And this isn’t counting all of the other silver rings, gold & silver chains, old coins, and other items he collects along the way. And he’s been doing this for several years running now. You should see his collection, it’s eye popping! Now understand that he’s been doing this since about 2007 and that just one of those rings quietly fetched $25’000 when it was eventually sold. Now maybe you understand the reason for their stern dedication.

So there you go, believe whatever you will, but everything I have told is 100% true. If you want to find more gold rings I just told you how it can be done.

The Making Of An Image 2 – “End Of Season 3”

For me, anyway, high key images like this one begin before the shutter button is ever pushed. I might also add that in my neck of the country these opportunities don’t come around all that often. Why? Because during the spring, fall, and summer months we seldom have conditions where a great of the required contrast is already present in the selected composition. So this image was taken on one of those rare foggy mornings when the lake I was visiting was calm and flat.

Getting close enough. Depending on the amount of fog that’s settled in the atmosphere these images can also require a fairly close setup, this due to the fact that the greater the distance between you and the subject the more fog there’s going to be between these two points. This increased fog creates all sorts of issues such as too much gray and decreased sharpness, two negative elements that can all but prevent a clean looking and highly contrasting image during post processing. The amount of sunlight penetrating the fog can also help in reducing the amount of gray cast in the atmosphere. So the first order of business is in being able to capture a fairly clean and highly contrasted image right from the very start. Once this is done the process becomes much-much easier during post processing.

Below is the original raw image, note the amount of gray/blue in the atmosphere. (After desaturation this blue will be gray.) Yep, I almost had too much blue/gray but luckily I was still able to make it work.

From here I did a bit of straightening and a touch of cropping and then it was simply a matter of working with just a few post processing tools, i.e., decreased highlights, increased exposure, increased whites, increased blacks, and then also a touch of clarity and vibrancy, and then last….a touch of sharpness and enough luminosity to reduce the grain. Below is the finished original image.

The very last step is the addition of two layer templates that I often use quite a bit, both of these being extractions of flying geese. These are nice saved layers to have around as they can be individually re-sized and darkened or lightened to closely match the scene being created, these additions also help to bring more life and drama and balance into the image. Below is the completed image that I titled, “At Season’s End 3.”

So that’s how this image was created should you wish to try creating similar images for yourself. Hoped this little tutorial helped…………Cheers!

Note: I could have adjusted my camera white balance before shooting to help with the blue/gray cast but this will also have effect on the natural whites in the image which could result in blowing them out.)

The same process was used to create the high key image below.

Why I Do What I Do – Metal Detecting & Photography

I can sum it up in two words, “Mystery & Adventure.” If you stop and think about it both hobbies have me exploring the unknown in search of discoveries, some are physical discoveries while others are visual. The two hobbies just go hand-in-hand for me, never a dull moment and always a crackling campfire.

I guess you could say that I’m always searching for those little bits and pieces of the world, and I do so love the search. Not only this but I also meet a lot of interesting people, mostly good people, which only serves to heighten the adventure. So this is why I do what I do and here’s a short video on the two-day trip I just completed. A few pictures and few pieces of treasure. Cheers!

Darkroom Dabbling

A wine glass, a pen light, and long exposure. Time for some creative fun! Again, I like the black and whites. Cheers! (It takes a steady hand.)

 

High Key Black & White Images

Contrast! That’s what I love about capturing these images, especially when they’re taken around water. Get up early, catch the morning fog as it’s slowly burning off and it makes for the perfect soft light in that background. Here’s a few images I was able to capture one morning while in Cadillac, Michigan. Cheers!

And a simple silhouette:

And this high key color image:

 

Monarch Butterflies

Who knew? I sure didn’t. But the other day I attended a Monarch Butterfly release here in my home state of Indiana. I had no idea that these seemingly misguided flight coordinators could make it as far as Mexico. Just watching one fly around reminds me of that old saying, “One step forward, two steps back.” Amazing that they could make it out of town let alone all the way to Mexico.

But I was there to capture a few images of these beautiful winged creatures so here’s a couple of those images. Personally, I like the black and white image the best. Cheers!

What We Learned From Our Michigan Metal Detecting Trip

“Times are changing.” This is what we learned on our recent Michigan trip. We learned that the hobby has become far more popular and far more aggressive in recent years. No doubt a lot of this has to do with recent advances in machines with all-terrain machines like the AT-Pro being more budget friendly and user friendly while also providing good performance in a waterproof housing that’s good to ten feet. Suddenly the land hunter can also become a water hunter with only one machine, especially true in freshwater environments like Michigan.

The first location we hunted was a small lake that we’ve been hunting for more then twenty years and while it had been ten years since our last visit it always produced. This time, however, we struggled at even finding pulltabs. And this trend held true of every location we visited after that first stop, even at the smallest and most remote locations that had always treated us well. Now, some of these locations even lacked bottle caps despite having been riddled with them in the past. We’re experienced hunters, we have top of the line machines, all the coils, all the mods, and we struggled to come home with $3.00 in clad and a few junk pieces of jewelry between us.

Now I must admit that I wasn’t completely taken by surprise because this was the same thing I encountered when I started hunting Indiana Lakes again this year after about seven years of absence. However, I was surprised by the scope of the extremely thin target opportunities, some of those more remote places always maintaining a lot of iron targets but now stripped completely bare of even those. No doubt they are also getting pounded to death now. So now what? Where do we go from here?

Well, we go exactly where I started going after having encountered this same thing in Indiana, we start hunting where others either can’t hunt or won’t hunt. The down side to this is that it’s more expensive, more time consuming, less convenient, and often times more labor intensive depending on the circumstances. In other words, if it’s easily accessible or easily discovered then it’s not on this new list of destinations. The good news, there’s still a lot of these locations out there.

Very clearly it’s time to change tactics, yet again. Times are changing and if we want to stay in the hunt then we must change with them. This is what we learned on our recent Michigan trip.

Cheers!…and as always, good luck and be safe out there.