Newsletter #118 - Sept 30, 2006
I call it 'Europe 301' because it was our third
vacation to Europe, the longest and best one yet. It's been a
while since the last one, over 20 years. It
was great and we'd return in a heartbeat.
To mix favorite and familiar places with some new ones, we
returned to the Swiss Alps and a number of cities in Italy, and
added Vernazza in Cinque-Terre (Italy) and Istanbul.
Our previous trips were in the days of analog
film cameras... for this one we used two digital
still cameras and a digital camcorder.
Bernadette used to stand by and wait for me to finish taking
pictures. Today, with her passion for PhotoShop and Painter, she
was the one using our 5 megapixel Olympus C-5050 camera and our
daughter's 7 megapixel Sony Cybershot, while I shot video with
a Sony TRV80 mini-DV camcorder. I often waited for her.
I'll use this newsletter issue to share some info about
the digital aspects of the vacation, and our initial steps to sort and
use the 9,200 pictures and 20 hours of video footage we took.
The image at the above right, and the newsletter title, are links to
the new website, the main way we'll be sharing our memories.
... before getting into it
further, a couple notes...
Vista Corner... I downloaded and installed the
latest 5278 build, my easiest install so far. It was the first time
I didn't have to go into the Control Panel and update
some device drivers after the initial install.
I tested DVD Maker to see if it would successfully burn a disc,
something it did great for all builds up to the last one, but hasn't done since.
It didn't, so I have some homework to do before I can rave about the new app
video I uploaded to Google a few months ago
and priced at 99 cents is no longer listed in my account. It was
sitting there waiting to go through the last checkpoint before being live, but
it didn't make it. Google didn't send a note or provide an online
comment, so I can only guess it didn't fit their criteria for
the kinds of movies they want to distribute. I'll stop checking
installed Pixélan Software's SpiceFX
Packs 3.0 for Movie Maker, which has nearly 600 transitions
and effects for Movie Maker.... some are new to me and others I've had
in earlier versions.
.... back to the main
I'd been thinking of a new
website specific to the trip. What did I want to do with it?
I'll be working toward a number of
different but related goals:
Before getting into the website,
here's some info about what we used during the trip.
Digital cameras need
batteries... replaced or recharged
regularly. The rechargeable ones need recharging
every night... using Europe's electricity which is different than that
in the U.S.
The Olympus camera uses 4 AA batteries. We
brought a few sets of rechargeables and 2 charging units. Beyond
those, we had a set of non-rechargeables which we never had to dip into.
Two sets of rechargeables got us through each day.
The Sony Cybershot has a custom rechargeable
battery and a power supply to recharge it. We had no backup battery for it, and
only once did it run out before the day ended.
I have 5 batteries for the camcorder, and
charging is done by plugging the power supply into the camcorder,
which ties it up. It was rare to get as far as needing the 3rd battery
after a day of shooting. There were two batteries to
Each of the charging units is marked to
indicate they work both with USA 120 volt electricity or Europe's 240
volt, so conversion devices are not needed. But an adapter is
needed because U.S. plugs have flat prongs while Europe
uses round ones.
If all we needed power for was our cameras,
we could have gotten by without a 240 to 120 volt converter. But we brought
a hair dryer that needed the 120 volt electricity. When shopping
at home for a converter, there were big expensive units with low
power ratings, and small cheaper ones with higher ratings. The difference
was the small converters being electronic.
That converter cost me one of the
two charging units for the AA batteries, which blew the first time it
was used with the electronic converter. After blowing I read the instructions... which said it could
malfunction if used with an electronic conversion device. Sometimes it's
good to read and heed, but the 2nd charging unit got us through the trip
We have 3 batteries for the tablet computer, 2
normal sized ones and a larger one. The only time we had a problem was one day
with the GPU, and only because we forgot to bring along the extra
Tapes and memory
I brought about 30 DV tapes and used 20,
carrying 3 unused ones with me at all times. I opened the packages and numbered
the tapes to be ready to move on to the next one as quickly as possible. And I
flipped the little recording safety tab on the bottom of
each tape as soon as I finished, to preclude recording over it. Even
with the precautions, when reviewing the tapes, I see one section of one
tape that I inadvertently recorded over.
The Olympus uses memory cards, and the Sony
Cybershot and camcorder use Sony memory sticks. We were using a 1/2 GB
card and 1/2 GB stick for the still cameras. On many days, we had filled
them and needed to offload the pix to the tablet.
The only problem we experienced was
with the memory stick for the Cybershot. It suddenly stopped being seen by
cameras and our computer, but at a convenient time... there were only a few pictures taken at breakfast one
morning, and we were in the big city of Istanbul at the time. A few
blocks into our next walk took us past a camera store, and $40 was all that was
needed for a new 1 GB memory stick, less than the lowest price we'd
seen in the U.S.
I used the monopod for the camcorder fairly
We brought 3 tripods, a larger one that
stands as high as about 5 feet high, a middle sized one that only goes up a
couple feet, and a tiny one only inches high. The middle sized one was
pretty easy to carry around and ended up being the only one used.
It was a borrowed one, but I'll be buying one like it soon.
We have no extra lenses for the still cameras. I
have a 0.6 wide-angle lens for the camcorder, along with a polarizing
filter. The polarizing filter goes on the camera itself, not on the wide-angle
lens... so it's one or the other, or neither... not both.
I try to be really casual about shooting
video on a vacation. As a result I leave the camcorder lenses setup as
is until there's a compelling reason to change. I shot most footage with
the wide-angle lens on, switching to the polarizing filter only a few
times, such as when we took boat rides and I wanted to reduce the
reflections off the water.
After shooting the first few
video scenes in standard mode, I changed the camcorder to widescreen
mode and never looked back. Widescreen seems here to stay so I'm shooting
in that mode more often.
I use the 10X optical zoom but deactivate the
more powerful but pixilated digital zoom.
Still pictures were taken in high quality
modes for the full 7 and 5 megapixel pictures... not pushing the
cameras to higher setting options.
We had a Fujitsu Stylistic tablet with us,
with about 18 GB of free space at the start of the trip. We also
brought a Dell music jukebox with a 20 GB drive, which can double as an
external hard drive.
The still pix were transferred at least daily to the tablet, and more room
made on the tablet a couple times by moving files to the Dell jukebox.
We returned home with a good bit of free hard drive space to
The tablet has a firewire connection, but
I didn't capture any footage from the tapes as we traveled. As a
precaution against loss, I carried the recorded tapes with me in carry-on
We used Microsoft's AutoRoute 2006 mapping
software, which works with the GPS sensor from the U.S. Streets and Trips app.
Maps always lag a bit behind construction and other changes... so when it gave
directions to drive down a road and make a right turn onto the next major one,
it was fine... except in cases where there was a new fence up making the road a
dead-end, right at that nice big road. They had changed the entry point and the
map software didn't know. Things like that taught us not rely on the neat new
software as the only navigation tool.
I didn't have to think much about distribution.
With online access so routine, and broadband getting better and better, a
website is the right place for me to roll out our memories. With it
having been such a special vacation, I thought it warranted an
equally special website.
It reminds me of setting the stage for a
special dinner... setting the table before the food starts
I prefer a total customization to a canned
website package... so it's done using Notepad, Movie Maker, Photo
Story, and my toolbox of software utilities.
For different custom background
images for each page, I'm using the camcorder to take
snapshots from the video footage, and then Paint.NET to
lighten them enough to be able to easily see black text over
For links to videos, I checked
Microsoft Publisher for Clip Art...
... and used the one at the left
to turn into embedded website links to videos, such as the one on the
using Paint.NET to make them GIF
A first for my websites will
be sounds of the area, a WMA file made
from selected audio segments of video clips.
I hit Microsoft Publisher again, this time to
get a clip art file of a speaker to turn into a website link image.
For a link to a picture gallery, I'm using a
large thumbnail sized image of one of them. I haven't developed any of the
picture galleries yet to link to, but here's the first of the
Conclusions and Closing
I encourage those thinking of
traveling to do it as soon as they can, as the memories from such trips will
last a lifetime.
The Cybershot camera got a wider
shot than the Olympus, and it did better in lower light situations. But in
bright light the Olympus seems to have gotten better color results. The
camcorder, with it's wide angle lens got even more of a view, and does
better in low light.
The two cameras have 3X optical
zooms... while the camcorder has 10X. For close-ups from a distance, the 2
megapixel snapshot with the camcorder does better than the 7 megapixel
We're back a week now. I'm
caught up on my email backlog, back into regular posting on newsgroups and
forums, have the new website off and running, and re-started the
newsletters. Things are back to normal.
Have a great week...