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Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

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Being Frozen in Stubai

When you think of a glacier, you probably already think “cold.” But of the many days I’ve spent at glacier ski areas this year, none were colder than this past Sunday and Monday at Stubai. The temperature was about –15 to –20C (that’s 5F to –4F) on Sunday, and in the evening the winds picked up. Monday the wind chill must have been way below –20C, even though the temps warmed up a few degrees. Check out the snow being blown from the peaks:

Wind at Stubai glacier

Now, don’t get the impression it wasn’t FUN! This was one of the best ski weekends I’ve had this year (from 18 days snowboarding so far). The snow was perfect for carving, and off-piste there was about a foot of powder.

Steep and deep at Stubai glacier

For those wishing to travel to Stubai, don’t expect huge nightlife. The nearest big town is Neustift im Stubaital, and it’s nothing like Mayrhofen, St. Anton, or Sölden for nightlife. We stayed in a small Pension in Milders, near Neustift. “The Farm,” the big apres-ski place in Milders, had a total of 3 people at 9:30pm (and they were all smoking). However, BIG PROPS to Restaurant Steinadler, which we found was non-smoking. That’s very rare for Austria. Besides that, the food was fantastic. Here was my Cordon Bleu (which also came with a salad plate and a side of cranberry sauce):

Restaurant Steinadler Cordon Bleu

I had a surreal experience there. I dropped my fork, and as I looked around for our server (maybe 7 seconds later), there she came – with a new fork. Apparently she had heard it from the other room, and recognized the difference between fork and knife hitting the ground. Amazing!

Pensions (= Bed & Breakfasts) vary quite a bit throughout Germany and Austria, but in my experience you’re guaranteed a decent bed and a simple breakfast for a bargain price. Our pick in Milders was okay, but a few features might turn off some travelers. Ask yourself: what percentage of today’s Americans would physically be able to sit down on this toilet!?

Tiny bathroom

The next morning we went back out for more adventure on the slopes. It was a windy day, but once we were on the slopes (wind at our backs) it was great. I figured out the settings on my bindings and boots to let me carve like crazy on my Virus Xtremecarver, leaning all the way over so my nose was almost touching the snow on every turn. And the views were fantastic!

View from Stubai glacier

Check out this distant mountain formation which looks like a bowl full of clouds:

Bowl full of clouds at Stubai

Getting to Stubai

  • See this Google Map for the location of Stubai; you’ll find Neustift im Stubaital along the road leading to it. Note that it’s 16km or so from Neustift (the nearest large town) to Stubai.
  • Pensions (= Bed & Breakfasts) are a great place to stay. Usually the proprietors are very friendly and helpful. Often the room is fantastic for the price; although sometimes it’s a bit lacking in one area or another. Occasionally you find “WC im Flur” which means a shared bathroom in the hall, but you’ll often save €5-10 a night for such a room.
  • I highly recommend the restaurant Steinadler in Milders. Non-smoking, fantastic food, friendly service, and psychic at bringing replacement forks. From the card I picked up there, I found they also have a Pension with a quite reasonable room rate (€24 per person for double room with breakfast; even cheaper in the summer at €20). Google map here. Milders is a cheap taxi ride from Neustift central, in case you’re there on a weekend and want to try for bigger nightlife than “The Farm” apres-ski in Milders.

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago at 5:12 pm.

4 comments

Have YOU been crushed by a dolphin?

If you have, please call our toll-free number, 555-DTH-FR-ABV.

I have to tell a story about the guy in this photo, and old friend named Rich.

Dolphin jumping over Rich

Rich weighed in a bit heavier than me at the time of this trip, probably around 125 pounds. Now, that’s remarkably small. What’s even more amazing is that Rich could eat anything. Literally. We’d go to the Outback, and he’d devour half a cheese fries, a salad, the 22-oz Porterhouse, and the loaded baked potato. Then he’d proceed to order the coconut-chocolate-sundae for dessert and polish that off, before finishing one or two other sundaes that others at our table couldn’t manage.

Then there was the time he ate a 48-oz Porterhouse at Shula’s. We only heard about that after the fact, but it was from a reputable source who would never exaggerate his eating prowess (his wife!). For those metric folks, 48 oz of beef is a 1.36kg steak, minus the bone in the middle. So this guy can really eat.

Well, on the trip to the Bahamas where I took this amazing dolphin jump photo (with a Canon Rebel film camera, probably in 2000), Rich got sick. Some kind of food poisoning. It was the first time in the six years we’d known each other when I out-ate him. I believe I was flipped the bird when I pointed that out…

But, to Rich’s credit, we kept adventuring around the Bahamas. Within a day, he was able to demolish the $50 dinner buffet at the Atlantis hotel (which to this day remains the most amazing buffet I’ve ever been to). Thereafter we snuck into their marine habitat, and had a great time wandering around the nearly-deserted tanks (which I believe, at that time of night, were only open to resort guests). What an awesome trip!

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago at 8:00 pm.

4 comments

Snowboarding Helmetcam Update

I had a few questions come up about my video setup… so here it is, in all its simplicity. At first it was side mounted, but this hurt my neck after several hours, so now it’s on top.

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Equipment:

  • Nvertigo-X Skydiving camera helmet with chin cup
  • Canon Vixia HF200
  • Kenko KGW-05 wide adapter
  • Manfrotto 323 quick-change adapter
  • Newton cross ring sight with Schumacher rotating clamp
  • Home-made neoprene “camera condom,” from an old wetsuit hood
  • Piece of gaffer’s tape over the “mode” switch so it stays on video, can’t be bumped to photo mode (which screws everything up if you don’t notice it)
  • Pattex glue for the neoprene (glues neoprene like nothing else, according to some friends who SCUBA)

Photos of the new Neoprene cover with side opening. I left an open area by the lens so the Instant AF sensor can still work.

Top-mounted Helmet Cam

I made this side opening cover after many pain-in-the-$%# moments on the slope, when I had to completely remove the (old) cover to use the viewscreen.

Side-opening Neoprene camera condom

Settings:

  • Highest quality setting, at 1920×1080 Full HD
  • Shutter speed (Tv mode) 1/500 or higher (maybe 1/250 but then you get a bit more motion blur in the video)
  • Optical stabilizer on, though it doesn’t help much when you are moving
  • Virtualdub and Deshaker software used to stabilize clips
  • Editing done with Pinnacle Studio 14 Ultimate Collection

Hope this helps some other camera-amateurs like myself! Next on my list (if I find time) is to make one of the home-made steadicams from PVC pipe, like you see in many YouTube tutorials. Not sure I’d put it on the helmet, but for handheld stuff, it might eliminate the need for the (slow, slight-quality-reducing) Deshaker step.

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago at 11:00 am.

6 comments

Beautiful Views at Hintertux Glacier

If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably saw my post about Hintertux just as this winter began. In past years, I’ve only gone there when the other areas didn’t have enough snow. But this year I went back mid-season and found piles of the stuff, way deeper POW than the other resorts at lower altitudes.

Here are a few scenic shots:

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The clouds were quite amazing at times on Sunday, as a storm cleared off.

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In my last Hintertux post I mentioned extreme weather. Well, here’s the result when it’s –15C with snow in the air. Oh, let’s not forget, the whole top of the mountain was in a cloud.

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After I melted all this ice out of my beard, I gave up and put on my neoprene facemask. Heh.

Pictures are all from my trusty Canon SD1000. That little camera has gone more vertical miles in my pocket than any other piece of electronics I own. And despite my taking the occasional hard spill on an icy slope, it’s still unscathed!

Since I love these shots, and don’t have any particular “favorite photo” (how would one choose?), the frozen beard goes out to Wendy from down under!

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago at 11:00 am.

4 comments

Snowboard Carving – Feb Craziness!

Alright, it’s finally time for a little taste of what’s possible with my final video setup! I just threw together a couple good carving clips from two trips, one in early Jan and one in early Feb.

Go to YouTube to watch the video in HD!

Thanks to the amazing carvers in the video: Peti, Lowcarver, and Alexey. They ride boards from Oxess, Virus, and Prior. I need to improve my technique to get those nice, laid-over turns, especially on the backside!

The first clip is at Zillertal Arena, the rest are at Hintertux glacier (both in Austria). Next week I’ll post a bit more about my Canon HF200 camera setup, so if you want to read about that, subscribe with the orange buttons on the left sidebar for RSS or email notification. Hope you enjoy the video!

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago at 4:02 pm.

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Best Omelette Ever

For such a tasty dish I must use the French spelling! Now this is some pretty food…

Omelette and cafe latte

Omelette Ingredients:

  • Homemade whiskey/chili oil, red pepper, shallots, garlic – sautéed with some basil, oregano, and salt
  • 2 eggs and a splash of milk, beaten and poured into the sautéed vegetables
  • 2-year aged Cabot cheddar and a bit of smoked Black Forest ham folded in the middle

There’s nothing better, the day after spending 8 hours on the ski slopes, than waking up and eating a serious breakfast.

Omelette and cafe latte

Random omelette tips:

  • I use a non-stick pan from Ikea. 1 tsp oil or butter should be enough to keep the mixture from sticking.
  • Use a low heat on the stove; otherwise you have a problem in the initial stage before folding. The bottom will burn before the top is cooked all the way through.
  • Tilt the pan occasionally before folding (2-3 times). Roll the liquidy part around to keep it evenly distributed.
  • I put some ingredients in with the egg as the omelette cooks, and then add a few more things just before folding. Then it doesn’t get too fat to fold, as happens when you try to stuff a cup of meat, veg, and cheese in the middle.

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago at 12:21 pm.

5 comments

Powder in Kitzbuehel, Austria

Kitzbühel has always had a special meaning for me, because that’s where my Mom learned to ski many years ago. She was studying in Europe, and had the chance to ski in Austria one winter. Now, some ~40 years later, I live about an hour and fifteen minutes’ drive from there!

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The mountain is surrounded by several quaint little towns: Jochberg, Kitzbühel, and Kirchberg im Tirol, among others. One of its strengths is the huge amount of open, ungroomed terrain, which is fantastic when there is new snow.

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Under the lifts C1 and C2 (which arrive, respectively, at the tops of Steinbergkogel/1973m and Ehrenbachhöhe/1796m), there are a lot of steep inclines with few trees (sorry, no picture). Beware when there’s not enough snow; but normally by mid-winter it’s full of POW and ready for freshies whenever there’s a 6-12” dump.

Here’s a shot near one of the many lifts to Ehrenbachhöhe near the end of the day:

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Getting there:

  • Google map to my favorite starting lift, Fleckalmbahn (a gondola).
  • I found this incredibly geeky website which has a database of lifts. The link takes you to Steinbergkogel, complete with pictures of the slope below the lift. I love it!
  • Here’s a picture of the area below Steinbergkogel, where I think the best powder runs are. On the right, and in the bottom of the picture, where you see the shadows – that’s it!

Steinbergkogel_google_map

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago at 3:00 pm.

4 comments

Cats in Heat

Haven’t you always wanted to know how hot a cat is? A friend of mine who’s a home inspector has finally answered that question. And the camera he used to do it is such a cool piece of photographic technology that I have to share it!

Note the cat’s very cold nose (of course!) and hot eyes & ears.

thermal cat 2_sm

Eric uses the thermal camera to locate problem areas in a house under contract (or during “energy audits” to help save on energy bills). Some of this stuff is completely intuitive, but I’d still never think of it myself. Here’s an area of missing insulation (summer heat leaking into an air-conditioned house):

missing insulation 16_sm

And there’s obviously some dangerous electrical fault here at the hot breaker:

thermal electric inspections 4_sm

I really want to get one of these cameras. Unfortunately they’re damn expensive: the Fluke Ti10 costs over $4,000! Here it is, in all its glory:

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Now a final shot, showing the thermal cam in use. Note the temperature scale on the side.

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It’s unlikely that any of my readers will buy a house in Richmond, VA. But if you do, look up Eric Babcock at Home Inspex, and let him know that I sent you his way. He’s an old friend, and a really thorough home inspector.

Wherever you may buy a house, ask about thermal imaging. The extra $ it may cost is nothing compared to the price tag for fixing one of the home problems that it can find in just a few seconds. I love technology!

Here are some more gratuitous thermal pics of random stuff…

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago at 11:11 am.

4 comments

Get yourself a passport!

If you’re among my non-American or expat friends, you probably don’t need to worry about this. But a lot of Americans do NOT have a passport! It takes a while (up to a few months) to receive one. If you don’t have a passport, you might never muster courage to book an overseas trip.

American Passport

Passports are pretty robust. I never got a cover for my first one; just moved on to the second one when the original expired after 10 years. No worries, you get to keep the old one, all those stamps are a nice memory of where you’ve been:

Passport Stamps

How to apply for a passport

The US Government passport website is so simple, I’m not even going to explain it. Just go there, find the nearest place to apply (probably a Post Office), and bring the things they list on the website.

Hmm, passport photos: most photography studios do them; that’s probably the most difficult part, aside from locating your birth certificate… haha.

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago at 11:00 am.

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