Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

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

Mount Olympus Timelapse

In my post about hiking Mount Olympus in Greece, I promised a short timelapse & documentary video (Nikon D7000 + Canon pocket cam, try to guess which clips are which camera). Here it is…

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I’d love to go back to Olympus and spend more time there. Lots of other trails, huts, and peaks looked good. Unfortunately we had quite a limited amount of time – so we just headed for the highest peaks, Mytikas and Skolio!

Mount Olympus, Greece

Posted 6 years, 4 months ago at 11:04 pm.

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Timelapse Sunsets in Greece

On a recent trip to Greece, I tried out timelapse photography on my Nikon D7000 D-SLR. With about 500 photos you can get a great 20 second sunset sequence in 24p! Taken in Athens and on Aegina island. Here’s a shot of the setup I used:

Aegina Sunset Timelapse Setup

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With my Intel-Atom-powered Asus Eee PC along, I was able to check out the results directly after each timelapse shoot. I used free software (Virtualdub with the deflicker plugin) to compile the single shots into a video. This quick feedback enabled me to fine-tune my techniques on the fly and get increasingly better timelapse videos each day.

I foresee a lot of changes in cameras during the next 5-10 years. Higher-end models will have (real, quality) HDR functions integrated. The sequential photo setting now used for timelapses will integrate the photos automatically into a video in the camera, including exposure adjustment to avoid flicker. This is going to need a more powerful, yet still low-power processor built into the camera.

Let’s see what happens as cameras + processors improve. One thing is for sure, technology isn’t slowing down yet!

Posted 6 years, 4 months ago at 10:53 pm.

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Oktoberfest Nights

What better time that Oktoberfest for a Guided Munich photo tour. I took some clients around the city on the first night of Oktoberfest 2011, and we were lucky enough to get this beautiful sunset.

Munich Sunset

A nice longer exposure shot:

Olympiapark Sunset

Then off for a few really long-exposure nighttime shots before a thunderstorm brought our evening to an end. Yeah, I was too lazy to perspective-correct these in Photoshop (hehe).

Car trails in Schwabing

I love the stationary car in front of the archway!

Cool trails + stationary car

So get out your tripods and let’s see some long-exposure car trails! (All photos here with a Nikon D7000 and 18-200mm VR lens)

Posted 6 years, 4 months ago at 10:31 pm.

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Extreme Hiking on Mount Olympus

There’s limited information (in English) on climbing Mount Olympus in Greece, the home of the ancient Greek gods. Here’s my Mount Olympus advice.
Mytikas - highest peak in Greece at 2917m

Dave’s tips for climbing Mount Olympus:

  • Fly into Thessaloniki. Relax for a night and drink some (not too much) Ouzo.
  • The next morning, take a bus to the main bus transfer station in Thessaloniki.
  • At the transfer station, take the bus to Litochoro – the town at the base of Mount Olympus.
  • The bus to Litochoro goes to another town first (you may have to transfer, or your bus may go directly like ours did).
  • In Litochoro, take a taxi to the Prionia parking lot (25 euro each way!) and get the driver’s number for the way back in case you can’t hitch a ride down after the hike.
  • From Prionia (1100m), hike up trail E4 to the hut called Refuge A (2100m), Spilios Agapitos. The hike takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours, 6.4km long gaining 1000m with very little downhill.
  • Refuge A is a great hut with food, (bottled) water, and blankets. You will want a sleeping bag or camping sheet. There are no showers or potable running water, but you can buy bottled water relatively cheaply. Sleep overnight and start rested the next morning.
  • Leave heavy items in the hut if you plan to come down by this same trail. After a breakfast of bread and coffee (yes, the €4.50 breakfast isn’t too impressive), start up to Skala. It’s a relatively short hike of under 3 hours, but the path is very steep.
  • From the peak of Skala at over 2800m, you have the choice of Mytikas (2917m) or Skolio (2911m). Mytikas, the highest point in Greece, is a difficult scramble with potentially fatal consequences if you slip and fall the wrong way. Don’t attempt Mytikas unless the peak is free of high winds, rain, snow, and fog. The alternative of Skolio is not the highest point in Greece, but it’s a safer walk to get there. And it’s still a peak on Mount Olympus.
  • The way down is tough because of loose  sand and rocks on the steep trail. Here you really want some good hiking boots. Walking poles wouldn’t hurt either.

Another possibility to make life easier would be to rent a car for the 2 days in Thessaloniki. I think this would be cheaper, because we paid €15 each for bus tickets and €25×2 for taxis. Renting a small car for 2d should be less than 80 euro. There is ample parking at Prionia (though it might get full on summer weekends). It would be a lot faster by car as well, without having to wait for so many taxis, buses, etc.

Our Greek hiking friend at the top of Mytikas
My impressions: this is a serious hike. It isn’t quite as technical as climbing Zugspitze in Germany (because no climbing gear is needed as it is on Zugspitze’s Hoellental route), but the overall energy needed is similar. The vistas are phenomenal! I shot several timelapse sequences with my Nikon D7000 during the climb… those will be in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

Ridge of peaks at Mount Olympus, Greece

Posted 6 years, 4 months ago at 9:55 pm.

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Beauty around Buda Castle

Buda Castle sits high atop a hill overlooking both sides of the city, Buda and Pest. In the evening you can find stunning nighttime panoramas. But under the castle is yet another world of caves and tunnels, used by man since prehistoric times. Unfortunately the Labyrinth of Buda Castle was misused during the Cold War, turned into a concrete-lined bunker. Since then it has been converted into an interesting artistic display of history.

In some caves are reproductions of prehistoric art, mostly copied from Lascaux in France.

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With a mini-tripod and a bit of patience you can get a nice naturally-lit shot like this without needing flash. You’ll need low ISO for a clean photo, and custom white balance. The hardest part was staying still for 15s…

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My favorite display was about a newly-discovered extinct race of hominids found in Hungary. You’ll have to visit the Labyrinth to learn more about Homo consumes.

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Outside Buda Castle it’s spring!

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I’ll leave you with this lovely sunset shot taken from near the castle.

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If you’re headed to Eastern Europe I highly recommend to make Budapest a priority on your itinerary. It’s well worth the trip!

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 11:41 am.

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Getting dirty in Pest

Buda, Pest, and Old Buda merged in 1873 to form the modern Budapest. I took these shots while wandering around the streets of Pest.

Bus seat graffiti

Bus Seat Graffiti

Here’s the nostalgia tram, where (for 400 Forints) you can ride in style like they used to. Note: I don’t recommend trying to stand while this thing is moving – it’s not exactly as smooth as Munich’s S-Bahn. But it was free of graffiti, unlike the Pest buses.

Budapest Nostalgia Tram

This was floating in a small carnival by a children’s park for a few minutes before some thoughtful old man took it down. On the side, in Hungarian, it reads “Size does matter.”

Balloon Penis

This statue cracked me up. So regal in the last golden rays of the setting sun… except for his cap.

Horse, rider, pigeon decoration

Next post, back to the beautiful side of Budapest.

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 9:09 am.

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Budapest Streets

Those long familiar with the blog might remember some prior posts about street photography. Candid photos of city denizens and visitors tell you a lot about what the place is like! Take this woman agonizing over what to buy in the farmers’ market:

Budapest Farmers' Market - Fruit

From afar it really looked like we were about to enter a field in the middle of the city. I guess a few hundred years ago this might have been the view.

Painted building in Budapest

The couple and the single… who is happier?

Couple and Single

We must have watched this dog playing in and around the fountain pool for half an hour. Finally I got the shot I’d been waiting for!

Dog in mid-dive

No comment required on this last one. All in all, it was a beautiful day of sun, photos, sights, and frisbee on the streets and in the parks of Budapest.

Non-still-life: boy with dog and tweeties

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 7:42 pm.

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Relaxing in Budapest

German holidays are great, as long as you can avoid the traffic. Leaving at 7am from Munich we missed most of it and made it to Budapest in the early afternoon. Our greeter was an enthusiastic howler in need of a toenail trim:

Budapest Doggie

Late lunch at the hotel restaurant. This fantastic dish of homemade smoked salmon and quail eggs was six euro. (The pumpkin soup was also up there with the best I’ve ever had, for 2.50).

Homemade Smoked Salmon and Quail Eggs

After wandering around the beautiful castle above the city at sunset…

Budapest Cathedral

…we had a coffee and enjoyed this great night view! I think this is officially the best view I ever had from a coffee shop. It was definitely worth the pricey cuppa. (Hungarian expensive = Munich standard price!).

Budapest Night View

I’m already looking forward to the next 2 days of sightseeing!

Budapest - Castle at Night

Happy Easter. Just to cover my bases, I’ll be pouring one out for JC… probably a real Czech Budweiser 😉

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 9:38 pm.

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Catacombs and Crypts of Rome

Maria Rainer is a freelance writer & backpacking enthusiast. She’s written a great article for the Travelblogue about catacombs and crypts in Rome. As photography is not allowed in the crypts, she’s included a few various photos of famous Roman sights nearby. Enjoy!

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Originating from about the 2nd century AD, the Christian Catacombs of St. Callixtus (also known as St. Callisto) takes you to a whole new level of history—literally. It stretches nearly 90 acres twenty meters below the surface across 4 vertical levels. They’re named after the deacon Callixtus, who was appointed by Pope Zephyrinus as the administrator of the official cemetery of the Church of Rome.

When you arrive, you’ll have to wait to join another group of tourists before you go under (the ground, that is). The full price is 8 Euros, but the reduced rate (effective as of 2010) is 5 Euros.

Said to be impressions of Jesus' feet!

Going down

Walking down into the catacombs is like being swallowed by darkness, to employ a tasteless but a very accurate metaphor. The air instantly cools and feels slightly thicker in your nose with moisture. It gives you a sense of uneasiness entirely separate from the fact that you’re entering a millennia-old crypt.

An unlikely story

Although one assumes that so many Christians buried underground means they were sent there by some form of prosecution, the tour guide surprises you with a little known fact: the tombs were never secret. Christians buried here were never “driven” underground. Instead, the tomb represents one of the most fundamental Christian beliefs: resurrection. Since pagan Romans preferred cremation, ancient Christians buried their dead (all 500,000 of them, including 16 popes and tens of martyrs) underground outside the city limits.

Boo, no photography

The tour guide lets you know before entering the catacombs that no flash photography is allowed, since such bright lights can over time damage the delicate frescoes representing early Christian art. This makes me a very sad photographer, but at this point I’m too numb to really care. It’s too dark for cameras, anyway, and flash photography in what’s basically a narrow cave is hardly artful. The wannabe archaeologist in me was just happy to let my palms run lightly against the cold walls.

Navigating the crypt

The first thing you see when your eyes adjust is the crypt of nine popes. Some of the marble tablets on their tombs are the originals. Later, you come across the crypt of St. Cecilia. She’s the patron saint of sacred music. How did she become a martyr, you ask? She took three axe blows to the neck. Ouch.

As you go on, the passages grow narrow. They wind, networking for almost 19km. You’d be here all day just trying to find your way out, but lucky for you, the tour guides know where they’re going (you hope). Occasionally, you glimpse stumbling tourists in the group behind you, but seemingly miles down a long passageway that you swear wasn’t there a moment ago.

Still later, you get to admire ancient frescoes that, admittedly, leave more to be desired if you’re used to the stuff in the Sistine Chapel. Much of the 3rdcentury art in the famed Cubicula of Sacraments is deteriorated, but you have to admire that it stuck around at all almost 2,000 years.

When the tour is done, you have the option of dropping by the gift shop. There’s nothing terribly fascinating there, so you might as well keep exploring the other catacombs in the area.

Also on the Appian Way, and another creepy place

Church of Domine Quo Vadis

If you’ve still got time but want to see something other than catacombs, consider strolling along the Appian Way. It boasts a beautiful countryside complete with stinky but adorable sheep and quaint houses as well as the Church of Domine Quo Vadis. Although you’d never think it by its exterior appearance, this tiny chapel houses the stone that supposedly shows the indentation of Jesus Christ’s foot [see top of article]. The church gets its name from the story that Peter, escaping Rome and persecution, met Christ along the Appian Way. “Domine,” Peter said to Christ, “quo vadis?” (Lord, where are you going?) Christ supposedly replied, “Rome, to be crucified.”

Not too impressed by the catacombs? No big deal. Once you get back to Rome, check out the Capuchin Crypt beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto (near Piazza Barberini). In the 17th century, Capuchin monks made use of the 300 cartloads of dead friars they’d brought along by making art with their skeletons in a series of underground rooms. Some of the bones are those of children, and don’t be surprised to find arches, altars, candelabras, and even entire walls of brown, oxidized skulls. The Catholic Church says it’s not meant to creep you out (are they kidding?). It’s meant to express the brevity of life. Unfortunately, no photography (flash or no flash) are allowed inside.

Catacombe di San Callisto (Catacombs of St. Callixtus)

Via Appia Antica, 126

00179 Rome, Italy

www.catacombe.roma.it

9:00 AM– 12:00PM, 2:00PM – 5:00PM

Closed on Wednesdays

How to get there:

From Roma Termini Station, take bus 714 to Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano. Next, take bus 218. Fosse Ardeatine is the 10th stop on this bus. The catacombs are just opposite it, so get off there. When you’re done crawling around catacombs, take bus 218 back along the Appian Way back into the city.

The Appian Way in Rome

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Thanks again for the fantastic article, Maria!

Posted 6 years, 11 months ago at 7:46 pm.

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Christmas Pet Photos

When traveling in my home country, visiting friends and shopping in strip malls, I don’t have such the incentive for scenic photos. But I do find other subjects at which to point my camera. In the holiday spirit, here are a few random photos of friends’ pets being cute…

This is Diesel, the one-eyed horse:

Diesel the one-eyed horse

“Eat the kitty!”

Eat the Kitty, Salem!

Encyclopedia Brown and the Mystery of the Symmetrical Hounds:

Symmetrical Hounds

“This thing had better not run over my toes.”

Kitty under Christmas Tree with Train

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays!

p.s. for the Encyclopedia Brown fans, the answer is that Bugs Meany has drugged their food and arranged them in this curious pose. This way he could egg(nog) Encyclopedia’s house while the young detective was busy figuring out what happened to the dogs.

Posted 7 years, 2 months ago at 3:09 am.

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