Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

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

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.

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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 8 years, 4 months ago at 4:02 pm.

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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 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:00 pm.

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Dutch Raceboarding Team

In December, a lot of racing teams head to the glaciers to get in extra practice before the snow starts falling at lower altitudes. I met some lovely raceboarder women at Hintertux, who (if I remember right) were from a Dutch snowboarding team. Here’s the best footage:

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This was my second attempt at getting on-slope footage; the camera is now top-mounted to avoid neck strain from side-mounting. You can probably guess I was playing with the camera settings and stabilizing software. From this footage I learned that I need a faster shutter, at least 1/250 but more likely 1/500.

The combo of AviSynth, VirtualDub, and Deshaker to process the raw video is fantastic for the moving-camera scenes! I’m still loving the Canon HF200. You can read more about that in my previous helmetcam post.

The next videos I post will be even better, as I’ve added a ring sight to the camera rig now. However, I only have a minute or so of useable footage so far. Any raceboarders out there who want to volunteer as a film subject?

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 6:24 pm.

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Snowboarding Helmetcam: First Test!

I shot footage of some friends skiing and snowboarding at Hintertux in November. Finally, I’ve found time to stabilize the video files and edit everything. At some points, it looks almost as good as a steadycam would be. A few shots are not so stable; the first few (when it was cloudy/dark) were harder to stabilize. Here it is:

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Watch “Testing the Helmetcam” in HD on YouTube.

A few notes for the videographers out there. Optical stabilization sucks in high-G environments. In skydiving, and apparently snowboarding, it can make your footage even more shaky/unviewable than having no stabilization at all. This is due to the mechanically controlled optical element bouncing around in the lens at high-G.

Also, in these vibration-heavy environments you need a fast shutter speed. Otherwise you get strange moments (like you see in my video) where the scene seems to pop in and out of focus: these are heavy camera shocks blurring the motion!

To make the videos stable, I used Virtualdub (open source) with the Deshaker plugin (open source). It was a huge effort to set up and learn, and I’d only recommend it to fellow computer geeks.

For the next shoots, I’m going to use a shutter speed no less than 1/250th. I also have a skydiving ring sight on the helmet now, so I can keep the subject centered in the frame.

Camera: Canon Vixia HF200. Shot in 1920x1080PF. Editing software: Pinnacle Studio 14. It is a royal pain working with full HD files, even on a 3-core 2.something.GHz system. The high-quality deshaking method I’ve figured out takes 30-45min per minute of video. But the results are pretty!

Posted 8 years, 5 months ago at 12:47 pm.

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Climbing Zugspitze: Germany’s highest mountain (Part 2)

If you are new to this post series, start with Part 1 of the Zugspitze hike.  All the details of how to get there are at the end of Part 1.

The first video saw us up the Stangensteig, passing over the Höllentalklamm, and reaching the Höllentalangerhütte for a nice Schweinsbraten (pork roast) with red cabbage and dumplings. The next morning we started early and reached the first stretch of via ferrata, where we clipped into steel cables and walked on pegs across the cliff. Kind of like this:

Walking across steel via ferrata pegs

And of course there were these pesky ladders,

Climbing a ladder below the glacier

Then the Höllentalferner glacier itself!

The Hoellentalferner glacier

I had skied on glaciers before, but in the winter they look like the rest of the ski slopes.  Never had I seen one in the end of summer, mixed with dirt and rocks, full of deep crevasses.

Enough photos for now, on with what you’ve all been waiting for: part 2 of the video! There will be at least one more part after this.  And again, thanks to Danny Galixy for the amazing music!

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Watch “Climbing Zugspitze: Part 2” in HD on YouTube.

A few more choice photos: Scott and Bunky walking up the glacier, taking in the view…

Scott and Bunky on the glacier

And a bit later, Scott being nonchalant… I think he clipped in for a total of fifteen minutes during several hours of via ferrata ascent. It must be those expensive mountaineering boots, perhaps they cannot slip.

Scott with a background of glacier and clouds

That’s all for today.  The next (and final) post should be up sometime after the weekend.  Summit views and perhaps a bit of the train ride (we ran out of daylight, and our group’s acrophobic member wasn’t planning to hike down).

Part 3 is now posted! It took a bit longer than originally expected, but I hope it’s worth the wait!

Posted 8 years, 7 months ago at 9:51 am.

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Climbing Zugspitze: Germany’s highest mountain (Part 1)

When two old friends visited for Oktoberfest, we decided to try the Höllental ascent of Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany. Höllental means “Valley of Hell,” and conveniently there is a Hütte run by the Deutscher Alpenverein part way up. It’s named the Höllentalangerhütte, which literally means “Hell Valley Meadow Lodge.” You’ve gotta love German!

Here’s a photo of the Höllentalferner glacier where you can see Zugspitze in the distance. Click on the photo for a full-res version.
View of Hoellentalferner Gletscher and Zugspitze

Here’s a shot of a huge ice chunk we found on the way up the Stangensteig path, just before it rejoined the Höllentalklamm path:

Giant ice chunk on the way up Stangensteig

I took my newly assembled Canon Vixia HF200 helmet camera along for the ride, and below you can see an HD video of the experience. This climbing video is just part 1 – there will be two more videos coming in separate posts. Let me know how you like my first attempt at a semi-pro video!

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Watch “Climbing Zugspitze: Part 1” in HD on YouTube.

The music in the video is by Danny Galixy, whose music and photographs are fantastic. Check out his website!

Climbing this mountain via the Höllental route requires more mountaineering knowledge than some of the other routes up Zugspitze. You’ll need climbing gear including a harness, “via ferrata” equipment, a helmet, and crampons for the stretch along the glacier. A medium length of rope or webbing might also help, as you’ll see in the video in part 2. One should only attempt the climb when good weather is forecast; you’ll see memorial plaques along the route (many for people killed by lightning).

This climb is not standard rock climbing, but more a combination of bouldering and walking across iron pegs.  “Via ferrata” means “the iron way.” On the most dangerous parts, one is always clipped into a steel cable by two carabiners. There is a shock cord in the via ferrata equipment so you won’t have a sudden deceleration if you do fall.

Ahem, I also found a bit of toilet humor in the lodge’s restroom, and for once the graffiti cracked me up:

German toilet humor poem

Rough translation (sorry, I couldn’t rhyme it):

In this toilet lives a ghost,

And everyone who takes too long,

Will be bitten in the balls.

But the ghost did not bite me,

Because I crapped upon his head.

Getting to Zugspitze:

  • To arrive at the top, you can take the Zugspitzbahn (a Zahnradbahn – geared train), a cable car from Austria, or a cable car from Eibsee in Germany. Link to Zugspitze Roundtrip description
  • Of course, I recommend to hike the Höllental route if you’re in shape, adventurous, and not scared of heights.  Park here in Hammersbach and walk a bit up the road to the trailhead by the river. There are two trails: Höllentalklamm (which goes along the river and costs a few euro), and the longer Stangensteig route (more ups and downs, and is the way we went).
  • Starting height: 778m. Höllentalangerhütte: 1387m. Zugspitze: 2962m (9,718′). Call the lodge to reserve a place if you plan on staying overnight; it’s not expensive even for non-members of the DAV (Deutscher Alpenverein) at 20 euro for adults.
  • Where to rent equipment: Werner Niedermeier at WN-Alpin speaks English, and it was around 40 euro per person to rent a harness, via ferrata gear, helmet, and crampons. You WILL need crampons for the glacier. DO NOT ATTEMPT without all of this gear! You can also buy a mountaineering map here. The shop is conveniently located in Garmish-Partenkirchen on the way from the Autobahn to Hammersbach.
  • Since we did not have enough time to safely hike back down before dark, we took the Gletscherbahn gondola and then the Zugspitzbahn down. The train conveniently passes right through Hammersbach, and we had to walk a bit under 1km back to the car from the train station.
  • Elevation map of the climb: just look at the height profile (graph in lower right side)! If you are afraid of heights, this ascent is not for you.

Here is a link to Part 2 of the Zugspitze adventure! If you’d like to read about Part 3… with more photos & video… subscribe with the orange buttons in the left sidebar. You’ll be notified by either email or RSS feed. Thanks!

Posted 8 years, 7 months ago at 9:17 pm.

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First tracks of the season at Hintertux Glacier!

Snow fell in Munich in mid-October this year. Now the glaciers are open, and my favorite Austrian glacier ski resort has excellent conditions: Hintertux glacier! The resort is only a 2h drive from Munich in good weather/traffic conditions. Austria cleans the roads quite well, so is even possible to reach if it has recently snowed (though the final bit of road is a bit steep and windy; you could take a bus for the last several km if nervous about this).

There are three sections at Hintertux:

  • Top 1/3 = down to Tuxer Fernerhaus
  • Middle 1/3 = down to Sommerbergalm
  • Bottom 1/3 = Talabfahrt (exit to valley)

When I was first at Hintertuxer Gletscher this year in mid-October for 2 days, only the top 1/3 down to Tuxer Fernerhaus was open. This includes the glacier section that’s open 365 days a year, right near the top.  This past weekend (Nov. 7th), the next 1/3 was also open down to Sommerbergalm, although it was a bit icy with thin cover in parts.  Let’s see how it is this weekend, as I plan on going again.

Here’s a view of the slope on the back side, the “Schlegeis Gletscher” area:

Schlegeis Gletscher view

This slope on the back usually gets bumped up rather quickly, but is great snowboarding if you are there early(or on a quiet day…).

Here’s a view from the exit of Gletscherbus 3, the cable car that takes you to the very top at 3,250m (10,660′):

View from Gletscherbus 3 exit

For those who read the earlier post about pictures of my snowboards, I’ve now tried out the Virus X-Treme Carver Premium 162… this board rocks.  It holds well on ice and carves like the piece of fine engineering it is.  I have yet to test it head-to-head against my F2 Speedster SL 158, but my impression is that the Virus board suits me better.  My sliced fingertip can also testify to the sharpness of the Virus factory edge… watch out!

Getting to Hintertux

  • If going by car, you will need to get a Vignette – the Austrian highway toll sticker which you put in the upper left corner of the windshield.  10 days costs a bit over 7 Euro, though you can also get a 2-month-pass or 1-year-pass if you’ll be skiing very often.
  • Hintertux on the map: it’s basically at the end of the road running through Zillertal / Mayrhofen.  Exit from the A12 is Wiesing.
  • If you want a fantastic restaurant after your day on the slopes, I recommend the Alte Hütte in Madseit, at the Alpinhotel Berghaus (Madseit 711, A-6294).  The grillteller with 3 kinds of meat, browned potato wedges, and all-you-can-eat salad bar really hits the spot.
  • Lodging: I can highly recommend this Pension (Bed & Breakfast) right across from the Alte Hütte: Mehlerhof has a very rustic look, but well-equipped and quite new interiors.
  • Weather warning: if it’s cold and snowing in Tirol, Hintertux will have some of the worst weather in the Alps.  High winds, whiteout conditions, and fog/clouds on the slopes.  So be aware: if the weather is poor, this resort may be your worst choice.  This snow forecast website has excellent data for Hintertux by altitude.

Posted 8 years, 7 months ago at 11:36 am.

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Kreativ Blogger Award

I was recently honored that fellow writer and blogger Wendy Morrell chose me in her “top 7” for the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thanks, Wendy — I’d put your blog on my list too, if you hadn’t already won! So, here I am to pass on the honor to seven blogs I often read. But first, the RULES for those winners who choose to pass on the award:

1. Copy and paste the picture to your own blog.
2. Thank the person who gave you the award and post a link to their blog.
3. Write 7 things about yourself we do not know.
4. Choose 7 other bloggers to award.
5. Link to those 7 other bloggers.
6. Notify your 7 bloggers.

As this is a travel & photo blog, I’ll show seven things about myself pictorially…

I skydive, though it’s been a while since my last jump. This balloon jump at the World Freefall Convention was a memorable one.

Balloon Jump at WFFC

Snowboarding is high in my winter priorities. Soelden, Austria rocks.

Snowboarding at Soelden, Austria

I’ve eaten ants in Suzhou, China. Yes, on purpose. In fact it was my suggestion…

Dave eating ants in Suzhou, China

I have a brother. Here we are in Joshua Tree, CA.

Brothers in Joshua Tree, California

Sometimes I play bass guitar, and I’ve been known to sing. Skydive Orange, VA. Dedicated to my late friend Chris Santiago, the guitar player with the ‘fro on the right.

Electric Bacon at Skydive Orange

Once I was confused for Jose Cuervo, on Oct. 31st in Richmond, VA.

Jose Cuervo

Weilheim, a town in Bavaria, hosts my favorite disc golf course in the world.

Disc Golf at Weilheim, Bayern

Now, for my recommendations, in roughly alphabetical order.  Just a short sentence about each:

  • Christina at An American Expat in Deutschland has great photos and weekly German recipes… mmm!
  • The infamous Headbang8 at Deutschland Über Elvis makes me laugh with every post, though there is a strict no-meme policy, as I recently read…
  • Ian and Wendy are globe-trotters whose travels I one day hope to equal
  • Jul at This non-American Life peppers in a lot of variety and humor into her expat blog
  • Melissa’s Bookshelf hosts a variety of great book reviews and giveaways, and gives equal treatment to Print-On-Demand authors (which I really appreciate!)
  • Only The Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy is an excellent book review blog that’s rife with German sayings as of late
  • Regensblog with Cliff and Sarah has excellent travel articles, links to cheap travel deals, and tasty recipes

Posted 8 years, 7 months ago at 2:03 pm.

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Lenggries at Night

As promised, here’s the second post in the Lenggries series! To read the first in the series with “getting there” info, see my Hiking at Lenggries post.

On the way back to the car, we caught this fantastic moonrise over the mountains:

Moonrise at Lenggries

Moonrise at Lenggries

Moonrise at Lenggries

Moonrise at Lenggries

Along the fields on the way back, we saw this sign, which cracked me up.

Cow says: "And I'm supposed to feed on that?"  Underneath: "Unsoiled pasture - everything's in the butter"

Cow says: "And I'm supposed to feed on that?" Underneath: "Unsoiled pasture - everything's in the butter"

After leaving the Jägerstüberl restaurant, we heard heavy-sounding music and saw fire off to the north.  This demanded investigation.  It turned out to be a free open house evening at the Lenggries Falkenhof – a falconry park!  (Tourism site link with a bit of English).  Now I want to go back and see the falconry show during the day sometime.

All photos are 1.0s, f/11, ISO 1600 except for the fire breather.  That one is 2.0s, f/20, ISO 800 to avoid overexposure while still getting a long shutter speed.  These fire spinning and twirling photos are my favorites from about 60 shots.

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Breather

Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Breather

One thing is for sure: I’m going to check out next year’s Falconry Spectacular and evening fire event! This year it was in October (postponed from September), so I’d check for it on the Falknerspektaculum website next summer.

Hope you enjoyed my photos, and that you have the chance to make it to Lenggries for a beautiful summer hike — or snowboarding in the winter.

Posted 8 years, 8 months ago at 1:00 pm.

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Hiking at Lenggries

Lenggries is a fantastic destination near Munich for hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter, and riding the gondola anytime (if you don’t fancy sports). The main touristic peak is called Brauneck (1556m), although there are many other hikes in the area. Let me just say: the scenery is fantastic at Lenggries. Rarely is there such a great mix of panoramas and paragliders, even in the Alps!

What I love about Europe is the amazing things you see by coincidence in just one day. I have to split this day into two posts, because we happened upon so many beautiful sights and awesome events. Paragliders, plane flybys, mountain sunsets, moonrise over the trees, and finally a medieval fire show after dark… how could it get any better! Read on to find out more…

View from the path up Brauneck

View from the path up Brauneck

The gondola takes you to the Panorama-restaurant near the top of Brauneck, although we hiked there. Service was slow, but the food was fantastic and the views were even better. Here you can see our goal in the distance: Latschenkopf, at 1701m.

View toward Latschenkopf from Brauneck

View toward Latschenkopf from Brauneck

Here’s a beautiful panorama of paragliders circling on the thermals. I can’t count how many layers of mountains one can see from the Panorama-restaurant!

Paragliders over the Alps

Paragliders over the Alps

This is one of my favorite fall dishes in Germany: pumpkin cream soup, or Kurbiscremesuppe. They really know how to garnish, too! Lecker… I also recommend Obatzda, a kind of soft cheese you eat with a pretzel.

Kurbiscremesuppe - pumpkin cream soup with tasty pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil!

Kurbiscremesuppe - pumpkin cream soup with tasty pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil!

Just a small hike up from the Panorama-restaurant is the actual peak of Brauneck, where many paragliders launch:

Paraglider takeoff from Brauneck - I walked down the slope a ways to get this shot

Paraglider takeoff from Brauneck - I walked down the slope a ways to get this shot

Here’s a short YouTube video of a paraglider takeoff:

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Leaving Brauneck, we headed toward Latschenkopf, and went on a small side path. (photo with polarizing filter)

We took a short path that involved some scrambling... there were easier ways than this.

We took a short path that involved some scrambling... there were easier ways than this.

After a long ridge hike without so much climb, we reached Latschenkopf. Note, there are also opportunities for Klettersteig (rock climbing) along this ridge. Plus an old Junkers (a German manufactured plane) did a flyby of the ridge.

If I'd only had the tele lens on... haha.  Beautiful view of layered Alps behind the plane!

If I'd only had the tele lens on... haha. Beautiful view of layered Alps behind the plane!

At one point on the way to Latschenkopf, I stopped and took tele photos of all the crosses I could see from where I stood. There were SEVEN. Why this obsession with putting a cross on top of everything? It’s quite opposite from the US. Just watched a funny clip on The Colbert Report about a lawsuit in the States regarding a cross that was erected in a National Park as a war memorial. Well, you won’t have that kind of BS lawsuit over here in Deutschland.  Here’s a (rare) self-portrait:

Cross at Latschenkopf - the Germans like to put a cross at the top of everything.

Cross at Latschenkopf - the Germans like to put a cross at the top of everything.

Now, on the way back we took Panoramaweg. Actually, I do not recommend this if you’ve parked at the gondola, as we did. After reaching the bottom, we had to walk another 4km (2.5mi) along fields and roads (in the dark) to get back to the car. I don’t know the total distance, as unfortunately the maps all list walk times in hours instead of distance in km/mi. BUT I suspect it was about 15-20km total for the day. Up Brauneck, across to Latschenkopf, down long and winding trails on the Panoramaweg, and another few miles back to the car.

We took the long Panoramaweg down, passing many huts along the way.

We took the long Panoramaweg down, passing many huts along the way.

Now, there’s still more: the nighttime photos! That will be a separate blog post up in a few days. I promise you, the medieval fire-twirling photos (taken with a long exposure on the Nikon D90) will blow you away. If you want to be notified when the post is up, sign up via email or RSS with the orange links on the left sidebar.

Getting there:

  • Plan your hike here at the Brauneck website (summer hiking list, unfortunately just in German)
  • Print a summer hiking map here.  We took 9 to Brauneck, 2 and 3 to Latschenkopf, then 3, 4, and 10 down to the bottom.  You can see the long, flat path from Draxlstuberl back to Alte Mulistation — I don’t recommend this way!  We walked from 11:15am until 7:30pm with maybe 2-3h of breaks for food + photos.
  • Park at the Bergbahn lot where the gondola starts: Google maps link
  • Stop at huts along the way for tasty food and drinks.  I recommend a Radler (half beer, half lemon-lime soda) to keep your hiking strength up without having too much alcohol.  It’s not considered wimpy in Germany: Radler is a nice way to get a taste of beer mid-day without too many ill effects.
  • Eat at the inexpensive and very tasty restaurant, Jägerstüberl (also Jaegerstueberl, hehe).  It’s right near the gondola, you’ll see it from the large parking lot at the base.  I had a huge steak (12-16 oz) for about €14.

Posted 8 years, 8 months ago at 11:34 am.

4 comments

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