Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

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

You are currently browsing the archives for December, 2009.

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 12 years, 9 months ago at 12:47 pm.


George Clooney at the Votivkirche?

This seems like a fitting post for Christmas day.  When I was in Vienna last week, I spotted this massive advertisement on a large cathedral that is being restored.

The "Nespresso" Votivkirche?

What is this… the Votivkirche, sponsored by Nespresso? Is George Clooney inside to serve me a latte while I check out the stained glass windows? (Which are stunning, by the way). Actually, it was d*mn cold (and snowing), so I could have used a nice cappucino…

Stained Glass at the Votivkirche

This is a cool cathedral, which is unusual coming from an agnostic/atheist such as myself who has been bored by hundreds of big churches across Europe. They seem to have some sense of humor here, judging from the big Clooney out front. Maybe they’ve seen this Nespresso ad,

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If I read one of the signs inside the cathedral correctly, it said that they thought the chandeliers were iron, until cleaning them sometime mid-20th century, to find they were beautiful and shiny underneath (bronze?). Imagine that!

The classical view from the back of the cathedral…

Beautiful arches at the Votivkirche

In the entryway, this really got me… and it proves the sense of humor. There are two postcard dispensers, and as you can see, one of ’em is empty…

Postcard dispensers: heaven and hell?

I guess the sinners in hell won’t be sending any postcards!

Getting there:

  • Simple. First, go to Vienna. When you’ve got a free hour, here is the Votivkirche on Google Maps.
  • It’s also right next to the Sigmund-Freud-Park, where there are some interesting pieces of sculpture art.

Posted 12 years, 9 months ago at 12:00 pm.

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Happy Holidays, from…

Vienna, with a gift of chocolate dipped nuts and fruits…
Dipped nuts and fruits at the Vienna Christmas Market

Salzburg, with a carol played on brass…
Brass players at the Salzburg Christmas Market

For the religious among you, there’s this from a Salzburg cathedral…

Cathedral in Salzburg

And finally, Happy Holidays from Munich!
Douglas family tree in Munich

Posted 12 years, 9 months ago at 12:25 pm.


Vienna Christmas Markets

Here’s a quick update from Vienna (Wien, auf Deutsch)!

Go to the Christmas Markets if you’re here before the 24th of December. They are fantastic! Lots of great food, drink, and crafts (for those into that kind of thing). Here’s the view of the Rathaus (city hall) from the city’s main Weihnachtsmarkt / Christkindlmarkt, although there are many others as well.
Vienna Rathaus - Christmas Time

The Natural History Museum by Maria-Theresienplatz (where there is also a Christmas Market) is very cool. Though I warn you, it’s huge. If you follow the normal path you’ll pass halls full of minerals, meteorites, exhibits about the planet, dinosaurs, then up to Level 2 for… (I only had 10min left for this part after spending 2+h on Level 1) microorganisms, insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals. There is a stuffed version of EVERY (former) LIVING THING in this museum. Vegetarians and taxidermy-haters, this is not for you. Finally, at the moment there’s a cool Darwin exhibit (very scientific, and not very creationist), and a small vivarium with fish and a few lizards.

Here’s my pick from Natural History (I only took a dozen photos). Jurassic Park will start its first location in Vienna, with the city’s collection of amber-ized bugs:
Spider in amber at the Natural History Museum in Vienna
Seriously, I think in the mid-1800’s they just got bored and decided to collect one of everything known to man. Rocks, fossils, taxidermied this and that… unbelievable how big this place is.

Lastly, if you need a REAL deep cleaning, better call ASS. Their website URL speaks for itself… doesn’t it? No, it’s not what you think. It stands for Anlagen Service System. This really is a mobile service for (I think) pressure washing and building cleaning.
ASS - Anlagen Service System

Restaurant pick: Asahi Restaurant (Japanese), Burggasse 18, 1070 Wien. 01/522 71 40. 48a St. Ulrichsplatz or U3 Volkstheater. Tasty sushi, and among the cheapest sushi I’ve found in Europe. Octopus salad for 5 euro was a bit chewy but otherwise good, and sushi / sashimi / maki combos for 8-12 euro are a steal.

If you want some tourist advice, I recommend the guidebook brand that my parents brought:

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Posted 12 years, 9 months ago at 11:20 pm.

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Demon’s Bane available on Amazon US

Hi all, I’m a bit slow with new posts this month as my family is visiting from the US. However I’ll have a lot more pictures for new posts afterward: Vienna, Christmas markets all across Germany and Austria, and lots more.

One unexpected (fast) piece of good news is that my book is now available on Amazon US (edit: also now UK and DE)! You can order via the links below to help support a starving writer:

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Enjoy reading! If you find it a worthwhile read, I’d appreciate a review on Amazon. But please be honest; I don’t want any “Ohmigosh this is like the bestest thing I’ve ever read in my enTIRE life” reviews… hehe.

Happy Holidays…!

Posted 12 years, 10 months ago at 11:39 am.


Book cover update & interview

Alright, it’s been a busy few weeks, so I haven’t done much new on the blog.  But here’s what’s coming up (eventually):

  • Nighttime pictures of Berlin, while I was there to meet my new literary agent
  • Part 3 of Zugspitze video, once I activate the video editing software I’ve (now) purchased
  • Snowboarding/skiing video with helmet cam
  • Later in the winter… articles on Christmas Markets around Bavaria; Vienna at Christmas; and much more…

A friend I know through Twitter, Frank, has an interview of me on his hiking blog (including some photos):

Our Hiking Blog: Walk a Mile in Dave Douglas’ Shoes

Today’s picture: the final book cover.  I had to re-do the typesetting of the interior because the margins were too small. I took advantage of this opportunity and removed the “surreal” setting from the painting program for the cover.  So that’s what ate up my last couple of weeks.  I think this does a lot more justice to J. W. Parente’s illustration!

Final cover pic for DEMON'S BANE

Posted 12 years, 10 months ago at 12:12 am.


Weekend in Singapore

During a long business trip, I was able to escape to Singapore for the weekend.  On the way there in the car with a colleague we saw some crazy stuff, like mopeds driving on the Malaysian highways at night with no lights (cars whizzing by with a differential of 100 km/h… nice!).  Luckily they drove in the shoulder to avoid guaranteed instant death.

The only hotel my company allowed in Singapore was the Swissotel Stamford.  Not bad, as it’s the tallest hotel in South Asia and has a great view!  Hotel guests can to go the top floors for free, while tourists have to pay a bit.  The view at night was amazing, although with my mini Canon SD1000 I couldn’t get the greatest night shots.

View from Swissotel The Stamford

View from Swissotel The Stamford

This shot wins the prize as “most vertical viewing angle onto a cathedral”

View of St. Andrew's Cathedral from Swissotel The Stamford

View of St. Andrew's Cathedral from Swissotel The Stamford

From a balcony near my hotel room, here is a view of the Esplanade theaters, also known as “The Durian” to locals.  The spiky exterior looks a lot like this legendary fruit, which smells like rotting flesh, and tastes… well… let’s just say “interesting.”

"The Durian" concert hall

"The Durian" concert hall

The Botanic Garden is a fun attraction to visit.  Just be sure to bring your suntan lotion as you’ll be out in the heat for quite a while.  I loved the orchid exhibit; Singapore is well-known for orchids, and with good reason!  Here’s an artistic shot: you can see a bit of wildlife along with the orchid.

Orchids in the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Orchids in the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Sentosa Island has a lot of tourist attractions, though I mainly went for the view (just some hours before departing).  I arrived at Sentosa Island via cable car (you also have fantastic views from the car!); it departs from the HarbourFront Centre.

View of Singapore from Sentosa Island

View of Singapore from Sentosa Island

Sentosa island also has a replica of the original Merlion, which is the symbol of Singapore.  You can pay to go up to the top and get a nice view, although I didn’t have time for that.

The Merlion on Sentosa Island

The Merlion on Sentosa Island

Surely there’s a lot more to see and do in Singapore, and it’s definitely on my list of places to visit again.  But I hope these great sights will get you started, give you the bug to buy a plane ticket, book a hotel, and fly there.  Have fun!

Getting there:

  • Public transport in Singapore is good, but many people have a car (it’s somewhat of a status symbol).  Taxis are quite cheap compared to the west, and many locals use them regularly.  If you find that you are far from an MRT station or bus, I recommend to just get a taxi rather than walk several kilometers in the sweltering heat.  You’ll get to the next attraction sooner, and not be wiped out for the rest of the day due to overheating.
  • Even if you’re not staying there, go up to the top of Swissotel The Stamford for a great view!
  • Here is a Google maps link to Singapore Botanic Gardens. In my opinion, the orchids are by far the best part.
  • Google maps link to Sentosa Island, showing HarbourFront Centre and the Merlion.  Here’s the Sentosa page about how to get there; take note that the cable car is unfortunately closed for renovations until mid-2010.
  • Eat at No Signboard Seafood at the Esplanade: I sat outside with a colleague and had an excellent Chilli Crab!
  • East Coast Seafood Centre is another place to have great seafood.  I had a Chilli Crab there as well, at Jumbo Seafood.  Sooo tasty!

Posted 12 years, 10 months ago at 12:00 pm.


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