Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

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

Climbing Zugspitze: Germany’s highest mountain (Part 3)

In case you didn’t see Part 1 and Part 2, that’s because they were published quite a while ago. I’ve been busy with snowboarding, and decided that this final post & video about a summer hike would anyway fit better once spring arrived.

After crossing the Höllentalferner glacier, we continued climbing up the wall for a long time.

Dave and Bunky climbing Zugspitze

As we neared the top this beautiful view greeted us:

Nearing the top of Zugspitze

Here’s the Eibsee, which we could also see briefly from the train on the way down.

View of Eibsee from the climb up Zugspitze

Now, for the final video. High-def views over the Höllental and everything beyond!

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Watch “Climbing Zugspitze: Part 3” in HD on YouTube. A big thanks to Danny Galixy for letting me use some of his fantastic instrumental music for these three videos!

We made one slight error, in that we planned to hike back down. But the ascent went slower than expected with our acrophobic friend, so we took the train down instead. That would have been no problem, except that we’d left some sleeping bags and shoes at the hut, planning to pick them up on the way down.

So… after arriving back to the car in Hammersbach, Scott and I did a lightning-fast hike up the bottom section of the mountain. This time we chose to go via the Höllentalklamm, a gorge with a river, instead of the longer (but fee-free) Stangensteig. When I say lightning-fast, I mean the signpost said 2 1/2 hours, and we did it in 1:15. Our Smartwool shirts were soaked with sweat!

In the end I’m glad we did this bottom section twice, because the Höllentalklamm was gorgeous! You walk up narrow staircases cut into the rock, with splashing waterfalls and scenic views everywhere. I’d recommend if you are hiking up and down, to go up Höllentalklamm and down Stangensteig to take in both scenic routes.


For the full details about the hike, where to stay, where to rent gear, and all that – check out Part 1 of this series. The end of that post has all the hard facts listed in English for your Babelfish-free understanding. Part 2 of the Zugspitze series is all about the via ferrata sections (where you’re clipped to the steel cables on the cliffside) and the glacier.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and seeing what Zugspitze is like. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer about the hike or the mountain! I’m happy to help fellow English speakers figure this baby out, because almost all the information out there is in German (grin).

Posted 12 years, 2 months ago at 6:34 pm.


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.



  • 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


  • 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 12 years, 4 months ago at 11:00 am.


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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Watch the video in HD on YouTube.

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 12 years, 5 months ago at 6:24 pm.


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, 6 months ago at 12:47 pm.


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 12 years, 7 months ago at 9:51 am.


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 12 years, 7 months ago at 9:17 pm.


Snowboarding Helmetcam

The helmet camera has been upgraded with insulating Neoprene and a stereo Rode Videomic! The microphone has a “dead kitten” windscreen (no, I’m not making that up) which will hopefully cut out most of the wind noise and give me usable sound while on the slopes.

Yes, I look like a total idiot wearing this thing. It looks like I have a Don King bobble-head stuck on top of the helmet, pointy gray hair aimed forward.

I'm not sure I ever looked more silly.  Though hopefully no friends read this and feel the need to comment.

I'm not sure I ever looked more silly. Though hopefully no friends read this and feel the need to comment.

I have to say: Thanks to Mareike for the old wetsuit hoods that I sliced up to get this Neoprene! As she advised, Pattex Classic contact adhesive does an excellent job of bonding Neoprene. I also used it to glue the Velcro to the Neoprene (as the Velcro’s built-in adhesive tape wasn’t strong enough).

Front view of helmet camera setup

Front view of helmet camera setup

I mounted the Videomic (which has a standard flash accessory mount) by chopping up the top of an old camera, which I bought for €2 at Sauter camera shop in Munich.  I screwed the flash shoe of the old camera to the helmet, and used Loctite to make sure the screws stay tight.  To read more about the camera mounting bracket, please see my previous helmet camera post.

Angled view of helmet camera setup

Angled view of helmet camera setup

Now I have to see how the Canon HF200 battery does at low temperatures. Fortunately I did leave room inside the Neoprene sleeve for a hand warmer pack… and I have some! Thanks, Mom… although I doubt this was the use you intended when you gave them to me, hehe.

If all goes well I’ll have a chance to test this at the Hintertuxer Gletscher ski area this weekend. That is, if the snow stops falling for long enough. Stay tuned!

Posted 12 years, 8 months ago at 7:09 pm.


Helmetcam Video: 140mph in a BMW M-Z3 Roadster

Here’s the latest test of the Canon HF200 helmet camera! We got almost to the M-Z3’s (electronically limited) top speed before reaching a slowdown area for a construction zone.

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Here’s a link to watch the video in HD on YouTube.

By the way, for those who don’t know what “The Autobahn” is… it’s not a special, fancy racetrack in Germany. All highways here are Autobahns, and there are many sections with no speed limit. This video segment is completely legal! Yeah… come visit Germany and rent a car. Mu-hahaha!

The video was produced with Pinnacle Studio 12 (trial version), the only video editor I have yet to crash. I just might have to buy Pinnacle. Music: “Traffic Song” by Electric Bacon.

Posted 12 years, 8 months ago at 12:01 pm.


Helmetcam Video: First Test

I made time to test out the Canon Vixia HF200 helmet camera sooner than expected, after a few requests from friends.  Here’s a sample video of me biking in Munich, sped up to 2.0x.  One drawback of not having a ring sight: I was looking down some of the time, so there’s a lot more of the road than the surroundings.  Sorry ’bout that, maybe on the next vid!

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If you go directly to YouTube (my user name one51s, or here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtUW_IK7hSY) you can watch it in full HD!

Subscribe with the orange RSS/Email links in the left sidebar to see future (and better) helmetcam videos as I improve my technique!

Production notes:
The video was produced with CyberLink PowerDirector 8 (trial version), wherein I found some bugs. It likes to crash on rendering: especially with transitions. Hence this video has no transitions :-/ Image stabilization and audio noise reduction work pretty well, though! Between the camera and the software, there’s relatively low image shakiness in this video compared to the original.

BTW, PowerDirector 8 is the only cheap (read “consumer”) software I’ve found with subtitle capability. There’s one subtitle in the video to test it out, hehe. Now let’s see if they fix the transition bugs by the time I might want to buy it.

If you’re interested to buy the Canon Vixia HF200, please use the link below and support a freelance author (hehe). Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the HF200. It’s an upgrade of the old HF100 and brother to the HF20 (which has built-in flash memory at a steep add-on price). Avoid Hard Disk based recorders for sports, where shocks may stop the disk drive.

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Posted 12 years, 9 months ago at 8:57 pm.


Canon Helmet Video Camera

Recently I had the idea to make some snowboarding videos, which will catapult me into the realm of the super-rich when they sell like hotcakes all over the globe. I am so sure of success that I bought an HD digital video camera to make into a helmet cam. The Canon Vixia HF200 camcorder uses SD memory cards and will capture High-Def video in 1920x1080i (60i or 30p!).  And it has mechanical (optical) image stabilization!

Now, the challenge of sports video is to hold the camera while moving. You need your whole body for most sports, so the logical way is to mount the camera on a random body part that doesn’t move so much. (Hehe… I’m imagining a foot-mounted cam for running. That footage would make just about anyone hurl). Below is the bracket I made to mount the camera on a helmet that should also keep my head warm on the slopes:

Here's the bracket on my Nvertigo-X skydive hemet.

Here's the bracket on my Nvertigo-X skydive hemet.

I used three T-nuts to secure the bracket (made of aluminum L-channel) to the helmet. The screw sticking up is going into the position-lock hole on the bottom of the camera. The cutout in the back is for the battery release switch. Don’t forget Loctite so those screws can’t vibrate out!

I used three T-nuts to secure the bracket.  And Loctite!

I used three T-nuts to secure the bracket. And Loctite!

Next I covered most of the exposed aluminum with gaffer’s tape, the best tape ever made. It’s like duct tape on crack. It unsticks easily, can be re-used, tears perfectly straight (and effortlessly)… if you never used it, I recommend to order some from B&H Photo or any camera place. Finally, I put a piece of velcro around the camera (through its hand-strap) as a safety in case the mounting screw were to come undone.

Here you can see the Canon Vixia mounted on the helmet.

Here you can see the Canon Vixia mounted on the helmet.

Sure, you could argue that the chin cup makes you look silly when wearing a helmet like this (as someone pointed out to me). But you need strong support to hold the camera on the side (or top) of your head, and a chin cup is the best way. One note: this setup wouldn’t be ideal for skydiving unless you add a bracket to protect the back of the camera from riser strike. The start/stop record button (right on the back, sticking out) would probably get smacked by a riser on almost every opening.

Front view of the final product.

Front view of the final product.

If you want to see video taken with the Canon Vixia HF200 helmet-cam after I’ve put it to the test, just subscribe using the orange RSS or E-mail links on the left sidebar! First use may be on the side of a cliff at the Zugspitze (Germany’s highest mountain), weather permitting.

Video tips:

  • PC — So far I’ve found that you need a very fast PC to edit 1920×1080 video. I have a AMD Phenom II X3 (the three-core system — for my ex-Qimonda friends, I guess they’re “leftovers” where one core of a quad-core chip didn’t pass the testing!). Editing some short videos it works OK, e.g. 3 minutes of video takes ~10 minutes to render.
  • Progressive scan — Use the camera’s progressive feature to avoid most interlacing issues. Computers and many new flat TV’s display in progressive, and if the software doesn’t deinterlace properly you get weird line artifacts with fast motion. In PF30 mode, the camera captures the frame all at once, then displays the 2 parts of the image (“even” and “odd” lines) in successive frames of the 60i (interlaced) stream. This is a way to use 60i hardware to record a 30p progressive image.
  • Cold weather — When using this in the cold, the battery is going to die FAST. I’m going to make a thick neoprene shell to wrap around it, and will use handwarmer packs to keep the camera and battery warm (so the recording time will be longer and less error-prone).
  • Wide Angle Lens — For most sports where you use a POV (Point Of View) camera, you’ll want a wider angle than what the stock lens provides. This camera accepts 37mm lenses, and I have a wide angle Kenko lens for it (the black attachment on the front). I have a fisheye lens too, but that’s a bit much for most applications.
  • Screen corners — The camcorder screen doesn’t show 100% of the image, so you can’t see the very edges. This is a problem with a wide or fisheye lenses at widest zoom. I never realized on the cam that I could see the UV filter edge in the corners when using my standard wide lens! Filter now removed. However, I saw that in the camera’s media folder, the thumbnail of the video does display the full size including corners, if you need to check this in the field.
  • Shutter speed — High shutter speed definitely gives an appearance of jerkiness, I believe because there is no motion blur within the frame. A bit of motion blur seems to help the eye interpret the scene as moving! So I will have to experiment with this in snowboarding or Ultimate Frisbee, using 1/500s for some shots and lower shutter speeds for others. Very slow shutter speed (like 1/30s) is too blurred, though.
  • Camera motion — Don’t move the camera too fast. The background just doesn’t look good when the whole scene is moving fast! It might be OK only if (e.g.) a snowboarder was very close to the camera, and you move with him, thereby making him not only the focus but the largest screen area as well. I will experiment this winter!

If you’re interested to buy the Canon Vixia HF200, please use the link below and support a freelance author (hehe).  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the HF200. It’s an upgrade of the old HF100 and brother to the HF20 (which has built-in flash memory at a steep add-on price). Avoid Hard Disk based recorders for sports, where shocks may stop the disk drive.

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


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