Greece South to Santorini

After the first half of our Greece trip going north, we headed south towards our next destination, Santorini! On our way down, we stopped by The Rhion Fortress with a great view of the Rion-Antirion Bridge, and thanks to Google, we found a little restaurant along the way called Fast Food Pitta Bomb. The drive there was slightly suspicious as the mini island town looked a little run down and empty. We have to remember it was low season so it didn’t feel like a popular destination, but the ratings were good so we gave it a go. At roughly $2 per gyro, it was one of the best we’ve had so far! Olya said she could’ve eaten two. With our tummies happy, we were ready to get back to Athens.

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Greece North to Metsovo

Our trip to Greece was made possible by my wife finding a great deal through¬†The Points Guy. She purchased the tickets last year for our March trip, which is low season for Greece. We planned to stay on the mainland for most of the time, and a few nights on Santorini island. My initial hesitation came from not being too excited about Greek food or knowing what the sights would be like – I’m not much for archeology and manmade sights. I was excited, however, about flying my DJI Mavic Pro outside of the country for the first time after a few months of practice.

We did our research for flights to Santorini from Athens, and decided to purchase through Ryanair. They are one of the most popular budget commuter airlines in Europe, and everything goes smoothly as long as you do your due diligence reading the restrictions – or prepare to pay hefty fees. We learned the hard way with our first budget airline experience with WOW Air going to Iceland. Make sure your personal or carry-on meets the exact size requirements to the millimeter, and it’s worth paying extra for the priority boarding and carry-on bag. Boarding passes must also be printed out on your own – they charge extra for e-tickets issued on your mobile!

Our experience in Greece was not what we had expected, although we did not have much to expect at all. The first item on the itinerary on any trip is to pick up our rental car, a BMW 1 series diesel. Efficient and comfortable little guy with solid driving dynamics compared to the cheap econoboxes we usually get. We reserved this car for 4 days at a whopping $83 USD. That was the first clue that this trip could end up pretty inexpensive! Except for the hotels in Santorini that were pre-booked, we would book all of our accomodations in Greece last minute so we could drive and explore wherever my little drone would take us.

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13 Days in Taiwan with GoPro

This is a shorter version of our 13 day foodie trip in Taiwan. Filmed with a GoPro Hero4 Black on Zhiyun Smooth Q gimbal. Please enjoy in full 2K (1440p) in the settings!

Taiwan: Hsinchu & Taichung

Part two of our Taiwan trip visits Hsinchu and Taichung. Hsinchu is my birthplace and where my grandma and relatives still live, so we visited them during our stay, not to mention they also know where some of the best places to eat are. Almost every morning we would go to my grandma’s favorite breakfast hole-in-the-wall where they start preparing food at 4am for lines of customers during breakfast. They are famous for the typical Taiwanese breakfast of soy milk, fried dough sticks, egg pancake, turnip cake and vegetable buns. All of them were absolutely delicious and perhaps some of the best in Taiwan.

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Taiwan: Taipei

This is the first of a two part blog post on our trip to Taiwan in January of 2018. We decided last minute to purchase flights because the tickets were under $500 per person round trip! Unlike our previous Taiwan adventure, we decided to rely on public transportation and not rent a car like we usually do. Using public transportation required staying within the city, and we really enjoyed using the High Speed Rail, Metro and U-Bike rentals. Instead of sightseeing on this trip, it would be centered around food exploration.

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West Coast 2017

Welcome to our third trip to the West Coast together! We “planned” a trip in early December of 2017 to photograph Yoom and Jeff’s beautiful wedding in San Jose. We usually extend our stay in the West Coast because we really enjoy traveling, new sights and new food. I quote the word planned because we decided to try something different this time around. While I usually plan a detailed spreadsheet for our trips, we decided this time around to rent a campervan and just see where the road takes us day to day. Always having somewhere to sleep allowed us maximum freedom in exploring outside the city area.

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The Story of the Lost Mavic

This is a story of how I could’ve prevented this “adventure” of ours if I had just followed the warnings and RTFM.

If any of you really knew me, you would know that I am a late adopter of technology for many reasons. I prefer to wait for the prices to go down on the novelty of the item and the competition driving the prices down. I also like to wait until it’s been tried and tested so the kinks have been worked out or there are enough firmware updates to solve any major issues. I’ve always been curious with drones, but not being a professional videographer did not justify an expensive toy for me where I couldn’t make the money back. It was with the encouragement of my wife to make more recreational videos that I decided rent the DJI Mavic Pro from Unique Photo for a weekend at the Poconos. After a successful and very fun first weekend with the drone, I decided to jump the gun and make the purchase. To feel more comfortable about flying an expensive wonder of technology around in the real world, I decided to spend hours flying simulations to get acquainted with the controls before I ever touched my first drone controller.

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Starfleet Doggo

It’s that time of year again when I dress up my Chai Latte in a ridiculous outfit that she just loves. This year instead of buying a pre-made outfit, I’ve decided to learn to hand sew a costume just for her. I learned the basic backstitch for the overall jumpsuit, and fabric glue for the accents.

This year, Chai Latte is a Starfleet Doggo on the USS Shenzhou. Since Chai is a Shih Tzu, it would only be fitting that she accompanies a Chinese ship and captain. Her outfit is my interpretation of what an official attire for a doggo officer would look like, following accurate cues from the show’s outfit. Unfortunately the Shenzhou was destroyed in the very first episode, it turns out NCO Chai Latte escaped on a pod and will continue to serve on the Discovery. I can’t wait for the next costume and improved sewing skills!

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How To Format Your Photo Backup Drive

As my NAS (network attached storage) drives are getting full from RAW photos, I need to offload the files onto multiple external drives for safe storage. I purchased a few Seagate Expansion drives in 2TB and 4TB variants for different backups, making two copies each for redundancy. The first decision when getting the new drives was how to format them. I decided to use exFAT table for maximum compatibility for read and write on Windows and Mac systems. The default NTFS table is read-only for Macs. The second decision was harder, what file allocation unit size? Most searches on Google just recommended the default size, which would be 4096kb on the 4TB drive. That was a bad idea and a waste of valuable disk space. I was able to recover a lot more with a simple calculation.

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Test Driving the BMW i8

While not the fastest car on paper, the BMW i8 is one of the most futuristic production cars in my opinion. Perhaps it’s more of a proof of concept in production, and is only the first generation from BMW. I didn’t think I would get a chance to actually test drive one anytime soon, but luckily we found one to play with for an hour so we made a run to Starbucks. Olya and I took turns on each leg of the trip, she being the fearless one pushed it harder while I did more inspection on the build of the electric hybrid sports car.

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Partial Solar Eclipse

When we found out that the Solar Eclipse was going to be partially visible in NJ/NY area, I thought it would be a great excuse to have a picnic and check out the first eclipse in my life! Even a partial one would be good enough for starters. I brought three tripods, four camera bodies and one telescope. A bit overkill but better prepared than not. I decided not to use the telescope for my DSLR at the fear that my stacked ND filters weren’t strong enough to prevent my sensor from burning up. I opted to just use my handheld Canon 70-200mm L at f16 with three stacked ND filters. It was definitely cool to see this for the first time in person. We might go chase the next total eclipse the next time around!

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Our Battlestation

The most exciting home project for me is dedicating a room for our home office and our battlestation. My computer used to occupy my dining space at the old apartment. Now all our gear and gadgets can reside in a neat little home. While it’s still a work in progress, it’s an efficient and incredibly enjoyable space that we can spend all day in. All of the furniture is IKEA, half of it being installed per instructions, and the other half were hacks thanks to my wife’s incredible talent for sniffing out good deals.

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Ukraine Round Two

We went to Ukraine for the second time to celebrate the 80th birthday of my grandfather-in-law, or “dido” (dee-doh) in Ukraine. I was even more excited this time because of my high anticipation for cheap delicious food, and experiencing the Summer weather instead of Winter. It was a very special trip, being Olya’s husband, I am also family now. We had a full house of everyone from the States visiting and staying together, there was never a dull moment.

This time we would arrive in the capital Kiev, over 8 hours away from Olya’s home village. The highway was fast and easy, perfectly paved surfaces that looked like any other European highway with English translation of city names. However once you got closer to the village, the local roads start looking like swiss cheese, pot hole filled craters that slow downed the driving to a crawl. Once we got to settle in the house, it was family visits, enjoying food from family or eating out for dirt cheap, shopping, and oh… rescuing a puppy too.

Don’t you wish your home far away from home is just a drive away behind an imaginary border that you can visit whenever you miss it? I would replace New York State with Taiwan, and Pennsylvania with Ukraine.

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France Honeymoon

Is there a rule where one shouldn’t share their honeymoon photos? Well what do you expect from two photographers who just got married and both want their own cameras? We planned our trip to France pretty much last minute after our wedding since it was a convenient stop on the way to Ukraine to celebrate Olya’s grandfather’s 80th birthday. We booked one week in France with a car and was excited to drive outside of Paris. Perhaps France is overhyped by those who are already biased to their culture or food, or the perception that it’s the most romantic place to be, I’d have to say it was by far our least favorite country to visit. I will admit that we didn’t know a lick of French, but this is just my opinion coming from an American tourist. We usually prefer the smaller towns and countryside far away from major cities to visit, but surprisingly in Europe, the closer in the city with tourists, the easier it is. Yes, we need English to help us get around. We did our best to enjoy what France had to offer and took photos of things we loved, and even some things we didn’t. In the end, I am happy we can say as a married couple that we went to Paris together. My favorite part of Paris was taking photos of my wife in her wedding dress. Yes, we lugged that thing in a dedicated suitcase.

One important advice when visiting France, they are extremely strict with their eating schedule. If you are not the type to follow such schedule, you may find yourself going hungry as most restaurants close in between meals and you’ll have to find a brasserie for a light meal or snack.

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Mount Washington

One of my favorite annual traditions is to organize a seasonal drive, either Spring or Fall (Summer is too hot for convertibles, and winter does not cater to summer tires). The drives have always been a short 2 hour drive at most, take some photos, grab a meal, and head home. We took a gamble this past Fall with a 6 hour drive to Mount Washington in New Hampshire, along with our puppies! The Mount Washington Auto Road is famous for its beautiful drive up 4,600 feet in elevation. Our group planned for the best foliage time, booked a beautiful cabin from Airbnb, and planned to bring some of our own food for sandwiches, among planning to eat some lobsters. This was the first time our group made a weekend trip together and it was nice to know that we could hang out all weekend and not want to kill each other. The advantage of going on a road trip in our group is the amount of time we cut from our trip with our spirited, maybe competitive driving. Our initial planned day to drive up the mountain was met with ice cold rain and overcast, so the tour was closed. We had one day left and we got really lucky with clear blue skies. As you ascend up the mountain the climate changes into a winter frost, and eventually snow. I had a fear that my summer tires would slide us off the cliff, but we made it to the top to a breathtaking view. This was my favorite group drive ever, I’m not sure how we’re going to top it this year!

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Eureka! Our Second West Coast Trip

Our first trip to California was a long drive from San Francisco down to San Diego. This second time around we decided to go north, with no itinerary, no spreadsheet, just drive. As we learned in previous trips, we like to see where the day takes us, and find a hotel last minute. This time our photos are taken with Canon DSLRs since we brought them for the wedding. I don’t think you’ll notice any difference from the other travel photos taken with a micro four third.

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Iceland

Iceland is one of those destinations that everyone wants to and should go at least once, even if you’ve been to other wintery locations around the world, this one is unique in many ways, from the culture to the livestock, to the gorgeous scenery. We decided to go on a whim with our long time friends James and Frances, who are also¬†talented wedding videographers. Thanks to the internet, we were able to do our research in a short amount of time on places we wanted to see, cheapest car to rent, and best place to stay. I love creating Google Sheets so we can be prepared with some expectations of what we will experience on our trip.

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