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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Our puppy had her first Halloween costume photo shoot, it didn’t take much work since we’ve been training her since day one to pose for the camera, basically sitting still and looking at the person with the treat. We took her out to the park covered in fall leaves and let her run around until she calmed down, which allowed her to sit more patiently while we tortured her with the outfits from PetSmart. The portraits were shot with a telephoto lens on the Olympus mirrorless body. Having a smaller body with pop-out LCD really helps with the low angles without having to get down and dirty on the ground. The fun part was the Photoshopping, even though selecting the hair was a challenge. We hope you enjoy our little Chai Latte’s dress up!
The biggest moment of our trip to Japan was to eat at the three-star Michelin restaurant Jiro. Thanks to Gregg, we got lucky and got a last minute reservation for four. While it wasn’t Jiro himself serving us, it was his eldest son, the next best thing. Just like the documentary, he serves us one at a time with great care, quality, and attention to detail. It was both amusing and awkward to watch the chef scold and even kick his apprentices if they made any mistakes. It was a great experience not only for the sushi, but the hospitality of the chef towards us as international guests.
Over the past few months we’ve been doing photo shoots for Hardly Dangerous, a couture Pin Up designer out in LA. She sends us beautiful dresses, and Olya models in them! You will also spot some of her outfits in our travel blogs. Our latest session included our Shih Tzu, Chai Latte. She’s a pretty good model even as a puppy, as long as snack are involved!
After buying tickets for the first time to Comic-Con New York 2015, I’ve been thinking about what cosplay would be best for Olya. While watching the movie Minions, it was obvious that Scarlet Overkill, the glamorous villain with a simple red dress, black choker and gloves, hosiery and stilettos, would be perfect for a beautiful girl like her. Scarlet’s pinup look she wore to Villain-Con would also be perfect for Comic-Con.
The dress was designed by Hardley Dangerous on Etsy. The rest of the accessories were ordered on Amazon. Scarlet tries to take over London in the movie, so it is only natural her next target would be the great New York City. We imagine where Scarlet would visit on her trip to the Big Apple, from the iconic Flat Iron building to the Empire State Building, and finally Times Square. Every villain needs to take a food break, so in comes Shake Shack. By the end of the tiring day of taking over the city, Scarlet sips on a Starbucks before taking her cute little red ride back to read her favorite Minion a bed time story.
The photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M1, with Canon Speedlites in a Westcott Apollo softbox with Pocket Wizard triggers. A lot of post processing done to make sure our villainous Scarlet is the center of attention. Bonus behind the scene shot at the end!
To see a before and after, click here.
This weekend was my second annual New York Air Show event. While I only had my Canon 70-200mm to capture planes far up in the sky, the 21 megapixel sensor from the Canon 5D Mark III allowed some safe cropping buffer. My favorite part of the show was the F-22 Raptor, showing off the most advanced flight maneuver capabilities in the world. The thrust vector engine allowed impressive low speed turns that would otherwise stall any other jet. I’m pretty sure it could out maneuver a lot of stunt planes too. The most exciting part was hearing just how loud the engines were, which also translates to how much power 70,000 pounds of thrust feels like from the ground. Fighter jets have always been awe inspiring to me, and will never get old even as an adult. Maybe next year I will try low shutter speeds with tracking, and rent a super telephoto lens!
One of the best days this summer was going on a top-down spirited drive on windy mountain roads in perfect weather with your buddies, enjoying multiple scenic and food stops along the way. Imagine your own Top Gear challenge not without the close calls with police that usually comes with a car chase as you can see in the video screenshot below. The photos taken are one of my favorites with just the right lighting, ND filters on an Olympus OMD E-M1 camera at low shutter speeds and a steady hand.
Our destination was Perkins Memorial Observatory in Bear Mountain, followed by a hearty brunch at Billy Joe’s Ribworks. Our mid-day dessert for some extra driving boost was amazing pie from my favorite place, Pie Lady & Son. That was only our first half of the day, as we later carpooled to Brooklyn for the evening to enjoy the amazing weather.
Nothing puts a smile on my face like the freedom of being on the road with good music, good company, and speed! Like I always said, who else can buy bliss at $2.22 per gallon?
It was a beautiful Saturday morning driving in various formations with Greg in a Ferrari 458 with my BMW Z4 M Roadster as the chase camera car. Maintained speed, a steady hand, and low shutter speed makes for some great car photography that helps make the car pop, but a little extra filter and editing makes it polished. I just wish we could close down the entire highway for my own photo projects.
If princes are frogs, then all princesses are bunnies. If you are ever lucky enough to catch one, don’t let it go and make sure you give it a kiss before it has a chance to run away, it might just turn into a princess.
All photos taken with Olympus OMD EM1
The unusual east coast weather this summer has caused some amazing skies lately. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos with my Olympus OMD E-M1 with ND filters, and did some post processing through Lightroom 5, then Photoshop CS6. Shooting in RAW helped enhance the shadow details from the car, and highlight details from the sky. It’s always safer to shoot a slightly darker exposure since you can always retrieve more shadow detail than you can from blown highlights.
It’s normal to get all kinds of ambient color reflections from the environment onto the car, so I desaturated the car and pavement to a neutral gray (don’t forget to keep the turn signal colors intact), but left the windows slightly tinted from the sky. The final steps included sharpening, more Shadow/Highlights to bring out some more details, and final highlight dodging of the car to make it pop.
I recently took a strictly vacation only trip to my timeshare in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. No weddings, no clients, just Olya and I. Being on vacation is a very different experience compared to shooting on location no matter what most people might think. There is significantly less stress, no itinerary, and no post production work deadline. The only thing missing is the fact that the travel is paid for.
I’ve been very tempted to get a Micro Four Thirds camera for travel and day to day life photos. I like the idea of compact bodies with prime lens options, although not a big fan of how the equipment costs almost as much as DSLRs. I borrowed a friend’s Olympus OM-D E-M1, with a 12-40mm f/2.8, and a few primes. This body is on the bigger side of M4/3 bodies, but it allows it to be packed with dials and buttons easily accessible, along with a sturdy grip and flip screen. Coming from DSLRs and a 6 year old Canon S90, I was very impressed by the focusing speed and sharpness of the images. The entire kit of body and 4 lens fit in a small pouch that I can easily take anywhere, much of an improvement from my Lowepro backpacks.
Most of us love the 3D pop effect of a shallow depth of field photo. It’s practically impossible to get these effects with a phone camera, so it’s crucial to use a DSLR or a higher end compact camera to achieve these effects. Even with a prime lens at the widest for the best bokeh, it means you may not get the entire subject from front to back in focus either. Focus stacking technique lets you keep the beautiful bokeh background while having full control of what objects to keep in focus.