Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Countdown Has Begun!

It might seem like a strange analogy but it seems to fit for me in this situation and that is, that these days I'm acting very much like the middle aged guy's equivalent of an excited bride-to-be, totally caught up in planning a wedding, except in my case it's a trip to Italy I'm planning.

It's getting harder and harder to concentrate on anything else other than ITALY.......we're counting down the days now and there isn't a lot of time left to get all of our ducks in a row. We're slowly getting there though, and some of the things that I've been thinking about over the last few weeks are coming together nicely.

Thinking about the trip, I thought the best (and lightest) way to stay in touch and write blog posts and edit pictures on the fly would of course be a tablet computer with a little keyboard attached and that's what I'm writing this post on.

Google Nexus 7 with Keyboard

But, of course the great tablet that I bought and believe me I did lot's of research, has one small hitch, it does not recognize any external flash drives, memory cards etc. so it's practically useless because you can't upload pictures to it from a camera in the field. I can't believe these silly tablets can have such a silly flaw! What's with that, goofy Google people?

The good news is that the Internet is full of hackers and clever people who can find a work-around for the mistakes and flaws built into technology and with their help I downloaded a Nexus 7 toolbox and a disc mount software program and unlocked the bootloader and "rooted" my Nexus 7.

Now with a cheap little adapter from china and a memory card reader attached I can upload pictures directly from memory cards to my tablet and from there I can edit them and upload them to Facebook or my blog or website, or whatever. Thanks to the manufacturers screw-up I am now a seriously clandestine hacker type and I have voided my warranty, bought a skateboard and am moving into a downtown loft with a bunch of other geeks. But seriously....thank you anonymous developer, programmer types, for helping me get this done, I love you!

Another of my tasks was to figure out what to do about telephones while we're over  there. Do you just wing it and try to pick up a couple of throwaway Italian phones when you get there? Or set it up from this end with the local cell phone companies? Or is there another way to go? That's what I was struggling with over the last few weeks because Rose and I will most likely be doing very different things some of the time and we definitely need a way to keep in touch.

With kids back home, (adult kids) and some rental properties and the possibility of work needing to get a hold of me, this is a really important question that I researched quite a bit. I found the best solution for us seems to be a company called cellular abroad that has all kinds of different options to choose from and we did a little mix and match deal with them.

I went to the bell web-site and got an unlock code for my cell phone and from these other guys I rented a sim card for 28 days that comes with some minutes built in and a local Italian number. For my lovely, technology averse wife I ordered a new (very simple) cell phone, also with some extra time and a local number. That way we can give out our numbers to people who might need them and any calls we make in Italy will be local ones, problem solved, I hope!

Since I will likely be up and out very early, catching sunrises and walking all over the place while Rose is still sawing logs, It's important that we can contact each other. I expect she will spend a fair amount of time sitting at little cafes people watching and reading a book while I am running around trying to capture some of the beauty, culture and architecture of Italy.

Another big question that I have been wrestling with is camera gear of course.
I think I've got it all figured out now. I bought a new backpack camera bag  for traveling that holds all of my gear and fits 2 smaller portable bags inside that I can take out for the days when I don't need all of my gear.

My new jacket and camera bag-backpack

Of  course a photographer wants to have a tripod (but a very light one) and a backup camera and the right lens selection and what about filters? Maybe a graduated neutral density and a circular polarizer are enough? And memory cards! How much is enough storage for a month of serious photography in one of the most photogenic, beautiful countries in the world? Who knows? Ask me when I get back, then I'll have a better idea, but for now, I have around 170 gigabytes spread among all of my various storage devices.

Here is a list of what I'm taking as far as photographic equipment goes.
Sony A77 body with 16-50mm F2.8 lens
Sony 70-300mm G Zoom lens
Sony NEX5n body with 18-55 mm lens
Rokinon 8mm fisheye for NEX
Holga pinhole lens for NEX
Spare battery for A77
Portable-wireless battery charger
Light weight tripod
Carryspeed Pro strap
Cokin graduated neutral density filters
And - ????????

And what about power adapters, they use 220 volt power in Italy with a weird little 2 prong round plug so you need adapters that allow you to plug dual voltage devices in.
Most modern electronic devices have dual voltage capability, but of course Rose wants to bring a hair appliance of some sort so I had to buy a voltage step-down transformer to convert it to 120 volts, no problem.

And have you seen those cool little spinner carry-on suitcases that have 4 little wheels on the bottom? Well I had to have one of those and maybe a small backpack for day trips and in case we buy some souvenirs and outgrow our suitcases (we're just taking  carry-on bags). And of course there are a lot of pick-pockets over there so we need a money belt and the flights are long so we need a good little travel pillow filled with those little bead things and on and on and on it goes!

But our plan is to not eat for the month that we're there so we'll save lot's of money on food. And as long as I've got memory cards and enough money to get into all of the sights, I figure we'll be okay, we'll just survive on the atmosphere and culture of Italy.
And love of course!
(We'll be spending our 30th anniversary in Verona)


  1. Haha, you cracked me up with your skateboard joke, you so funny. Sounds like you guys are pretty prepared, but do spend a ton of money on food -- it will be so worth it! :D

  2. Rose agrees with you on the food part, OK, we'll eat while we're there, but if we run out of money, you'll have to send us some!

  3. Interesting Blog, Pastor Doug. I agree with Kaitlin on skateboard joke! I had visions of you and Rose skating to downtown& NECF bringing lunch bags on Sunday..hehe As for the toilet pass.....mmm..good to be prepared!! Have fun . Look forward to all the pictures, though Google goofed.