At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Category: photography

Pro Packing Tips for your Vacation Tech

Joining this Colgate University reunion torchlight ceremony with hundreds of other alumni after a two-year delay was especially meaningful. Packing my tech for this weekend trip took a bit longer than I expected. If it’s been a while since your last vacation, you might also need a refresher on packing your gear. Here are my top tips…

Going on vacation again with my family after more than two years into this pandemic has been amazing. Our recent New Orleans trip and drive to our college reunion weekend both felt like the good old days.

But my packing powers were a bit rusty. Sure, I brought the right clothes (mostly), but when it came to certain peripheral supports for my tech, I didn’t score 100%.

If you feel you could also benefit from a few reminders, here are my pro packing tips for your tech.

Remember to Take a Small Power Strip
It’s rare to find enough plugs in your room to charge your tech when you’re on vacation. I find it especially helpful to set up a charging station using a small power strip with a short extension cord. (Plus, it’s so easy to pack.)

The mini power strip also keeps all of your charging cables in one place and reduces the chance that you’ll leave anything behind.

Carry a Peak Design Backpack as a Personal Item on your Flight
If you’re planning on flying with your camera and travel tripod, and you want to pack it into a bag that will fit under the plane seat in front of you (as a personal item), you’d better pull out a tape measure and start measuring dimensions. No matter what, it’s going to be tight!

For our New Orleans vacation, I bought a Peak Design V2 30L Everyday Backpack. It just barely squeezed in on board both flights, but it did! (phew)

And then this knapsack was the perfect travel companion on my back as we walked about New Orleans.

Pack a Thermos with Tomorrow Morning’s Coffee
I’m an early riser and always like to have my first cup of coffee as soon as I get up. If you’ve driven somewhere where breakfast doesn’t start for another hour or two, you might be out of luck finding an immediate cup of Joe. But not if you already have your coffee with you!

I brewed a pot of Peet’s Major Dickenson’s coffee right before we drove to our Colgate reunion, poured it into my hi-tech Yeti thermos and then packed it in the car. Early, the next morning, I unscrewed the top of the thermos, lifted it to my face and was delighted to still sense faint warmth. No, my coffee wasn’t at all hot anymore, but it was absolutely fine for this need.

Use your Apple Watch as a Silent Wake-Up Alarm
If you’re thinking of ditching your Apple Watch on your next family trip, don’t!

Whenever my family is sleeping in the same room on vacation, I don’t want to wake everyone up with my early alarm on my iPhone. That’s when I continue to wear my Apple Watch during the overnight hours. Its silent, vibration-only morning alarm is perfect for this purpose. A little haptic action on my wrist is all I need to start my day.

One thing… I normally charge up my Apple Watch at night. So if that doesn’t happen, I have to remember to immediately do it before breakfast.

Bring your Apple TV
If you want your hotel room TV to mirror the streaming options on your home TV, packing your little Apple TV puck just might do the trick. Just connect your Apple TV to the hotel’s Wi-Fi and the TV’s HDMI cable.

I’ve found this kind of MacGyver maneuver works best with less advanced hotel Wi-Fi systems that don’t require signing in with anything more than a password. If you’ve got to first navigate through a hotel web portal to sign in, the Apple TV will get stuck.

Write Down your Streaming Apps’ Passwords
If you don’t end up taking your streaming puck on vacation, you might be surprised to find one already connected to your hotel room TV. (That’s what we found in our New Orleans B&B.) If that’s the case, all you have to do is sign into your streaming accounts. Of course, you’ll need your passwords for that!

And when you’re packing up to leave, don’t forget to sign out of your streaming apps!

Travel Back to the Future
Going on vacation again can be a big step towards returning to the normal patterns of life. And if playing with your tech is part of your vacation fun, then I say bring it and enjoy!

Summer Joy

Driving in the heat can be a slog. But not for a dog in the back seat with the window down. This is the face of delight.

Bliss. Glee. Elation. Call it what you will. Happiness should be a four-season pursuit. But summertime has unique attributes that can make it especially appealing.

As we are enter another cycle of summer months, I thought I’d share a few of my photos that attempt to capture the many aspects of summer joy.

Can You Hear the Song of the Sirens in this Waterfall Video?

If you should come upon a waterfall during a hike and feel drawn to it, you’re not alone. Here’s what happened to me.

My wife, son and I regularly go on hikes in Connecticut with two other families. I’ve found this group weekend activity to be particularly stabilizing during the pandemic. Plus, we really enjoy hiking.

I always take a camera if just to capture a group selfie in the forest. I originally relied on my GoPro with its wide angle lens, but more recently I’ve simply been using my iPhone along with my Apple Watch’s ‘Camera Remote’ app.

This pairing allows me to walk away from my iPhone that I’ve mounted on my little Joby tripod. I can then join the group shot and look at the frame from my wrist. Finally, I remotely snap the photo by simply tapping my Apple Watch (with a 3 second countdown).

Of course, there are any number of other forest photos to capture, ranging from the macro to the panoramic. Nature is always there for you. So if you miss a shot, you’ll get another chance the next time.

The Lure of a Waterfall
That said, there are not that many waterfalls. So if you pass one, you probably should spend some time with it. And yes, that includes framing a few shots or video clips. Not that you’ll need to force yourself to do this. Waterfalls have a magical quality. I find it hard to look away.

  • The movement of the water
  • The power of its flow
  • That mesmerizing sound
    (There must be invisible creatures singing within the water streams.)

Usually, I see people taking shots of the complete vista. But for me, that’s not enough. Waterfalls are sirens. They call to me…

“Come closer… closer. Step on that slippery, wet rock. Stretch your camera next to my mist. Forget the danger.”

And so I do. It’s intoxicating. I want to touch that magic and somehow capture it all with my camera.

But I can’t. Not really.

To do the job right, you need to really take your time. (That can extend beyond the patience of your hiking mates.) And if you’re going to put your gear in harm’s way, you should have some waterproofing to protect against the spray.

My Encounter with the Prydden Brook Falls
Recently, our little hiking pod was back on the Zoar Trail in the Paugussett State Forest in Newtown, Connecticut.

And into the back half of our 7.8 mile hike, we came upon the Prydden Brook Falls.

This waterfall is stunning, especially in the afternoon as the sun highlights all of the droplets dancing in the air. I’ve taken pictures of this enchanted space before, and explored slower shutter speeds to create a silkier water effect.

Editing Together the Songs of the Falls
This time, I needed to get even closer. Everyone else snapped away from afar, and I waited until they got their shots. Then I almost blindly stepped in. I had my little DJI Osmo Pocket camera with me, and I began shooting video clips from different angles.

It was an entirely imperfect exercise. I didn’t have the right ND filter to prevent the brights from blowing out. I could barely see what I was shooting as I stretched in as far as I dared. (I hadn’t entirely lost my mind.)

When I returned home and reviewed the footage, I saw that my twenty-minute shoot (or was it longer?) had yielded some interesting clips, but they were far from perfect. That said, my Osmo Pocket had successfully captured the amazing sounds of that waterfall.

And based on that variable, I decided to edit together the video clips into this short sequence:

It’s hard to properly record the majesty of any waterfall, but happily, I did successfully capture the different songs from this little water beast. And that carried the day for me.

It’s just another example of how audio is often the unsung hero behind any successful video.

The Sirens Still Sing
In hindsight, I should have brought my waterproof GoPro. But happily, I didn’t destroy my DJI Osmo Pocket. Nor did I fall to my doom on the slippery rocks. My family and friends indulged my waterfall encounter, and we eventually continued on our glorious hike.

I’d call that a good day.

Yes, both my camera and I escaped the lure intact. But this waterfall still calls to me. I can still hear its music.

I’ll be back…

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