Archive for September, 2010

Pelicans at Sunrise

Posted by Arlo on Sep 24, 2010 under Photography, Postcard Valet, Travel

Pelicans at Sunrise, Nags Head, NC

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When I stay at Nags Head, I attempt a sleeping schedule that allows for early morning walks along the beach.  I always think I’ll be able to get up before sunrise, but in reality, I’d have a much better chance of staying up all night.  At the end of every vacation, I’m so ridden with self-inflicted guilt that I inevitably drag myself out of bed too early on the last morning and spend my day traveling back home in sleep-deprived stupor.

This year was no exception.

We arrived in Nags Head just in time for my grandfather’s 90th birthday at the end of July, but we had plans to push on with our road trip shortly thereafter.  I stayed on the beach for less than a week and true to form, on the last morning, I woke up before my alarm and noticed the sun was just below the horizon.  I dragged Oksana downstairs with me to watch the spectacle, both of us fully intending to be back asleep within 15 minutes.

Oksana swung gently in the hammock while I stood on the porch and took pictures.  At one point, a lone pelican flew over the sand dune in front of the cottage and I kicked myself for not noticing it before it got into frame.  It would have looked great in silhouette against the sunrise.

I’d snapped about 20 shots by that point and the sun was about to get lost behind a bank of clouds.  I was talking with Oksana about going back to sleep, but I keeping my eye on the line of dunes behind her, hoping I’d spot another pelican before it got to us.  Just before we packed it in, I looked back out at the ocean and saw a huge formation of pelicans skimming the waves far out beyond where I had been searching for them.

I’m pretty sure I got out a “Holy sh…!” before I was able to swing the camera up to my eye.  I had time to take one picture – just one! – while they were centered underneath the sun.  Looking at it now, I realize I couldn’t have spread the pelicans out – six on the left, six on the right – any better if I’d tried.

Canon 5D Mark II
Date: 6:12am, 31 July 2010
Focal Length: 105mm
Shutter: 1/200 second (-1.3 step)
Aperture: F/5.6
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Rotated for level horizon, cropped to third lines, increased saturation to approximate real colors.

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Travel Blog & Video Podcast Questions

Posted by Arlo on Sep 21, 2010 under Postcard Valet, Website

Okay, so I have a question for our readers.  Down below is a quick poll for you to complete, but first, a little background:

When Oksana and I started thinking about a travel podcast, I made some decisions that I hoped would keep me organized.  You may have noticed that all our video episodes begin with “PV” and a number.  Makes it easy to count episodes that way, right?  I set up the podcast on iTunes to only accept videos with a certain tag so that all the extraneous entries, say those tagged with “photography” 0r “writing,” wouldn’t pollute the feed.

Well, recently I posted two videos that were never intended to be included in the Postcard Valet video podcast, but that were still travel related.  One was a repeat episode of PV011 with Russian subtitles, the other was a quick one-off about Hurricane Earl, which I planned to rush through without knocking myself out on things like editing and music.

When it came time to post them online, I really didn’t know how (or whether) to integrate them into our video podcast.  Ultimately, I opted not to, but I wonder what option you, our subscriber, would prefer, if given the choice.  If you wouldn’t mind taking the time to let me know your preference below, I’d really appreciate the help in making the decision.

By the way, there are at least three feeds you can subscribe to right now:

1) The A Midgett Blog feed contains everything I post, travel-related or not. It also works as a podcast.
2) The Postcard Valet feed on iTunes contains only the videos we’re most proud of (there are currently 11 episodes.)
3) There is another (sort of hidden) Postcard Valet feed that includes all travel-related content.


If we were to post "casual" travel-related audio and video clips on Postcard Valet, how would you like them to appear with respect to the existing video podcast?
View Results

I’ll leave this poll up for a week or so, before making a decision.  Thanks for your help.

PV Extra: My Name is Hurricane Earl

Posted by Arlo on Sep 20, 2010 under Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

This is a video about our experiences during Hurricane Earl when it passed by the Outer Banks in early September.  If you watched the sensationalist media in the days leading up, you’d think we were about to be hit by the storm of the century, but it really wasn’t that bad.  The eye stayed safely offshore while we were only buffeted by the outer edge of the spiral as the whole thing moved north.  My grandfather kept an eye on the news and sort of scoffed at the mandatory evacuations for all tourists.  So we stayed put and tried to get some video footage before, during, and after the storm for the sake of comparison.  I hope this’ll give you the impression of what being in a Category 2 hurricane is like.

With this video, I’m trying something new.  I didn’t spend nearly the same amount of time or effort on it that I typically spend on other Postcard Valet episodes.  Take a look at it; let me know what you think.  Tomorrow, I’d like to ask our subscribers some specific questions about it (and similar videos) with respect to our website.

PV011: Сезон Лангустов (Russian version of Lobster Season)

Posted by Arlo on Sep 13, 2010 under Postcard Valet, Travel, Videos

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Поскольку Оксанин брат был своего рода центром истории этого подкаста, и потому что он только говорит по русски, и не понимает не слова  о том, что мы сказали в этом эпизоде, мы решили добавить субтитры к этой версии нашего видео специально для него. Я не нашел (простой способ), как  поместить субтитры в плеере Flash, так что я решил вернутся к Quicktime .MOVs.  Если видео не играет, убедитесь, что бесплатная версия QuickTime Player установленна на вашем компьютере.

(Since Oksana’s brother was sort of the story behind our last podcast, and since, because he only speaks Russian, he can’t understand a word of what we said, we decided to make a subtitled version of the video for him.  I couldn’t figure out (an easy way) to make the subtitles show up in the Flash player, so I went back to straight-up Quicktime .MOVs.  If you can’t play the video, make sure you download the free Quicktime player.)

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Niagara Falls Panorama

Posted by Arlo on Sep 10, 2010 under Photography, Postcard Valet, Travel

Niagara Falls Panorama

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Oksana and I were in North Carolina when we decided to go to Niagara Falls for our honeymoon.  Since we were on our way to Florida at the time, it was a little out of our way, but I was seduced by the lure of an internet add for a 4-star hotel with a “Fallsview” room.

Once we got there, we discovered the Sheraton was about three blocks uphill from the falls themselves.  So, while it was true we had a Fallsview room, we also had a Casinoview room and a ParkingGarageview room… At no extra cost!

We drove into Canada the night before and didn’t see the famous falls until the next morning.  Then we took a wrong turn, walking down the street from our hotel, so we ended up approaching the falls from its headwaters.  I actually enjoyed that, seeing it revealed in bits and pieces, rather than coming up from the downstream side.

We battled our way to the railing, shoulder to shoulder with all the other tourists.  Both of us took some photos and shot some video.  As we continued downstream, I finally found a spot that had a good view in both direction and wasn’t too crowded.  I snapped a quick series of photos, intending to use them as a panorama later.

If I had been more patient, I could have waited for the sun to peek out from behind the clouds.  When the mist was just right, and the sun was just right, rainbows would arc out in front of us.  But if I would have waited for that, I would have also had to wait for one of the Maid of the Mist boats to be perfectly centered under the rainbow and, well, I’d probably still be there now.

This one’ll do me just fine.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Date: 17 August 2010; 1:25pm
Focal Length: 45mm
Shutter: 1/640 second
Aperture: F/8
ISO: 100
Photoshop: 9 images stitched together with Autostitch, increased saturation, cloned in some plants in lower left to allow for long crop, cloned out cement railing on extreme right.

Bioluminescent Display on the Outer Banks

Posted by Arlo on Sep 9, 2010 under Postcard Valet, Travel

Bioluminescent display at Nags Head

At dawn today, a light nor’easter blew in at the beach.  The surf roughed up a bit with whitecaps extending out to sea, but the waves themselves are not that large.  Still, it was a far cry from what the ocean was like just a few hours before, at 3am.

It was almost two o’clock when I when to bed last night, the last person in the cottage to turn out the lights.  Our room faces the ocean and just before going to sleep, I decided to look through the window screen at the ocean.  It had been calm all day, the waves no higher than 12-inches tall, so the whole expanse of water was simply flat and black.  A bright green wave broke on the sand bar.

I blinked.

Was that reflecting off the street lights or could it be…?

I waited through two more waves before waking up Oksana.  “Sorry, honey, but I think we might want to take a walk down to the beach.”

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True Fan Boost 2010

Posted by Arlo on Sep 6, 2010 under Here's an Idea

If you scroll back through my blog, you can read all you want about my thoughts on the True Fan Boost – an idea I had after reading Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans article.  In a nutshell, every Labor Day I make sure to give some of my money to the independent artists, programmers,  and content creators whose work I enjoy and, further, to highlight their work on my blog so that others may find them, too.

Back when I was a starving college student, I thought nothing of pirating the occasional song, but over the last few years, I’ve watched the business model for digital content change.  You can get anything for free now… if you’re willing to set your morals aside.  Music, books, movies, TV shows, comics, software… the list goes on and on.  Content creators coming onto the scene today recognize this reality and build their business models around free content.

For example:

Jonathan Coulton lets you listen to all his music for free.
Penny Arcade and PVP Online post their web comics online for free.
Lee Goldberg is converting his out-of-print books to Kindle versions.
And many, many programmers are offering free versions of their software online.

In each of these cases, the creators have alternative revenue sources.  Coulton sells merchandise at his concerts as well as full albums on iTunes; PA and PVP sell posters and T-shirts online; Goldberg receives royalties direct from Amazon for his eBook sales; and programmers often sell more capable versions of their software or have PayPal “donate” buttons on their web pages.

Here’s the thing:  Their content is free for the taking. We can enjoy their work without paying a cent.  But if that’s the way we want go about it (and we can — unlike out-and-out piracy, there’s no moral obligation to buy anything when artists give it away for free!), without any financial support, our favorite artists will eventually stop making things for us.

If I can help keep them going by spending some money and creating some links, I’m happy to do it. If you’ve been enjoying someone’s “free” content, even if it’s just a blog, Youtube series, or some small piece of shareware, I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

This year, as I embark on a year-long backpacking trip, I won’t have any extra room for material possessions.  Most of the support you see below will necessarily be for digital items.

After the jump, the artists and creators I’m supporting in 2010…

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