Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Life Less Ordinary


I once led a normal life.   Some would call it ordinary.  For a while, it was what I wanted... and then it wasn't.  So I quit my job as an airline pilot, sold the house, sold the sports car, and got out of the ratrace.  This was four years ago.  My life is full and I haven't looked back. 

How can I help make 2012 a year where you can live beyond the ordinary?  First of, don't quit your job unless you have a sound financial plan.  Here are some ideas I've picked up over the years:

Stretch Yourself
You've got to start somewhere.  What are you doing for your next vacation?  Maybe it's time to get a little dirty, sweat a little and challenge yourself.  Maybe set a goal for yourself.  Instead of sitting on a beach in Bali, maybe you can trek in Nepal.  Do something different.  If you're a runner, maybe buy a mountain bike and learn the skills to ride offroad confidently.  Stretch yourself both mentally as well as physically.

Approaching the Summit of Mt. Chola (6168m) in Sichuan, China.
You Got to Pay Your Dues
Every adventurer starts out with smaller challenges, building experience with small mistakes.  Want to climb a big mountain?  First learn the skills: rock-climbing, ice-climbing, snow craft, rope work, etc. Then practice the skills by taking small, weekend trips out into the mountains.  Accumulate experience: find out what works, what doesn't.  Finally, train physically to accomplish your goals.

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Make a Plan, Write it Down
For me, I can only plan it if I can write it down, and clearly see the steps needed to get there.  I have a big whiteboard divided into 12 blocks for the coming 12 months.  I pen in the goal and then pen in the various things I need to do to get there (buying equipment, training, etc), refining it as I go along.  For me, planning for something that's going to take place in, say five years, would not be a plan at all.  It would be a dream.  I need to write it down which solidifies it, makes it real, as if to say, "this is going to happen!".
Kayaking the Pahang River from Source to Sea, Malaysia.
Sponge up the Right Information
Read everything you can about what you want to do.  This is part of preparation.  Libraries and the internet are a wealth of information.  Sometimes, there's conflicting information.  If this is the case, find a guru - someone who's ideas and philosophy resonate with yours, and follow them.  Google them and read everything they have written, email them, if necessary, to find out their latest ideas, or to get some tips.

You are not the same person you were yesterday as the person you can be tomorrow.

Have a great 2012!





Sunday, December 25, 2011

iPhone 4s Camera... Wow!

It's been said that the best camera is the one you have with you (originally from Chase Jarvis) and the iPhone 4s camera brings you one step closer to ever-ready, high-quality image capture. 

These are the specifications for the iPhone 4s camera:
8 Megapixels
30mm approx focal length (it's about the same as the iPhone 4)
F/2.4 fixed aperture
Face detection autofocus
Tap to focus
Tap and hold to lock focus and exposure
LED flash (on, off or Auto)
Electronic image stabilization in both camera and video mode

The iPhone 4s, as an all-in-one device, is a boon to ultra-lightweight travelers like bicycle tourists and I took a risk and brought my iPhone 4s as my only camera on a recent bike trip to Malaysia.  It was the first time I'd put camera and video on my new iPhone to the test.  Needless to say, it was not perfect, and I learned quite a few things.  Here's what I got:

A journey from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh, Malaysia, via the Central Highlands.  4 days, 400km, 17,200' of climbing.  Shot entirely with the iPhone 4s.

Here are some tips from what I learned:
Turn on your camera quickly by double pressing the home button twice (IOS 5).

Don't 'zoom in' by pinching the screen.  The camera uses a digital zoom which degrades the image.  Use your legs to walk closer or crop the image later in post production.

Tap and hold to lock focus and exposure.  If you don't like what you see, reposition the camera slightly to brighten or darken the image and tap and hold again.

If you haven't bought your iPhone 4s yet, get one with lots of memory (32G or 64G).  Video capture eats memory!

The camera lens is vulnerable to flare.  Flare occurs when sunlight hits the lens directly and washes out contrast and detail.  Shade the lens with your hand and be careful not to let you hand get in the picture.

The image stabilizer is only good for stabilizing hand-shake, mostly on static shots (oops!)

When panning, or otherwise moving the camera around in video mode, do it slowly to minimize the jello or rolling shutter effect.

Find a better way to stabilize the camera.  Maybe with the Joby Gorillamobile for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S which also comes with a nice protective bumper.

The iPhone 4s is not going to replace my DSLR.  I have faster, easier and more control over my DSLR than the iPhone 4s' camera.  But for fast and light adventures, the iPhone 4s has proven itself to be a capable camera!