We just wrapped up our visit to Lausanne in the French speaking portion of Switzerland. We had a great time getting here via the extremely quaint village of Gruyere (cheese!) where we saw a bizarre museum and had a good lunch. We started our time here in Lausanne with a walking tour last evening and a fondue dinner. Today was a wander through the town, a lovely two-hour boat ride on Lake Geneva, and a guided tour of Chillon Castle (a very cool medieval castle).

I'm not going to be long winded because I'm fairly beat, but I will toss some photos in from the last few days. I'm doing this from my iPad, so they're pretty much as they came straight out of the camera.

Tomorrow: off to Bern and our last night of the tour.

Gruyere, Switzerland, 5/31/16

Outside the Giger Museum. H.R. Giger was a surrealist artist who won an Oscar for his designs for the movie “Alien.” His museum is in the very quaint village of Gruyere and is a very strange place. We're glad we went.

Gruyere, Switzerland, 5/31/16

Lausanne, Switzerland, 6/1/16

Lausanne, Switzerland, 6/1/16

Chillon Castle, Switzerland, 6/1/16

Lausanne, Switzerland, 5/31/16

 

 

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One of the driving reasons for our trip to Italy a few years back was to visit the Cinque Terra. It is such a beautiful place that we wanted to see it, and I wanted to photograph it. We just spent the day in the same type of place in Switzerland: the Berner Oberland, specifically Murren and its immediate surroundings.

The fact the it was raining and overcast this morning didn't slow us down at all. We started the day with a great walk down the mountain a bit to the tiny village of Gimmelwald. The rain stopped and it looked like the sun was trying to peek out, so we hopped a couple of gondolas to the Schilthorn (10,000', give or take). It was mostly in the clouds, but there were some interesting photos to be had. It is also the location where the Bond film “On Her Majesty's Secret Service” (starring that oh-so-famous-Bond George Lazenby and the lovely Diana Rigg) was filmed, so it is a Bond-centric place. Whatever. The people watching was outstanding, however.

Back to Murren for another short walk, then we picked up a large bottle of beer and a small bottle of wine and sat on our balcony and watched the sun light up the face of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley and the paragliders float right across in front of us. And below us. Awesome.

Another great day in Switzerland.

(BTW: yesterday on the way here, the bus was loaded onto a train — with us on it — that took it through a mountain. Saved us 1.5 hours on the road and was a very odd experience.)

Murren, Switzerland, 5/30/16

The view from our balcony. Jeez.

Murren, Switzerland, 5/30/16

After another rough day.

Murren, Switzerland, 5/30/16

Again, the view from our balcony.

Murren, Switzerland, 5/30/16

Murren, Switzerland, 5/30/16

Murren, Switzerland, 5/30/16

Murren, Switzerland, 5/30/16

Somewhere in Switzerland, 5/29/16

Riding the rails. In a 40' bus.

 

So, only enough time for another quick post. Yesterday we drove from Engelberg to Lugano with a few stops on the way, one of them a dam where they filmed scenes for a Bond movie and — wait for it Karen — “The Amazing Race.” We headed up a twisting turning road (in a 40' bus) to a tiny Swiss village looking at more spectacular scenery the whole way. Wow. We then drove on to Lugano for dinner and a lakeside stroll.

Today we took a boat ride to Gandria, a tiny village perched precariously on a hill alongside the lake. We wandered the very narrow streets and alleys for a while, always up or down, never level, and then had a delicious lunch (with adult beverages, of course) perched over the lake. It was pretty unbelievable.

The sights we have seen on this trip keep getting better and better. Tomorrow we get up early and head back to the Alps, this time into the Berner Oberland to a tiny village, only reached by gondola, called Murren. Stay tuned, should be some interesting images.

Lugano, Switzerland, 5/27/16

This is the view from our room in Lugano.

Sonogno, Switzerland, 5/27/16

Sonogno, Switzerland, 5/27/16

Sonogno, Switzerland, 5/27/16

Above Locarno, Switzerland, 5/27/16

Above Locarno, Switzerland, 5/27/16

Alas, the bungee jumping off the dam was closed.

Gandria, Switzerland, 5/28/16

Gandria, Switzerland, 5/28/16

Another great lunch.

 

I'm too tired to do much more than quickly post some photos from our great day here in Engelberg. We started the day with a trip up Mt. Titlis (10,000') where we slipped and slided through the snow, dodging tourists, taking photos, and generally being awed by the views that are one of the reasons we came this way. It really was spectacular. After a sunny lunch partway down the mountain, we crossed the valley and took a hike that, to us flat landers, was a tiny bit challenging. Dinner and drinks, including the most expensive shot of rum I've ever paid for, and we're ready for bed.

Tomorrow we're off to Lugano.

Mt. Titlis, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Paragliders were everywhere.

Mt. Titlis, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Mt. Titlis, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Mt. Titlis, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Mt. Titlis, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Mt. Titlis, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Mt. Titlis, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Lunch on Titlis

Mt. Titlis, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Mt. Titlis, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Feeling pretty good

Above Engelberg, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Above Engelberg, Switzerland, 5/26/16

Above Engelberg, Switzerland, 5/26/16

 

Yesterday was a rainy day in Luzern so we headed off to the Transport Museum. We had heard that it was worth it and we had heard correctly. Lots of old trains (who knew the Swiss were pioneers in developing the technology to convert electricity to mechanical energy? Besides the Swiss, I mean.), old (and new) cars, and old (and new) planes. They even have some space related stuff there. All-in-all it was an interesting way to spend a dreary day.

Later we had our first meeting and meal with our tour group. Since this is the inaugural “Best of Switzerland” tour there will be…wrinkles, which just serves to keep us on our toes. Yesterday there was an issue with the original meeting room they booked for our orientation, so we met on one of the many tour boats for a “Cruise To Nowhere.” We never left the dock. After a short walk to see the Lion (see below), we had a nice dinner in a small restaurant and then called it a day.

Enjoy the photos!

Transport Museum, Luzern, Switzerland, 5/23/16

Remind anyone (ahem…Karen) of The Amazing Race?

Transport Museum, Luzern, Switzerland, 5/23/16

This one's for Brady!

Transport Museum, Luzern, Switzerland, 5/23/16

 

Some of their inclines are so steep they utilized custom cars. We could have used this the other day going up and down Mt. Rigi.

Transport Luzern, Switzerland, 5/23/16

 

The famous Lion of Luzern.

Luzern, Switzerland, 5/22/16

The day before we saw lots of folks sailing. Looked like a lot of fun. Nice backdrop, too.

 

Today was our first full day in Switzerland and, despite all of the forecasts I'd looked at, it turned out to be a beautiful day and perfect for an outing. So we took a boat trip, then a ride up a cog wheel train, and found ourselves at the top of Mt. Rigi (1798m, 5899'). The train was pretty interesting. At times it was so steep that the folks sitting on the uphill side (me) had to brace themselves to keep from sliding out of their (my) seat.

The peak was a different world from the warm lake cruise we had enjoyed. Strong winds and chilly temps (at least to us Floridians) made it … invigorating. But the views, oh, the views. Wow.

We walked about the top and then hiked a few miles down the mountain, stopping for lunch and a beer on the way. When you consider that a flight of stairs is normally a significant altitude change for us, this walk was a warm up for things to come. It was wonderful.

The path was crowded with young and old. Extremely well maintained, there were many benches to enjoy the views, fireplaces pre-stocked with wood to cook your lunch, and vistas around every corner. It was great and our legs are feeling every foot of it. Totally worth it. We earned our beer/wine tonight!

The photos below are just a meager sample of what I shot today. Damn, we're having fun.

Mt. Rigi, Switzerland, 5/22/16

Mt. Rigi, Switzerland, 5/22/16

Mt. Rigi, Switzerland, 5/22/16

Lunch was tasty, and what a view!

Mt. Rigi, Switzerland, 5/22/16

Mt. Rigi, Switzerland, 5/22/16

Some people are more interested in taking selfies than where they are. I can't tell you how many times we saw this kind of behavior. To each their own, I suppose.

All ages were up there and on the trails, from younger than this fellow to significantly older than us. The really tiny hiking boots we saw are awfully cute.

Mt. Rigi, Switzerland, 5/22/16

These benches were common and a nice place to catch some alpine rays.

3 hour drive to Miami

10 hour flight to Zurich

75 minute train to Luzern

10 minute walk to the hotel

Total: 27 hours since our heads left a pillow

View from our hotel room: well, just see below:

Luzern, Switzerland, 5/21/16

In the photo below, our hotel is the building with the flag. Stay tuned, we've only been here an hour and we already realize it's going to be awesome!

Luzern, Switzerland, 5/21/16

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

5/20/16, Florida (for now)

There are many things that suck: gravity, taxes, the New York Yankees, but what I’ve been busy reacting to recently is aging. Now, don’t get me wrong, getting older certainly beats the alternative, but I’m still getting used to the fact that there are some things I can’t do anymore and, just as often, some things I don’t want to do anymore. One of the latter is why I bought my new camera. When we head out on trips where we’re hauling our gear on our backs (as compared to the back seat) weight has become more and more of an issue. With my old camera gear, I needed a dedicated, specialized bag to carry the body and two (or three) lenses. My minimal kit (Canon 7D, 10-22mm lens, 24-105 lens) came in at close to 8 lbs., and that’s without the other crap I need as support gear (back up disks, iPad, chargers, batteries, etc.). When we returned from our last overseas jaunt, I told Patti that before our next major trip I was buying a new camera. If you read my last post, you’ll know I did just that, picking up an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2 which comes in under 2 lbs. Last time, I said I liked my new camera and the intervening months have only made me like it more and more.

It comes with a pretty hefty learning curve, however. It has been described as the most customizable camera currently on the market and the folks that say that aren’t kidding. I’ve been setting it up just the way I want it and, in order to figure out what the hell I’m doing, I even bought a book to explain the various options. It’s helped.

While trudging up this learning curve, I decided to exercise one of the advanced features this camera offers. It’s called the Hi Resolution mode, and here’s how it works. The camera normally takes a 16MP image. However, when it’s in the hi-res mode, it takes a 40MP image by taking 9 separate images, moving the sensor half a pixel in a different direction each time and then combining the images into one ginormous image. It needs to be on a tripod for this to work and the scene needs to be static since any movement would show up as a blur. The sweet spot for this is landscapes and, hey, we’re going to Switzerland this spring. There’s a pretty significant chance I’ll be taking a landscape or two. I thought I’d give it a test.

So, the other morning I took a couple of test shots from the parking lot at work. See the images below. The first one is a normal 16MP shot, the second a hi-res version. The camera was not moved between them (the slight differences between the two is due to a crop/straighten I did…the camera was uneven on the GorillaPod I was using). I was about 550 yards from the base of the building shooting at a 35mm equivalent 52mm.

16MP VAB, KSC, FL, 2/4/16

16MP VAB, KSC, FL, 2/4/16

Hi-Res VAB, KSC, FL, 2/4/16

Hi-Res VAB, KSC, FL, 2/4/16

Below are two extreme close ups of the flag. Note how, even without clicking on the image to zoom in, the stars are crisper and how you can now see the vertical grooves in the panels of the VAB in the high-res version. Sweet. This won’t be a feature I use every time, but it will be used.

I like my new camera. Still.

16MP Close up, VAB, KSC, 2/4/16

16MP Close up, VAB, KSC, 2/4/16

Hi-res Close up, VAB, KSC, 2/4/16

Hi-res Close up, VAB, KSC, 2/4/16

We have a significant trip coming up next spring/summer (stay tuned) that will require us to spend a lot of time carrying all of our gear about for a couple of weeks. I have reached a point where my DSLR gear is just too damn heavy for me to lug about for any extended periods. I had told Patti that the next trip that involved that type of situation would require a new camera/lens that was: a) significantly smaller, b) significantly lighter and c) capable of taking the type of pictures that I want to take with the type of control I’m used to.

I bought a new camera last week.

It’s an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2 with a 12-40 (24-80 35mm equivalent) f2.8 lens. It’s also small, light and full of features that I didn’t even know I wanted. I have about 6 months to get comfortable with it before we head overseas so I have hit the ground running. As I type this we are in an absolutely beautiful VRBO in Harlem celebrating my wife’s birthday with family & friends. This birthday happens to end with a zero so this trip has been planned for quite awhile. Needless to say we’re having a blast and I’m exercising the camera as much as possible. I’ve attached some shots from today for your pleasure. These are all straight out of the camera with zero modifications.

I like my new camera.

 

Central Park on a beautiful December day, NY, NY, 12/5/15

Fish counter at Zabars, NY, NY 12/5/15

Central Park North, NY, NY, 12/5/15

Harlem Church, NY, NY, 12/5/15

Santa Claus boarding the subway, NY, NY, 12/5/15