18 October 2014

Five Favourite Snaps From The Trip That Was : Water

We've had quite a busy period since returning from our luxuriously long holiday - getting back to some semblance of reality, working on the house, planning our next trip...* But this week I've been able to carve out some Lightroom time, for sorting and editing all of those many, many holiday snaps. 

It's been quite fun going through them all, especially revisiting the first few places we saw. I'd somehow completely forgotten that we'd spent a night in Matera, and that it was a pretty amazing city! It's like reliving the holiday again. Well, without the cheese and wine and warm ocean breeze. And without having nothing to do but stroll and eat and drink. And without the restaurants and hotels and someone else doing all the cooking and clean. Okay, actually it's nothing like reliving the holiday is it? But still, it is fun. 

I have quite a few favourite shots, here are five featuring water.

Tangier, Morocco. I know loads of people who adore Morocco, so I had high hopes that our first visit to the country - via two stops on a cruise boat - would whet our appetite and leave us hungry for more. It absolutely didn't. 

Our first port of call was Casablanca (one of my husband's favourite movies, but sadly the city itself had nothing to do with the actually movie). It was dirty and disorganised. There was chaos and poverty everywhere. We were harassed, constantly. I tried and tried to find something to like, something good. I'm definitely a glass half full traveller, but I just couldn't find any positives. It's one of the few places where I've said to the husband: "I'll stick it out if you want to but quite frankly I'd happily make a retreat back to the boat..." Actually, it's the only place where I've said that. 

Next was Tangier, which was better than Casablanca, but there'd be a lot of places in the world I'd put on my must visit list before I returned. I'm sure there are parts of Morocco filled with immense natural beauty, wonderful food and amazing handcrafts...but it wasn't in Casablanca or Tangier. The one saving grace was this shot I took as we were leaving the port of Tangier. I love how the mass of concrete and the enormous light dwarfs the lone security guy. And that endless blue horizon!

San Cataldo, Italy. This trip we explored some new turf, a region of Italy we hadn't been to before - the heel of the boot, Puglia. San Cataldo is a short drive from Lecce, the main town of the region. It wasn't an overly inspiring beach, especially compared to the breathtaking wonders of Amalfi or Liguria. Much of the region was like that. But whilst it wasn't necessarily amazing, it was never disappointing. It's still Italy after all. And the place was jam packed with local holiday makers - cars crammed with suitcases and kids and beach towels and dogs - which made for some pretty great people watching. 

Savelletri, Italy. Also in Puglia, Savelletri was a cute little coastal town. Again, not breathtaking, but really lovely in it's own way and yes - packed with local holiday makers. It had the perfect holiday vibe - kids running around town in board shorts, dogs wet and shaggy from the sea, little bars serving the perfect spritz, the roads given over to barbecues and deck chairs. 

And even though it was a small town, with small food shops, every single one of those food shops was mouthwateringly delicious. Picture your local milk bar, with all the baked beans and white bread removed and replaced with perfectly ripe tomatoes, different types of pasta piled up to the roof, fresh mozzarella, bags of olives and all kinds of cured meats. We found the best sandwich makers on the planet here. Yum.

Savelletri, Italy. Aside from that blue, blue water there's a few other things I adore about this scene. Firstly, the stripy umbrella. This trip made me realise we need more giant stripy umbrellas in our life. I hope I see these dotted all over Bondi Beach this summer. Secondly, the bikes. The way they're just kind of dumped there, like their riders couldn't wait to leap in to the ocean. They scream summer holidays, don't they?

Savelletri, Italy. One of the things I realised on this trip was that often it's not the prettiest places that make for the best photos. We visited some really beautiful, historic cities on this trip; places like Paestum in Campania, and Bologna and Modena in Emilia-Romagna. But most of my favourite shots come from our few days in Savelletri, a rather nondescript little holiday town, and from another few days spent in Lecce - a nice place, but not one of staggering beauty. 

Do you ever find that sometimes what seems more mundane on the surface actually makes for a better image? 


FYI all of these were taken on the OM-D E-M10 loaned to me by Olympus as part of the Kidspot Voices of 2014 competition. I've recently handed it back, and I'm surprised by how much I miss it and how clunky and old my DSLR feels! 

*Do you do this too - plan your next trip as soon as you land back home? We actually started planning our big 2015 trips while we were away. There's just something about having some travel on the horizon that keeps us happy...

13 October 2014

The (Bloody) Long Walk

I've always loved walking. If I had the choice, and the time, and a sherpa, I'd walk everywhere. Walking is when I feel calm and inspired; it's when I feel connected and present. I've dabbled with running, every now and again, but at some point I always remember that I really, really hate running. But I never, ever hate walking. 

So when I heard about The Bloody Long Walk a few months ago I got pretty excited, and I signed up for the Melbourne one without thinking too much about how exactly I was going to walk 35 kilometres in one hit. And I hadn't given it much more thought since then either. Until last week when my Bloody Long Walk buddy, Shannon, reminded me that it was coming up pretty bloody soon, and that we should maybe possibly start doing something about it. Message received, yesterday - in the glorious Sydney sunshine - I headed out for a 19 km 'long and steady' walk. 

The training program I'm following suggests these long walks are a chance to test out your kit and get a sense of what you're in for. Here's what I learnt: 

Sydney has a lot of hills. And when you pick a random path through the eastern suburbs you are going to walk up and down most of them. 

- Sydney has some seriously great views. Seriously great. Stunning, even. Sail boats and sparkling water and golden beaches and that bridge... The views pop up everywhere, constantly surprising you as you round a corner or crest a hill. They made me swear out loud in appreciation many times during my walk. 

- I walk twice as fast without the dogs. Which makes sense as I'm normally carrying Ferdi whilst dragging Elfi away from eating some thing mouldy and / or trying to take on a doberman. Not very conducive to a quick pace.

 - And I walk even faster again when I'm wearing my sneakers (I have a bad habit of walking longish distances in my Havaianas...). Who would have guessed that shoes made for exercise actually help you exercise? 

- I need a back up, back up battery pack. If my phone (and therefore Map My Walk) crashes during the big one and doesn't save my triumph (assuming I make it) for perpetuity (or at least for Facebook and Twitter) I will be a bit sad. 

- I may be mildly allergic to sunscreen but it needs to be an essential part of my kit. I learnt this the hard way. 

- Same goes for a hat (though luckily I'm not allergic to those...) 

- My left ankle is a bit of a mess, as is my right knee. But between the both of them I have one really awesome leg. Yay? 

Next weekend is a 21km walk. I've started planning a path that's a bit more westward, I think there's less hills out that way. And then it's 25km, and then the taper before the big event. I'm excited, and a I'm bit scared. Okay, a lot scared. To be honest, I really have no idea what I'm doing; there is a so much I don't know.

So I've just signed up as an Operation Move member. I plan on bombarding the forums with questions, but in the meantime - have you done any long walks or other endurance events? What did you take with you? What did you eat before, during and after? Any other tips? 

ps. The walk is a fundraiser for the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. It's a bloody horrible disease, and a mysterious one too. If you feel like sponsoring me you can do so here. Thank you x

All iPhone shots, edited in VSCOcam.

03 October 2014

Death by Doxie* : Henry Piglet and Hugo

As amazing as our grand European adventure was, it had a downside - we couldn't take the dogs. And we missed them, of course we missed them. (Have you seen how adorable and handsome they are? How could we not miss them?) 

Luckily, around the mid-point of our trip, we had a pit stop in the south of France which gave us a bit of a dachshund hit. We had four days staying in the village of Seillans, with one of my (many) sisters-in-law, her friends from the UK and their two dogs.

The humans were fabulous and lovely and so much fun. But really...it was all about their two gorgeous dachshunds - Hugo (black) and Henry Piglet (tan). (Fantastic names, yes?). Hounds of taste and distinction, they knew how to holiday. Here they are lounging poolside at the villa...

*It has recently come to my attention that the term 'doxie' is also a slang term for, ahem, a lady of the night. This changes the meaning of the post title, somewhat. But - I love alliteration so I'm sticking with it. Apologies for any offence I may have caused. And apologies to anyone who came to my blog expecting something slightly different...

30 September 2014

11 Things That Happen When You Get Home After Seven Weeks Away

1. The entire household, including the one that always gets up at 7 every single morning, sleeps past ten. And at night, when you ask "Shall we watch one more episode of QI before bed?" there's a resounding YES from everyone even though it's well past bedtime o'clock. 

2. You forget, completely, how to manage emails. You forget to constantly check them, you forget to reply to them, you forget to file them. You forget why you normally treat them with such importance. Which is wonderful (but fades fairly quickly upon re-entry, unfortunately). 

3. Similarly, your usual obsessive checking of Instagram drops to four times daily, rather than four times hourly. (On reflection this one probably says more about my Instagram addiction than anything else...).

4. It can take you a full hour, sometimes even two, to locate your charger and plug in your phone once the battery dies. 

5. Your productivity levels plummet. It seems impossible to fit anything other than a leisurely stroll in-between waking, lunch and dinner. You vaguely remember a time - say, the week before you left for your holiday - when you were the queen of getting things done. Not so much now.

6. You forget how to dress when you're not living out of a suitcase.* Faced with more than five dresses, a pair of shorts and two t-shirts to choose from you are frozen with indecision. And god help you if you've switched seasons. 

7. Related - you don't get quite as excited about clean underwear as you did when you were travelling. 

8. At least three times a day you ask yourself "Am I driving on the right side of the road?". And you have to check all the parked cars (and the oncoming traffic) to get the answer. 

9. You become one of those really annoying couples who say things like "The baguettes in Sydney really are terrible, not like the ones we got in that little French village of Seillans - remember?", and "What was the name of that stunning town in Italy where we ate the best meal of our lives?". You work anecdotes from your recent travels into every conversation, without even realising what you're doing. One minute your discussing the new 'security' legislation and the next you're talking about the tour you did of Lisbon...on a Segway.** 

10. You spend an entire week sorting mail and cleaning the house (so much dust!) and restocking the cupboards, and the whole time all you can think about are the photos you want to edit and the blog posts you want to write (and read! I've missed you all!). 

11. Even though the news tells you the world is going to s**t, everything around you seems relaxed and calm and fun, and kind of new again. 

**True story (the Segway tour bit)! It was so much fun! 

25 August 2014

Bella Italia : A Favourite

Right now I'm travelling with my favourite person (my husband) through one of our favourite countries (Italy). My husband fell in love with the place many years ago, when he lived and worked here for a few years with his first wife. He learnt the language, the customs, the history, the food...the driving. And he adored it all. 

So now when we plan our holidays Italy always seems to come up. Occasionally we'll spend a week or two in Spain, or we'll go on an Asian adventure, but every year or two we always seem to end up soaking in the Italian sun. And with each trip Italy has become one of my favourite countries too. Here's some of the reasons why: 

Passeggiata. When work is finished and dinner is yet to come, when the heat of the day is just starting to fade, Italians go for a stroll. You can find my husband and me there too, not strolling but sitting - by the main square with a Campari soda (him) or Aperol spritz (me) - and watching the passing parade. Elderly gents and ladies, dressed with thought and care; teen girls with deep tans and tiny shorts; families juggling prams and perfectly dressed toddlers; and dogs, lots of dogs. 

There are no suburbs in Italy; it's all about apartments, medium density living. Communal spaces are vital, they are used, and the street life is vibrant and beautiful. Passeggiata is people watching at its finest. Next time you're in an Italian town, pull up a seat around 6 or 7 in the evening and enjoy! 
Stylish Women. A cliche, I know. But whenever we travel in Italy I'm reminded of what I aspire to when it comes to presenting myself to the world. Italian women, especially of the older variety, seem to have a knack for dressing. They never look overdone, or too casual, just perfectly put together. Stylish, and with personality. 

Old Things. All over Italy (and Europe for that matter) there are reminders of a grand history. We love visiting the archaeological sites, the museums and the galleries; pondering how society used to be and how it still is - the tensions, the weakness and the beauty

But in Italy old things are more than artefacts to be admired and strolled around, they are woven into the fabric of everyday life. They are in every city, in the centro storico - the old part of town which is often beautifully preserved (and even better, often pedestrianised). This is where you find the many, many churches; the grand government buildings, the palaces, the old houses turned into hotels, the flash new bars sitting inside buildings that are centuries old. This is where the marble paving the alleyways and promenades is smooth and shiny from millions of footsteps over thousands of years...
Dogs. I was walking through Zara the other day and there was a dog - not a fluffy-stick-it-in-your-hand-bag kind of dog, a giant hound of a dog. At the bar for aperitivi, there was a dog. There were dogs at the airport and in the supermarket and in every restaurant. At the hotel we're currently staying in there's a dog by the pool, on holiday with it's owners. And we've patted them all (the other day we made friends with two handsome wire haired dachshunds!). Italy is such a dog friendly country. They are a part of life, a part of the community, and it just seems to be accepted that they go everywhere you go. It is wonderful. 

Food. I know, another cliché, right? But it's a cliche for a reason. Italian food is spectacularly good. And it's not because it's overly fancy or tricksy - it's greatness comes from respect for produce, climate and tradition. Every place we've been on this trip, no matter how small, has at least one shop that's guaranteed to make your mouth water - overflowing with cured meats, fresh cheese, pasta (the shape from that particular region) and whatever vegetables are in season. And every city, no matter how big, still has it's regional speciality featured on almost every menu across town. 

And do not even get me started on the tomatoes - treated with respect (vine ripened, never refrigerated) they are sweet, juicy and bursting with sunshiny flavour. Why oh why can't we get that in Australia?  
Balconies. And doors. Italians know how to work a balcony. And a door, for that matter. Perhaps it's related to the small living space, and the way life so often tumbles on to the street? I'm not sure, but there are so many perfectly placed pot plants and glorious colour schemes on show here. Even the washing looks artfully positioned... 
The Language. It may just be because I'm lucky enough to be travelling with someone who speaks the language, but I find Italian a lot of fun. Even in the face of my spectacular inability to learn a second language (three years of Korean and I can barely count to ten), I love trying on my Italian voice. Whilst in other countries I'm often shy and awkward, in Italy you can find me at the bar ordering "un caffe normale, per favore" or "due spritz aperol anche un aqua con gas". 

When I'm feeling especially ambitious I get the husband to teach me hilarious phrases like "ho molto fame, potrei mangiare un cavello!" (for when one is hungry) or "non sono polpo" (for when one is being asked to carry everything) or "tu sei il rei di pommodori" (for when someone has gone and got themselves sunburnt). 

And I haven't even mentioned the coffee, the bicycles, the fonts and signage, the road network and the driving (seriously!), the dramatic rocky coastline, the volcanoes, the stripy beach umbrellas... 
Disclosure: As part of Kidspot's Voices of 2014 competition I've been lent a super awesome Olympus OM-D E-M10 for a few months. I'll be writing three challenge posts during that time and I'll have a chance to win some really awesome stuff. I'll be telling you a bit about the camera in each post too. 

I've had the OM-D E-M10 for about six weeks now and I am truly loving it (I've barely picked up my poor neglected DSLR...). 

I've already told you about how lightweight the camera is, and about the magical built-in wifi. And I've told you about how it captures images with amazing clarity. Well on this trip I've been testing out another nifty feature - remote control via my iPhone

If, like me, you're the photographer of the family you probably get home from holidays with hundreds of gorgeous images of your kids or your partner or your pets...but none of you. And when you do convince someone else in the family to take your photo it's normally blurry, poorly cropped or just plain terrible (yep). Well this little Olympus camera has a great feature which means you get to capture all those memories with your family, not just of your family - the phone app allows you to control the camera remotely. 

Once connected, on your phone you can see exactly what your view finder sees. You can adjust all the settings and then just tap the screen to take a shot. I have had a bit of fun playing with this. The other evening I set up a stealth cam at aperitivo time in Modena and captured some ridiculous photos of the husband and I (posted here under great danger*). I also took a few selfies (rare!) in my bathing suit (unheard of!) on our pool day in Savelletri and...I don't hate the results! There is so much potential here, I'm looking forward to exploring it a bit more.

The camera also has a ton of filters built in - black and white, retro, arty - as well as the usual auto modes designed for different settings - sport, landscape, night. But - I haven't played which any of these. Photography for me is about capturing what the eye sees, it's about the natural beauty of the world around us. Heck, I don't even use filters on Instagram. For me, trialling the Olympus O-MD E-M10 has really been about whether it's good enough to replace my DSLR. And yep, I reckon it definitely is

The only frustration I've had is that I can't get the f-stop low enough to create the gorgeous shallow focus that I love so much. But this is all about the lens, not the camera. And the O-MD E-M10 has a massive range of lenses available (including low f-stop fixed lenses). They're not cheap, but when you compare them to the price of premium DSLR lenses they are far from expensive. 

One other thing to consider if you're looking at the O-MD E-M10 as a DSLR replacement - if you shoot in RAW you can't use the built in wifi function to send images to your phone. So I haven't been shooting in RAW but, to be honest, I haven't really noticed the difference when I've been editing in Lightroom. Most of the images haven't needed much editing, so having slightly less information to play with hasn't been a big deal. (And, if you really want to use the wifi function and really can't bare not to edit in RAW, you could always choose the RAW + JPEG option). 

In my last #myfamilylens post I talked about how the camera's stability makes it more suitable for video than I'd realised. So of course I was challenged to make a video. And of course I said yes. Why let a complete lack of ability as a cinematographer or video editor get in the way of trying something? Anyway, I shot some video and edited it in iMovie. Here's the end result - it's hardly ground breaking but I think it captures the mood of the day nicely. 

*When I set up my blog I promised the husband I would never post photos of him (or my step-sons) here. In a desperate attempt to win the judges favour and get the chance to keep the camera I have now posted both photos and video of him. I may be in big trouble. Desperate times call for desperate measures...