In this past couple of years, I’ve discovered my ability to overcome a number of self-imposed boundaries and to visit some places which I once found challenging. It’s been healthier to write about what I’ve come to enjoy and love, even if the daily challenge has been a struggle against the confusing, the illogical, or the idiotic.
Germany is a country with diverse topography, great scenery, and varied urban settings. The country is also where I would like to photograph some more, from the beaches of the North Sea coast to the twist and turns of the Rhein river to the gentle hills in the Harz, from the arty hustle and bustle in the capital city of Berlin to the party hardy in Köln to the majestic castles at the foot of the Bavarian Alps.
Typically, I have to cover a decent amount of distance across Germany on any given “tour” to visit and catch up with friends and/or to take in photographic opportunities. Instead of taking intranational flights, I’m a big fan of the train, and I use RailEurope’s German rail-pass, if I have multiple cities to visit on multiple dates. I often go with the 4- or 5-day pass, and if you do your own pricing on the bahn.de website, you’ll see that “biting the bullet” with a pass is much cheaper than buying point-to-point fares within the country. I wrote a series of posts about German Rail, with the most recent post here.
Here, I provide a few details about my favourite travel apps and my photography travel-kit.
On my third-generation iPod Touch (iPT), these were some of the applications most useful for my travel; some are subject to modest charges upon purchase from the iTunes Store.
* Tripit – an excellent trip organizer. You can enter all of your trip information with as much detail as you like, and retrieving the details is a real breeze to examine on a mobile device.
* Currency Converter – USD to EUR, for example, but you can also input an arbitrary amount (e.g., 50 US dollars) to determine the corresponding amount in another currency (e.g., Euros). Recently I’ve been tracking simultaneously the US dollar, Chilean peso, Euro, Swiss franc, UK pound, Czech koruna (crown), Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, and the New Zealand dollar.
* berlin.de – native city-guide application based on the Berlin city’s tourism webpage. I also used the following city-guide apps for Hamburg, Köln, and München.
* DB Navigator (German) – Deutsche Bahn’s application in English provides train schedules and point-to-point planning for routes within Germany. Using the words “Hauptbahnhof” (“Hbf”, central train station) and “Flughafen” (airport) helps.
* Evernote – available on my Mac and my iPT, I can edit notes on any of the two, and sync changes automatically (with wireless access).
* Fahrinfo Berlin – transit information in Berlin (English, too) for details about bus, tram, U-Bahn, and S-Bahn throughout the metropolitan capital region. Please keep in mind that native applications also exist for Frankfurt am Main’s RMV transit authority and Munich’s MVV transit authority. As always, your kilometrage may vary with usage.
* Foursquare – this helps me to keep track of some of the places I’ve visited, even though its use is more limited to finding free wireless access; see also below.
* FRA Airport (FRAport) – app by the Frankfurt Airport Authority to provide flight information and about what’s at the airport.
* GoodReader – PDF reader. I copied all of my travel documents in pdf to native storage on the iPT, and I often use GoodReader to check up on a couple of numbers, dates, or times within those documents.
* HRS – a hotel-search website. You can order your search by “number of stars”, average nightly rate, or proximity to city centre, airport, or nearest train stations. In the last few years, I’ve noticed that the parent company has been more aggressive in their marketing campaigns throughout Europe.
* LEO – native German-to-English, English-to-German dictionary, when I’m constantly confused by “separable verbs” … which are reflexive … come with prepositions … and you have to know the correct case to go along with the (in)direct object (e.g., sich anpassen an, accusative).
* Living Earth HD – world-clock with live updates to local time, local weather, and sunrise/sunset for any number of specified cities in a compact format
* VelaClock – world-clock application for sunrise and sunset times, moonrise and moonset times, as well as daily times for astronomical-, civil-, nautical-twilight, dusk and dawn. If the places you require are not included, you can add your own by latitude and longitude. I will freely admit VelaClock satisfies the inner astronomy-geek. Combining this app with Apple’s Weather app for up-to-the-minute updates and forecasts helps with planning photography shoots at potential sites.
I’d like an Apple portable-internet device with both wireless *and* mobile-access capabilities, with pay-as-you-go domestic mobile-access packages without the need for a long-term contract and international roaming charges. But it’s obvious there’s a limited market for this capability, and Apple certainly does not want to cannibalize its popular and successful iPhone product-line.
Since 2008, I’ve been using a Canon EOS450D (“Rebel XSi” in North America) which at the time of purchase was packaged with their EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. Despite the cheap plastic construction, the “kit lens” is light, versatile, and a great walk-around all-purpose lens for travel. I’ve also added the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. Photos I’ve taken with all three lens can be found here.
For my 2010 Weihnachtstour (Christmas tour) series on my blog, I mostly used the 50mm prime. Although the 50mm is “effectively” 80mm on Canon’s 1.6-times cropped-sensor, the wide-aperture in low-light settings has been a lot of fun to use, as you can see from many of the photos in the Christmas & winter in Europe set.
All three lenses have the same 58mm filter-thread size, which means I need only one set of filters. I now have a 2-stop (4x) polarizing filter, a 3-stop (8x) neutral-density filter, and an 8-point star-filter. I’ve been using the latter quite liberally in many of my recent night-time shots. I’m still on the lookout for a 2- or 3-stop graduated neutral-density filter.
To carry camera, three lenses, filters, and a growing collection of SD-cards, I use a Tamrac 5768 Velocity 8x sling-pak pouch, which is easy to open, as the top-cover opens from the body out. As well, I can bring out or take away elements (e.g., lens, filter) without removing the pouch or putting the pouch on the ground. Other members of the Velocity series are described here.
With this post, I’ve provided a sample of the electronic and photographic tools which I use on travel, specifically for trips to Germany.
Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned above. Posted initially on Posterous on 3 Jan 2011. Now on Fotoeins Fotopress (fotoeins.com) and last updated on 22 Oct 2011.
On the river Rhine, south of Kölner Südbrücke, Köln, Germany – 27 Sept 2009