Travel Time

Posted in Life by AST on Monday, May 1st, 2006

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The two of you who regularly read this blog may have noticed that I got kind of quiet lately–as unusual for me as that is. ;) The last few weeks have been pretty manic, but I’m now starting to catch up and return to normal. The good thing is that it’s given me a few brief opportunities to practice with my new Canon EFS 17-85mm IS lens.

Chambéry, France in springtime.  A picture of rooftops, flowers in bloom and the mountains.First off was a trip to Chambéry, France. Sophie and I hadn’t been there since the wedding and we had a few days off for Easter, so we decided that it was a good time to go. It rained a little bit while we were there, but for the most part, it was sunny and beautiful days, lots of food and walks in the mountains. A nice break, even if I did have to spend a part of the time studying for a certification test.

I spent about 2 hours walking around Barberaz which looks down on the city of Chambéry, so I guess, technically, this picture should better be titled “Barberaz in Springtime”. I discovered a few things about my lens, though. It really doesn’t like having both the UV filter and a polarizer on it when it is set to 17mm. You get dark corners from the polarizer. I haven’t tried it without the UV filter to see if that makes a difference, but it was somewhat of a surprise. Either way, with the clouds that were out that day, it didn’t make too much difference, so I ended up not using it for most of the shots.

Frankfurt, Germany.  A picture of distant skyscrapers from along the river near the Intercontinental Hotel.After a short week back in Dublin, it was off to a BearingPoint training course in Frankfurt on Sunday afternoon. I had never been to Germany before, so I was looking forward to the trip, however I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the training course. My general experience with training courses is that you’re better off buying some sort of book about the subject and spending the time that way. Fortunately, this didn’t hold true in Frankfurt.

The course had several really good aspects. First and foremost, it was great to meet other people from BearingPoint from the Americas and Europe. While the majority of people attending were from Germany, there were representatives from the US, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Finland, Denmark and Russia (I know I’ve forgotten a few, so please don’t get upset). I think the course did pretty well on cultural diversity, and that was also one of the subjects of a session. Knowing the cultural assumptions and grounding that may influence someone is a big help when you need to communicate with them effectively in both business and personal settings. It was actually interesting to see how many of the sweeping generalizations held true as you interacted with the participants. Another topic which was the subject of an entire day was Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II. Ken is the author of the One Minute Manager series of books. I thought the sessions were quite good, but I’ll talk more about SLII in another post.

After the 4 late nights and early mornings of the training session, I was a bit wrecked. In order to unwind and to re-introduce myself to my wife, Sophie and I made some sandwiches and headed off for some hill walking in Glendalough yesterday morning. The weather was supposed to be sunny in the morning, but then start to rain later in the day. It turned out that the forecast was half right–from about 5pm until after midnight, it was steady rain.

Glendalough, Ireland.  A picture of a waterfall near the old miners ruins above the big lake.Fortunately for us, we missed the rain. It only started after we got back to the car park. Growing up in the Alps, walking in the mountains is something Sophie enjoys quite a bit. The closest approximation we have in Dublin is the Wicklow mountains, which, if you’ve ever been there is not exactly the same definition of mountain as in France. We were looking for a half-day walk, so we decided to take the “white” trail this time.

The white trail starts at the bottom of the big, upper lake and goes up one side of the mountain, down around the back of the lake to the old miners village, then makes a circle through the pine forest back down to the bottom of the lake. The view of the valley is pretty impressive from the top, but both of us were chuckling a bit as we were walking along the path (two railroad ties bound together with studs and chicken wire for traction). I don’t think whoever labeled the white trail as “dangerous cliffs; for experienced hikers” has ever spent much time hiking in the Alps. Still, everything is relative. I couldn’t shake the impression of the 4-lane motorway though as we walked along.

Once you get to the top of the upper lake, there really is a lot of water flowing down the mountain. I’ve always liked moving water, and with a slower shutter speed, you can get some nice visual effects that capture the overall impression of the movement. Once we got this far on the trail, it was “waterfall day”, and I ended up taking lots of pictures of the literally hundreds of waterfalls in this part of the park. I like this one the best. It was taken at 1/12th of a second and f/11 at 33mm with ISO100 using the timer. I’m still trying to come to an agreement with my camera. There are a lot more crap pictures than there are good ones, but, it’s just a matter of practice. Hopefully, we’ll have a few more nice days and we’ll be able to make it back for more opportunities.

Next week is InfoSeCon in Dubrovnik, and then I’m back for a week before I head to Washington D.C. to present at the SOA for E-Government conference. Croatia will be a nice trip, and I’m looking forward to returning to DC. It’s been about 4 years since I’ve been there, and I’m sure that it’s changed quite a lot. I expect both trips to give me ample opportunities to tackle my current biggest challenge: indoor photography without a flash and without using ISO1600. I’ll hopefully be able to show you some of the positive results. :)