Beautiful, Interesting and Ooo Shiny! Images From Various Places

Tourism

2012: The Greatest Hits

Concert

Location: USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
(No EXIF Data Currently Available)

Happy New Year (six days ago)! If you were around last year, you may remember I did a year-end review post so that you could relive the awesomeness of posts from 2011. Well, it’s that time again! May I present to you… 2012’s Greatest Hits Countdown!

10. First, everyone here wants to take good pictures, right? That’s why Composition 1 came in at 10th place. Free education for all!

9. Next, let’s travel to Asia. India’s Division of Labor gave us some cultural lessons from the subcontinent.

8. The sad & sobering news stories strike again, but this time with a glimmer of hope in Forgiveness in Colorado. This post also took the top spot for most comments of the year (even if the majority was from the same person) 😉

7. Travel reviews are an intricate part of this blog. Fly Sky High in the Eye is for those looking for fun stuff to do in London, England.

6. Lists make everything seem so organized, even when they make you cringe in embarrassment. At #6, we have Top Tourist Mistakes! (Don’t try these away from home)

5. For all the photo enthusiasts, some practical help was needed. Composition 2 was the top pick of the photography lessons provided this year.

4. Let’s bring on the funny! Many got a kick out of the 15 Funny Road Signs From Around the World, even if we still didn’t understand all of them.

3. It seems people were attracted to the big news stories this year. After only a month on the blog, A Poem for the Children rose to #3 on the charts.

2. Next is a topic that is near to my heart, but again tough to discuss with people. That’s why I called it The Thing No One Wants to Talk About.

1. Last but best of all. This post is on a serious note, but one that illustrates the value of small things done in love. This year’s top post is A Moment in Time.

Bonus Track: Surprise! Surprise! Apparently, people were really interested in my personal life. 😉 This post made honorable mention at #11.

Did your favorite post not make it on the list? Give it some love and tell us why you like it in the comments!


Eating Mexican Food in Poland

Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 8 • 1/100 sec

Yum, doesn’t this picture make you hungry? Or are you just admiring the culinary artwork?

Our group was lucky (or brave) enough to have dinner at a Mexican restaurant when we were in Poland. We were sitting at a long table outside so we could enjoy the weather. It was quite the experience! Along with the decorated food, we had a few good laughs as well. Two of our guys ordered fajitas. Apparently, these are not very common in Poland, because they were served along with written instructions on how to prepare them! That wasn’t all. They also came with bibs! Our server, who knew a little English, explained this by telling us “Fajitas are dirty.” 🙂

Earlier in the trip, we started a running gag at every restaurant we went to. We picked one member of our group, Kelli, and told every restaurant, every day, that it was her birthday. We just wanted to see what would happen! 😉 At this restaurant, most of the servers were dressed in skimpy outfits resembling Spanish dancers from the “Wild Wild West” era. All of a sudden, we heard what sounded like gun shots. A man came running out of the building dressed in all black, with a face mask and cape, and firing a cap gun into the air. Scaring the waitresses, he ran over to Kelli and dropped a cake slice with a candle at her place. Then he took off running again, back into the restaurant. Once we overcame our shock, we laughed pretty hard at that one!

I guess this is what the Polish think Mexico (and likely Texas as well) is really like! LOL

How do your international friends see other cultures, even ours?


Speaking Without Words

Location: Mexico
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 13 • 1/400 sec

If a picture is worth 1000 words, I probably don’t have to explain what’s going on here. But just in case… I was at an orphanage in Mexico, playing with the kids. I had been given power to control the bubble solution stock (big yellow bottle). The kids had their own small bubble wands, and when they needed refills, they came to me. There was limited stock and I was trying to help them be conservative. This little boy was doing his best to convince me that he needed more anyway. However, I didn’t know any Spanish and he didn’t know any English, so we had no clue what each other was saying. Yet we still communicated all this without language.

Have you ever run into a situation like this, where someone you try to talk to doesn’t speak your language? Yep, it even occurs right here in the USA. So what do we do? Our basic tendency when we don’t feel understood is to speak louder or slower, hoping that if we enunciate better, people will understand us. But when someone doesn’t know your language at all, it just makes you look silly.

In my travels, I’ve learned that one old speaker’s addage still holds true internationally. “Communication is 20% what you say, and 80% how you say it.” People pay more attention to tone and body language than they do actual words, so learning to capitalize on that has allowed me to communicate with many people worldwide who don’t share a common language!

How about trying some clear body language? When I tried to ask an Indonesion kid the word for “rain”, I pointed to the ocean nearby (water), then to the sky (clouds), and made a motion like raindrops with my fingertips. He knew exactly what I wanted then, and gladly taught me that word as well as several others. Children in India often beg by putting their hands to their mouths, imitating eating, then put their hand out to you, hoping you will fill it. Facial expressions also are clear indicators, as long as you emphasize your feelings well. Smiles are known worldwide!

How could you indicate a question or statement using only body language and facial expressions? I’d love to hear your creative ideas!


Crazy Acts of Death-Defiance

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 5.6 • 1/800 sec

 What’s the craziest thing you have attempted to do? Did you succeed? A couple years ago, I challenged myself to go ziplining with some other crazy adventurers in Thailand. I enjoyed the challenge, but apparently not as much as our guides (pictured above)! I was excited when I could cross a cable without holding on to my harness, but no way was I going to try upside down.

I’m sure we all have our limits when it comes to what kind of adventures we will tackle, which makes this week’s news all the more amazing. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all week, you’ve probably heard about Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting jump from Red Bull Stratos. I was one of the lucky 8 million people who watched it live on YouTube. Aside from morbid curiosity (my dad and I were betting each other on if he would survive or not), I think there was another reason so many people tuned in to watch. We wanted to see someone do someone we wouldn’t dare attempt ourselves.

Are there any other great feats of courage (or stupidity, depending on your perspective) that you remember witnessing? History is full of them, so here are a few of my favorites (most of which, I am too young to remember in person):

  • Alain Robert – “The French Spiderman” likes to climb buildings – really, really tall ones.
  • David Blaine – Magician who also broke the world record for holding his breath underwater – for over 17 minutes!
  • Evil Knievel – Known for leaping over large distances in a single bound… on his motorcycle
  • Gary Connery – Skydived without a parachute – and lived!
  • Harry Houdini – Magician and master escape artist, he was most known for the Chinese Water Torture Cell stunt
  • Jackie Chan – Actor who does all his own stunts, including a 21-story slide down the side of a building
  • Martin Strel – Expedition swimmer who tacked the 3000+-mile Amazon River – and all that swam in it
  • Philippe Petit – Tightrope walker who crossed between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. How he got access to them was an even more challenging feat.
  • William Trubridge – Holds the record for the deepest free dive, swimming 380 feet straight down
  • Yves Rossy – AKA “JetMan”  or “Fusion Man”, crossed the English Channel with just those rockets on his back

If you could be known for some crazy stunt, what would you attempt?


15 Funny Road Signs From Around the World

Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 8.0 • 1/80 sec

Who doesn’t want a good laugh? When we saw this sign in Poland on several streets, we couldn’t decide whether it was a warning to pedestrians to cross carefully, or a sign telling cars they could get extra points for tagging people who tried to escape! Poland is not the only place with odd & crazy road signs, so I thought I’d bring you some of my favorites.

1. Elderly People Crossing

This sign is attributed to being somewhere in Germany, but I’m not sure since the print is in English. Apparently all elderly people here have hunched backs and no hair. At least they’re together, even if they’re headed toward the cemetery. *shaking my head*

2. Potty Instructions

Next we will travel to Asia. For cultures that are used to using the “squatty potty”, extra instructions are sometimes needed. And as another blogger pointed out, even the sign is wrong. They didn’t put the seat down first!

3. Thin Ice… or Zombie Attack?

Direct from Finland! I believe this sign has something to do with thin ice, but another blogger thought it was better attributed to impending zombie attacks. Either way, I think I’ll take another road.

4. Those Pesky Construction Signs

Since we’re on the topic of zombies, many people in the USA are familiar with those flashing orange road construction signs. But every so often, they can be hacked…

Nerds have a sense of humor, but apparently the Maine highway department does not. The fun part is, this prank was continued in Texas using multiple signs, and another using a Mario reference.

Next we’ll move on to England, and their not-so-secret secrets.

5. The Not-So-Secret Bunker

And yes, this is a real place. Even if it’s a tourist stop now, I’d still like to go just so I could dash about suspiciously, humming the “Mission Impossible” theme. And if anyone asks where I’ve been, I can just say “It’s a secret.”

6. Lost in Translation

This sign doesn’t seem odd unless you can read Welsh. According to one blogger, it translates to: “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.” Looks like someone forgot to proofread!

7. The Multi-National Sign

If a lack of translation skill was enough to confuse you, this next sign is worse! Even I don’t know where this one is. How did Venezuela get next to Canada? And why are all these countries up in the sky? I’m so confused!!!

8. No Talking

And then good old Dantak! This one is somewhere in India. Nice to see that sexism is still alive and well in some places of the world. :/ Imagine telling some woman in the USA to shut up and let the man drive. Ha!

9. Vancouver’s All-Inclusive Resorts

Other countries are more concerned about trying to accommodate everyone, and I mean EVERYONE. Take this example from Canada. What I’m wondering is who discovered dogs could read? :O

10. Don’t Injure the Children

Kids are a big deal all around the world. Check out this warning from Quebec. Another blogger translated the French as “Watch out for our children, because it could be one of yours.” I’m assuming that’s what the dead kid on the sign is supposed to infer. But did we really need the visual??

11. Intersection Ahead

One of the oddest bike lane markers I’ve ever seen. But I guess it gets the point across. 😉

12. Very, Very Specific Mileage Marker

Ok, ok, this one is not an actual street sign either, but I couldn’t resist! The Japanese are known for being extremely precise, and this sign from Hiroshima, Japan is no exception.

13. Ad-Libbing

Sorry, there’s no visual for this one, but I couldn’t resist sharing this story!

Someone wrote: “When passing the New Jersey/New York line, the sign read “Governor Jim Florio welcomes you to New Jersey”
Under that was printed neatly …”But the rest of us wish you’d stay home.”

At least we know how they REALLY feel!

14 & 15. More Polish Hilarity!

I’ll finish with a couple more from Poland, just because they are so fun! The first is a school crossing sign. I just love how every girl needs a lollipop bigger than her head. The second is a warning to car thieves, and the visual is just… yeah.

Ok, you’ve seen my contributions, what’s yours? Tell me about your favorite odd street sign!


Big Ben: London’s Big Deal

Location: England
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2500 sec

If you look at the skyline of London, probably one of the most recognizable pieces of architecture is Big Ben. The name actually refers to the bell only (the rest is officially called the Clock Tower), but more people know it by its nickname than anything else. There are two main theories on how it got it’s name: The bell has the name “Ben” inscribed on it after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation. Also, the English Boxing Heavyweight Champion at the time was Benjamin Caunt, and anything that was the largest or strongest in its class was referred to as “Big Ben.”

The tower is quite a sight in person, rising 316 feet (96.3 m; ~ 16 stories) on top of a concrete raft. The four clock faces themselves are 23 feet (7 m) in diameter and hold 312 pieces of glass each (though some are removed for servicing the dials). Yet it gets its name from the bell, a 16-ton monstrosity that was cast in 1856. This is actually the second version of the bell. The first one cracked in transport, and was melted down and re-cast. The current bell also cracked after being in use for two months, but it was repaired, rotated a bit, and given a smaller hammer. Even today it has a funny-sounding ring caused by the crack.

Tours are available to go inside the Tower, but only if you are a UK citizen. Even then, you have to book it with your Member of Parliament way ahead of time. The rest of us just get to watch from the outside. That’s still cool, though. The light on the top of the tower indicates when Parliament is is session, the chimes play “The Cambridge Chimes”, the tower leans enough to be seen by the naked eye, and sometimes we can see some dudes risking their lives trying to clean the clock face (there’s even a game for that!). There are lots of other fun details about the clock I could talk about, but why don’t you see for yourself?

This is my second clock feature in two months. So tell me, which would you prefer to see? Is there another clock somewhere you think is even cooler?


Top Tourist Mistakes

Location: Japan
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/500 sec

You have to wonder how often locals let the tourists get away with things just for a laugh. Take my friend here. We’re in Japan, and he’s wearing a man’s robe (not meant for outdoors) and a Chinese hat. Yet the locals encouraged it (and sold them to us!). They also encouraged us to use chopsticks most of the time, and then laughed at us when we tried to use them on soup (they DID give us spoons eventually). Yeah, I think it’s a local conspiracy. 😉

No matter what country you travel to, you’re going to make mistakes and get laughed at, so it’s good to have a sense of humor. It’s also a good idea to do some research ahead of time and not make the same mistakes as everyone else. Here’s just a few examples of common tourist mistakes in Australia, Cambodia (Phnom Penh), Czech Republic, France (Paris), the NetherlandsIreland, IranItaly, Japan, Portugal, Thailand, and Turkey. As if that isn’t enough, here’s a few more! So yeah, the list is pretty much endless. Good luck!

Sometimes, making mistakes can endear you to the people. For example, this forum writer uses his lack of language skills to his advantage: “Whenever I’ve travelled to a country where English is not the official language, I’ve made it a point to carry an English/<other> phrase book, and I’d always make it a point to painfully mangle the other language. Invariably, no matter where I was, someone would come up to me, gently take away the phrase book, and say ‘Wouldn’t it be easier to just do this in English?’ Usually, a bunch of the locals would come over to practice their English skills, brag about their country and ask about mine. And, all too often, some other American would burst in and bellow ‘Hey! Anyone in this dump speak ‘Murrican?’ 🙄 And, amazingly, everyone in the place would immediately forget every word of English they’d ever known. Including me.” :mrgreen:

What’s the most embarrasing tourist mistake you’ve ever made? What have you seen someone else do?


Playing With Time

Location: Germany
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/120 sec

I’m late! I’m late! For a very important da — hold on, what’s that?” Our tour group stopped in the middle of Munich’s Marienplatz (open square) to gawk at the loud clock with dancing figures on the side of the New Town Hall. For about 15 minutes, we watched various characters dance and perform jousting contests, until a little yellow bird at the top announced the end of the show.

This clock, a part of Munich’s history since 1908, is the Rathaus-Glockenspiel (not the type of glockenspiel that’s a relative of the xylophone). It goes off every day at 11am and 12pm (as well as 5pm in the summer and a mini-show at 9pm). It contains 42 bells that play different tunes, as well as 32 life-sized figures.

Later, I found out that the characters in the show were acting out important times in Munich’s history. The top section depicts the 1568 wedding of Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine. Part of the 2-week party included a jousting tournament, depicted on the clock by a battle between a French & Bavarian knight (of course, the Bavarian always wins). You can watch a bit of this here.

The lower level is a group of the city’s coopers (barrel makers) doing the Schäfflertanz, a ritualistic jig popularly thought to have begun during the plague in 1517. Duke Wilhelm V ordered the dance be re-enacted every seven years to remember the deadly disease (the next live performance will be in February of 2019).

What’s the coolest clock you’ve ever seen?


Essential Tips From a Travel Addict

Location: Japan
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/150 sec

Travel can be very addicting! So far, I’ve been to 10 countries and numerous states. Along the way, I’ve learned several helpful lessons. Most travelers have heard the country-specific advice, like don’t eat with your left hand in India, don’t point the bottom of your feet at people in China, or that the “ok” hand gesture is not so ok in Brazil. So here’s a few travel tips that could be applied nearly everywhere.

  • Do your research beforehand! Learn about the country’s climate, history, religion, special customs, holidays, etc.
  • Try to learn something in the local language before you go, even if it’s as simple as “Hello.” People appreciate the effort you make to understand them.
  • “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Unknown
  • Cross pack! If traveling with others you trust, put some clothes & essentials in another’s bag, so if yours is lost, you have something to fall back on.
  • Ziploc bags are a lifesaver. Especially when your luggage falls off the side of a boat. *sigh*
  • Be nice to the check-in staff; it’s not their fault airlines are inherently evil.
  • Food and drink is a key element of hospitality in many countries, especially out East. Unless you have a medical reason, don’t turn down what they offer you.
  • Don’t start riots. Most people won’t like you if you do.
  • Don’t drink the water! Unless you have made sure it’s been purified. This includes watching out for ice cubes and items washed in local water, like lettuce.
  • “You’re not a traveler if you can’t haggle; you’re a tourist. But you’re also not a traveler if you haggle for six hours; you’re a cheap jerk.” – Unknown
  • Make sure your travel documents are correct and up-to-date, if you don’t want to be in the sequal to “The Terminal.”

What’s your favorite or most helpful travel tip? Let’s keep the list going!


Fly Sky High in the Eye

Location: England
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/4000 (all images)
(Note: This panoramic was created by digitally stitching three photos together)

The London Eye, now the third largest Ferris wheel in the world, offers a great view of the city from 443 feet (135 m). On a clear day, you can see Windsor Castle, up to 25 miles (40 km) away. It’s especially popular at night when all the city lights are twinkling. On my visit to London, I was limited on time and cash, but if you have 30 minutes to ride the loop, it will only cost you around $25-$30. Reporter Steve Rose wrote, “It essentially has to fulfil only one function, and what a brilliantly inessential function it is: to lift people up from the ground, take them round a giant loop in the sky, then put them back down where they started. That is all it needs to do, and thankfully, that is all it does.”

The Eye has a fascinating history. It was originally supposed to be a temporary structure, designed for a millennium landmark competition. It took seven years and help from five countries to build. The parts were floated down the Thames River, and then the wheel was built on its side. It was lifted by degrees and took over a week to reach its final standing position. Today, it is used by 3.5 million customers a year. It has 32 “pods” (one for each of London’s boroughs) which hold up to 25 people each (or, you can book an entire private pod for $600-$1500). The pods are mounted on the outside of the wheel, allowing for 360° views without support structures getting in the way. It also moves about 0.6 mph (0.9 kph), allowing passengers to get on and off without stopping the wheel.

I noticed when I took this picture that the wheel was missing a pod (top right). In preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games, the pods are being refurbished, one at a time. They are being swapped out at night, one by one, in order to keep the wheel going the rest of the day. I’d be excited to go see it once these are completed! In the meantime, there’s always the live webcam (when it works, anyway).

If you could ride a giant Ferris wheel anywhere in the world, what would you want to see?


Nicole’s Top 10 (and then some!)

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 6.3 • 1/100 sec

Happy New Year! As we get ready to start the next year, make (and break) resolutions, and throw wild parties that involve streamers and kazoos, it’s often time to look back as well. We look at all the things we’ve learned the past year and wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?” Ok, so maybe not all our memories give us warm fuzzies. But I hope most of them do!

We’re celebrating over here as well, because on January 1st, the Shine4Him Photography blog will be one year old! In honor of that, and of the New Year, I thought it would be fun to take a look back over the past year’s top posts. I chose these due to the number of comments (including Facebook and FORUS Athletics posts), how often they were searched in Google (yes, I can figure that stuff out. Creepy, huh?), as well as how much fun I had writing them. So, without further ado, let’s take a step back in time.

Expect more fun times in the year to come! This spring, I will also be adding another country to the lineup: Poland! I bet you can’t wait!

What was your favorite blog post this year?


Crazy & Crooked Buildings!

Location: London
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2500 sec

It’s a double photo week! While I was touring London, I was amazed at the interesting architecture, including the Gherkin (above) and the City Hall (below). The Gherkin, officially known as 30 St Mary Axe is an office building constructed out of 34,000 m² (approx. 366,000 ft²) of glass panes arranged to look somewhat like a Fabergé egg. City Hall, which houses the Greater London Authority (Mayor & the Assembly), is build like a lopsided dome and includes an open-air amphitheater in the back.

Location: London
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2000 sec

So that got me thinking, what other cool weirdshaped buildings are there in the world? Here’s just a sampling of what I found. Follow the links to see more pictures & articles:

Ok, there’s a sampling of some cool things to see on your next trip to… wherever. But what have you already seen?

What is the strangest piece of real estate you’ve come across?


Dilly-Dally in Piccadilly

Location: England
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/2000 sec

As our double-decker tour bus looped the London streets, the tour guide announced, “This is the statue of Eros (Cupid), on one of the most visited streets in Europe. It is said that if someone waits here for at least 30 minutes, they will run into someone they know.” I didn’t have time to test his theory, but that would certainly be interesting!

This fountain in the middle of Piccadilly Circus (a large and busy intersection) was originally erected in 1893 as the Shaftesbury Monument Memorial Fountain. It was meant to commemorate the 7th Earl of Schaftesbury for his work for the poor, and is also named The Angel of Christian Charity. The figure on top, made of aluminum, was meant to be the Greek god Anteros (the god of selfless love), but most Londoners call it by the name of his twin brother Eros/Cupid (the god of sensual love). Don’t try to correct them, though. It’s like telling an American that the “Statue of Liberty” is actually named “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

The statue is the site of several rumors like the one the tour guide told me. Another is that a proposal under the statue at the stroke of midnight will bring good luck and happiness to a marriage. There are several stories about where the archer’s arrow might be pointing. Then there’s the “what were they thinking?” stories, like how some locals planned to climb the statue on New Year’s Eve. One drunken man succeeded in 1994, damaging the statue. It has since been repaired.

What’s your favorite piece of art? Are there any fun stories you remember about it?


More Than Salt in Salzburg

Location: Austria
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/550 sec

Time for some more tourist tips! The city of Salzburg (lit. “Salt City”) was one of my favorite visits, because there was just so much to do! I posted earlier about The Sound of Music tours, but the city sports many other things to do. Some people come to hear all about the birthplace of Mozart, and another travel reviewer described the Salzburg as “a Disneyfied city with scrumptious cakes, sugar-coated mountains and one helluva fortress.”

I took this photo from the top of Festung Hohensalzburg, which roughly translates to “Fortress High (Above) Salzburg.” Appropriate, I guess. It was a good view of the city, and they had a great classical music concert. That was after a day of exploring the salt mines on the Austria/Germany border. If you’ve never ridden a speed slide into a cave, you have to try it! For those on a budget, even walking around the old town to see the baroque architecture and trying out the variety of food is a good way to spend the day. Salzburg was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. A quick search online will reveal a long list of things to do, or not do, when visiting Salzburg. No matter what type of activities interest you, I would definitely recommend taking a trip here next time you’re in Europe!

Sound off if you’ve ever visited this city! What was your favorite thing to do or see?