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About FlyingFlip

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    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Interests
    social dancing, photography, snorkeling

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  1. Photography is my secondary hobby, not my primary hobby. Since my primary hobby is social dancing, it seems unlikely that I'll get to indulge myself much in my primary hobby in the near future. Since I've been working from home every day this week (and for the foreseeable future), I've started the habit of taking one or two walks around the neighborhood per day. I take a camera (or two) with me, and see if I can find an opportunity to fulfill my hobby while getting a break/exercise. I've mostly been doing bird photography. But this afternoon it was drizzling, so I brought my waterproof/macro camera and took macro photos of flowers covered with raindrops. About half the time, my wife joins me for my walks. (No social distancing there. And she's a member of the Audubon Society, which is why I do bird photography.) Overall, in a world that has suddenly gone well off routine, it's nice to be able to indulge one of my hobbies.
  2. Out of curiosity, what genre(s)/type(s) of photography do you shoot?
  3. I never upgraded to full frame ... or anywhere above a 1" sensor. If I ever get into certain types of photography, I might feel that the capabilities outweigh the negatives. Generally, I'd much rather use my compact cameras instead of anything larger. About six months ago we were in Yellowstone. Three weeks ago we were on a Caribbean cruise. After both trips, I've been perfectly happy with what my cameras could do. I may have looked at a few of my photos and wished I was a better photographer, but I haven't looked at any and thought they would be substantially improved by a better camera. (I'm not a professional, so the photos don't need to be pixel-peeping perfect.) I own three compact cameras. If I'm specifically going out to do photography, I'll often carry more than one. My TG-5 is for macro, underwater, and all-weather photography. My ZS60 is for telephoto. My RX100 II is for everything else, particularly low light. One photographer (maybe Tony Northrup) claimed that the best landscape photographs come from going further than other photographers did. To me, that's incentive to take something smaller and lighter ... that I'll be willing to carry that much further. Heavier cameras definitely might have dampened my enthusiasm for some of our more rigorous hikes in Yellowstone. One hike had a very steep, 600' ascent to the top of a plateau. While hiking along the plateau, I realized that I could see Old Faithful erupting ... 3 miles away. It certainly wasn't the typical view of Old Faithful. So I pulled out my ZS60, zoomed in, and snapped off a series of shots. If I was using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, I'm not sure that I would have hauled a long lens up to the top of the plateau. While horseback riding in Jamaica, I took a few photos, one-handed, as we were riding along the trail. That would have been rather challenging with a larger camera. Furthermore, I never feel like the camera is holding me back from doing other things. I'll frequently carry a camera with me while wandering around the ship. If I want to do something else, like hit the dance floor with my wife, I can slide it back into its case (on my belt) without it being in my way. It would be hard to give up those kind of benefits just for a larger format.
  4. My understanding is that Viator is a middleman. It's like booking through TripAdvisor. I'm sure that I've booked something through them in the past, but I can't recall any specific time. (I'm more likely to remember the operator who provided the tour.) My wife and I have our own snorkel gear, so we'll often just snorkel from shore. In St. Thomas we took a van shuttle to Coki Beach and snorkeled from there. Sapphire Beach is another common place to do the same. At Coki Beach, the best snorkeling (if I remember correctly) is off to the right as you enter the water, toward the Coral World Ocean Park. But that was almost a decade ago, so things might have changed. In Nassau we used Blue Hole Watersports. Again, it's been about a decade, but it's such a small operation that it was practically like a private tour. Provided the quality has remained the same over the years, I would highly recommend it. They launch from a dock that's an easy walk from the port. When we were in Puerto Rico, it was not a cruise. One day we took a short flight to Culebra, rented a golf cart at the airport, then snorkeled from Tamarindo Grande Beach and Tamarindo Beach. There's a bit of a hike to the former, so I would recommend the latter for the less adventurous. The shape of Culebra almost guarantees good snorkeling conditions. If the surf is high in one beach, you can just drive to another part of the island where the beach is protected. Culebra probably isn't a great option unless you have an extra day on the island. We visited Culebra prior to Hurricane Maria, which tore the place up. I'm not certain how much it has recovered.
  5. Great bird IDs, Zackiedawg. I was looking through your photos doing my own IDs (before reading your captions), and you clearly know your birds. Particular kudos on the juvenile Cooper's hawk ID. That's tricky, since so many of the juvenile raptors look identical. We had a clutch of four Cooper's hatch across the street from us ... and spend much of the summer hanging out at the bird bath in our backyard. But that's not an easy call without a great deal of familiarity.
  6. I'll be snorkeling in Cozumel and Grand Cayman in the next week or two. For those with recent visits, how have the water conditions been? How rough was the water? How clear was the water? And (less importantly) how has the local fauna been reacting? I'll be snorkeling some with my wife, and a little on my own. I'm a strong swimmer. Her ... not so much. When we're out together, I escort her. When I swim solo (yeah ... I know ... added risk of things going wrong), I play within my limits ... but they're a bit less limited.
  7. I'll try to give an alternate view from someone who is a snorkeler. As several people have already implied, if not stated outright, there are some spots that can only reasonably be reached by scuba. If you're interested in those spots, it's a no-brainer. Scuba. If you have the option for both, and you're going to choose snorkeling, here are the spots where you would choose snorkeling instead. First, the stuff you want to look at has to be mostly near the surface. I can maybe make it down 20' on a snorkel dive. (I've seen a pro do 50', but base it on what you can do, not someone else.) But I'm barely spending any time down that far. I want to snorkel where a lot of stuff is within 5' of the surface. I'm diving down 10' (or more) occasionally. Not every minute or so. Second, how long are you staying out? Your tank runs out at a certain point. I can snorkel all day. (Okay ... I poop out after several hours ... but that probably exceeds your tank(s) by some multiple.) Third, have you investigated what's available at your port-of-call? I'll be at Grand Cayman in a week or two. The Wreck of the Cali (practically next to the tender port) is mostly 20' to 30' down. For close-ups, scuba is the way to go. However, 1/2 of a mile further down the coast is the Wreck of the Gamma. It sticks out of the water. 10' down, your belly is on the bottom. It's really a research thing. I'll also be in Cozumel. On a previous trip, we were taken snorkeling at a spot that was really a scuba spot. No argument that Cozumel has some amazing scuba spots. But as a snorkeler, I did better research for this trip. We'll be hitting a shallow reef this visit. I won't be wishing that I was 30' to 40' closer. Most of the reef will be at/near the surface. My goal is to spend a minimum of 3 hours doing underwater photography in both Cozumel and 3 hours in Grand Cayman. And as a snorkeler, I can do that on a shoestring budget.
  8. Photography is full of trade-offs. That includes every detail from equipment to settings to processing. So a lot of what you'll want is going to be based on the trade-offs that you can most easily tolerate. Most importantly, you can't avoid these trade-offs just by throwing more money at the problem. Here are the things you'll want to consider: 1. Sensor size - The larger the sensor, the more light it will let in. This will allow you to either take faster photos (e.g. sports or moving wildlife) or photos with less noise (i.e. less grainy looking). However, the larger the sensor, the larger the camera, and the larger the lens (for the equivalent focal length). 2. Lens for scenery - You will want a lens for scenery and a lens for wildlife. Most of your scenery shots will be wide angle (to some degree). These will be shorter, smaller lenses. Wider aperture (low f/ number) is nice for taking photos in low-light conditions. 3. Lens for wildlife (and probably soccer) - Get a zoom lens. At your level of experience, you'll need to zoom out to find the target, then zoom in to get a closeup. For wildlife, you will almost always end up wishing that your lens provided more magnification. I would estimate that 90% of my bird/wildlife photos were taken at maximum magnification. More magnification, however, means a larger lens. Wider aperture allows for faster shutter speeds, which is great for moving targets. 4. Weight and bulk - Larger sensors and more magnification lead to a lot more mass and bulk to lug around. If you're hiking (or even just packing), all that extra mass and bulk can become a real pain. I went to Yellowstone last summer, and it was convenient to be carting around a couple compact cameras, rather than a DSLR + lenses. 5. Weatherproof/splashproof - Much of Alaska is a rain forest. You'll probably want to take some photos in the rain. I'm sure some of the soccer games are in the rain, also. If you get a weatherproof body and weatherproof lenses, that will give you the opportunity to use the camera in more situations. However, more important than any of those considerations ... PRACTICE. Give yourself enough time to learn how to use your new camera before you go on vacation. Take at least several hundred photos, so you can learn what works ... and what doesn't.
  9. Those two questions have some overlap, but they're not quite the same. Some things are taken as "insurance" in case things go wrong (i.e. Imodium AD). It doesn't matter whether I manage to go two dozen vacations without needing it. It really came in handy that last vacation. The area where you can really economize is in clothing. My wife consistently over packs, because she'll start thinking, "I might want to wear that while I'm on vacation." At the end of the vacation, while she's trying to cram everything back into her bag, she keeps saying, "Why did I pack ____? I didn't wear it." You will have to get your laundry cleaned while on a really long cruise. I plan to take enough clothes to make it from one cleaning to the next, and cut myself off there. I handle weather shifts by layering. Also, given the choice between two pieces of clothing, look at versatility ... and how much space each takes up.
  10. In principle, I agree that screw top is easier, and that many of those wines are very good wines. However, I generally purchase my wine in the city of departure, rather than packing it in my luggage for the flight. (Especially after the time a full bottle of wine was broken inside my wife's luggage by the baggage handlers.) In order to keep my options open when shopping for wine in the port city, I pack some corkscrews.
  11. I'll second and add to topspot's recommendations. In St. Thomas, we went to Coki Beach, about 2 miles from Sapphire Beach, and had a wonderful time. Sapphire Beach was equally highly recommended. I don't recall what made me choose one over the other, but it might have been beach lockers. Coki Beach has them. I'm not sure whether Sapphire Beach does (or did). Both beaches are about a 20-25 minute cab/shuttle ride from the port. I've been looking at the Money Bar Beach Club (or the PalMar Beach Club next door) for our upcoming Cozumel port of call. The snorkeling is supposed to be excellent at both. It's even closer to the cruise terminal. 5 minutes or so by cab.
  12. When my wife and I did our Alaska cruise, we were on a fairly modest budget. Here were the areas where we saved money: May and September cruises are cheaper. We took one of the first cruises in May. Airfare is usually cheaper if you start and end in the same city, but cruise fare may be cheaper if you start and end in different cities. For us, the cheapest option was to fly in to Seattle, take the train to Vancouver, cruise out of Vancouver, cruise back to Seattle, then fly home ... even counting the AirBnB due to the extra overnight. We stayed in an Oceanview cabin, but interior would have been even cheaper. Perhaps the biggest savings was through the shore excursions. I researched through the CruiseCritic boards and through Tripadvisor, instead of going through the cruise line. It's a bit time-intensive, but results in the best value and the best excursions. Most cruise lines will allow you to each bring one bottle of wine aboard. Remember to pack your own (inexpensive) corkscrew (and one that lacks any kind of knife on it). I've heard of people having the corkscrews confiscated, so we'll pack a couple different ones into different pieces of luggage. So far, we haven't lost a corkscrew. Other than that, you can save money by avoiding drinking on board and avoiding specialty food options.
  13. I did online dating 11-12 years ago. Photo editing isn't the real problem. People using photos that were 5-10 years out of date, or 20-50 pounds out of date, or even someone else's photos....
  14. On our most recent cruise, we boarded a bit later, to avoid two obvious disadvantages for boarding early. Many people want to board early, so the lines are longer if you show up early. Lost opportunities: we were in Amsterdam, so we spent the extra hours touring the royal palace before grabbing our luggage, catching a cab to the terminal, and boarding. If I board early, there's a predictable set of activities that I can indulge in prior to the time we set sail. If the options near the port are less engaging, I'll board early. If the port city offers better opportunities, then I should use my time better by staying ashore for a few extra hours ... without pushing things to the very last minute.
  15. Given the lack of responses, I'll give you my general advice (which I used when snorkeling on the adjacent island, Culebra). Do a few Google searches like: best snorkeling spots in Vieques best snorkeling beaches in Vieques best snorkeling in Vieques After reading through several reviews/guides, you will start seeing some of the same beaches making most of the lists. Those are very safe bets.
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