San Telmo district, Buenos Aires

San Telmo was my favorite neighborhood of Buenos Aires.  It had interesting streets to wander around, curious shops, good restaurants and cafes and a great mix of diverse people.  All this said, I was never in this area very late at night but I definitely wandered around a few streets that had a pretty grungy vibe that bordered on hip and and just plain dangerous.

Of course, I kind of like that vibe as it adds a little excitement to any trip.  I’m not looking for Disneyland..

And so I wandered through this area a few times, the most memorable being on a Sunday when the area is transformed into an outdoor market with lots of sights and sounds and a lot of dancing and music as the night comes on.  This is where I saw the Tango act whose music I used for my South American video and it’s where I captured the dancing/drumming images used in that video.

On other days of the week the neighborhood offers a very different, less frenetic vibe that’s equally enticing and is also worth a little of your time.

Anyone who is thinking about a trip to Buenos Aires should definitely consider being in this neighborhood on a Sunday and if you are there, make sure you stay around for the evening music!

Photos from South America

This week I’m finally getting some photos online from my South America trip.

Buenos Aires was my first destination and it’s an awesome city.  I really liked the vibe of the city: friendly people, good food, abundant cafes, good parks, different neighborhoods with unique feels.  It’s everything you’d want in a city.

I spent a few days in Buenos Aires before taking off for Patagonia.  I stayed in the Solar Soler hotel in the Palermo neighborhood.  It was a really nice little hotel that I booked online before the trip (I always like to have my first night’s hotel booked before a trip).  After returning from Patagonia I again stayed with the Solar Soler folks but this time in their apartment which was cheaper and actually a little closer to a subway station.

The Palermo neighborhood reminded me a bit of the Mission/SOMA districts here in San Francisco in that it’s a pretty mixed neighborhood with expensive shops and restaurants and new development alongside older residences and light industry.  I liked having it as a base from which to explore the city (though this district puts you at one end of all of the areas you’d want to visit and not in the middle).

The Subway system was really convenient for me and a great way to get around town.  I’d just pick a destination and take the subway there (or close to there) and then walk from then on.  That’s essentially how I spent my days.

Nights were pretty mellow since I was on my own but I definitely enjoyed the food and atmosphere of the late-eating crowds (restaurants are easily still crowded at 1am on any day of the week).

I’ve sorted through and chosen just a few of the photos that remind me of the city and that I hope best convey what I saw while I was there.

I’ve split out a subset of photos that I’ll post next, which are from the San Telmo neighborhood.

South America video

I’m finally getting around to my photos from my trip to South America and this time I decided to do things a little differently.

After our trip to Africa in 2008, I not only posted photos online but I also put together a little video of the trip.  Using iMovie on the Mac, I  combined photos, videos and some songs from an African choir I downloaded from iTunes.  That video turned out to be pretty long, so I never posted it online.

While in Buenos Aires, I was so taken by the rhythm of the city, and the fact that music was everywhere, I decided I wanted to do a video presentation to accompany the photos.  I recorded videos of street performances thinking that I would use those as the soundtrack but the microphone on the G10 didn’t do such a great job of capturing the music – at least, not the way I was shooting with it (not really standing with the mic pointed reliably at the source).  And then I came upon this tango orchestra performing during the San Telmo markets on Sunday.  They had the audience captivated and I couldn’t resist purchasing one of their CDs. It’s their music I used for the soundtrack.  If you’re ever in Buenos Aires (and I would highly recommend it) be sure to check out Orquesta Tipica El Afronte.  They play regularly in town, though not on days that I was able to see them in a proper venue.

This video contains images taken during my trip including photos from Buenos Aires, El Calafate, Colonia Del Sacramento, Torres Del Paine, and Los Glaciars National Parks.

I will post the individual photographs soon as well as a few blog posts about the trip.  In the mean time, I hope you enjoy the video.  By the way, the little 4-arrow button on the bottom right of the video will blow this out to full-screen, definitely the way to watch (if you ask me 🙂 )

As before, I used iMovie to put this together.  It’s a pretty decent product and the ’09 version fixed some of the little issues I had with the previous version.  This still turned out a little longer than I’d like – next time I’ll make it even shorter.

The photos and videos are taken using either the NIkon D300 or the Canon G10.  All of the videos are from the Canon and it’s obvious that the quality of the videos is not as good as that of the stills.  I’m really looking forward to getting an SLR with video capabilities but that’s not a purchase I’ll be making soon.

Cafe culture

p_1600_1200_7B25BDDD-BEB5-4D93-9B1C-993D8236EF3D.jpegOne has to love a city with a strong cafe culture. It’s great to know that around just about any corner is a place to sit, re-group, watch the locals, and enjoy a good coffee.

Such is the case in Buenos Aires.

I’m sitting here along one of the many boulevards, drinking this coffee while overhearing all of this Spanish dialogue that I wish I could comprehend. Oh well, it’s still entertaining to watch.

what to bring: the photo edition

I have so much crap it’s really not funny.  When it comes to travel & outdoor gear, I can’t resist the American consumerist in me.  But with this trip to Buenos Aires and Patagonia, as with most, there’s the additional question of what camera equipment to bring.

Were I only going to Buenos Aires (or, put another way, if this were a more ‘urban’ trip) I would bring my digital SLR, a good ‘standard’ zoom lens and a smaller ‘walk-around’ lens.  With my current equipment, that equates to the Nikon D300, the Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 zoom and the Nikon 20mm f/2.8.  That would allow me to have good general coverage with the zoom lens with the added benefit of a smaller form-factor for walking around a little less conspicuously.  I would probably consider leaving the 20mm lens behind and just use a smaller pocket camera for when I want to carry around a lighter load.

Which leads me to the next piece of gear – a walk-around pocket camera.  For this I currently use the Canon G10.  It’s not quite pants pocket-sized but it will go in a coat pocket without a problem and it affords me more control over the shots than something truly pocketable.  This is also a handy camera for shooting short videos.  I’m glad to see SLRs including video capabilities these days as moving pictures (and sound!) adds a nice dimension to looking through old trips.

Since this trip includes a visit to Torres del Paine, the situation becomes a little more challenging as that scenery provides for a more diverse set of shooting conditions.  Among the decisions are: whether to take the 70-200 f/2.8 or the 80-400 4/f-5.6 and whether to take the tripod or just rely on the monopod, as well as power considerations and whether I want any specialty lenses like a macro, etc.,

The 80-400 has a great zoom range (especially on the DX Nikon body where it gives me an effective focal length of 600mm).  This is the lens I took to Africa and I was very pleased with its performance and the shots I was able to get with it.  But, ultimately, I think I’ll go with the 70-200 for this trip.  It’s slightly smaller, has a wider, stable minimum aperture, and the optics are slightly better.

Normally for traveling I rely on a monopod since it’s lighter, easier to walk around with, and offers basic stabilization.  For this trip however, I’m going to go with the tripod.  I’m hoping for some great scenic shots and for those (especially when looking to make large size prints) the monopod really doesn’t stand up to the tripod.  (This would be less of an issue of course if I had a nice carbon fiber tripod).

Other equipment I considered, but am leaving behind includes my flash and my 105mm macro lens (even though this is my favorite lens).  I need to cut down on the weight somewhere, and this is where I’ll draw the line.

Since I’ll be spending some time in the backcountry, I’ll be bringing along my portable storage device, which will allow me to offload images from the memory cards, freeing up more space.  In the future I just need to buy more memory cards since they’re so cheap and lightweight, but since I already own the hard disk, I’ll just bring that.

And other odds and ends which will travel with me: a lens cleaning kit; battery chargers and extra batteries; cable release; assorted cases and weather protection; polarizer & graduated neutral density filters; memory cards.

I think this is the right setup but here are my concerns:

First and foremost, I don’t know what to expect in terms of being able to charge batteries while in Patagonia.  I have only 2 batteries for my SLR and with cold conditions, they might not last.

Second, I’m bringing only 1 camera body.  In the past I would have brought a second body (either film or digital) but I’ve never NEEDED one and I want to cut down the weight somehow.  I hope this is not the trip where my camera body decides to give up the ghost.

So, the full gear list looks like this:

  • Nikon D300
  • Nikon 17-55 f/2.8
  • Nikon 70-200 f/2.8
  • Nikon 20mm f/2.8
  • Manfroto tripod
  • Manfroto ballhead
  • Spare battery for SLR, battery chargers
  • ThinkTank camera cases
  • lens cleaning kit
  • SinghRay graduated neutral density filter
  • Tiffen Polarizer filters
  • 80GB HyperDrive Colorspace personal storage device
  • three 4GB; one 2GB; two 1GB memory cards for SLR
  • generic Remote Cable release
  • Canon G10
  • two 4GB; one 1GB memory cards for Canon G10

In a pinch I might decide to bring my older Nikon D70 (and associated batteries, charger) and leave the 20mm lens behind.. we’ll see.

planning a trip to Buenos Aires and Patagonia

So the idea was pretty simple at least.

With some unexpected time off from work, take advantage of the break and take a little trip.  Being last minute in nature, this trip will be a solo adventure.

A quick scan of airfares of interesting destinations lead to Buenos Aires.  Other options included Bangkok for another tour of S.E. Asia but the idea of going someplace new was enticing.  Santiago, Chile was a possibility with access to Patagonia but Buenos Aires was more than $200 cheaper and also promised to be a sight to visit in its own right (and Patagonia also accessible).

So the ticket was purchased and now the planning comes into play.

It’s always tough planning a trip for an unknown destination.  The usual comes into play: the internet, Get Lost bookstore and advice from friends.  An provided info on Buenos Aires and Lisa helped with Patagonia info.  Patagonia was the most daunting as it’s a huge area so getting around would be a concern, as would seeing some classic sights.

All this started 5 days ago for a trip that begins next week.  Here’s where I am currently:

  • As indicated, flying into and out of Buenos Aires
  • Spending 2 nights in Buenos Aires
  • flying into Patagonia (Argentinian side)
  • bus (hopefully – nothing secured as yet) into Torres del Paines National Park
  • trek around Torres del Paine, sleeping in refugios (hut-to-hut hiking)  This has tentatively been arranged as of now.  will hopefully secure in the next day..

I then have a few more days in Patagonia before a flight back to Buenos Aires where I’ll have several days before the flight back home.  This is all yet to be planned out (and may remain that way until I get there… we’ll see).

The goals of this trip are to see some awesome scenery in Torres del Paine and Patagonia and see what Buenos Aires is all about.  I haven’t yet read anything else about other sights in Patagonia or Buenos Aires or possible daytrips around Buenos Aires.  I’ll leave plenty of flexibility around this part of the trip to see what piques my interest.

I’ve started my pile o’crap which I’ll have to weed through in order to keep from breaking my back..  Right now the plan is to bring 2 decent sized bags, essentially 1 for Buenos Aires and 1 for Patagonia – well, that’s exactly what it will be.. I’ll leave 1 bag behind in B.A. to be collected when I return from Patagonia.  That way I’ll bring only the necessary outdoor adventure gear with me to Patagonia, which will then stay packed away when I’m in Buenos Aires.

I’m looking forward to this!