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Travel Virgins - Nicaraugua 2011

Discussion in 'Street, Documentary, and Portrait' started by Robert Watcher, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Travel Virgins - Adventures in Travel by Rob and Anne Watcher

    Our preparations are almost complete - and Anne and I will be heading to Granada Nicaraugua in 5 weeks time (Feb 3, 2011), for a 2 month adventure to a new Central American location (previous years were living with and as the locals in Costa Rica). We are getting verty excited and will posting regularly on our Travel Virgins journal at www.asifweknow.com.

    The Travel Virgins journal consists of Anne's stories or situations and findings that appeal to her, image galleries of the thousands of shots that I take, many videos that we have shot documenting the things we are doing, - as well as comments that are made to us by those who check out our site. This year with our time in Nicaragua, it will be no different.

    Of course, I have my own stories with a slant that is more towards my experience as a photographer and storyteller with my images. For those stories and images, I will be updating this thread on the forum on a regular basis - - - so keep a watch here as well as our www.asifweknow.com website.


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    I have decided to do a complete rebuild of the Travel Virgins website, that will provide a fresh new look and a setup that will more easily allow for our continuing adventures in the future. I am planning for it to be completed within the next couple of weeks, so that Anne can begin posting information on flight cost findings, locations we have chosen, etc.

    Here are a couple of Screen Shots of the new TravelVirgins website that is in progress.

    First is the Home page:
    12935864495702_asifweknow1.jpg

    Second is the new Video Player and playlist (I will be shooting with my Olympus E-PL1 at 720P HD for some of the new footage):
    12935864949398_asifweknow2.jpg


    Functionality will be much improved with the incorporation of new ****script coding:
     
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  2. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Because of our motivation in capturing the people and places of the locations we visit - it has happened that Anne and I have thousands upon thousands of still images and hours of video footage, that shows all of these things - - - but we have very little footage or imagery of ourselves involved in what we are doing.

    What really brought this to the fore earlier this year, was when we received the very unwelcome phone call that our dear friend Nadine Bird - whom we took along with us to Costa Rica in Februray 2009, along with her husband Bruce - - - had suddenly passed away, just weeks after she returned home this spring (2010) from more bird watching and photography in Costa Rica.

    It was really a shock to Anne and I. She was a wonderful, happy, hard working, and kind person - and was far too young to not be able to enjoy more of her life. And so I was contacted and asked about any still images that I had of her and Bruce on our trip in 2009 - so the family could add those to the slideshow of her life. Unfortunately I could only come up with a handful of images for them. Most of the reason was because my focus was on the job at hand and not what we were doing - - - but also, once we were down there, both of us couples had different agendas and so we went our own way and sometimes didn't meet up again for several days or a week. On a few occassions we did travel and experienced things together.

    Just last week while working on preparing the new TravelVirgins website, I came across some raw video footage that I hadn't processed and hadn't even looked at except to take out one or two clips to use back when we were there. And so what I decided to do was take out all of the little pieces that I could find, that showed the 4 of us (Me, Anne, Bruce and Nadine) - or had talking or laughter in the background that allowed us to remember the fun and experience we had.

    So this video piece is everything that I could find about "The BirdWatchers - foursome behind the adventure" . It is long at just under 15 minutes - but it is nice for us and the family to have - - - and gives a glimps into our fun and at times a few clips of us at work:

    [ame=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqJXnkSBxHc]YouTube - The BirdWatchers[/ame]



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  3. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Well - it's getting down to crunch time. Just 3 days (tres dias) until we hit the skies and enjoy our new adventure in Nicaragua. (leaving Thursday Feb 3'rd).

    I have been cramming getting as many of my completed wedding and portrait orders, printed and shipped before leaving, but a big job has been the rebuild on the Travel Virgins website - to accomodate this years trip and any future ones that we may have.

    The new site is up and running now (www.asifweknow.com) and as well as being set up for new entries this year - contains Anne's journals, many thousands of images, as well as videos and Comments that we received from ones who checked in daily to see what was new - - - from previous years.

    Also new this year is an RSS Feed that will be available for those who prefer to keep up using that method. That feed is Travel Virgins - RSS Feed.

    Hope all are able to follow along and experience Nicaragua through our eyes and words. Please feel free to drop us an email at any time or post your comments on this forum, so that we can update this years "Comments" page with your thoughts, for the entertainment of all who like parusing through that page of the website.

    Hopefully next time I post here, will be with some stories and images after our arrival. See you soon.
     
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  4. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    It's so difficult keeping our luggage down in number for traveling around on bus and taxi - - - and also for keeping the size and weight restrictions that Spirit has placed on us in order to benefit from lower flight prices. With American Airlines in previous trips, we have been able to have 50 pounds for each of our checked-in bags. Spirit has that weight reduced to 40 pounds and so it is going to be difficult losing 10 pounds of clothing for each of us for 2 months of living. Although we would love to figure out a way to scrap the 2 large bags altogether - to enable us to freely travel from place to place.

    But we are working away getting everything packed today and tommorrow. Travel Virgins : Travel Adventure Stories of Rob and Anne Watcher

    Our living room disturbed:
    12965768386674_gettingready1.jpg

    Here is what I have to contend with for my Personal bag that I can take to place under my seat in the plane. Macbook Laptop and a couple of 500 GB portable hard drives are in the back of the backpack - and I've still got to find room for my Olympus E-PL1 that I am using to take the picture:
    12965768504438_gettingready2.jpg
     
  5. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Outward appearances can be so deceiving . . .

    . . . when we roled into town (Granada) this morning, Anne and I were initially surprised when the area of the buildings on the streets we are living in, were very underwhelming. With regards to the Hotel Casa San Francisco (Hotel Casa San Francisco - Granada, Nicaragua) who are our hosts and owners of the apartment we have rented - - - when our driver pointed it out to us on the way from the airport early this morning, the picture did not meet our expectations . . .

    . . . from the outside that is . . .

    . . . until later on when the front doors were opened and we walked into a virtual oasis. Walking throughout the city this morning, we were amazed to look into doorways of plain stucco walls lining the streets, only to be see beautiful and ornate outdoor interiors full of vegetation and sometimes birds and animals.

    This is the front view of the hotel:
    12968612993670_hotel-1-2.jpg

    Reception area inside the front door:
    12968614389265_hotel-3.jpg

    Interior shots:
    12968614949393_hotel-2.jpg

    12968615720623_hotel-4.jpg
     
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  6. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Walking to the back of the hotel provided these views:
    12968616881043_hotel-5.jpg

    Anne is very happy to have access to the small pool in the Hotel - one street from our home and apparently open 24 hours for our pleasure - - - can you believe it?
    12968617117797_hotel-6.jpg

    Here is one of our hosts - the very helpful and very pretty with a beautiful smile - - - Maria (there is also another Maria who unfortunately wasn't there at the time):
    12968618125703_hotel-7.jpg
     
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  7. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    I thought it was only in the Movies

    Really - - - when I'd see guys picking locks with 2 little tools when breaking in to some place, I was sure that that could only be done in the movies . . .

    . . . until today - when I witnessed a locksmith breaking into a padlock for a customer. True to TV form, he pulls out his little roll-up pouch and pulls out a couple of specialized tools and then using the same formation that I have seen a thousand times in the movies, intricately spins the wheels until the lock releases. Amazing.

    I shot a couple of closeups along with a shot of him and his helper through the bars of one of the security doors designed to keep everyone out.

    Olympus E-3 : 12-60 SWD : f4 @ 1/100'th - 250 ISO

    12969114352048_locksmith-1.jpg

    12969114743622_locksmith-2.jpg

    12969115007369_locksmith-3.jpg
     
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  8. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Living in the lap of Luxury

    Not really - but it is the way we choose. This is the apartment we are living in for the next 2 months. Not at all a Nica home - but modest and nestled right in the same streets as the locals with their modest means of living. It is so wonderful though - heading out each time and having the neighbors greet us warmly. While I was standing in the doorway just now, a young 7 or 8 year old cutey pie walking by our home - looks at me and with a beautiful smile says "Hola" without any fear.

    12969187288230_apartment-1.jpg
     
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  9. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Up the Bell Tower

    A recommended stop for us, was the Church Bell Tower in downtown Granada - as it gives a nice "overview" of the city - - - including a glimpse of Lake Nicaragua, Laguna de Apoyo, and in the distance Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe Island.

    Cost to enter the Tower is $1 USD. We weren't quite anticipating what was involved in getting to the top. First leg was to circle up a claustrophobic 2 to 2 1/2 foot wide circular stairwell to a landing half way up. It not only winded us a little, but it took a minute or two of rest to relax from the anxiety. Next leg was following a very narrow set of stairs along the wall of the tower - - - until we finally reached the top. Except for the openings were the bells were located, in order to go around the whole tower, required squeezing in between the outer wall and the metal fence - - - probably 1-1/2 to 2 feet width. We had to trust with our lives that the metal fence that skirted the outer edges of the tower, was sound and would keep us safe.

    There are a few more of the shots here as well - Travel Virgins : Travel Adventure Stories of Rob and Anne Watcher

    All shots taken with Olympus E-3 and 12-60mm f2.8/4 - - - Program Mode/Auto ISO

    View from Below
    [​IMG]

    First Leg
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    Second Leg
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  10. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    A shot Anne took with my camera, that I like - of Laguna de Apoyo Volcano
    [​IMG]

    Lots of interesting rooftop architecture
    [​IMG]

    View inside the Bell Tower
    [​IMG]

    Anne squeezed in between the tower wall and the ornate metal fence (I had to stand on top of the fence to get the shot :rofl: )
    [​IMG]
     
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  11. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oh my goodness - - - I keep coming across my stories of a lifetime.

    I just about blew it with this one as I came across it just after I had been out on a long walk and photo op - went back to our apartment and realized we had no liquid refreshment in the fridge. I decided to leave my shoulder bag with camera behind as I anticipated a store near by to have some water or Coke Lite.

    Well they were closed and so I carried on walking many blocks until I found a vendor with what I needed. Well - I decided to take an alternative path home - - - and came across this incredible site of an ornate horse drawn hearse parked on the street in front of a house on a side street. The horses were draped in a kind of chainmail.

    I was so disappointed and mad at myself that I came across this possibly once in a lifetime scene without my camera.

    I went home (about 5 blocks away) sulking and complained to my wife about how stupid I was. She encouraged me to take my camera and go see if there was a chance it was still there. I did - - - and it was:

    [​IMG]

    I was a little ticked because the cool decorations on the horses were now gone.

    [​IMG]

    However - as it turns out - - - if I had a camera the first time, my opportunities would have been limited.
     
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  12. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    This time there were a couple of men taking unhitching the horses. I asked one of them if he minded my taking a few pictures. He gladly agreed and then pointed to a door and said there were more in there.

    [​IMG]

    For some reason I had the nerve to ask if he minded if I head down the long pitch black hallway to see - - - and he said "certainly". And so I headed inside while they continued working outside.

    In the dark galleyway were 3 hearses one after the other. I didn't care that there was no way my camera would handle the exposure properly - I was getting the shots.

    These shots were taken with my Olympus E-3 with 12-60mm SWD - - - with exposure at f2.8 @ 1/13'th at 3200 ISO

    [​IMG]

    This one with the torches on the side looked like it was right out of a Grim Reaper Movie. The decorations from the horses are sitting on the bench:

    [​IMG]
     
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  13. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    But the massive indoor room was also some kind of a workshop - possibly for the making of caskets or accessories. Being no one was around and I was invited to shoot - - - I grabbed a few shots of what was visible:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When I saw the one man riding off with the horses, I headed back outside and thanked the remaining fellow for allowing me to shoot.

    [​IMG]

    He told me that the ornate structure of the hearses, were solid wood - and was proud of the fact that the one at the front inside dated to 1924. I asked his name - which he replied, was Yvon. He then went on to tell me that his store was around the corner and suggested that I come back and take more pictures. Great find and nice setup for a return. Opportunities come by accident - but some times they are made by persistence and effort.
     
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  14. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Intense Color . . .

    . . . Intense Shadow


    Taken in Midday Sun with Olympus E-PL1 and kit lens - Program Mode : Auto ISO

    1 )
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    2 )
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    3 )
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    4 )
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  15. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    OK - time for a little street photography

    A specific reason that I purchased the Olympus E-PL1 early after it was released in 2010 - was for the purpose of having a discrete looking camera for shooting from the hip while walking along streets in Central America.

    I just got back from my first opportunity using it as my wife and I walked along the downtown streets of Granada. For the most part, people did not pay attention as they always did when shooting even with my smallish Olympus E-510 in Costa Rica streets. I actually found it to be even easier to shoot small video clips while standing on corners or walking along - - - without anyone noticing, or if they did it didn't bother them. I will put together a few of those HD clips when I get a chance.

    This was "warm-up mode". Like all shooting styles, I plan on fine tuning my methods and refining my timing as I go along
    Olympus E-PL1 with kit lens - Program mode - Auto Focus - Auto ISO

    1 ) I was shooting some video of these kids coming down the street and grabbed this still shot during the clip
    [​IMG]

    2 )
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    3 ) There were a couple of times when street smart vendors noticed what I was doing - even though the camera was at my waist
    [​IMG]

    4 )
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  16. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    5 )
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    6 )
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    7 ) This one I was hoping the camera would get right with focusing - I was walking behind people and framing oncoming subjects with them
    [​IMG]

    8 )
    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    9 ) I am also in full walking stride with most of these shots - tough challenge for camera
    [​IMG]

    10 )
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    11 )
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    12 )
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  18. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    13 )
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    14 )
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    15 ) In an area where there a lot of vendors set up for shoe repair - these guys let me know that they wanted money to take their picture, and laughed and joked while I was taking the shots. I laughed and joked with them and said "No No" to the money request. Friends of theirs hanging around, were making fun of me calling me a (probably dumb) tourista. I acknowledged saying "yes tourista". On leaving they asked if I'd buy them a soda - so will have to follow up with my word next time I'm in the area.
    [​IMG]
     
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  19. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    We headed into one of the poorest and as a result, one of the areas of Granada where more care needs to be taken when walking through - - - although Granada overall appears to be a pretty safe city. It is the North of the city by the train station and Levi factory.

    With an election coming up, we were told that money goes into fixing up roads (although when it is over, all will likely come to a standstill again). So we found an area where there were many men working brutally hard in the day time sun - heaving paving stones from one side of the street to the other. All sand for the roads is hauled in by hand and blocks laid out arduously.

    It is a monstrous job and really amazing with what these men are able to accomplish by blood sweat and tears. They told us that they make 900 Cordobas every 2 weeks. At the current rate of 21.9 cordobas per US dollar, that is around $41 USD every 2 weeks or a bit over $20 per week.

    I did not want to flash my cameras and equipment around in this neighborhood - and make them aware that I could be an easy target - - - so casually pulled my little Olympus E-PL1 out of my shoulder bag and generally just shot from the hip with Anne kind of blocking the view. These 2 shots were taken that way at around 11:00 in the hot and contrasty midday. Lightroom 2 pulled the details out of the shadows quite nicely and helped balance the scene that showed only dark shadows where of the men and shaded roads and blocks - as well as very bright areas out in the sun.

    1 )
    [​IMG]

    2 ) A view up the street behind me, where there were block setters on their hands and knees at the end of the street.
    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    While the mountain range containing Volcan Mombacho, is clearly visible throughout the city - - - most views in Granada have hydro lines crisscrossing the skyline. I found this appealing view with the buttressed walls of an old Church / Convent built in 1529 that later became a University and is now used as a Museum - - - and the mountain range in behind, sans hydro lines.

    Taken with Olympus E-PL1 with 14-42mm kit lens @ 42mm. f10 @ 1/320'th second : 200 ISO . Split Toning in Lightroom 2

    [​IMG]
     
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